Looking For Your Next Customer Base

Demographics Customer base Expanding reach Marketing New customers

According to motorcycle Industry Council statistical information, motorcycle sales for 2008 have basically flatlined. If you're the typical dealer, chances are good that you're still marketing to the same demographic group the industry has targeted for the past 30 years: caucasian males between the ages of 18 and 54 with an annual household median income of $56,000, with a high-school degree and some college, working primarily at a white- or blue-collar job.

Maybe now's a time to take a look at what's happening demographically in the United States.

Demographically, over half of the population in the U.S. are women, and I'm sure that most of you have already made some effort to reach and service this important segment, as has the industry as a whole. It seems, however, that this portion of the market is not growing and is in fact stalled at around 10 percent. While 10 percent of the market is nothing to sneeze at, it would appear that this customer vein has been pretty well-mined.

If your traditional target groups are shrinking, then it's probably time to take a look at other groups that aren't currently the focus of your marketing and sales campaigns. The traditional groups are the low-hanging fruit, you know how to reach them and what turns them on, and it's relatively easy to market to these groups. Marketing to new and unfamiliar groups takes more effort, perhaps different messages, and a period of time to build credibility and a relationship.


The fastest growing demographic in the U.S. is the Hispanic population. The demographic makes up 15 percent of the population, with an expected growth to 19 percent by 2020. While in the past this group was largely found in the Southwest and Florida, there are now substantial Hispanic communities in just about every state in the country.

I attended a conference a few months ago where the subject was ethnic marketing, and while the content didn't address the motorcycle market specifically, the speaker pointed out some compelling reasons why we should be looking at ethnically distinctive markets.

While the Hispanic population is made up of a number of cultures, 53 percent are of Mexican heritage but born in the U.S., and their buying power is growing at a rate three times that of the average American — estimated to be between $1.2 and $1.4 trillion collectively, with an average household income similar to that of the current motorcycle demographic at $50,000 per year.

Car dealers long ago recognized the value of this demographic and have engaged agencies that specialize in reaching Hispanics by developing campaigns and promotions to tap into this potentially lucrative market. While this may not be a practical approach for you, according to the speaker it's an audience that's very easy to reach and may only require you to find someone who is 1) bilingual and 2) understands sales and marketing.


In many respects, reaching Hispanics is similar to reaching out to your traditional buyer. The Internet, word-of-mouth and direct mail are all great ways to reach this audience. It seems that Hispanics only get about 10 percent of the direct mail that caucasians get. My experience is that if I get a piece of direct mail with motorcycle information on it, I'm likely to read it. Most of the other stuff finds its way to the trash bin pretty quickly, so it's important that you design your piece and craft the wording to appeal to this unique audience.

It's recommended that your message be in both Spanish and English, and that it speaks to the opportunity of family involvement. The extended family is very important in making purchasing decisions. For example, point out that buying a scooter or small displacement motorcycle saves fuel and maintenance costs associated with a car or truck, thereby freeing up money for the family to spend on other items such as food and utilities.

Because of the family-orientation and traditional values, it's also important to build a presence in the community. Involvement in community events as a sponsor or participant can be extremely valuable in establishing your name in the marketplace.

Hispanics prefer the consultative approach to buying, and you need to be sensitive to the fact that making a purchase of this magnitude will take some time and probably involve some of the consumer's extended family. The key is to be patient and informative. Like everyone else, Hispanics want to be treated with respect and courtesy and it's important to remember that the wife, or mother is just as, or more, important to sell as the potential buyer.

While Hispanics are not particularly price-sensitive, they're willing to pay MSRP if they're convinced that it's a quality product, fairly priced and backed up with excellent service. Once sold, they tend to be brand-loyal.

I'm not suggesting that every dealer should try to capture a portion of this market, but I am suggesting that if you serve an area with a sizeable Hispanic community, then perhaps it's worth trying to grab a piece of this market. I'm sure it won't be easy or inexpensive, but over the long run, it may become very important to your dealership.

Mike Vaughan is the former publisher of Dealernews. You can reach him at mvaughan@mikevaughan.comor via editors@dealernews.com