But there is another side. A dealer I know attends Long Beach every year. He hasn’t got the world’s largest dealership, but it is a successful one. It doesn’t carry any major Japanese line, but has a number of European, and secondary Asian brands. The dealership is either number one or number two in the country at any given time with his European brands. The business was started 13 years ago as a single line store and now carries five brands and a significant amount of accessories for every one of them.
The dealer told me he had two exhibit spaces and 30 people working the show, many of them existing customers. One of his spaces was located alongside one of his major brands, and another some distance away showcasing all the brands he sells, along with the appropriate gear.
I asked him why he does it, after all, it can’t be cheap, and his location isn’t exactly in the center of this great megalopolis known as Southern California. His response, “Hell, Michael, I don’t expect to sell any motorcycles this weekend at the show, what I’m here for is to sell my dealership! How many people are going to walk through here this weekend, 70,000? I won’t get that many people through my dealership in five years. Think about it, these people drove to get here, paid to park, paid to get in, and will probably buy something from a retail vendor, and get something to eat or drink. They’re interested in motorcycles, and if I can convince even a small portion of them to buy from me when the time comes, and I think I can, then my investment’s worth it.”
I’m not suggesting that it’s necessary to mount a major marketing offensive, like this dealer does, but it seems to me that if a show like the IMS comes to town, and a dealer has the opportunity to work in the OE’s display, then he, or she should take advantage of that opportunity. After all, the OE’s supplying bikes, literature, space, back up assistance, and free admission. Depending on your distance from the show, all you need to do is invest in some transportation, maybe some food and drink, and possibly a hotel room for a few nights.
So, at this point, you’re probably asking, “What’s the benefit to me?” fair question. You’re going to be exposed to thousands of people who are interested in what you’re selling. Granted, they’re not all going to be “your” customers, but some of them could be. I think my friend nailed it, “I’m selling my dealership,” and that’s what you should be doing, selling yourself, your place of business, in other words your brand. I don’t take my bike to my local dealer, he’s never convinced me I should trade with him, I go to a dealer 40 miles away, because I like him, I like his shop and staff, and I always feel like he’s really interested in my needs.
Show season is just about over, but there’s next year and maybe this is the kind of exposure your dealership needs to move the sales needle.