Motorsports, Monsters and Mullets

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If you're ever in Rexburg, Idaho, at the beginning of snow season, be on the lookout for Sasquatch.

Contrary to what most sightings report, Sasquatch won't be menacing-looking, or even remotely scary to kids. No, this fuzzy creature will instead be parading around in his underwear, teaching people the "Sasquatch Snow Dance" and, most importantly, attracting new customers to the 55,000 sq. ft. snowmobile and ATV haven that is Rexburg Motor Sports. He does a pretty good job, too.

"We had excellent results; our best snow year ever," says owner Jared Burt, who says that Sasquatch is one of the company spokesmen. "He's more handsome than I am, so we use him instead of me."

Rexburg's Sasquatch is joined by Cyclops (who makes his appearance in the summer), and a citywide event called Mullet Madness, all forming a trio of kooky advertising and marketing campaigns that drive customer traffic to both Rexburg's store and Web site. Given the dealership's annual revenue (around $18 million), and all the mention it gets in magazines like ATV Sport and Snow West, it seems that these campaigns work out pretty well.

EVOLUTION OF A DEALERSHIP

Before Rexburg Motor Sports was even a glimmer in Burt's eye, he was involved in his family's farm equipment business, which was housed in a building that eventually became too small to hold the growing inventory. Things like tractors and other large items were moved to a larger building, and in the original space, Burt started selling Polaris snowmobiles and ATVs.

In 2005, Burt teamed up with Allen and Brad Ball of Ball Ventures to buy out three local dealerships and move to the present, all-encompassing 55,000 sq. ft. facility, selling vehicles made by Arctic Cat, BRP, Honda, Polaris, Ski-Doo, Suzuki and Yamaha.

"[Ball Ventures] came to me to find out if I was interested in partnering and operating a business where we would combine everything together," Burt says. "So we bought out three other dealerships and put everything in a big facility."

Rexburg was designed with its service department in the front of the building, with a drive-through check-in area and a separate entrance from the store. When walking into the store, customers are greeted with the expansive new-vehicle showroom, and an additional showroom of pre-owned vehicles right behind it. Burt states that for every new vehicle Rexburg sells, one used bike is sold.

"We have always sold pre-owned," Burt says. "We look at it as a separate revenue center. It's a tremendous market and it helps us sell new vehicles."

In the back of its pre-owned showroom is the "Bargain Berm" (named after the corner or berm on a motocross track), a room with accessories, parts and gear specials that can be marked down as much as 75 percent. Burt also credits his accessory sales to his accessory wall, which runs along the new and pre-owned showrooms. Displays are built to integrate accessories with core model vehicles.

Rexburg's 58 employees are specialists in their own department. Burt's service manager is a former Navy chief, a parts salesman used to be Burt's boss in high school, and Burt's own father is a salesman.

"I have to surround myself with people who are smarter than me," Burt says. "That's kind of my business philosophy."

Most employees are also avid riders. "We've got a smorgasbord of motorsports interests," says Burt. "We have some employees who race, and we have some that don't ride unless we do an employee ride or a demo."

Employee events range from holiday parties to store rides. A weekly street motorcycle ride for customers is also open to employees, and sometimes employees can test drive vehicles to become more familiar with what they're selling.

"Last fall, we did an ATV ride where we took all the brands of ATVs we had and tried them out," says Roger Nichols, Rexburg's creative director and the man responsible for donning the Sasquatch and Cyclops costumes. "I think in general, most people really like it here."

BUSINESS IN THE FRONT, PARTY IN THE BACK

The Rexburg team seems full of creative advertising ideas (like the aforementioned Mullet Madness), and we wondered how exactly the team comes up with them in the first place.

"A lot of ideas come while I'm in the shower," Burt jokes. "Really. Most of the ideas that I have come to me in the shower."

Joking aside, Burt believes his employees are a well of imagination, sometimes coming up with ideas on the fly at meetings. The Mullet Madness concept was one of those wacky, random ideas that came out of nowhere, but ended up being a successful campaign.

"We were in a meeting and it just came up and we were like, OK, let's do that," Nichols says. "We just take ideas like that and turn them into what will work for us."

Rexburg sent out press releases and issued advertising to garner interest in the Mullet Madness parade and event (see sidebar). Its efforts resulted in a front-page story in a major newspaper, not to mention a multitude of mullets to choose from. Employees also made sure to promote the event in their store.

"What we found is a lot of people didn't know that they had a mullet," Burt says. "They would come into the store and we let them know they could enter [the contest]. Maybe a couple of people were offended by it."

The winner of last year's Mullet Madness, 24-year-old Tim Frandsen, was one of those walk-ins. "I had a mullet and I was just in the store, and they saw me and started talking to me about it and told me I should enter," Frandsen says. Frandsen (who is sans mullet as of December 2007) won a $500 shopping spree to spend in the dealership.

Though Mullet Madness is a fun-filled event, it and Rexburg's other campaigns are, of course, geared toward getting more business into the store. The Sasquatch and Cyclops characters, for example, are well known in the area, even to those who don't ride.

"We use them to help us have more recognition," Nichols says. "I talk to people in town that I'm sure have never been in our store, and they see our Sasquatch billboard and they know who we are. Even my wife's grandmother knows, and she's not a rider."

Rather than hire an advertising agency, Rexburg does all of its TV, print, radio and POP advertising in-house. It's more expensive than hiring an ad agency, Nichols says, but worth it because Rexburg has full control over its own image. "We get the benefit of having our marketing message and our brand image consistent and integrated into all of the media that we decide to use," Nichols says.

BUSINESS ON THE WEB

As creative director, Nichols is also in charge of Rexburg's Web site, an integral part of the dealership's business. The site is updated daily with new and used inventory, and Nichols tries to make the site a reflection of the actual brick-and-mortar store.

"Most of our customers have visited our Web site before they purchase a bike from us," Nichols says. "[The site] gives our customers impressions on what their buying experience is going to be like, and we use it to market to them how they can have a better riding and ownership experience than if they purchase from another dealership."

Rexburg also has its own eBay store, where it can sell obsolete and discontinued items that aren't selling well in the store. Last month, Rexburg sold parts and accessories to eBay shoppers in 16 different countries.

"We have an excessive amount of crap that we use eBay to liquidate," Burt says. "It's a different customer base than what comes in our store. It's an expensive way to liquidate obsolete parts and accessories, but its better than watching it collect dust."