“Get your people involved,” he said. “When they’re part of the planning, they’ll take ownership.”
When he’s expecting an extra large crowd, Fairless hires off-duty police officers whose mere presence can be a deterrent to bad behavior. Shelby suggests notifying neighbors and local law enforcement ahead of time.
“You want to avoid speed traps and noise regulation problems,” he said. “You don’t want them to target you and hurt your business.”
Of course, good food is a must. Most dealers don’t skimp, so you might wonder how a relatively modest shop justifies the expense. “We used to do direct mail,” said Clemens. “I figured it took a dollar in materials and time to get a flyer into a customer’s hands.” Now he uses email, and the resulting savings are invested into the event itself.
Partying is fun, but you have to make money at some point. “I keep track of how many new names I enter into my Counterman system in the weeks after an event,” Clemens said. “You can’t treat it like it’s just a party. It’s a party for a purpose, and that’s twofold: to generate business and show your customers you appreciate them.”
Shelby cautions against over-discounting during events because the celebratory atmosphere can be good for sales.
“You’re in business to make money. Don’t be embarrassed about it,” he said. “When you have an event, it says, ‘We want to show off our building and raise money for a good cause. We also want to sell you something so we can pay our bills, keep our employees and be here for you in the future.’
“People only have so much to spend, and you’re going to share that dollar with every shop in town. The best you can hope for is getting your share and to do that you have to stay in front of them,” Clemens added.
But beware the negative vibe. “Don’t have a lot of rules and guys barking orders,” Fairless said. And remember: except in extraordinary circumstances, the band isn’t the show, it’s the background. As Rick said, “The show is the bikes and the people and the hanging out.”