In Search of Radio Heads

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First of all, barring a total collapse of the economy, there are going to be more than 900,000 motorcycles and scooters sold this year, or about as many as were sold in 2003 (922,000), and if you look back, 2003 was a pretty good year.

Second, you're selling the king of fuel-efficient vehicles; most of the products on your floor are capable of 40 to 50 mpg and some even more when used in a lawful manner.

Third, you're selling fun and recreation, something folks need when the rest of their life is headed for a face-plant.

Finally, motorcycles and scooters have an almost mystical attraction to a very large group of people.

A PROMOTION MIGHT BE IN ORDER

Due to the wide appeal of two-wheeled vehicles, particularly to that core demographic (18-54), your local rock station probably would lend a friendly ear to a discussion about the mutual benefits arising from a joint promotion that would attract new listeners to the radio station and give the DJs something to talk about during their shows for a few weeks. It also would give you and your products some additional exposure in exchange for a motorcycle or scooter.

You need to agree on the amount and kind of exposure you're getting in exchange for the vehicle. It may be that the perception of the value of the total promotion will drive the exchange value up in your favor.

If you live in a town that's big enough, consider staging a contest: Who can get from the edge of town to the central business district in the least amount of time and for the least amount of cash — someone driving a car, or someone riding a two-wheeler? Be sure to include time spent parking (and looking for parking).

It would be even more interesting if the two contestants were rival DJs. The station could do on-air promotions, asking listeners to guess which one is going to win and what the cost and time of the winner will be. The DJs could trash-talk over which one will be the eventual winner. The listener coming closest to the winning time and cost would win the vehicle, which would be given away at your dealership during a live broadcast where you're offering free hot dogs and soft drinks, giving away a couple of T-shirts each hour, and providing deals on bikes and gear.

YOUR OBJECTIVES

So let's review: Basically what you want to do is 1) negotiate a favorable value for your product, 2) structure a program with the station that drives traffic for both of you, 3) promote the concept of a motorcycle as an economical and fun way to commute, run short errands, or just to enjoy the back roads on a sunny day, and 4) sell a few bikes and some products as a result.

You've got desirable products for these times. Radio stations, confronted with fewer advertising dollars, have lots of excess airtime. They can't inventory or store the airtime, so they're probably willing to exchange it for something they can turn into value for their customers, their advertisers or their salespeople. Your upside is that you have cleared at least one motorcycle off your floor, received good value, and made thousands more aware of your place of business and the benefits of the products you sell. It's a win for everyone.

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