Selling products through digital diversions

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You can extend the fun beyond your dealership’s walls by leveraging the power of the Internet. The Internet is an amazing opportunity for you to communicate to the world that the folks who work in your shop love what they do.

Once you really get into it, you’ll start to realize that there’s nearly an infinite number of ways you can leverage your website, Facebook fan page, YouTube channel, etc. to share the fun. All of these exercises are based on the notion that your shop really is a fun place. If everyone working there is about as cheery as the veteran section on a slave barge, then you may want to work on some other areas before you worry about this stuff.

First up, let’s talk about what you can do with your Facebook fan page. The most obvious first step is to create one and then attract a decent fan base. Once you’ve got your page rocking, you can start to have some fun with it. You should do more than just tell your fans about what kinds of deals you have at your shop or on your website. Try running a fan-participation contest to get folks to interact with your online shop. Motorcycle Superstore (http://tinyurl.com/2axhgah), for example, does a regular series of contests like its “create a caption” contest where it posts a funny or interesting photo for fans to not only submit clever caption ideas, but also vote on a final winner from a selection of finalists that Motorcycle Superstore selects.

Here’s an idea: Let’s say you sponsor a racer or a race team. Post a link on your Facebook page to a PDF template of your bike’s plastics or fairings, and have your fans submit designs for the color scheme and graphics. That would be a great way to get your fans interested in your team, and to create a sense of membership in the team. Create several classes that range from really young kids to professional designers. Let your fans choose a design they like best. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up with a really cool crayon design from a 7-year-old (and probably some pretty good PR about the contest and your team as well).

These two examples are both games that you can run through Facebook that don’t involve anything more technical than just putting up some posts. You can always get fancy and develop a full-blown Facebook application/game using Facebook’s platform. Instead of spending hundreds of highly productive hours doing lame stuff like running a farm, maybe your fans would rather manage a race team? Check out Facebook’s developer program at developers.facebook.com. Finding a programmer that can help you do this development is only a Google search away.

Let’s talk about video. YouTube is now the second-largest search engine in terms of searches per day, behind only Google. Viral videos still can be excellent sources of traffic to your site. While I wouldn’t recommend trying to ride on the tail of a piano playing cat by posting videos of a motorcycle racing cat unless you want a visit from the SPCA, take some time to think about how you can make your videos entertaining and fun to watch.

A great example of this is a video that Revzilla ran for its big May promotion called Cinco De Moto (http://tinyurl.com/252vqsa). It’s a video spot that Cal Worthington would be proud of! Did this video take more time to produce than just having some guy talk in front of a camera about its sale? Sure! but I’m willing to bet that it was fun as hell for employees to produce, and it sure makes a statement to the folks that watch it that Revzilla is full of folks who love what they do.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to limit yourself to the Web with this stuff. Recent cover dealer World of Powersports recognized that more and more people were passing their time playing games on their iPhones, so it got into the action. The store sponsored an ATV racing game that you can download from iTunes. Not only is it getting its name out there in a way that’s associated with something fun, but the store has built in a mechanism whereby people playing the game can actually win real-world prizes like discount coupons and other swag. It’s a clever way to harvest customer information to use in future marketing and advertising.

So there you have it. A few ideas of what some of the rest of the industry is doing with the Internet and related technologies to extend the fun of working in their respective shops and our industry to the world at large. Hopefully this can act as a small seed that you can use to kick off a brainstorming session at your shop and come up with some cool, fun ways to interact with your customers and soon-to-be customers.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews July 2010 issue.