Pissed off? Under-capitalized? Short-staffed, micro-managed, floor-traffic-challenged … sound familiar? How the hell are you, the brick-and-mortar dealer, supposed to survive the current business environment?
Admittedly, there is no true finish line in retail. But right now, many dealers are hitting the wall in their business endurance race. You may have lost the pace, but with a combination of crisis management tactics and new forms of customer prospecting, you can make it to the next aid station.
That little voice in the back of your head will continue to tell you every negative thing it can at this point: “You’re weak.” “You’re off the pipe.” “Your customers have abandoned you.” In biological terms, that nagging voice is simply presenting the flight option to your subconscious.
Meanwhile, your other internal voice is saying fight! Which voice do you listen to?
This is truly a moment of choice in your business lifecycle. Are you going to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and finish the race, or are you going to lay there alongside the course waiting to DNF?
It’s a tough choice, and nobody trained you for this scenario. And it seems the rules changed mid-race. You may need some bailing wire, duct tape and a revived energy to patch things together like you never imagined.
Think of it as “Baja Engineering” for your business. Like riding a bicycle, you can’t change direction until you at least get moving again.
Your toughest choice will be changing your business formula — it’s not going to cut it any more. The Good Times are the Old Times, but you can still win this thing. Taking that Baja Engineering metaphor one step further, here is a list of 10 inexpensive solutions for you to consider right now:
More Social Media: This is still voodoo to some, but can be made much easier with some new affordable Facebook apps from www.northsocial.com. This third-party app provider for businesses gives you what you’ll need to get started saving time and making connections. There are blogs, photos, videos, shopping carts, promotions, sweepstakes and much more for as little as $19.99 a month.
More Special Events: Tech training sessions, Sportbike night. Open houses. You know the drill. Give people an excuse to ride and visit your store to hang out. Does it really cost that much to promote it on Facebook and in e-blasts to your customer database? A few hot dogs and sodas can result in a big increase in floor traffic and stimulate more sales.
E-blast Campaigns: Some dealers are doing this and some aren’t. The more creative and engaging promotions get much higher click-throughs and more attention. Keep it simple and bold with compelling images and embedded videos. Snail mail is done.
“Revive Your Ride!” promotion: The MIC has spent a ton of money on this campaign designed exclusively to generate more floor traffic for dealerships. It’s free, and maybe that’s why some of you don’t pay attention to it. Dig around on the website to find Dealer/Retailer Resources and in the Downloads, Logos and Art sections.
Drop ship to avoid mail order “theft”: This could also take the form of shopping carts on your website. My big beef about today’s parts or accessory purchase from a brick-and-mortar store is the dreaded second trip. It is a waste of time in this day of daily doorstep delivery. If you don’t have it stock when a walk-in customer wants it, take his money and then have your distributor ship it directly to his house. Anything else is a waste of gasoline and time.
Smiles and first names: It’s really that simple. It works better than probably anything on this list and takes less time and money. It works to market to millennials as well as aging baby boomers!
Frequent buyer programs: Frozen yogurt stores, barber shops and grocery chains all use them, why not you? A simple business card with $20 and $50 increments on it, plus a unique rubber stamp, and you’re in. Every $250 spent in P&A earns a 20 percent discount on the next single purchase. It encourages customer allegiance and keeps those bigger planned purchases coming your way.
Shop tours: Every new customer, whether they buy anything or not, should be treated to a full shop tour. Have you ever escorted your customers around and introduced them to your staff one at a time? Make sure everyone carries business cards in their pockets and hands one to each customer getting the tour.
Reach beyond your regular market: With the advent of $5 a gallon gas, scooters are now the biggest opportunity you have to stop preaching to the choir. Your problem is attracting the non-motorcyclist to your motorcycle store. Get over non-rider intimidation factor with special scooter promos outside your normal PR box including college campuses, train and bus stations, pizza delivery services, carpool lots and companies with huge parking lots of gas guzzlers. Look up www.msf-usa.org/scooterschool.cfm or call 800-446-9277.
Get Out More: If you haven’t left the store in months to look around, you may not be seeing the opportunities other businesses are trying. Cure your “rectal myopia” and let the sunshine in with some new input from outside the industry.
The human mind is genetically pre-programmed with the fight or flight response, but it is the higher brain function that controls your response to this environmental stimulus. Sure, the business environment sucks, the question is, are you going to fight back using bailing wire and “Baja Engineering” to stay in the race or are you going to just run off the course and wait for the Meat Wagon to haul you away?
This column originally appeared in the Dealernews April 2012 issue.