What’s your competitive advantage?

What’s your competitive advantage?

This post originally appeared on Powersports Business online September 26, 2017.

Quick question: Why should I buy from your store v. the guy down the block, or online? It seems like a pretty simple question, one that you and your staff would agree on and especially one that is a part of your marketing message. Do you have one or more reasons for your customers?

A logical reason to buy is one of the foundations of good business. But herein lies the problem: Everyone gets the same bikes, gear, helmets, tires, accessories, etc. So what separates you from everyone else? It better not be the price.

If you know the answer to this question, you are better off than most, but if you don’t, you have some work to do.

If you do have a couple of reasons that differentiate you from your competitors, are you using them to the fullest advantage? Is it in your advertising and social media? Is your staff helping spread this message? Make sure everyone is on point and delivering the same message. Confusion isn’t good for the bottom line or your customer’s experience. Get everyone together and make sure the message is consistent. I would suggest, even if you know what your advantage is, go through the exercise and make sure your thoughts are correct and that you aren’t missing anything.

If you don’t know what your competitive advantage is, then it is time to get to work. Start with a blank slate and determine, in your mind, what your advantage is. Ask your staff, suppliers, other nearby businesses and your customers what their reasons are for buying from your store and compare the two.

This process can be as simple as a quick questionnaire or as complex as a moderated focus group. The key here is to have an open mind to the results. For many of you, your business is your baby and hearing the good, bad and ugly about your business can hurt. Remember the answers from these surveys will be why people are buying from your store and many times this will be different than you might think it is. Don’t get emotional about it.

In most cases, the advantages will fall into a couple of distinct categories:

The physical store — This group references things like location and size of the building. Layout and design, ease of shopping, hours, days of the week. Are you the closest dealership that’s open the most hours? Do you have special late nights or early openings to accommodate your customer’s schedule?

Your digital footprint — Can customers order online for in-store pick-up? Is your website easy to use and mobile-friendly, and does it provide what your customer needs to make a buying decision? Is your product text the same as everyone else’s or not allowing you an SEO advantage? Do you show up in local searches with up-to-date and compelling information?

The items you carry — Yes, all the OEM dealers sell the same items, and we all order from the same distributors, but how are you different? Do you have the largest used bike inventory? How about niche brands of gear or accessories that are typically not available at most shops? Do you carry all sizes and colors for immediate delivery? Are you the store that your customers can count on for the newest items?

Your staff — Are they properly trained to deliver correct knowledge about all of the products they sell? Do they treat the customer right? Have they been in the business multiple years? Have they passed industry tests and classes that certify the results? Are they taking continuing education or teaching others? I feel that this is one of the most important differentiators in business. Remember, in the end, people buy things from people, not companies.

So take the time to sit down and think about why I should buy from you. Your bottom line will thank you for it.

As always the ideas expressed above are my own and I make no claims to the success or failure of implementing them. They are suggestions to make you think. Please vet all ideas against your business plan before implementing them.

Capitalize on the end of the summer slowdown

Capitalize on the end of the summer slowdown

This article was originally published online at Powersports Business on August 16, 2017. 

10 tips to grow your business. 

The long days of summer are getting shorter, and kids are back to school in many parts of the country. Autumn is just around the corner, but just because the summer season is over doesn’t mean that you should sit back and take it easy. The fall season in many parts of the country offers some of the best riding weather, and you can benefit from the time to look at some key projects to work on in your shop. Here are a couple of things you can do in the next several weeks to make sure you capitalize on that time.

  1. You have to know what is working and what is not in order to grow your business. Now is a good time to monitor the engagement on your social media channels. Look back at the analytics on your website to see where your traffic came from. Are you seeing a significant amount from a source you didn’t think was working or how about no traffic from one that you thought was? You still have a couple of months to make those advertising adjustments and better plan for 2018.
  2. Fall is that time of the year when all of the new gear and bikes are hitting the floor. Are you promoting that you have those items? What about adding something new and exciting. Is there a helmet line or gear company that you were considering putting in your store? What about an entirely new category? Now is your chance to bring the product in, train your staff, and get it ready to sell. Take the opportunity of the “downtime” to decide what your customers want and then go out and get it.
  3. Redesign your website. Yup, your old site is looking dated. If the budget exists, you could go all in and do a complete redesign using one of the industry providers, make sure it’s mobile friendly. But if the budget isn’t there, please go page by page through your site and remove any outdated information. Old used bikes, non-existent sales programs, etc. Get them off your valuable page space. Update your photos with new, correctly lit images, follow each link to ensure it’s still correct. Make sure you are putting your best foot forward with this silent sales person. Sure, it will take time but a page at a time will yield valuable results.
  4. Commission a new logo. It might be time to look at something new for your dealership. Is your current logo outdated with colors from the 80’s? It might be a chance to freshen up the appearance.
  5. Create a fun new slogan. Similar to a logo, what does your slogan or tagline say about your business? Is it still relevant or are you just using it because it’s “what we’ve always had?” Are you telling the story of your company?
  6. Meet your customers. As your dealership slows down in the next couple of months, this is the perfect time to offer customer training nights. Not only will your customers be better educated, but your staff will as well. The added benefit of getting to know them at a time of the year when you can spend a chance to talk with them will significantly increase their likelihood of shopping at your dealership.
  7. Attend a conference. The AIMExpo is taking place shortly, and the IMS shows are almost upon us, use both of these opportunities to increase your knowledge of the business. It might also be a good time to see what other conferences are going on in your area outside of the industry.
  8. Participate in a local event. Check with your local chamber of commerce for events and fairs going on in your neighborhood. You’d be surprised how many local people didn’t know you existed until they saw you at the church fair or festival. Take some to stay local and see what opportunity might exist.
  9. Target a new audience.  Have you looked at the growth of adventure bikes in the industry or the increase in the female demographic? What about ATV’s & SXS for hunters or agriculture use? Take the downtime to give some thought to these forgotten demographics and groups.
  10. Host an open house. Yes, this is the best time of the year for an open house or training seminar.

Know when it’s time to pivot. Take this chance to look at your business. Figure out what isn’t working and punt it. Don’t continue to do something because “it’s how we always do it.”

The business world is changing rapidly, and if you don’t, you’ll be left behind.

 

Educate Your Staff – Invest in Knowledge

Educate Your Staff – Invest in Knowledge

This post first appeared on Powersports Business, July 18, 2017. 

Ben Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

“Investment in knowledge.” Truer words have never been spoken, but unfortunately, too many dealerships across the country look at education as an expense, not an investment. They claim they don’t have the time, it’s too expensive, or they just don’t know where to go and get it. They get caught up in the day-to-day of operating a business and as a result, continuing education is overlooked. I’m here to provide solutions to those excuses so your staff can acquire the knowledge they need. Knowledge to create a better experience for your customers and ultimately lead to increased sales and revenue for the dealership.

Here are the three excuses that most dealer managers use to avoid training or educating their staff.

Excuse #1. We’re busy and don’t have the time. This explanation seems valid. The dealership is running wide open each day, and it’s hard enough to find a chance to eat lunch, let alone sit down and learn something. Right? Well not so fast. What about a quick 15 minutes each morning while everyone is just getting their day started? Or 15 minutes at the end of the day?

Here is an idea that I think will be effective. Make each staff member present a sales technique or product demonstration; each morning could feature a different person. At first, let them decide what they want to demonstrate, but as everyone gets more comfortable with the task, assignments can be made featuring relevant products or techniques. Follow these sessions up with a monthly, more in-depth training session. Buy bagels before the shop opens or pizza after it closes, bring a distributor or manufacturer rep in have them teach you about their product.

Excuse #2. It’s too expensive. I’ve seen an interesting article to this point passed around LinkedIn recently. Person #1 says “What if we educate our employees and they leave?” Person #2 replies “What if we don’t and they stay?” You can’t afford to have an uneducated staff. Here is the reality of retail today. The education of your customer is greater than ever. They’ve done their research, and they know about the product they want to buy. Your staff needs to be the expert. They need to understand what they are selling inside and out. If all your employees are doing is taking orders, why would a customer not just place the order online from the comfort of their own home? A more educated staff adds value to your dealership.

Excuse #3. I don’t know where to get it. This one is by far the easiest to overcome. Education is everywhere.

Begin your search within the dealership. Ask your staff to cross-train each other. Look at the catalogs, brochures and sell sheets that the manufacturers provide. Reach out to the distributors and ask them to help. What about the manufacturer’s reps? Ask them to give training to your staff.

Look online. Manufacturers websites are typically full of information about the products and their features and benefits. Use this information to train your employees. YouTube is another great place to search for information. You can use this medium for more than product training. Sales techniques, marketing, social media, etc. You can take courses in just about anything online. You just need to look for it.

Don’t forget about industry events and seminars. The AIMExpo is hosting 32 sessions of training this fall in Columbus. Are you or your staff attending? If so, you need to make sure you sit in on these valuable sessions.

So all of these ideas are great but how do I implement a training program like this in my dealership? You simply do it. That’s right, take the first step and start. It will be difficult at first, and they’ll be mistakes along the way, but starting a program is the first step. It can be simple initially and then grow as you find the confidence and see the results.

If you already have an education program for your staff, I’d be curious to hear more about it. What are you teaching? What is your procedure?

Invest in your staff, and treat them right. Your customer will thank you.

Powersports Business – Creating YouTube Content

Powersports Business – Creating YouTube Content

It’s that time of the year where new bikes are coming into your shop. Rather than just opening the box and building them, why not use this opportunity to create content for your YouTube channel?

Unboxing videos have always been extremely popular on this social channel so take that idea and run with it.

Here is a video from Seat Time that you can use for inspiration.

Now, yours doesn’t need to be as long or as detailed. Even setting up a time lapse on your GoPro would work. The point is to do it.

So go ahead and create some content.

I’d love to see your when you are done so let me know when you post it scott@scottlukaitis.com

As always the ideas expressed above are my own and I make no claims to the success or failure of implementing them. They are suggestions to make you think. Please vet all ideas against your business plan before implementing them.

 

Influencer Marketing – The rise of the Micro-Influencer

Influencer Marketing – The rise of the Micro-Influencer

This post originally appeared on Powersports Business on June 13, 2017. 

On of the most talked about trends in marketing, today is the use of influencers to promote a product or service. A recent AdWeek statistic showed that around 40% of respondents said they’d purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. That’s a pretty compelling figure, don’t you think? With the rise of mobile, and the ability to avoid advertising, influencers are the next step in getting your company the attention it needs to thrive.

“But I’m just a dealer,” you say; “I’m not a brand that can put this information to use”. But that’s where you are wrong. You can. You just need to look at it a little differently. I’m assuming you all have at least some presence on social media. Social media in the broadest sense can be a cost effective, highly targetable use of your marketing dollars.

Maybe your influencer isn’t Ryan Dungey or some celebrity; you are lucky if it is, but what about a “local” celebrity? The local newspaper editor, racer or bike club member. What about your customers or your staff? They have friends and can influence on how and where their friends shop. Use this as your opportunity to tap into the greatest asset you have. An already satisfied client base. (If you don’t have this you are in trouble).

Stay with me for a minute. Here are a few ways you can experience the advantages of influencer marketing.

  • Align with those local celebrities that ride and ask them to share on your behalf. Every shop I’ve ever worked at had 1 or 2 of these local celebrities.
  • What about the local engine builder or suspension guru? I am sure they have good things to say about your dealership. Use these influencers to build your credibility.
  • Tap into the racer support network and make them work for their discount. They are or should be, respected in their field and can help promote your dealership.

But there is more. Try and look at this in a broader scope. Everyone’s an influencer. You never know where that next sale will come from. By now virtually everyone is active on at least one or 2 of the popular social networks. They have friends, and their friends have friends, and their friends have friends, on so on. Tap into that network.

Make it easy for your customers to share their dealership experience. You are sharing each new bike sale, right? Do it in front of a simple step and repeat banner. Heck, go ahead and create a “Red Carpet” for all new vehicle pick-up. Go all in with lights. A minimal investment can yield great rewards.

Create a selfie spot within your dealership for people to share their experience. Have the place tagged with your hashtag or social handles.

When a potential customer is sitting on bikes in the dealership, why not encourage them to take a selfie and share it with their friends. Tag your dealer as the location, and you win.

Recent data suggests that celebrity endorsements are on the decline where peer-to-peer influence is increasing due to the perceived truth to those celebrity endorsements.

This presents a great opportunity for your dealership. It’s time for you to use your existing customer base to shape new or repeat business. But how do you do that?

The answer is quite simple. You ask. That’s right, ask. People are accustomed to answering surveys and providing feedback. You just need to ask for it.

A couple of simple action items you can put in place include the following easy to implement suggestions.

  • Send an email to your existing email list asking them to write a review of your shop on sites like Yelp or Google.
  • Include a place on your website to collect testimonials.
  • When you follow up after a service appointment, ask if they’ll provide a testimonial or recommendation.
  • Include a place on your Facebook page to collect these recommendations.
  • Ask them to tell their friends about your business and reward them with store credit for sending in new customers or influencing purchases.

And you probably already have these influencers active on social media and weren’t even aware of it. I’m sure people have taken the time to write about your shop and the good work you’ve done. This is where the social in social media comes in. You have to listen and engage. Whenever there is a comment on your social stream or when your company is mentioned, engage with that post, no matter if it’s positive or negative.

Since this post was written, there has been more attention given to micro-influencers and their role in your marketing efforts. Check out this Hootsuite article for more detail.

UPDATE March 2018 – Inc.com published an article on the rise of influencer marketing. Influencer Marketing Takes an Important Twist in 2018