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