With the proportion of women who buy new motorcycles now exceeding 12 percent according to Motorcycle Industry Council figures, it makes sense for you to make a special effort to invite female motorcyclists to visit your dealership. In fact, since studies show that women make 80 percent of all buying decisions, it wouldn’t hurt for you to welcome the family and friends of your male customers as well.
Choose an Event Theme
An excellent way to get more women in your dealership is to host a fun event that will give the female riders in your vicinity and possibly even some non-riders a reason to show up at your door. To find out what kind of event women might like to attend, talk to your current customers — they’re your best guide to what women in the community might be interested in. People are generally pleased to find out that you value their opinion and will be happy to talk.
“Contact the active women motorcyclists in your area to help plan the event,” says Richard Kimes, director of marketing at Helmet House, Inc. That could include local clubs such as the Motor Maids or Women on Wheels.
Some women might be interested in an event that gives them an opportunity to learn more about motorcycling in a fun atmosphere and to meet other women with similar interests. Genevieve Schmitt, publisher of Women Riders Now, an online magazine about women motorcyclists, points out that many women have already learned the basics but are interested in learning more about motorcycling. Your customers may be interested in a safety gear fashion show, a basic motorcycle maintenance seminar, a Touring 101 seminar or an introduction to motocross racing. Buttonhole customers to find out what they would like or post a questionnaire on your website.
Kimes especially likes the idea of a safety gear show: “Even with the current challenging times, people in general don’t want to compromise on safety gear. Women tend to be more safety conscious, and want to spend on safety.”
Some women might feel more comfortable going to an event with a male friend or husband, and others might prefer an all-girls gathering. Jessica Prokup with emerging market communication at the Motorcycle Industry Council suggests that you try creating events or activities where couples are welcome: “Sometimes, the key to getting a woman to a dealership is to invite her significant other as well.”
On the other hand, Harley-Davidson has had great success with Garage Parties, women-only after hours events intended to introduce potential female riders to the wonderful world of motorcycling. Although the term “Garage Party” is copyrighted, you don’t need to sell Harleys to put on a similar event. Prokup cautions that the party should be a relaxing experience. “Think about style, socializing, personalization. Have food, drink and somewhere to sit.”
Prokup also says that market research has determined that giving back is a priority for women customers from Gen Y to Boomers.
“A dealer could canvass his or her employees to see if anyone is affiliated with or knows of a group in need, like a local school athletic team, the local Humane Society, a scholarship program or a program to support military families,” she says. “A charity barbecue, bake sale or bike and car wash could help drive traffic to the dealership and may draw people who otherwise wouldn’t visit a motorcycle dealer. Also, by partnering with local organizations, churches/synagogues or civic groups, dealers might find creative ideas for group events.”
Kimes agrees: “Event marketing is more important than ever. Get a charity involved — Ride for Kids or your local SPCA, for example.”
Matt Lachman, general manager of Grand Teton Harley Davidson, a recipient of the 2009 HD Circle of Excellence Award, points out that his dealership gets excellent press from the charity events he sponsors.
Becky Shimek, co-editor of HelmetHairMagazine.com, an online women’s motorcycle magazine, encourages dealers to “Reach out to local women’s groups. You might be able to meet women involved in these groups in your local Chamber of Commerce or Kiwanis. Host an event that introduces women to the exciting world outside of their 9 to 5.”
Promote Your Event
Once you choose your event, Shimek suggests partnering with the group that inspired it. If your event is associated with a charity or a social organization, most likely the group will do a lot of the advertising for you. In addition to the group’s grassroots efforts, communicate the event to your existing customer base through email blasts. Shimek points out that male customers may be trying to encourage female friends and family to share their passion.
If you want to draw a younger crowd, Prokup suggests you advertise around colleges, coffeehouses or other known hangouts. You may be able to buy ads on websites associated with these places, and there are services who will do posting on all the local bulletin boards for you for a minimal fee. You could also leaflet groups congregating outside, such as theater lines, or outside concerts — this is an inexpensive option that won’t get caught in spam filters.
Lachman places radio and TV ads at the beginning of the riding season to promote his new riders’ training courses and Garage Parties. Harley-Davidson provides the ads for Harley dealers, and the dealer simply needs to buy the air time. In addition, he uses his existing mailing list but asks female customers to pass the invite to at least one female friend.
“Word of mouth is our most important advertising medium,” he says.
Make Your Dealership Event Ready
Once you give women a reason to walk in your door, make sure they don’t back right out! Schmitt suggests that in presenting your dealership to your customers in general, and women in particular, you work to please the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.
Taste? Yes! Do your customers associate your dealership with ancient coffee?
And don’t forget to consider your lighting. Some people believe that certain types of industrial florescent lights cause migraines. Putting in more natural lights is not extremely expensive and will markedly improve the visual appeal of your dealership.
Next, think about how your dealership smells. Schmitt points out that women in general tend to be more sensitive to smells. Does your dealership smell like toxic chemicals? Or, “Is your garage leaking into your showroom?” asks Schmitt.
She emphasizes that touch also is an important factor in retail. Many women will pass up an opportunity to purchase an item online in to be able to touch it before they purchase it. “Is your women’s clothing attractively displayed? Is there a place to try things on?” Schmitt asks.
Often, your sound system plays what your young male employees want to hear, Schmitt says: “Is this what your customers want to hear? Does your music match your customer base? Is your music gender neutral? You can do an adult contemporary mix that is not elevator music.”
Lastly, Schmitt advises that you put a little thought into that pot of coffee: “What does your coffee taste like?” It had better be good! You might also think about having a small fridge stocked with soft drinks and water for your better customers.
Train Your Staff to Work with Women
Fun events and a pleasant atmosphere won’t work if your staff unintentionally insult female customers.
“There are two aspects to increasing a dealer’s female customer base,” says Prokup. “One is getting more women in the door, and the other is serving them well once they are there. Train your staff to be respectful and responsive to female customers. Salespeople should ask a lot of questions to learn about each individual’s skill level, riding style and needs.”
“You need to build a female customer base if you are serious about getting our business,” says Helmet Hair’s Shimek. “Female riders will spread the word about people and businesses who cater to us.”