Help Wanted!

John urges dealers to update and upgrade their websites.

For several years I’ve been urging dealers to update and upgrade their websites. Many have. I suggested it was a powerful way to communicate with their customers, fellow dealers and their OEMs. It’s also a great way to enhance customer loyalty. However, I find it disheartening that there are still some smaller dealers who have not joined the 21st Century by creating a website of their own. Wake up!

Communication before the Internet was expensive, hard to measure and only about half of it worked anyway — worse, no one knew which half that was! In any event, those early methods of reaching out are fast becoming obsolete. For example, a local TV station covered an interesting event: A small retail operation (not motorcycle) placed a help wanted ad in the classified section of the newspaper. It was the typical three-line ad that ran for three days.

The retailer reported that he received a total of four applications, all from unqualified job seekers. So he stopped the newspaper ads and began to advertise on his own website. Because he wasn’t limited to three lines, the Internet ad was creative and enticing. His job description was well worded with the benefits and opportunities clearly spelled out. The retailer reported that he received 400 applications — many from well-qualified individuals!

Turnover of personnel is a universal problem in the powersports industry. Employee turnover in dealerships has been reported to be as high as 30% per year. (Yes, I know there are dealers who have almost zero turnover and others who have a turnover rate exceeding 30%). That means there’s a need to keep a list of potential candidates to fill open positions in your dealership.

Just as the telegraph, telex and even the fax machine have seen a dramatic decline in use, so too have the newspaper classified ad sections. The newspapers’ revenue stream, which has been fed in large part by individual classified ads, is really beginning to feel the pinch. They are looking for ways to stem the flow, but it’s going to take a great deal of creativity to find one. Their time has come and perhaps is now fading away. The newspaper industry knows their readers’ age is fast approaching 60, and young people apparently don’t scour the classified ads looking for employment.

What’s the reality? The Internet has just about all the power. Nothing else comes close. More people are using the Internet to find information than the newspaper, the telephone, Yellow Pages or any other source of information.

Our industry is heavily involved in the Internet, too. Last week eBay Motors, that web-based auction site some of us love and others hate, had a total of 6,784 new and used motorcycles listed for sale by both dealers and individuals. Add in other sites selling used motorcycles and number jumps to 10,000+. The MIC reports that seven of ten motorcycle sales take place outside the franchised dealer’s place of business. I think that percentage will continue to grow as more people begin to trust recognized websites.

But what about help wanted ads? Your own site is the best place to start. I checked out every section of the U.S. and found good examples of dealers doing it right: Dudley Perkins Co., a San Francisco Harley-Davidson dealer, has an active help wanted tab on their site. Champion Cycle in Chicago has a employment tab and form ready for an applicant to fill out and e-mail back. Waynesville Cycle Center in North Carolina has an "Employment Opps." button. Harley-Davidson of Baton Rouge has an "Employment" button. Most motorcycle-related manufacturers have help wanted buttons on their pages too.

How many help wanted motorcycle sites are there other than those on dealer’s websites? Log onto Google, type in "Help wanted motorcycle" and you’ll find 490 listings, perhaps more by the time you read this. Why so many? American’s are very mobile. Some people who live in the far north want to move to the sun belt, while some people who live in the sun belt long for more dramatic seasonal changes and the opportunity to snow ski. According to the U.S. Census statistics, about 17% of Americans move every year. Some are your customers; some may be your employees.

As the industry jobs clearinghouse sites continue to grow, two stand out: www.MotorcycleIndustryjobs.com and www.malakye.com. Both these companies have made a substantial investment in their sites and have created easy to access, dynamic web pages. A new site that seems very serious has also joined the MIC: www.mymotorcyclejobs.com.

So, here’s what I’d like to see you do. Use your website as your prime advertising and communicating platform. Update and upgrade your site often. Link it to your OEM’s sites. Ask your customers to check out your site and give you some constructive feedback. Make sure your site has a map showing your exact location. I know your existing customers know where you are but what about the new guy/gal in town?

Your website is more important than your print advertising, billboards, mailers and yes, even word of mouth. There I’ve said it! Your site should be your "virtual" store, your way to contact new prospects and a way for them to contact you. It’s a way to increase your extended family by telling the viewers what’s going on in your store and in your world.

We are in the seventh year of the new millennium. Now is the time to take the plunge into this technology of the Internet, if you’ve not already done so.

Willie Sutton was the best known bank robber of the last century. When he was asked why he robbed banks, Willie said, matter-of-factly, "That’s where the money is." Since you’re reading this, I’ll assume that you are in the powersports business and the Internet is where the money is these days.

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