If I Were a Dealer …

MPN's online marketing guru steps into the shoes of a dealer and shares her outlook on managed success — online and in your brick and mortar store.

YouTube has served me well over the years. I shot my first video back in 2006, and to date I have recorded hundreds of videos. Many of those videos are various rants on topics that for one reason or another irked me on a particular day, so I decided to whip out my camera and document it.

When I started to focus in on the powersports industry in early 2010, I found myself with plenty to rant about. You’ll find a series of videos I did last year titled “If I was a dealer…” on one of my YT channels called RevvedUpWithDuo (feel free to rant back to me and tell me I am full of it — I can take it). Anyway, I liked that series so much, it’s time to resurrect it for print and publish a fresh list of ideas about what I would do if I were a dealer.

Before we get into it, remember that I am a business owner specializing in marketing. I am not a motorcycle freak or motocross racer, but I appreciate every ounce of enthusiasm and pure passion that drives customers to your dealership. I’ve never run a dealership, but I’ve toured many, many shops, and it’s quite obvious who is succeeding and why. I don’t believe one has to have been a dealer to “get” how to run your business because the core concepts are the same: manage cash flow, monitor inventory, hire the right people, spend your marketing dollars wisely and position yourself to be able to “look up” at the future, rather than “down” at the day-to-day tasks. The last point is critical, so I will say it again: Position yourself to look up toward the future rather than down at today.

This is a principle my dad taught me. He continues to drill it into my head, so I don’t lose my focus, which is very easy to do when every day you walk through the doors to find everyone shouting your name and demanding your attention. It’s an art to say the least, and I know you can relate. But you can’t allow yourself to get so sucked into what is happening on a particular day that you ignore the big picture. I find this is the downfall of many powersports dealers, so I want to share with you a few ideas to start to pondering. If I were a dealer…

I Would Have Mandatory Weekly Staff Meetings

This shouldn’t be a new concept, but many dealers I’ve talked to who attempt staff meetings say that no one shows up, the staff doesn’t follow up and no one is bringing ideas to the table.

Well, I have news for you: you’ve either hired the wrong people or you are a total wimp of a boss. I mean, seriously: if I called a meeting and my team sat there like bumps on a log, or worse, didn’t even have the respect to show up — that day would be their last.

Productive meetings with an agenda, followed by minutes and action items, are what drive a business. When it comes to marketing, I guarantee you will never execute your initiatives if you don’t kick it into gear and get organized. Plus, if you attempt to take it all on yourself, you will surely end up frustrated and unsuccessful.

Evidence of this issue can be seen in the multitudes of outdated Facebook pages and Twitter accounts with two tweets from 2009 that are laying out there on the web for all of eternity — glaring examples of marketing efforts gone bad.

I Would Spy on My Competition

It’s not like you have to put on a disguise and sneak into their dealership. These days, you can easily see exactly what your competitor is doing by simply surfing their website, social media channels and Google Places. All the intel you need is right there for you to see and scheme. It’s quite fun, actually, and I highly recommend it.

If your competition is whipping you on the web, I can guarantee they are doing the same in retail, so steal their good ideas, take advantage of their mistakes and capitalize on the fact that they can no longer hide from you. Then take some serious time to think about what you can do better and how you can step out ahead and stay there.

I Wouldn’t Act My Age

Your demographic is young, likely younger than you — so stop acting like you’re 90! You must be able to relate to your customers, or eventually, you’ll be toast. Trust me, the web is fun and social media is exciting, so get your mojo back. All it takes is for you to dedicate your time to learning, and you’re on your way. Here are my favorite sources to help keep me in touch:

Techcrunch.com: The best resource on web, mobile and start up news.
Mashable.com: Social media delivered 24/7.
Wired Magazine: Well-rounded perspective on technology trends and web marketing. You can read this online, but I still like the hard copy so I can keep a library of ideas.

I Wouldn’t be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

At Duo, we have a minimum dealer package, which requires the utilization of four hours per month on website management and/or email campaigns for a couple hundred bucks. Time and time again, dealers hem and haw over this commitment. Or they ask if they can “roll over” the hours if they are not utilized.

I couldn’t take it anymore, so we drew the line. Our stated philosophy is this: If you really believe that we can’t work together to come up with four hours of enhancements, promotions, new content, graphics or newsletter campaigns in a 30-day period, we don’t want your business. Seriously, we’ll pass. This is how serious we are about marketing, and you need to be just as serious.

I’d Find a Mentor

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the business for 20 years or two, we all have something to learn, perhaps today more than ever with the lightening pace of technology. Many dealers participate in 20 groups to share financial data and get a perspective of where they stand next to other dealers of their kind and size. I would venture to guess those groups include others who are seeking advice and insights, so don’t be afraid to ask for it. A good place to start is GSA (www.gartsutton.com). Gart and his team are highly respected in the industry, and they can help you take your business to the next level.

Next, consider attending conferences to get a fresh perspective of what’s happening in the industry, discover ways to grow your business and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Award-winning blogger and CEO of Duo Web Solutions, Heather Blessington is a web technology veteran and a certified PMP with the Project Management Institute (PMI). Her company provides monthly columns focused on best practices in web marketing for powersports dealers. Contact Heather Blessington directly at heatherb@duowebsolutions.

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