Technology Usage Report: What Does it Say About Powersports Dealers?

Dealers who are late adapters need to kick it into gear, or sadly we are going to be watching you close your doors in the near future.

One thing I lack is patience, particularly when it comes to business growth. You know the feeling: there are days when nothing moves fast enough, progress is not being made as expected, and you find yourself driving home, exhausted and feeling as if you have accomplished nothing.

My business provides online marketing services to powersports dealers. We have dealers who are totally on board with online marketing (some forward thinkers even bring new ideas and tools to grow their online marketing efforts). But then we have dealers who have convinced themselves that the musty ol’ ad they have been running for the past decade in their local paper delivers the best bang for their buck. Others spend thousands of dollars on Yellow Pages, which was dead and buried a long time ago.

I’ll be honest: convincing dealers they need to adjust their mindset and shift their budget to online and mobile advertising is way harder than I expected it to be. After all, I have been in technology so long, I can remember when I had client’s snail mailing images on slides, and I had to convince them a digital camera was a good investment. I figured taking on powersports would be a breeze, which was my first mistake!

It’s not that dealers don’t get it; I believe it’s simply the fear of change, so I consider it my job to keep harping about social media, web and mobile marketing until every dealer in the country is a believer (besides the one who told us he “doesn’t believe in the Internet,” he’s a lost cause).

I am going to assume that if you are reading this article, you are one who gets it. I figure you’ve got an iPhone in your pocket (or a Blackberry if you are like me), and you have a presence on Facebook, Twitter or other social media channels (if you have neither, immediately print this article and tack it on your forehead).

Since we are in sync, I think you’ll be surprised by the following March 2011 statistics on powersports dealer technology usage (when I saw these, I’ll be honest, I blew a gasket). These statistics show how, when and where powersports dealers are utilizing all sorts of technology — from mobile phones to social media. The overarching conclusion I drew from the statistics is something I already knew: dealers who are late adapters need to kick it into gear, or sadly we are going to be watching you close your doors in the near future.

Usage of Mobile Devices

When MPN asked powersports dealers which electronic devices they own, they were given the following choices: iPhone, Blackberry, iPad or Android.

47  percent of the respondents stated “none.”

This tells me that nearly half of you are walking around with one of those old-fashioned flip phones, with worn off keys, no Internet access and not the slightest clue how to send a text. This is like riding a beat up old bike, with pipes blowing black smoke and tires flatter than pancakes. Not good.

Not keeping up with technology is like giving up on your business. Truth be told, I think the failure to embrace online marketing has led to the downfall of many dealerships in the past few years. Don’t be a dealer who clings on to what they know and hangs on for dear life while the local competitor gobbles up all their customers because they are listening and engaging them online. March yourself into your cell phone vendor and let them educate you on options — have fun with it! Don’t date yourself by talking about all the stuff your kids and/or grandkids are doing online – join them already!

Choosing a Mobile Device

Here are the four most popular operating systems (OS):

• Apple (iPad, iPhone)
• Android (Google)
• RIM (Blackberry)
• Windows 7 (Microsoft)

Choose your OS based on your needs:

Speed: Before you buy, test how long the device takes to open the web browser. Type in your website URL to see how fast it opens pages heavy in images and content.

Functionality: Do you want a camera? Video camera? Before you say you don’t care about these frills, think about it. I guarantee if you just try it, you will get hooked. Think about how handy it would be to have a video camera to shoot those YouTube videos you have been talking about doing since 2008!

Ease of use: This is a biggie; the most important aspect being the keyboard. I highly recommend getting a phone with two keyboards: touch screen and a QWERTY keyboard (which is a fancy name for saying a normal keyboard with buttons). Personally, the touchscreen thing drives me batty, especially since I am a Blackberry user and soon-to-be Android owner. There is just no way I am ever going to get used to tippity tapping one key at a time with my pointer finger.

Research the pros and cons of each OS:

• Spend time learning before you buy.
• Ask friends what OS they use and why.
• Check out online reviews and usage stats.

Social Media Usage Stats

37 percent of respondents surveyed are not utilizing social media at all, but I figure it’s their loss, right? If you are in the game, take advantage of this fact while you can; I figure you’ve got a year or two before these late adapters get with the program.

The Facebook stats are lower than I would like them to be, coming in at 57 percent, so if you are not there, get moving on a simple business page (not a personal profile, a business page). Go here to get started: http://on.fb.me/7qh6Gp.

YouTube usage is higher than I expected. Video is far and away the most effective way to sell online, so put aside your vanities and start shooting.

Twitter is a no-brainer, particularly if you are already on Facebook — programs like TweetDeck let you push content to Twitter and Facebook simultaneously.

My Space … is that site still live?

One social network that is not on the list, but worth a look is Foursquare. This social community asks users to “check in” when they arrive at retail locations. This is useful for garnering engagement in real time, since users of foursquare keep an eye on who is checking in where, and they may just become aware of your event through this channel.

To market to your target audience, you need to “listen” to your target audience. Upgrading your mobile device will allow you to start really listening. This new level of engagement should help you with your social media efforts, since you won’t just be pushing content out, you will truly be part of the community and discover you have a lot to contribute.

Award-winning blogger and CEO of Duo Web Solutions, Heather Blessington is an online marketing expert with over 15 years of experience in web design and development. Her company provides monthly columns focused on best practices in online marketing for powersports dealers. Send questions or recommendations for future articles to [email protected].

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