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Tomorrow’s Customer

Attract a new generation of riders using grassroots social networking.

Today’s average rider is 47 years old. 20 years ago that figure was nearly 20 years lower. As an dealer, you’ve gotta figure out how to attract new riders to the sport so your customer-base doesn’t age itself right out of the market.

Being a kid today ain’t like in was in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, or even the ‘90s. You are competing for young people’s attention with a wide array of entertainment — video games, iPhones, HDTVs and other waistline-expanding technologies are winning.

So how can you get their attention? While your traditional advertising avenues may work to convince current riders to change allegiance to your store, there’s a darn good chance it ain’t drawing new riders into your doors.

Have you tried meeting young people on their turf? I’m not talking about dropping in at recess or hanging on the college quad: it’s time to take your grassroots marketing digital. Social networking sites like Facebook are patronized by a staggering volume users — as of March 10, Facebook had 150 million active users. (Don’t tune out now, this is where you score some free marketing.)

In these virtual networks users hook up with all of their friends to share photos and videos; catalog their likes and dislikes; and pledge allegiance to their favorite brands. Think of each user’s site as a bulletin board where they show their friends what their into. Companies of every flavor can set up free product sites and the users then become fans of those micro sites.

Every time a user becomes a fan of your site, each of their friends gets a note that lets them know their friend is into you. With an average of 120 friends per user, that multiplies pretty quick! And the great thing is that this notification isn’t an ad, it’s a personal recommendation from a friend.

I did a search to see what dealerships and brands are doing right. I started by typing Harley-Davidson into my search bar, my first hit was The Motor Company which has 112,674 friends and counting (that’s more than 13.5 million personal recommendations if you’re keeping track). I also found several dealerships, and while their average networks were quite a bit smaller, they still can make a large impact. The House of Harley in Milwaukee, Wis. currently has about 500 friends, again doing the quick math that’s 60,000 referrals, probably a tad better than you’ve done asking for names when you close the sale, eh?

I should also point out that while Facebook started as a site for college kids, it’s snowballed, and has members of all ages and walks of life. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook is users over 30.

While this all sound a bit too good to be true, it does come with some strings. Setting up a page on a social network isn’t a one-time commitment. You’ve gotta actively update it a few times a week.

Get riders and prospects into the store by posting event invites and the day after the event takes place get photos and even video posted pronto!

Perhaps you could have a featured rider of week giving that rider the chance to show off the bike he tricked out at your shop.

You’ve also got the opportunity to sort through feedback users post on your site. You’ll get the good, the bad and the ugly, but it’s great that you’ve got an opportunity to monitor and respond to what’s being said about your store, you’ll even have the names of the people posting so you can follow up.

My suggestion would be to assign one member of your team to be your social networking administrator. There’s a good chance one or more members of your team is already blowing a bit of his free time at the shop on these sites: make it his responsibility to keep your online grassroots efforts going strong.

If you’re a one-man show and the computer ain’t your thing, it’s time to buck up and adopt some new technology. Ask your kids or even the grandbabies to give you a tutorial. They’ll be glad to share their technical know-how, and who knows, you might get sucked into the digital era!

I hope I can convert a few of you anti-interneters, and if I’ve been preaching to the choir, drop me a line to let me know how social networking has impacted you and your dealership.

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The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame recently named Marilyn Stemp and Steve Piehl to its board of directors.

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