Everywhere you look, people are offering to market your motorcycle dealership. From the company that provides your website services to the powersports manufacturers to dedicated marketing agencies, plenty of people are ready to put you ahead of the competition. While this may sound strange coming from someone who has done a lot of consulting work in the past, the truth is for a motorcycle dealership, the best marketing solution is to handle it in-house. I say this for several reasons, and I would like to offer my insight.
Nobody cares about your business like you do
Let’s think about this statement for a second. As a dealership owner, you want to increase sales, increase efficiency (reduce overhead), and beat the competition. Not just beat the competition but crush them and take their market share. Business, particularly motorcycle and automotive sales, is not a game for wimps. Aggressive tactics are an essential part of growth. If you have any doubts go read “The Everything Store” (Amazon and Jeff Bezos) or “Shoe Dog” which is Nike’s story. Successful growth depends on beating out your competition.
Does your website provider have many dealerships signed up for their services? Do you think they are going to put your interests over everyone else? No.
They plan to provide an even level of exposure and leads for everyone. Even if they did find something that worked well for your dealership, they certainly wouldn’t keep it exclusive to you. It would be spread overnight with an email explaining how lucky everyone is to have this new feature.
Understanding this concept is essential when evaluating the manufacturer’s and COOP programs’ relationship. To an even greater degree, your interests and the manufacturer are divergent. Yes, they want you to make more sales and move more inventory, but they want you to avoid swallowing the other fish in the pond because it is not beneficial to them. Which is better for a manufacturer – to have one dealer in a large DMA who is number one in the U.S. – or four average dealers doing the same volume as the one? They make more money, have a bigger footprint, and have more diversity in case of individual financial difficulty.
Second, and equally important, is that our market is digitally driven. Our customers are shopping online. The CRM system and customer data have always been critical to successful sales. Still, with today’s tools and the ability to mine that data, our customer information is precious. The manufacturer wants it and wants to know where it came from and how you got it.
They want to use it themselves, but just as importantly, they want to understand and copy your successful marketing strategies for their interests. They are not interested in helping you become the top-selling dealership but in making ALL their dealers top sellers.
Is this bad? Not at all, but you need to understand the dynamics of your manufacturer relationship, leverage it where you can, protect yourself when necessary, and use everything you can to beat your competition.
Don’t believe me? Consider when your sales rep convinced you to over-buy on your last PGA order. Is he 100% on your side?
In the future, I will write a more in-depth article on how to leverage manufacturer marketing programs. Still, the basic summary is that I look to use them to build brand and dealership awareness. I don’t use them for marketing specific stock units. I use them to acquire particular leads through their programs, but I never let them see the leads I receive through my programs. So no website tracking, no sharing of analytics, etc.
Maintaining Data Security
Recently a company came to me and offered to place a dealership’s entire inventory on a brand-new listing website. All they wanted was access to our Facebook Pixel. What could go wrong? Primarily, they get your website audience and can market anything and anyone they want to that group. You are not their only client – so what stops them from selling your competitor’s products to your audience? Nothing – they can do what they want. You will never know, and it’s instantly significant traffic for all their clients, so their services look great. Again, their interests do not align with yours. More importantly, if you don’t have someone on your payroll who understands the technical aspect, you are vulnerable to giving away assets you want to keep private.
Getting honest analytics
You must have internal reporting capabilities to get real, honest numbers that tell the tale of how your money is being spent. I have run enough reports to know that anyone can skew numbers, and marketing agencies have many ways to make themselves look good. Learn to set benchmarks and ROI goals, and look at the statistics yourself. I can’t tell you how often I have caught vendors over-promising and under-delivering. I would just be giving them more money without any way to track the results myself.
Tracking your website traffic is essential but not the only key metric. You need to track within your CRM system where your leads come from, how they respond, and how many convert to actual sales. For example, we see hundreds of leads from manufacturer events, but the conversion rate could be much higher. Anybody will give information to win a car, but does that convert into a sale? When does it convert into a sale – this month or in two years? These are essential questions, and knowing how to generate reports from your CRM, website, social media, and inventory listing sites is critical to understanding how your money is being spent.