April Showers Bring May Horsepower

Rod Stuckey | 04/09/2019

I’m a big fan of persistence and stick-with-it-ness. The U.S. Military Academy conducted a study of what the top characteristics were for the highest performing elite military personnel, and it wasn’t their I.Q. or athletic ability. It was GRIT, which they defined as: Perseverance and Passion for Long Term Goals.

Unfortunately, all persistence isn’t created equal. Many folks believe if they just show up day-in and day-out and keep doing what they’ve been doing things will fall into line and eventually improve. This approach of “more, longer, harder,” and “more of the same” is badly flawed. 

Edison’s light bulb, Ford’s automobile, Watts’ steam engine are all examples of smart persistence. Spending days trying to push a 750-pound iron sled up a mountain until eventually dying of exhaustion is not smart persistence. A different approach of say, working on a conveyor or pulley system is likely the better method. 

Investing grit and stick-with-it-ness in a futile and failing endeavor is not admirable or productive, but it is very expensive. Just look behind the curtains at our government for plenty of examples, they have this down to a science. 

I see a stubborn and ignorant persistence in dealership advertising all the time. It’s being generous to say that 90% of the overall population doesn’t ride motorcycles. It’s likely more like 95%. And every bright-eyed green pea advertising peddler (and unfortunately some naive OEM execs) out there think targeting that 95% of non-riders is the secret sauce for growing our industry. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Futile. Futile. Futile. 

It’s statistically proven that the influence of friends and family is what grows new riders. And, it’s statistically proven that within our 5% of existing riders we have a lot of churn, folks coming and going for a multitude of factors including the inherit risk and expense of our sport. 
Like most in the industry, I too have concerns about our next generation of riders, or lack thereof. And, I don’t completely blame video games and social media (like I often hear). My son plays motocross video games when he’s not riding, and his Instagram feed is nothing but motorcycles. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for our industry. The only time I got to see a motorcycle on TV was when Chips came on. 

But I had something he’ll never experience as a young rider. All my closest neighborhood buddies had motorcycles and ATV’s (influence of friends). Nearly every day we’d meet up at the local vacant lot or construction site and shred it up. I grew up 15 minutes south of the Atlanta airport and we had riding areas everywhere. The 50 acres or so behind the church around the corner was epic, the land that now holds the local Home Depot used to be a favorite track of mine. I could go on and on with all of the “ask forgiveness, not permission” places that I rode back in the 80’s. By the way, I started riding because of my Dad and Uncles.

Fast forward to today and land is scarce in most suburban areas which eliminates possible riding spots. And even if there was land, nobody in their right mind would knowingly allow riders due to the ambulance chasing attorneys who’ve created an environment where liability and exposure are top of mind. 

A large portion of street bikes sold are to Gen X’ers and Boomers who rode dirt bikes as a kid. Those adults have it in their system and have a solid riding foundation. Selling a full-size street bike to someone who has never ridden before happens less than you may think, and when it does it’s always sketchy watching them ride out of the parking lot. 

Getting kids involved in the sport today has a big impact on the health of the industry 20 to 30 years from now. I know we have striders with electric batteries and throttles and that’s cool. And the industry is hoping electric motorcycles will combat some of my previous points, but we all know the purists are going to put up a fight. But, I digress…

My point is being persistent and gritty targeting non-riders, hoping that you’ll convert them into riders, is just plain ineffective. As opposed to (smart) persistence of targeting known riders in your backyard with a one-to-one, compelling, and relevant message inviting them down to the dealership for a shindig to hang out with other known riders. This strategy, when stuck to for an extended period, begins to combat churn and increase retention. It can also help grow new riders because riders invite their friends and family to join them, and many will even bring their kids along. 

No this isn’t a magic bullet or a quick fix, but small smart choices plus time can impact big change over the long haul. And if every dealership in the nation focused on creating a fun and exciting experience for their customers, we’d see interest from kids and new riders and increase the retention of existing riders. It would be a rising tide that raises all ships. So be gritty and be persistent with your advertising decisions this spring selling season and beyond by targeting known riders! 

For more information on how Powersports Marketing can help you sell more units and have more fun, contact us today at 877-242-4472.

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