Article as it appeared in AIMExpo Issue of Dealernews -
Back in January I wrote an op-ed for American Motorcyclist magazine regarding the downward trend in new motorcyle sales, the need for bringing new riders into the sport, our faliure to engage millenials combined with a simple yet powerful message on how to turn the tide. The Plus 1 Rider Initiative is based on a simple premise: The best hope for reversing the trend in declining ridership lies within ourselves, the existing motorcycling community including both individual motorcyclists and businesses engaging with non-riders on a highly personal, one-to-one basis. Later I wrote an article for Dealernews offering suggestions to motorcycle dealers on how to integrate the Plus 1 Rider Initiative into their sales strategy. I went on to offer a number of tips and suggestions on how to activate Plus 1 Rider at the dealership level. Everything from offering special coupons or certificates to existing customers who bring in new buyers/riders, hosting a special movie night or other open house promotions for non-riders to running a month-long contest in which current customers enter a prize drawing every time they bring in a new customer who makes their first motorcyle purchase.
The bottom line is there are plenty of opportunities and ideas that any dealer can offer regarding how to share the experience and engage non-motorcycling friends and family and ultimately encourage them to join us.
The good news is that throughout this past year wherever I’ve shared the Plus 1 Rider message it seems to have struck a responsive chord. The fact is motorcyclists by and large are eager to share their experience. There is certainly no other topic that they enjoy talking about more. This goes for motorcycle dealers as well. The question is how do you go about sharing your experience without alienating or turning off your audience? How do you ignite that initial spark of curiosity and willingness to give motorcycling a try without scaring them off in the process? Here are a few suggestions:
- Keep it casual. One of the most important considerations when engaging a non-motorcylist is to make them feel comfortable. If at all possible ask them to come into your office or sit with you somehwere quiet to have a discussion about motorcycling.Sit next to or at an angle from the customer. Never put a desk or other barrier between you if you can avoid it. The goal is to eliminate barriers and lower the confrontation level. Remember you stand up to fight. Sitting with someone is the best way to have an open, casual conversation.
- Remember you are always on call. Often times the best place to have an initial conversation about motorcycling is outside the office. Let’s face it if someone is in your shop they are probably already thinking about buying a bike anyway. As a motorcycle sales professional you are constantly on call. The best place to have that initial conversation about motorcyling with a friend or family member is probably at home or in a non-workplace environment. Never let an opportunity slip by to bring up the topic and share your passion for the sport.
- Limit “Moto Speak”. Keep the conversation at a non-technical level and refrain from using moto jargon and slang as much as possible. There is no better way to alienate an audience than make them feel like an outsider from the start. Remember you want to communicate as much as you can about the experience, where you went, what you saw, who you were with than about the technical aspects, your choice of tires, engine set-up and/or handlebar selection. That will come later after they are part of the fold.
- Get personal. Make sure to talk about the feeling you personally get while riding, thow it enhances your life, the freedom you experienced, how refreshed you felt afterwards, the great dinner you had at the one-off restaurant you visited, the band you heard at the event you attended, the people you met along the way. Talk about all the great experiential things you did and how the motorcycle was the perfect way to get there.
- Avoid bravado and bragadocio. There’s no need to share how fast you rode, what risks you took, any close calls you had.While this may be Ok for some limited audiences it is simply counter-productive for most. The biggest obstacles for conversion to motorcycling is the inherent fear and safety concerns most non-motorcyclists possess.
- Mention the Community. Make sure any newcomer understands they are not alone that there are plenty of resources to draw upon including great safety and training programs, associations like the AMA, local clubs and other groups to be a part of. Motorcycling offers a great fraternity(or sorority) to join.
- Speak from the heart. People react to and remember far more of the emotional content shared than informational content in any exchange. “How” you say something and the body language and tone behind it is much more important than “what” you say. Motorcycling is one of the most fun and rewarding activities one can do in life. Anyone who comes in contact with you should immediately understand this and have no doubt about how you ‘feel’ about the subject.
These are just a few suggestions on how to engage non-motorcyclist at the dealership level and how you can have an impact on the sport and drive the next generation of enthusiasts forward. I firmly believe it is going to take a collective effort of everyone involved in motorcycling to turn around the current trend; Manufacturers, aftermarket, clubs, the AMA and, last, but not least, motorcycle dealers and motorcycle sales professionals. I’m betting on this last group to have the greatest impact on the current trend and why I’m optimistic we can get this done. After all, motorcyclists are positive, life affirming people. Who wouldn’t want to be associated with that?