The best bold ideas of 2010

Our sister publication Powersports Business asked its readers to submit their boldest business initiatives, then ranked the results. The following top-rated ideas were genterated by powersports dealers but could pay dividends for the right marine business.

#1 The Consumer Mind

Due to increasing competition and consumers’ natural online searching habits, a dealership in Decatur, Ill., World of Powersports, found itself losing key parts and accessory business. Mike Jackson, manager, said that consumers bought elsewhere because they did what they knew — they searched Google, the part number and found the best price. To get those customers back, World of Powersports created a website orientation program. The consumer sits down with a Web specialist who goes over features and benefits of the dealership’s website.

Results: The increase in customer usage has led to a 50 percent increase in online parts sales to major unit customers within 30 days of purchase and better online customer retention.

#2 The Social Scene

Ducati Seattle wanted to get exposure for its brand amongst an audience who might otherwise never think twice about the two-wheel market, but in a way that does not rely on traditional media. The dealership started a partnership with a popular social networking site to launch a marketing promotion at area clubs. Through this social networking site, Ducati Seattle has been able to place its bikes at popular city clubs and then promote these special events.

Results: While it’s difficult to track whether this approach is leading to new unit sales, the effort has yielded additional interest in the store.

#3 Cutting Expenses

Cycle World, a dealership located in Houma, La., needed to cut expenses but still wanted to take care of its customers. The owner, Glenn Diedrich, gave the staff a list of all the store’s 2008 expenses and asked them what they could do without. The result was a long, creative list of cuts, all generated by the employees. Diedrich said he was amazed at how all the small things started to add up. By asking for input and showing people the actual cost of expenses, rather than using a top-down approach, the employees became more engaged with the process.

Results: It is estimated that operating expenses were reduced by 23-25 percent. The company also made a return to profitability last year.

#4 D.I.Y. Spending

Beverly, Mass., dealership Cycles! 128 has taken consumer financing into its own hands in order to attract more customers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to purchase one of its products. The dealership received a banking license and incorporated a second company, Recreational Finance Co. The bank handles customers with less than ideal credit scores who can’t get financing from their local bank or the manufacturers’ financing.

Results: The creation of the bank has resulted in an increase in the dealership’s finance business and more sales due to financial institutions tightening their lending the past few years.

#5 Dialing For Dollars

Starved Rock Harley-Davidson, a dealership located in Ottawa, Ill., prides itself on keeping its techs onboard through the traditionally slow winter period. The dealership has now put more emphasis and staff time on building its winter bike storage business and increasing the amount of parts and accessory work done on those bikes during the winter in order to keep the staff on. To do that, Starved Rock started a “dialing for dollars” campaign, a program that had staff contacting dealership customers to ask them if they would take advantage of their winter storage special.

Results: The dealership found that 80 percent of its customers went ahead and took the winter storage special, allowing the service members to stay on during the winter.

#6 Open Sunday

In order to separate itself from the competition, Valley V-Twin, a dealership located in Indio, Calif., started to stay open on Sundays. Currently the only people working on Sundays are the owners, Halle Fetty and her husband. Since they don’t have a full staff on Sundays, they only service relatively easy fixes. This extra time also allows them to restock instead of staying late or coming in on Mondays.

Results: Financially, emotionally and physically the Fettys have become more relaxed and have an edge over the competition.

#7 Used Inventory

To help move inventory and keep fresh units on the floor, Al’s Snowmobile Parts Warehouse, located in Newport, Vt., decided to work with other local dealers to trade pre-owned inventory to better fit their customers’ needs. If the dealers had any leftover units they wanted displayed, and if they sold, the dealer and Al’s would share the profits.

Results: The partnership increases dealers’ sales by giving them more exposure and allows the customer to get what they want due to the variety in the shows. Pre-owned sales for Al’s increased by more than 40 percent over the past couple years.

#8 Off-Season Prices

Adrenaline Powersports, located in Muskego, Wis., sells a diversity of action-sport items, and its sales are growing. The dealership is taking advantage of off-season wholesale prices at auctions. To get product for the area’s middle-class families, Adrenaline combs auctions locally, in nearby states and over the Internet during off-seasons. A past Powersports Business report that showcased National Powersport Auctions data showed off-season purchase prices at the auction can be anywhere from 15 percent to 24 percent lower than at peak times.

Results: The dealership is able to sell used product at appealing prices, attracting more consumers.

#9 The 'Staycation'

The term “staycation” was coined a couple years ago when the economy took a turn for the worse., a dealership located in Greensboro, N.C., put a positive twist on people staying close to home during their vacations in order to save money. made it its mission to give people something to enjoy every day — riding. The dealership hung a huge banner that read, “Make every mile a vacation,” which it built as its theme.

Results: The marketing campaign resulted in more sales due to a lot of families coming in and purchasing multiple scooters.

#10 More Inventory

In contrast to most dealers cutting back on the number of products they’re stocking, Don & Roy’s Motorsports, located in Brookfield, Wis., has increased its lineup of offerings. That’s possible because at the same time the dealership is reducing the duplicate sizes in stock. Parts Manager Adam Roth says his new motto is “wide and shallow instead of narrow and deep.” The idea isn’t to spend more, just to offer more.

Results: The greater range of products lead to more interest from consumers because other dealers are having to cut back, giving Don & Roy’s Motorsports more business.

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