Thinking of starting your own motorcycle business? Here are 10 tips for your start-up motorcycle business along with some numbers to help you succeed.
Part 1: Before you get started
Tip #1: Get experience
Learn the business.
A motorcycle aficionado doesn’t always make the best motorcycle business owner. A passion for motorcycling is only half of the winning recipe. Learning the business can be expensive and time consuming, and business savvy comes from experience. Be sure to reap the benefits of learning from someone else who’s paid their dues by getting some industry experience working for others before branching out and going solo. You’ll get a guaranteed salary and a first class education of what to do (or not do) and how the industry works.
Don’t believe it? This table, adapted from StatisticsBrain features the top reasons start-up businesses fail.
Part 2: Setting up shop
Tip #2: It costs less to keep a customer than it does to get a new one
Meet Mark, he’s your first customer.
Customer acquisition is expensive and can be challenging for even the most established business. As the new player in the game your first instinct might be to dedicate all of your marketing budget towards outreach to bring new customers. Not so fast. What about Mark? Building relationships and forming a core customer base can be much more beneficial and cost effective to your start-up motorcycle business.
Don’t believe it? Check out these numbers from Forbes:
Tip #3: Create a system for gathering your customers’ information
You’ve decided you want to keep in touch with Mark, he’s a good guy.
So you made some sales your opening week, that’s great. Now what? How will you keep Mark and the rest of your customers coming back? How will you let them know about that next big thing you’ve got? How will you bring them in for their next “WOW!” experience at your shop? Create a plan of action: ask for email addresses, phone numbers, mailing addresses. Make this a process all of your staff follows.
Tip #4: Invest in a CRM platform
Take Mark’s info to heart.
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It’s a software platform that can capture your customers’ personal information (name, email address, mailing address), vehicle information (year, make, model, service history), and transactional information (products purchased, service history). Some CRMs can be set up to reach out to your customers automatically, so you don’t have to lift a finger.
How does it work? Today Mark comes in for an oil change. The system recognizes the service as a periodic one, and it automatically sends Mark an email inviting him to come in for an oil change three months later. Some systems can also learn Mark’s oil change habits, so as to predict when he will need to come back for service next, for maximum efficiency.
Don’t believe it? Check out this 2014 research report from Nucleus Research:
Part 3: Ongoing basis
Tip #5: Promote the hell out of it
Be your own best asset.
Odds are you have a friend or two and some relatives. You have neighbors. You have strangers waiting on their motorcycles next to you at the red light, or on their motorcycles at the weekly bike meet in town. Take advantage of these opportunities to promote the hell out of your business. This is it, man, make it happen. If you won’t spread word of mouth, who else will? Get some motorcycle-related promo products to give out. Be your own best asset.
Tip #6: Give them a reason to come back
Invite Mark back over, and make it worth his while. Perceived value is everything. Offering savings to a customer doesn’t need to cost you anything.
- $10 Off your next oil change
- Free bike wash on your next service over $50
- Free tire installation with purchase
- Frequency card
- MC/RC Club Discount
- Other VIP benefits
You may also want to target these bounceback offers to traditionally slow periods:
- 15% Off winter storage when you book in September
- 15% Off spring tune ups when you pay before March
Don’t believe it? You might be thinking, “This is male-dominated business. Are coupons and offers really going to work?” Believe it or not, Real Men Use Coupons, and PR Newswire and MarketingCharts have some data to prove it:
Tip #7: Be an expert in your niche
When Mark asks you about tires, say more than just “These ones are round, and black.”
Read those distributor catalogues inside and out. Read the new product info sheets. If there’s a niche that your business focuses on, familiarize yourself with it. Know what’s happening in it locally as well on the online scene. Keep an eye on California, moto trends and fashions all seem to start out of there and spread. You can soak up a lot about a niche in very little time by browsing through online forums from ADVRider to ZXForums. Be sure to keep an eye on local riders and businesses on Instagram.
Tip #8: Build goodwill by helping others
Speaking of forums, meet John and Jane.
Helping a present or prospective customer doesn’t need to be time consuming. Right now John is posting a question on your local area’s motorcycle forum asking for advice on why his motorcycle won’t start. You might want to share a few suggestions for John to look into. Not only will he be more likely to come and visit your store, but so will Jane. She’s another reader on the forum, happy to see you out there and helping the community.
Tip #9: Keep on giving
Tickets to Nitro Circus, anyone?
Find ways of adding value to the lives of your customers, without selling them a thing. Studio Cycle Group‘s emails include motorcycle maintenance tips. You can also provide perks to your customers like free tickets to the local motorcycle shows, special events, movie passes, gifts, or simply an invitation to meet you at this weekend’s bike meet. You want your business to last, so build long term relationships with your customers.
Tip #10: Build the right team for the job
Even the strongest business plan can fail.
When the wrong people become involved, no business is safe. Choose wisely who you want to have representing your business. Choose even more carefully if you decide to partner with someone. Be a leader. Be present. Don’t be lazy. Hire people who others will like as much as like you, or even more than they like you. Don’t settle for hiring a friend, or a friend of friend, simply because he or she needs a job. Invest carefully in your business and watch it come to life.
The motorcycle industry can be cut throat. In more seasonal climates such as the northern USA and Canada, the biz is feast or famine. You’ll meet all kinds of characters and you’ll find that the camaraderie and brotherhood among riders on the road can fade away quickly when money is involved. Learn how the motorcycle industry works, value and build relationships with your customers, and watch your business slowly begin to thrive.
You can do it!
Want to know how it worked out for me? Here are 8 mistakes I made my first year in business.
For further reading: How the Motorcycle Industry Works.