CB radio | Motorcycle trade | Internet | Websites | PayPal
If you're in the bike trade, here are a few timely words about how you can raise your game by remembering how to spill some sales blood in the old fashioned way...
Remember CB radio? Invented by Canadian Alfred J Gross, Citizen Band arrived in the UK in the mid-1970s, a not-so-quiet revolution that rapidly elevated people power onto a new and often disturbing platform. On both sides of the Atlantic, and elsewhere, it grew exponentially and soon the airwaves from Clacton to California were filled with lonely souls, both male and female (but mostly male) wailing out “Copy, copy, anyone for a copy …?”.
It was sad really, those plaintive primal cries in the dark—usually from the driving seat of a jacked-up, be-striped, furry-diced, overblown Ford Escort or Cortina hunkered down in the darkest corner of the local supermarket car park, or all but buried beneath a motorway overpass.
For a while there however, it seemed that the telephone was dead and that CB was the next quantum leap in global communication. And then, within a decade or so, CB all but fell from its antennae, not least because that great national radio chat room (split between 40 or so channels on the 11 metre band) became super-saturated with answering voices, all of which had plenty of talk, but broadly speaking nothing much to really say.
Then—WHOOSH!—the internet arrived and we all realised that the digital superhighway was the real big bang in global communication; an explosion of multimedia activity that made CB radio look like a set of tom-tom drums or smoke signals across the valley. Within just a handful of years, the country was split between two uneven camps; those who had an online presence, and those that didn’t. And not having an online presence was soon viewed as being akin to social and/or commercial suicide.
However, the vast majority of current websites are pretty awful, not least sites connected to the bike trade. They’re badly designed, shoddily written, confusing, complicated and badly optimised (tuned-up). Visitors frequently have to run the gauntlet of random pop-ups and drop down menus, log-in protocols and log-out commands. The best sites are rare sights and are routinely updated. The worst are thrown onto a server (remote computer) and forgotten—and dusty windows, whether on a computer or on a high street, are a sure sign of decay.
Not that I exactly blame the dealers and traders. The world is complicated enough, life is short, money is hard won, and the internet has become something of a high tech bulldozer slowly grinding us down into ever more bewildering systems and structures.
Yes, the net can be a liberating thing too—provided you’ve got the technical nous and plenty of time to do a little self-liberating. But few dealers have got either and are running at flank speed trying desperately to do all the other things that need to be done in the course of an average working day.
Like selling things, for instance. Because that’s what you’re in business for, isn’t it? You want to make a little money and not spend three hours a day at your computer terminal trying to figure out how to download the latest update from Microsoft, Norton Utilities or Google. Only, if you don’t download the latest update, you’re afraid that your database is going to collapse and your system is going to be flooded with the latest online parasites.
"What’s worse, the obsession that many dealers have with websites has to a large extent supplanted the tried and tested traditional methods of making good sales—which invariably take place at eyeball level, ideally not more than a few feet apart."
You need an net presence of course, and you’re as daft as a brush if you don’t create one (unless, of course, you’re one of the privileged few who really can survive and even prosper without the www). But broadly speaking, in this digital age you’ve simply got to show a light at your window or the punters will think you’ve gone to bed. And that’s exactly what’s happening. The smart dealers and traders are out there at the cutting edge pulling in the pounds, and the daft-as-a-brush merchants are going down to the Job Centre.
But beware, because in this dog-eat-dog era in which we live, there’s an army of internet experts on the move, each of whom, for just a measly two grand, or a piddling five grand, or a giveaway ten grand will light your internet rocket and send your business into the stratosphere.
Only they won’t. Not for most of you anyway. It’s just a con. Not even a modest lie or an innocent fib. Just a rip off from the new generation of fear merchants trading on your ignorance. I’ve lost count of the number of businesses who have told me how much they paid for that all singing and dancing website, only to find themselves two or three years on strapped with increasingly large internet maintenance bills and/or a dead site visited only by Nigerian scamsters and dodgy Chinese traders.
What’s worse, the obsession that many dealers have with websites has to a large extent supplanted the tried and tested traditional methods of making good sales—which invariably take place at eyeball level, ideally not more than a few feet apart. Ask the even smarter dealers.
Sure, you may well make a decent enough income flogging your smaller wares down the phone line. But for those bigger items, such as motorcycles or quad bikes or racing leathers, you’re going to need more than a modem and an account with PayPal to ring those tills.
You can’t tell that to everyone, mind. Plenty of times I’ve phoned a dealer to ask about a product, only to be told to “Look on the website, mate. It’s all there.” As if that was all there was to it. Just look on the website and press the “Buy now” button.
Whereas what that dealer should have said was, “Why don’t you come on down to my shop and I’ll talk you through it?” ideally with the word “sir” tagged on the end of that sentence. What the dealer should have done was sensed a sales opportunity (and pretty much everything is a sales opportunity to a real salesman, right?) and put the kettle on and rehearsed his best chat-up patter in anticipation of the arrival of myself and wallet.
But instead, these lazy, shorted sighted sods all too often point me at that most necessary of modern evils, the internet, and hang out the GONE TO LUNCH sign and expect me to docilely trade my coin for their goods. The point being that a small, modest, cost-effective and—above all else—simple website is a trading must these days. But you don’t have to be silly about it. A few hundred quid's-worth will usually do. You don’t need funky graphics and exploding symbols and characters dancing across the screen (thereby wasting precious computer bandwidth and irritating your more sensitive customers.
You just need a straightforward, honest and comprehensible online advert reminding the world at large that you exist. And hey, make that telephone number highly visible, huh?
Unlike the CB radio fad, the internet is likely to last a long time (even though its golden age is already gone), and unless you want to find yourself in a quiet corner of a lonely supermarket car park in Basildon or Birmingham crying “Copy, copy, anyone for a copy …?” you’d better gear up.
But don’t let any of this override the simple premise that smart businessmen get the customer right down there on the showroom floor and spill financial blood in the old fashioned way.
Need more info on this? Check my website. Mate.
Copyright Sump Publishing 2014