By Bryce Lokken - Digital Marketing Strategist at Goat, previously a Powersports dealership Marketing Manager.
If you’re a Powersports dealer, demo days and other dealership events are a huge opportunity. If you can do events right, they bring new faces into your dealership, re-engage customers you haven’t seen in awhile, and move units.
But events are tricky. We’ve all experienced an event in our dealership that goes off the rails, doesn’t deliver results, or even makes customers less likely to buy from you.
This scenario might sound familiar: one of your vendors or a key brand tells you demo days are coming up. They’re sending out an area manager and a bunch of units. On your way to put out one of the five fires burning in your dealership, you ask a marketing person, a bored salesperson, and a parts guy to ‘figure out the event with you’. The event wraps, and you feel like it was far more effort than expected, and didn’t move the business needle.
We want to help you have a better outcome next time. As a strategy-first agency, we’re going to use strategy lessons learned from our years of business, our individual experiences in dealerships, and some practical tips to help you nail it.
About This Guide:
This guide is broken down into three sections: strategic planning, event advertising, and post-event to-dos. That’s the order you should go in, and the order of this article.
Any marketing effort is best with a measurable goal, an understanding of your target audience, and a roadmap with assigned roles.
By setting a measurable goal, you can focus on the right outcomes for your business, measure the success of your efforts, and make data-driven changes for other events. Never bring an opinion to a data fight.
Not everyone is a potential customer, and that’s OK. By understanding your target audience, you can show the right marketing messages to the right people. This effort will set you up for success in your advertising efforts.
By roadmapping your tasks, you can make sure that everyone involved is playing to their strengths, and lower the risk of disaster. Additionally, the further out you book services or equipment, the likelier you are to get your first choices. Don’t get stuck with the least-popular DJ or food vendor!
Exercises For Strategic Planning
If you feel confident that you understand your goals and audience, you can skip this. If you’d like to tighten up those ideas or get the wheels spinning, the below exercise should help:
Event Business Goals: while it may be tempting to say that ‘sell more stuff’ is your business goal for the event, that may not be realistic or possible. If your products have a long sales cycle - high-end boats, for example, then moving multiple units within a few hours could be unrealistic. The right goal there might be ‘get detailed customer data into your CRM for follow up, and set appointments’.
Below are some examples of goals for an event. If any speak to you, make note of them, and then decide as a team what # of those actions constitutes a successful event. You CAN choose multiple goals, but keep in mind that it will require multiple plans and more man-hours.
- Put 120 butts in seats for group demo rides
- Register 200 people for our rewards club
- Add 300 emails to our mailing list
- Book 25 follow-up solo demos with the sales team
- Generate $25,000 in accessory sales
- Sell 150 tickets
- Get 25 applications for our open roles
- Add 20 new paid members to our riding club
Now that you’ve set some goals, you can work backward to strategize. Let’s choose two examples that would be especially meaningful for a spring motorcycle sales event and we’ll lay out how we’d think about the challenge:
- Generate 25 approved finance quotes
- Add 300 emails to the dealership email list
Working backward for each, we can create the following plans of attack:
Generate Finance Apps:
This tactic will require a lot of face-to-face interaction between your sales staff and potential customers. Giving your sales team and customers an incentive to submit a finance app will help. You’ll need extra boots on the ground, and if the number of attendees is significantly more than the number of salespeople, you may consider involving other departments in booking/pitching/letting customers know about the incentive. Have someone greeting demo riders at the end of their ride, ask some friendly questions and gauge their interest in learning more. Take every opportunity to engage in person, since this is not a process you can automate.
Add 300 Emails to the Dealership Email List:
There are several ways you can do this. Some are passive, and some are more aggressive. Each has pros and cons. You could consider making an email mandatory to receive a ‘ticket’ to the event, which you then add to an event email list.
Or, you could also run a draw, get emails as part of demo sign up, or offer a day-of promotion for email list opt-in (10% off accessories, free oil change, etc.).
As you can see, our two goals are measurable, realistic, and have a significant impact on the way we staff our event, design promotions, engage with customers, and plan logistics. Now that we have goals set - the “why” - we can move on to the “who”.
Exercises for Understanding Customers
To create a good event and supporting marketing campaign, you need to understand who to advertise to, what to say to them, and where to say it.
One common exercise is to create customer personas - to write out a paragraph about your ideal customers. What do they drive? What music do they listen to? What’s their home like? What motivates them?
Admittedly, this can be a lofty exercise. For your dealership, this may be unnecessary, as you spend so much time interacting with customers every day.
Try to think about the 5 customers who would LOVE your event, and who line up with your goals.
What do they all have in common? What motivates them to come to an event? What motivates them to buy? What do they NOT have in common?
Here’s an example:
Our fake event is a Kawasaki KLR demo day and sale. All 5 of our best KLR customers have the following in common:
- They love adventure, travel, and want to be known as rebels
- They’re all between 30 and 45
- All 5 are men, but 3 ride with their female partners
- Most don’t have children
- Most work office jobs and would be called ‘weekend warriors’
- Most do their own maintenance but still buy supplies from us
- They’re all higher-income, and mostly live in the wealthiest neighborhoods in town
- All 5 follow us on Instagram, but we’ve never seen them interact on Facebook
That exercise yields some powerful insights about your ad targeting AND your messaging.
We know that our ads should primarily target men 30 to 45. We can target ‘not a parent’ in Google Ads to refine our buy further. We know that Instagram may be a great place to reach them, and should be our #1 priority for ad spend.
We know that messaging about adventure, escape, travel, and rebellion will resonate with this group. Ads and descriptions for the event should talk about how the KLR is new-and-improved, getting your further into the woods or the sand dunes. How it’s now more ergonomic so you can ride further than anyone else. How it’s so versatile that you can take it out for the weekend when you need a break from the office, or how it can be ridden for months on end.
Ad copy always gets infinitely better when you do some strategic planning and brainstorming.
At Goat, we’re lucky enough to have a dedicated project manager. Project management isn’t everyone’s strong suit, and without a cohesive plan, your event could get derailed pretty quickly. Assumptions are the enemy of successful projects, and without a proper plan assumptions are quick to form. “That’s someone else’s job” is not a good thing.
There are many ways to roadmap tasks. One popular method is the DACI framework, which stands for Driver, Approver, Contributor, Informed.
By breaking the event planning project down into sections, you can assign drivers and approvers for each section, then set due dates, budgets, and expectations.
We’d highly recommend a planning tool like Asana for this. Goat uses Asana to keep projects moving and hours tracked, and it lends itself very well to the DACI framework.
Handy Event Checklist - What Should Be Accounted For?
Below is a list of as many possible things you could need to do.
Music and PA setup
Waivers and consent forms
Liquor, food, event licenses as needed
Food and drinks - food trucks, barbecue, liquor
Games for kids (and adults)
Parking plan and staff
Photographer - staff or professional
Videographer with mic for interviews
Staff break area
Social media events
Ads + remarketing
Handouts and/or signage
Email signup forms
What’s an event without attendees? A frustrating waste of resources. Here’s what Goat suggests when promoting a Powersports event.
Note 1: Depending on your team’s marketing experience and the way your online presence/website is set up, you may not be able to execute all of the below. If you feel like you need a hand with your website, advertising, or measurement, then reach out for a chat.
Note 2: In this section, we mention remarketing a bunch. Goat doesn’t try to use acronyms or fancy words for the sake of it, but we do want to mention remarketing. It’s a critical tactic to set up and have ready to use if you want the highest-impact advertising strategy possible.
Remarketing is the process of using tracking code on your website (or apps) to identify visitors or users online and then show them tailored ads on specific platforms. A common example of this would be installing Facebook tracking code on your website, which will then tie a website user to a Facebook account. Facebook will then let you target that user with specific ads, which is great since you know they’re more likely to be interested in what your dealership does. You can also use this tracking code for things like creating lookalike audiences. Lookalike audiences use algorithms and data points to identify people who are likely interested in what you offer, even if they’ve never interacted with you.
Our Favorite Tactics and Tips For Event Advertising
Event Landing Pages:
To get the most out of your advertising, you need a place to send people who want to get more information. In the marketing world, a specific webpage with one goal is often called a landing page. That could be a custom landing page, an event app link, or a Facebook event.
We strongly suggest a custom landing page added to your website. When you control the event page experience, you have a much better opportunity to get people excited about your event. Not only can you manage the layout, imagery, and copy better, but you can remarket with digital ads to visitors of that event page. By creating a specific page on your website for the event, you maximize your advertising budget - both digital and traditional.
If you don’t have the time, access, or skill to create a landing page, tools like EventBrite pages are a good second option. Eventbrite offers some tracking options, the ability to register guests, and other marketing tools like Analytics.
If neither of those options is going to work for you, Facebook Events are a good fallback and will allow you to keep guests up-to-date and get some rough sense of potential attendance.
Once you’ve got an event page ready, you can start to think about advertising. Here are some of the best platforms for you to consider, and our quick tips for getting the best out of them.
Google Ads. If you haven’t used Google Ads before, we’d really suggest getting in there and exploring. We also suggest using their powerful remarketing and audience creation tools, which you can either do by linking Google Analytics or installing some code (usually with Google Tag Manager). Using Analytics is the easiest way, and recommended here. It’s an option in settings > property.
In this context, there are three main Google Ads campaign types you could think about running: YouTube Ads, Display Ads, or Search Ads.
YouTube Pre-Roll Ads are a great option if you have some video to use for the event - whether a vendor made it for you, or you shot something in your own dealership about the event.
Google Display Ads are an option that’s easier to build creative for, and can still be quite effective. We’d only suggest Google Display if you have some good audience data from the aforementioned website tracking, or if you can target enough people by topic or interest within your event radius.
Google Search Ads are an option, but should be a very low priority. The only way we would run Search Ads for an event is if we were only buying very targeted searches - possibly the exact name of the event. Your budget is better spent on YouTube, Display, or Facebook/IG.
Short video ads
Image ads or image assets + copy. The most important image sizes are 728x90, 160x600, 300x600, and 300x250. Make sure they’re JPEG, PNG, or GIF, and under 50kb.
Target those who are watching videos about the brands your event centers around, the types of units at your event, or activities your customers also enjoy.
Target those looking at websites with keywords related to your dealership or the units at your event.
Only buy ads for searches that are very related to your event, if at all. “Motorcycle Demo Days”, “Boats On Sale”, “Dan’s Dealership Snowmobile Event”.
Narrow your targeting by radius around your dealership, or by city. Narrow down age groups, and consider choosing a gender to target based on the event - if you have a ladies-only event, it may make sense to target only women, for example.
You’re probably better off skipping this, since your landing page should show up if someone is searching for your event.
Facebook/Instagram Ads. An obvious choice, and something you may be using already. With Facebook/IG Ads, we’d highly recommend moving beyond boosting posts and set up a proper Business Manager account - which manages your ads on both platforms. By setting up a Business Manager account, you get access to more tools, including tracking pixels to help with remarketing and custom audience building. A few hours of setup and familiarization here can pay big time dividends in the long run.
Regardless of how deep you get, we recommend running at least two types of promotional campaigns. The first should target your existing page fans, who live within a reasonable distance of the event. No point in paying to advertise to those that can’t make it! Your second audience can be people you think might be good candidates. For this, you can use ‘people who like your Page and their friends, a distance setting, and a behavior indicator - ‘likes: Kawasaki or Honda’, etc.
Other Digital Options
This is the part of the article where we tell you that there are other options available, but we genuinely believe it’s better for busy dealerships to stick to Google, Facebook, and Instagram. Social platforms like Twitter, reddit, and Snapchat - among others - can be great places to buy ads. In this case, the simplicity, targeting, and audience sizes of the ‘big 2.5’ should be your focus.
You’ll also likely be able to buy display ads directly on the websites of local newspapers, radio stations, and the like. While we have an appreciation for traditional media (see the next section), we advise staying away from these options unless those outlets can really dial in targeting options like distance and demographics. A shotgun approach is never the right approach for digital ads since there are so many better ways to buy targeted exposure.
Tips for digital ads that grab attention and convert guests: Remember to consider your strategy planning above. Write great ad copy that speaks to your audience and makes it clear that the event will be worth the time and effort of the trip to your dealership. Use photos that communicate the emotion people will feel at your event. Adventure? Use a photo of a rider on the highway. Great deals? Use a photo of a customer wheeling their new units off the lot with a smile on their face. Remember to use minimal text in your photos for ads, since Facebook doesn’t like it when more than 20% of an ad contains text - your ad may be disapproved or have limited reach.
Tips for measurement of your efforts and ad spend: if you’re spending money or any significant amount of time on digital advertising, it’s important to leverage measurement tools. Your website will hopefully have analytics installed. We’d recommend using UTM codes as much as you can if you’re building a proper landing page. That way, you can see where traffic is coming from, and what they do once on your site. (If you don’t know how to set this up, we can help make it happen and really easy to understand).
If you don’t have a landing page, you can also use a tool like Bit.ly - a link shortener and tracker. By turning a long link into a short link, and then giving it a name, you can log in to Bit.ly to see what’s getting clicked the most. It’s not as sophisticated or useful as UTM codes in your links, but it will at least give something to review once your event is over.
Many of the dealerships we’ve worked with, or seen marketing from, have maintained relationships with traditional media ad reps. This isn’t a bad thing - at Goat, we believe that traditional media can play a beneficial role in your overall advertising strategy - but only if you are leveraging digital properly.
The weakness of traditional media isn’t necessarily cost, value, or format - the weakness comes from the fact that it’s harder to measure impact. By directing traditional media audiences to take a specific online action, you can measure a lift in those actions that correlate with the timing of your traditional ads. This is especially true if you create a specific landing page for your event, since you may be able to create campaign-specific URLs that you ask interested people to visit.
Simple measurement hack: create URLs that are short - and easier to memorize - but slightly different for each medium. If you’re advertising in the newspaper and on the radio, you can direct one audience to yourdealership.com/testdrivedays and another to yourdealership.com/testridedays. Both can link to the same page, but your Analytics will show which was visited more, giving you insights into which audiences took action more often. It’s not a perfect strategy, but it’s easy to execute and will give at least a little insight.
Even if you don’t have a landing page on your site, you may be able to ask your website provider to set up a redirect for you to an Eventbrite page or Facebook Event so that you can see traffic Analytics as users pass through.
As with your digital advertising, your traditional ads should align with your customer research and brainstorming. Never settle for a stock ad!
In-Store Handouts and Scripts
This is an easy win! Print out postcards, posters, or other items you think are relevant and make sure your dealership’s guests know what’s going on. Leave takeaways at counters, and put posters in high-visibility spots like doors and waiting areas. If your staff is especially engaged, you could ask them to make highlighting the upcoming event a part of their dialogue with every customer. It’s a free, easy way to make sure that the people who need to know the most - those already in your dealership - know. And ask them to tell their friends!
Partnership marketing is an often-overlooked option for event marketing. Outside of your brands and vendors, which should be a top priority for partnership pitches, you can approach other businesses. Here are some examples of partnership targets to get you brainstorming:
- Partner with a local race track to have them spread the word and set up a booth about race days or events that may interest your event visitors. Ask them to promote on social with the images, videos, copy, and links you have pre-approved. Add their logo to posters.
- Partner with a restaurant that has a food truck. Get them to come out and sell food. Have them post about the event on social before, during, and after - and tag your dealership.
- Partner with a local nonprofit to have them man the BBQ and take in proceeds. This is a great way to support your community, free up staff, and get some good press. The nonprofit will definitely want to promote the event, since they’ll benefit from having more people through the door
- Partner with a local 'influencer' or celebrity to have them come out and share their experience on social media. It's best they come out early so those who see their posts have a longer window to make it out.
If we can make one thing clear about your promotion efforts, it’s this: there is no longer any excuse to not measure the outcomes of your efforts. Even traditional media can be measured. Google Analytics is free, any website provider worth its salt should allow you to build landing pages for events, and the back ends of digital advertising platforms provide a ton of easy-to-understand data that you can use for reporting and making changes.
Post-Event tasks can be broken down into three parts: follow-up, advertising analysis, and process analysis.
Whether you got emails, phone numbers, or decided to not gather data, you will need to get on top of follow-ups ASAP.
That means planning an email blast for the next day - or even night of - your event. If your event went well and people enjoyed themselves, you need to strike while the iron is hot. Get those emails added into your mailing list or loyalty program (if you have permissions), send a specific thank-you for attending, and add an ask - a follow on social, an opt-in to your other emails, etc.
If you got phone numbers, decide what to do with those. Phone numbers would likely come in as a result of a specific conversation - another event, a sale, or a unit. Have your sales manager divvy up responsibilities and make sure to get in touch at an appropriate - but soon - time.
If you didn’t collect any contact information for whatever reason, that’s OK. As part of your follow-up, you should be posting event photos and shout outs. Try to make people who didn’t show up jealous - get them looking forward to next year!
This is where you try to sort out what probably worked and what probably didn’t. The better you are set up for measurement and reporting, the easier this will be.
A simple way to evaluate would be to assign a dollar value to the time you spent on each advertising initiative, and add that to the dollars invested. Make a spreadsheet that breaks out each digital and traditional elements. Choose an action - link clicks, registrations, page visits, etc., then divide the investment by the results. If you see any clear patterns, you can use that pattern to inform your choices. As an agency we often do this down to the level of ads, audiences, or creative variations weighed against several types of goals - but you may not be able to get that deep.
Ad Spend After Co-Op
Landing Page Views
Cost Per View
What worked? What didn’t? Asking that question, and being honest about the answers will help make future events run far smoother. The Blue Angels are famous for their intense, regimented debriefings after every flight. If some of the world’s best pilots feel the need to debrief, your event team should certainly spend an hour talking and making notes.
Some questions you can ask:
- Where did things get stalled, delayed, or canceled?
- Was there enough food, drinks, parking, materials, or space?
- Did any guests have specific comments we should take note of?
- Did we meet our strategic goals? By what margin were we over or under?
- Did our ideal audience come out?
- Did our ideal audience especially seem to enjoy themselves?
Events can be a huge opportunity - or a huge waste of time and source of stress. A little extra strategic planning, advertising effort, and measurement can go a long way towards a great event, and event better events down the line.
Bryce is a Digital Strategist at Goat. Over the last 11 years, he’s worked in various Business Development and Marketing roles. That time included 2.5 years in marketing at motorcycle and Powersports dealerships, a stint in digital transformation for a newspaper group, and time with Kijiji Autos, where he developed many relationships with dealership GMs and marketing teams. Bryce knows there are huge opportunities for dealerships to use strategic marketing to win more market share and improve their businesses.
Goat is a full-service design, digital development, and marketing agency in Vancouver, BC. Over the last five years, we’ve worked with clients like The City of Vancouver, JBS Equipment, Mission Raceway, Simon Fraser University, and many more.