PowerSports Business

Powersports Business - May 25, 2015

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18 • May 25, 2015 • Powersports Business INDUSTRY LEADERS www.PowersportsBusiness.com INDUSTRY LEADER — LARRY LITTLE O ne trip to the world's largest motor- cycle trade show — EICMA in Milan, Italy — was all it took for Larry Little to get the idea that the American powersports marketplace could support the same type of show. So after getting a call from Marketplace Events Motorcycle Group president Mike Webster in 2010 to begin researching the prospects for hosting a similar version of EICMA in the U.S., Little found plenty of rea- son to believe that the motorcycle industry was ripe for such a show. Little, the longtime publisher of Cycle World and chairman of the Motorcycle Industry Council, officially hopped on board as the Motorcycle Group's second hire. Now vice president and general manager. What is the biggest opportunity for the indus- try, and how can the industry take advantage of it? The biggest long-term opportunity I see is creating greater demand for two wheels as transportation. I started on this soapbox a number of years ago and found that either business was so good (2006), or business was so bad (2008-forward) that getting attention for resources to organize an effort was difficult. But I believe the timing now is the best it's ever been for an ini- tiative of this sort. Consider: C r a d l e t o g r a v e , t h e resources needed to manufac- ture and dispose of a motor- cycle is dramatically less than an automobile; Wear and tear on roadways with two (narrow) tires is dra- matically less than four; Tr a f f i c c o n g e s t i o n is reduced; Overall fuel efficiency is increased; And most importantly, there is a great emotional benefit associated with riding a motorcy- cle compared to an automobile. It is a tremendous industry opportunity that will require a long-term strategic approach. We've done this before with the MIC's Discover Today's Motor- cycling program, launched in the early 1990s to address the systemic negativity that was associated with motorcycling. We recognized that to increase sales, we had to overcome a serious perception prob- lem, and we did. In 10 years we took main- stream media's stories on motorcycling from 75 percent negative (a number more nega- tive than the tobacco industry) to 85 percent positive, while also dramatically increasing the number of stories! It's hard to remember how negative it was because motorcycling is now woven into the fabric of American culture. A similar long-term initiative needs to be organized to showcase the transportation opportunity. I can report that two wheels as transportation is an element of the Motorcycle Industry Council's strategic plan, and recently, the Aftermarket Committee identified it as a project to begin planning for in 2015. An initia- tive of this magnitude takes time and consider- ation to be effective, but I am very happy that the process has begun. What has been the biggest challenge in your current position, and how have you dealt with it? That's a great question, and for me, one with no easily identifiable single answer. I suppose that's because when you've been in launch and strong growth mode for the past three-and-a- half years, there are a lot of things that are big challenges. On a strict empirical level, the big- gest challenge we've assigned ourselves at the Motorcycle Group this year is to dramatically increase dealer/retailer trade attendance. We had good growth from 2013 to 2014, but fell short of our goals, so you'll note a greater focus in all things related to 2015 dealer attendee reg- istration (go to www.AIMExpoUSA.com right now to register). We're fortunate that a number of our exhibi- tor partners are already reaching out to their dealer databases asking them to visit their booths at AIMExpo and asking if they'd like more information or help in registering to attend, and we're supporting them in their efforts. They recognize that we're all in this together, and we'll all have a much stron- ger industry with a robust dealer turnout in Orlando in October. We know dealers will be energized about the new products they'll see and be smarter and more profitable business men and women from the education they gain at the Powersports Business Institute @ AIM- Expo. We've recently unveiled Phase One of our Exhibitor Marketing Toolkit with a num- ber of tools to help exhibitors leverage their exhibiting investment, some of which include social media tips, PR templates, web banners, show specials ideas and a host of other tools to showcase their involvement at AIMExpo to dealers and consumers. The Toolkit can be found on the website under the Exhibitors tab, and any of our staff is happy to help exhibitors take advantage of it. The other key component to boosting dealer attendance is OEM attendance and incentives for dealers to attend. The number of OEMs is increasing this year, including BMW, which will be conducting their annual dealer business meeting at AIMExpo, and it looks like other OEMs will be also be inviting deal- ers to attend to share new product unveilings. So those are a few of the things we're doing to create some gravitational pull to Orlando in October for dealers. What is the best advice that you can give others in the industry? Interesting question, which could go any number of directions. Having just launched a new business over the past few years, we have some intrinsic values that were key to how we approached coming to market. The first thing is the notion of value and value proposi- tion. When [Motorcycle Group president Mike Webster] initially asked me to do research for the concept of a new trade and consumer show, my first thought was: Will it add value to the market, or better stated, can we do it in such a way to ensure it adds value to the market? If I thought the answer to that was no, I wouldn't be here today. But, we believed that creating a platform that would be in one place at one time, and in the right place at the right time, could and would add value to the market through greater business efficiencies. And over the course of the first two shows, based on feed- back, we've done so, and there is tremendous potential to do so much more. The second is the commonly bandied- about phrase of "being authentic," knowing who you are and are not — both as a person and as a company or brand. We're bike guys and gals in our core team, and we know that benefits the Motorcycle Group because we're believable. We also know what we are not. I knew that when I first signed on, I wasn't a "show guy," and I had a lot to learn. I didn't try to make anyone believe I was — and I'm fortunate to be surrounded by experienced show professionals. Between osmosis and observation, I'm starting to get the experience that will enable me to, well, at least sound like one! Bottom line, be yourself! You've seen how European shows like Inter- mot and EICMA do the same type of show as AIMExpo with great success. When did you first think the U.S. market could support an event such as AIMExpo? I was publisher at Cycle World in the early 1990s when I went to EICMA, and when I returned, I thought "How are we going to do this in America, because we need it?" I wasn't back one day when I called Mike and said, "Let's have lunch," and then I asked how were we going to do this type of show here. At the time, in the early 1990s, it wasn't the right time. The biggest component that wouldn't work at the time was getting the OEMs to disengage from a strategy of individual dealer meetings to introduce their new products, to going to one place at one time, which is a lot more efficient from a business perspective, but it didn't fulfill any of their needs of being able to sequester their dealer body for three to four days and wine and dine them. So the idea was tabled then in respect of that reality. So the thought has always been there, from the early 1990s, LARRY LITTLE MOTORCYCLE GROUP/AIMEXPO | MARKETPLACE EVENTS VICE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER

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