Keeping It Real

Some one once said that all marketers are liars. In fact, he wrote a book about it and called it "All Marketers Are Liars". And while the bald guy who wrote the book of the same name may be right about a lot of things, I don't believe that the work involved in informing customers about your business is a process of lying. And though there's obviously more to the theory behind Seth's discussion of marketing, as a small business owner trying to get a message out to an ocean of customers, I don't like to think of what I am doing as "lying".

But "lying" is rampant in our industry. Take this blurb I stumbled on recently at a competitors web site. At the bottom of their site, it reads "Motorcycle Parts are in high demad [sic] all summer, but with over thirty warehouses around the country, we have access to over a million aftermarket Sportbike Parts and OEM parts and accessories." Looking at the Google street view of this business, I can deduce that it's not a very large company. In fact, it appears to be a few companies rolled into one small office park unit, with no real warehouse to speak of. Yet, the business wants to project a hugeness to their customers by making the claim that they are somehow connected to "over thirty warehouses around the country" where they stock all of their massive inventory and because of this massive inventory, you, the consumer, might expect things like quick delivery, always in stock products, awesome discounted prices (because they have too much inventory) and gobs and gobs of unmatchable selection. 30 warehouses! That would be more warehouses than all the distributors in the industry put together. It would be more warehouses than any of the largest national motorcycle chain stores.

It's a common trend. More than likely the company behind the claim is a one man shop with a desk and a shipping area for returns and stuff. A web site got stitched together. A supplier with negligent dealer requirements gave them a book with wholesale prices and a dropship program. A Paypal account got started. Bango. Instant e-commerce.

On the other side of the spectrum, the larger motorcycle accessories retailers have all tricked both the consumer and Google into convincing them that they are not really retail companies at all, but completely neutral content publishers, pumping our product reviews by blog, video, social networks, bogus customer reviews and so forth. Another kind of lying.

Take companies like Motorcycle Superstore and Revzilla, where they've taken huge advantage of Google's love of video and blog content and devoted thousands of hours of video and thousands of lines of text to the work of reviewing nearly every single product on their web site. To the lost consumer, all this free content seems like a great way to "research" the products that they're after. And to some extent, it is. But what's happened, at least in the motorcycle industry - and Im sure others - is that 3 or 4 companies have managed to eat up all the main eyeball real estate on Google for just about every high-margin motorcycle product available to the consumer and 3 or 4 companies is all it takes for page one of a Google search to be completely dominated by just those 3 or 4 companies, every time.

Variety is going away - actually it's gone - for mainstream products. Neutral reviews are going away. A few larger companies are dominating the entire range of top brands on line because of this and the smaller companies have been squeezed out. 

To their credit, the top e-commerce companies in moto have even succeeded in convincing their own suppliers that they are more important than other dealers, are even equivalent to media, to magazines, who need to preview clothing before the public gets access to it so they can have time in advance to create their video reviews. So, for instance, just like Cycleworld, Motorcycle Superstore gets to not just preview a new product line, but gets to keep it for weeks and create biased videos and review content around it without any actual experience with what the end user might think of it.

Imagine- the video reviews and pages and pages of blog content for every product a company like Alpinestars or AGV puts out now are created before any unbiased consumer has any chance to even use it. And the video reviews aren't actual reviews or guides. They are marketing spam designed to get to Google first so that you'll read it, link to it, watch it, review it, like it on Facebook, share it etc. Revzilla isn't going to delete a product from their catalog that they think is kinda crappy. You might want to buy that crappy thing! They're going to give a review of it, stick it on a video and blog about it and leave it there for you, the researcher, to buy whether it is in fact crap or not. And there's a lot of crap to be reviewed and sold. But it doesn't matter, because you'll buy it anyway and you'll buy it from Revzilla or Superstore because you did a search for it and found it and it moved around in a video and two guys stood there and talked about it for you for a few seconds and so that made you think it was ok, because you wanted it anyway.

All this perpetuates a forward motion real estate claim of grabbing your attention for the products you might have wanted to buy from a company that may not have a devoted content team waiting to create hours of video for that new release of a product line.

It's free marketing for the manufacturer. Manufacturers are tickled pink when people make good quality videos about their products and they didn't have to pay a dime for the production work.

It's inexpensive guaranteed marketing for the retailer, as long as too many competitors aren't doing it.

It's kind of a trap, for you, the consumer.

If you don't see a product or brand on our web site, more often than not, it's not that we forgot about it, it's that we purposely omitted it. It's not our goal to try to convince our customers that we are some massive 30 warehouse multi-national conglomerate, indiscriminately adding any product we come across to our catalog. We'll turn down whole brands from our site because we don't think they'll sell, or they don't fit with what we're trying to do. We're not here to give free advertising on our web site to companies whose products may not sell well for us. We'll also remove products that are redundant, have fitment problems, sizing issues, a lot of warranty issues etc.

We'll also remove products where their market is just too saturated. GoPro is a great product. Every one wants one. Every one has one. You can buy one everywhere. You can buy it at BestBuy and Amazon. So why would we want to try to sell that too? You wouldn't. So we don't.

We don't really have much time or resources to devote to making videos of stuff or blog posts about stuff. We'll do a review here and there if it makes sense to do so, but for the most part we have other things that we're doing. 

All of this ties into what we are trying to do currently at Motostrano is simply convey to customers that we are a store. A real store. With a web site and an image and a collection of products that reflect the activities that we're into and what we hope you'll be into. We are a destination and a group of people who work at a place that you can visit, that you can call on the phone and order on our web site through. We're not trying to be "just like" some other company and we don't have some rule the world strategy. We're just trying to sell some products that we like.


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