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Steve Parke: The industry needs to get out of its buildings and out to events

Published August 26, 2019

By Steve Parke

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Editor's note: Industry vet Steve Parke tried to retire, but after moving to Bend, Oregon, discovered the newly minted Outdoor City USA event, founded by Beverly Lucas. Steve decided he had to jump in and help. 

When I was a young buck manager, sitting in the audience of some BBC Conference, or one of the short-lived, but excellent, Catalyst Dealer Conferences; I yearned to be in driver's seat and help the industry evolve out of the dark ages of the old boy's network. I wanted to see those grayhairs gracefully retire and admit it was time for new solutions. Now I am one of those grayhairs, and I did gracefully retire, but after 40 years of bike biz time, I'd like to pass along one key element to those who are steering brands in the modern, digital world.

Go physically talk to your internal and external customers. There is no substitute. Do all the digital efforts for certain, but don't stop there; plan for and attend events.

Why? Because events work to create positive emotion attitude toward your brand. Events were a standard practice in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s; then the digital age heralded upon, budgets were reallocated to shore up this new segment of brand messaging and events became harder and harder to budget for and attend. They are coming back around however — been to Sea Otter lately?

Customers need a reason to move into a positive emotional state about your brand. It's pretty widely accepted that arriving at this place is the precursor to saying yes to a purchase and helps them decide what to buy. There are many choices out there.

But what gets a customer to willingly make the journey from one-dimensional digital sleuthing to "add it to my cart, here's my credit card — can't wait for the package to arrive"?

The "click and collect" model has merits: direct to consumer exchange, carbon footprint efficiency and less handling along the way. And yes, the model has growing pains to solve, but we can only press forward and refine the system, because yesteryear is gone.

For years we used to embrace events — all kinds of them. Getting out of the store or office was a hassle, but we stayed the course because it worked. It was personal and recognized as the definitive way to build brand love with face to face exchanges. Getting folks "fired up" was useful and productive, stuff got sold. Somehow, along the way, we decided that digital "content" was just as good as talking to customers. The outcome was: all brands migrated to the same modality at the same time (very bike biz). But "content" isn't "contented" and the loss of emotional engagement with customers was the fallout.

I learned tons over 40 years in the bike biz, much of it not relevant to today. Some lessons are archetypal, however; simply put, these solutions generate results in every business climate. So if this grayhair may offer some simple advice to the sophisticated and savvy brand stewards of today: get out of the building and show up at an event, then look your customer in the eye and find out what makes them feel "contented."

Parke can be reached at stevenhparke@yahoo.com.

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