Tuesday, June 02, 2015

BMW Motorcycle Demo rides – charity donation - a sad tale

motorcycle rider

I’m a motorcycle rider. Last year I was delighted to discover “Motorcycle Demo Ride Days”. That means that anyone with a valid motorcycle license could test ride the newest bikes at a local motorcycle dealer. I visited events at six motorcycle brands and created a shortlist of bikes that I’d never considered but now must have.

Try-before-you-buy is a simple yet powerful marketing technique based on the principle that if you give them a free taste and they like it - they’ll want more.

How it Works
The manufacturer or national distributor trucks a dozen or so of their newest models around the country to dealers. The local dealer hosts the event, manages the logistics and even provides refreshments. And it’s all free with no obligation or high pressure sales pitch.

BMW Motorcycle

BMW Motorrad
This year I searched online for more demo rides. Near the top of my wish list was BMW. I had visited the BMW Museum in Munich, Germany decades ago and have long dreamed of owning and riding a BMW motorcycle.

I was excited to uncover a BMW demo ride at a local dealer. And yes, I had to “uncover” it because there was no mention on the local dealer website or their Facebook page and only one mention on the national site. The national site listed an email to contact for more information.

Charitable Donation?
Riding a BMW motorcycle wasn’t free. The website stated “for a small charitable donation you receive a lengthy ride on a variety of roads that are chosen to highlight the unique qualities of a BMW motorcycle…”

That sounded reasonable and I was willing to donate to the charity in order to ride a BMW motorcycle.

When I called the local dealer I heard that, “It’s $25 for a ride”. He sounded like a side-show barker. I asked him, “Will I get a charity receipt for my donation?”  He replied, “No. We picked $25 because a receipt isn’t required under $30. We don’t want to deal with the paperwork.”

His comments sounded strange so I checked the website of Canada Olympic Foundation – which was the charity. That site stated that a “charitable receipt was automatically generated for a donation of $10 or more”. I emailed that information to the dealer rep and asked “If I make my donation directly to the Canada Olympic Foundation online and bring my receipt – would that be okay?”. The dealer rep didn’t apologize or explain the discrepancy between that fact and his “under $30” statement. He simply forwarded my question to the BMW Canada marketing rep who responded…

“Hello Gentlemen,

Just to clarify the test ride donations, the reason we do not give receipts is because you are receiving something in exchange for the donations.  In this case you are getting a ride on a new motorcycle and also lunch or a refreshment.  It is just like if you buy a hospital lottery ticket,  no receipts because you are getting the chance to win something.  If you donate directly to the COC then yes you can get a receipt because you are not getting anything in return for the donation.

Our test ride program is not set up for you to donate directly to the COC and then to show us a receipt.

If you are interested in riding a new BMW, please follow the regulations we have set up.  We pool all the money collected during our rides and donate it on behalf of the Motorrad retailers at the end of the season and make an announcement on the total when done.”

Is this the Way to Build Trust?
This email raises several questions which I list and discuss on another post. The first discrepancy is that BMW Motorrad Canada seems to be using their own definition of the word “donation”. This so-called donation looks like a fee for service. The second curiosity is the refusal to give a receipt for the money they receive. Apparently some of that money collected might be donated to a charity by BMW Canada.

I decided not to attend the BMW demo motorcycle ride because I believe that the BMW people were misleading at best. If you’re a stickler for the truth you might consider those statements lies.

The feeling of being deceived tarnished the shine of BMW motorcycles. The local dealer was either misinformed or misleading. The message from the national office was misleading.

If one deceives (or lies) about a simple thing as “charitable donation” you might wonder what other deceptions (or lies) have they, and will they tell?

This experience did not build trust with me – which is an important part of inviting prospects into your store to examine your products.

Buying and riding a motorcycle has little to do with logic. It’s all about the feeling. One of those feelings is trust. Normally I’d be writing about the riding experience but the experience before the ride turned me off so I canceled my ride.

I’ve scratched BMW motorcycles off my wish list.

Read the next post for the questions this strange promotion raised – or should raise.

George Torok Keynote Marketing Speaker Co-author of Secrets of Power Marketing  
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