Thursday, December 29, 2005

Seven Cycles; relationships that fit.

Seven Cycles is one of a few frame/ bike makers that relies on fit and a personal relationship to sell bikes. Some other notables are Serotta, Richard Sachs, Independent Fabrications, Calfee, Parlee and a slew of other custom frame builders across the country (and certainly around the world). The thing that helps Seven stand out for what they do is the way they do what they do. Sure, again, I know they are not the only ones to take the approach they have, but they have been one of the very best at executing and communicating that approach.

Every custom Seven starts with a questionnaire, the Custom Kit, that helps Seven work with the consumer and the retailer to create the best possible frame that will deliver the kind of ride that the consumer is looking for. This form is filled out by the frame buyer, in most cases with the help of a Seven retailer, and then is returned to Seven so that they can put the information into a design they believe will yield the bike of the buyer's dreams. Once they finalize their recommended drawings and geometries, the "blue print" is then sent to the retailer and customer to review and approve before production of the frame begins. This is all fairly simple and standard procedure for any custom framebuilder these days.

Part of what I like about their particular process is that they spell things out pretty clearly at the very beginning. Seven even goes so far as to recommend one of their Signature Size frames (basically a slightly customized stock frame) on the front page of the questionnaire, for buyers who don't need a full custom frame or don't want the expense or wait of a full custom frame. To me, I see that step as very "genuine" and honest. Sort of a "why upsell if you don't have to" approach- this earns them more trust from the consumer, who may at a later date decide to go "whole hog" on a full custom later. Trust is a very big ingredient in the custom frame world.

Like Serotta, who is actually not far from Seven, Seven has put a lot of time and energy into communicating the benefits of a custom made frame and the importance of trusting the builder and relying on a relationship. Real or not, Seven customers do most often feel like they have a very real one-on-one relationship with the company. Over the years, I have spoken to a number of owners of the bikes who have said they would never buy anything else because of how they felt about the relationship. Not about how they felt about the bike and the way it rides, but because of the relationship. That says a lot to me. I've certainly tried to reproduce that model with my own brand, just without the custom aspect since I can't provide a custom frame. I have tried to rely on connecting with people on a personal level. Ibis, a company featured here before, was another company very successful with relationship building as well. Even without the option for a custom frame anymore, Ibis is still benefitting from their famous relationship skills. In the case of Seven (and even Serotta), this reputation has helped them to not only sell a lot of custom frames, but also a lot of stock production frames because they are perceived as being a trustworthy company to buy from.

Whether providing custom frames, custom clothing or professional bike fittings, the key to success is the ability to make the experience very trusting and personal. Once the consumer trusts you and believes that you have been paying attention to their needs, wants or desires, they will be back to give you their money. It has certainly proven to be a very successful tactic for Seven Cycles.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Jackson at 9:14 AM