Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

Here I am, sitting here waiting for inspiration to hit me while my wife gets in a few moments of peace in the outside world and my daughter is watching The Incredibles (again). I do have a "real" post brewing in my head, I swear, but I did want to extend another holiday wish from the group of us here. Since I'm the bonehead who started all this trouble, I have by default also served as the spokesperson for the group. I hope that I am a benevolent dictator and not an evil despot.

Anyway, since starting this project November 20th, we have had an explosion of activity and traffic here. Much faster than I ever dreamed when the idea for this all popped into my head. Needless to say, I am very flattered that so many people are interested in the things we have to say here. I'll venture to guess that my associates here feel much the same way. The blogosphere is full of discussion about transparency and reaching out to customers ("the audience") and rightfully so. Here's my bold, honest statement; thank you.

In the short time that we have been up and running, we've gotten a lot of what I call "critical attention" from other sites that focus on marketing. These people, who I consider to be the real professionals, have been very kind in their comments about the content of this site and the discussions that go on here. I can't tell you how hugely flattered I am about each and every mention we get. That's why I frequently post the links to them. It gives me the impression that maybe we are on to something here. Maybe something that holds a value. Maybe something that can be of service. That is certainly my hope.

Now that we are only a few hours away from 2006, I want to again thank each of you who come by and give us a read. This has been a wonderful project so far and I am very happy that I get to work with the people who share column space here with me. They are a bright and gifted group of people and I am thrilled that they accepted my invitation to come play along.

Have a wonderful New Year (if you haven't already, depending on your global location or day you read this). I hope that 2006 brings you happiness, health and success.

Tim Jackson

Posted by Tim Jackson at 4:06 PM 4 comments

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Kool-Aid Krew gets another little mention.

Just wanted to take a second and thank DL Byron at Blog Business Summit for giving a nice little mention of Shut Up and Drink the Kool-Aid! Honestly, each one of these compliments is extremely flattering and greatly appreciated by all of us here. We've received a number of nice compliments in the comments here lately and our collective heart is warmed to its collective cockle (whatever that is- I've never understood that expression).

Just so you know, more content is coming soon- I promise. With the holiday season upon us, posting has been very sparse. Please don't forget us because we certainly haven't forgotten all of you.

Thank you again to all our readers (boy, there are a lot of you too- WOW).

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Jackson at 4:40 PM 8 comments

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 1 comments

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays from the Krew!

As the defacto spokesperson for the Kool-Aid Krew, I'd like to take a moment to wish you all a very wonderful holiday season and a joyous New Year.

Thank you, to each and every one of you who have come to visity us since we started this little project. The attention we have received has far outpaced expectations and has been very rewarding. I certainly hope that you will continue to come by and I hope that we remain relevant (or become relevant) as the New Year rolls along. Exciting things are on the horizon; interviews, guest contributors and our usual blend of whackiness.

To each of my cohorts- I wish you the very best and thank you for joining me on this ride.

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

Posted by Tim Jackson at 4:24 PM 4 comments

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Non-endemic sponsorships.

Today has been kind of an exciting day for me today. (By the way, I know that the use of today twice in the same sentence is redundant, but it gave me another good word to use for the hyperlink.) The racing team that my company is sponsoring has signed a major non-cycling company as their new title sponsor; Abercrombie & Fitch.

This is big news for the team and for me and the company I get to represent. However, this is also smart marketing and great for all involved with the team. Now, I haven't had the chance to speak with my co-sponsors at Abercrombie yet (though I am really looking forward to it), but given their track record in advertising, marketing and brand recognition I can not imagine that they will not make full use of the sponsorship relationship. As a commenter on my other blog site queried; "Congrats! So is A&F going to require all the riders to pose nude for their catalogue shots?" I somehow doubt that will happen, but it shows the power of their marketing... especially if you consider that the commenter is commenting from Norway and is still familiar with the company and their advertising.

Non-endemic (outside of the industry) sponsors are usually pretty hard to attract to cycling. Given that the sport makes it hard to quantify how successful your marketing efforts are, without having the luxury of a major, Tour winning team. The arrival of Abercrombie on the scene is very exciting and is hopefully the beginning of more to come. Ralph Lauren sponsored a very successful mountain bike team for a number of years and had some great riders with great performances getting them wonderful exposure. This helped them to launch a line of Ralph Lauren cycling apparel. The clothing did "ok" by most accounts, but never did really well and eventually they pulled out of the program and the sport altogether. Bummer. Now, one of the more peculiar and intriguing aspects of this new deal with A&F is that they do not make cycling clothing and as far as I know (which I don't), they don't have any plans to start. However, they have a brand with enormous popularity and an image built on youth and a healthy lifestyle. Cycling certainly fits that description and will hopefully prove to be a great avenue for the marketing dollars.

Speaking of marketing dollars... one of the great benefits to me is that I will get to ride their coat tails whenever they do any marketing related to the team. Obviously they have a much bigger budget than I do, so they can afford to market in magazines and other avenues that would simply be way to cost prohibitive for me and my company. Even if they do not show a Masi bicycle in the ad/s, the association will be good for my brand. I obviously hope that they will choose to do an ad (or 50) with the team on or with their bikes, but it won't really be necessary for me. Any mention of the team will be good for me.

For both A&F and me, I am very hopeful that the team will be able to get into the biggest events in the country, such as the Tour of Georgia. The media blitz created by the event will be a great stage to show off the team and the sponsors, so I am hoping the team gets the call to the show. I envision a team of "under dogs" with tons of talent taking on the best teams in the country and the world for a week of great exposure. Even if they don't go to Georgia, they will be at the other major US events and will be carrying the mantle of "under dog" at many of those events as they take on more experienced pro teams. Personally, I've always loved the marketability of the classic "under dog" story. (I keep using under dog in quotations because I believe in these guys and don't see them as being outgunned, but they will still get that title as a first year Pro/Elite team.)

Abercrombie has made my day, in many ways. I am happiest for the team because it makes them so much more stable now and insures that they will have the budget necessary to race a full schedule and do some great things- like win races. Most of all, I'm happy to see a smart and supremely well marketed company come to the dance. They will decidedly make a huge splash and I am sure ripples from the announcement are making their way around the bike industry and soon many other industries.

To poorly qoute Bogart in Casablanca; "this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship."

Tim
(Editorial Note; I have been getting lots and lots of congratulations on this deal and just want to clarify that I do not get the credit for making this happen. Chad Thompson, the Team Director, gets the credit. The fact that A&F are based in Ohio, where the team is from, helped with all of this. I am simply lucky enough to have been able to work with the team and am now getting a free ride on the exposure A&F will be able to generate. The hard work was all done by Chad.)

Posted by Tim Jackson at 8:04 PM 7 comments

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A call to retailers; follow-up.

The post from Friday got a bit of good dialog going in the comments section and I wanted to pull them out and make them more visible and public since there is some good stuff going on there.

I've just pulled the comments directly from the comment section, so to get the total background you may need to go to Friday's post first;

Carlton Reid- Editor of BikeBiz.com
Why a blog and not a forum, Tim? I ask because these sort of 'where are we
going' views are expressed often on the trade-only forum of BikeBiz.com.Is that
a draw-back? Trade only? In many ways it's seen as a benefit...by the bike shops
commenting.I don't hang out at the bicycleretailer.com forum (I left when it was
closed for a while) but that's also a trade-only place for such views, yes?


Fritz- Editor/creator/guru of Cycle-licious

I don't know if yet-another-forum is a solution or not, but I see a lack of
imagination in the bike retail arena when it comes to promotion not only bike
shops but bicycling in general.Bike shop owners seem primarily to be cycling
enthusiasts first and business owners second. The shop is almost a hobby more
than a source of income.Regarding a couple of new shops locally, one bike shop
employee remarked "I guess we'll see whose trust fund runs out first."There's
nothing wrong with any of that, but the result is little interest or experience
in promotion and marketing.There's a ton of creativity and energy in the bike
business but a lot of it is wasted.Check out
this
video
for example. It's a bike shop owner playing with fire and it's kind of
funny and it will get some exposure over the Internet. The creator makes a
couple of critical errors, however -- he didn't put his bike shop website URL
somewhere in the video, and he doesn't provide a way to easily find his videos
-- you have to just know where they're at.He's throwing away a perfectly good
chance for viral opportunity because he created the videos just for fun during
some slow time at his shop.


ME- Masiguy, Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser, general bon vivant (yes, that means I'm a nut job)

Fritz/ Carlton-You are both absolutely right to question whether another forum
or blog is needed. I'm not sure and I'm not sure which format is needed or best
to accomplish the goal.My initial thinking about this whole thing is based upon
feedback I've received since creating this project here as well as the feedback
I have received since this past March when I started Masiguy. Many retailers
have commented to me about how they enjoy the open dialog that gets started by
my posts or the posts from my co-conspirators here. Jonathan Maus, over at Just
Riding Along, was trying to create discussion as well and it was working. My
idea is this; by giving retailers a space to talk, maybe they will. An "open to
the public" blog or other forum might curb some folks from participating,
especially in regards to anything related to pricing issues, but many retailers
might see it as a chance to "show off" their intelligence or philosophies. Plus,
if the public/ consumers have a chance to participate in the conversation, maybe
retailers can reach right out to the people who will ultimately be walking
through their doors with wads of money in their fists. I could be way off base
on this and won't be hurt if I am, since I offer all of this up as something of
a public service. Even if I were not a manufacturer in this industry, I would
want to find a way to help retailers stay alive. I started working in shops when
I was 12 years old and have come close to trying to open my own shop several
times since then. My heart will always have a spot for retail, so I will always
have a desire to work with retailers.Fritz- Somebody has to find out who that
retailer is who made those videos and get him to make more and put his name on
them. He is missing out on a huge pay off- financially or just in terms of good
publicity.

I know all of this dialog is not exactly pertinent to marketing/ PR, per se, but it is relevant to the plight of retailers finding a way to make themselves more successful and how to reach out and appeal to more and better customers. In a "nuts and bolts" sort of way, that is marketing too. Continued discussion is certainly welcome here and I hope to be hearing from interested retailers or retailers showing the holes in my thinking.

Thank you to Fritz and Carlton for your comments and to all who have been vsiting us here and making this project a wonderful success.

Tim

Posted by Tim Jackson at 8:20 AM 6 comments

Saturday, December 17, 2005

You ought to be in pictures

My fellow contributors have really had their brains on high gear this week. They have been putting together some very thought provoking posts and generated some great conversations. They are all smart cookies, aren't they?!

Well, it's the weekend and we need a little 'fluff', for lack of a better word. Cycling 'fluff', though.

As you may know, Sony Pictures is set to make a movie based on Lance Armstrong's autobiography, "It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life". It's been reported that Lance would like Massachusetts native Matt Damon to play him in the movie. I've never seen him ride a bike, but I, for one, am willing to give him that chance. They are looking for people to share their stories for possible inclusion in the movie. Not sure how that will all work out, but click on over and check it out.

Thanks, yet again, to Carlton over at BikeBiz.com. He pointed out some of this information in a blurb this week.

Posted by Donna Tocci at 8:58 AM 4 comments

Friday, December 16, 2005

A call to retailers;

Here it is late at night on a Friday evening and I still can't get myself to "shut off" and head to bed and put this long, long week behind me. If it's any consolation, I am at least having a glass of wine.

The threads of conversation started this week by Tim Grahl's post and my follow-up post regarding the future of bike shops and then a couple of "off line" conversations I've had has gotten me thinking again. I apologize in advance if I suddenly drift off into gibberish.

I feel that there is the potential need to create a retailer driven and focused forum, similar to this one, to discuss all of the challenges that face retailers in the market today. From the little shops to the big shops, all retailers face a number of challenges ranging from hiring and affording good staff to competing with big box stores or battling against a dwindling market. There are numerous areas of discussion that I see could be of great value to retailers.

Here are my questions and my offer to the retailers who visit already and the ones who I hope will start coming;
Questions
1) Do you see or feel a need for such a blog forum as mentioned above?
2) Would you participate in one?
3) Would you be willing to be a regular contributor?
4) Would you be willing to help maintain and keep such a blog forum operating?
Offer
I will set up and build the blog forum, moderate it and contribute to it if there is enough interest. I will work to get other manufacturers and suppliers to participate or answer questions as well.

Maybe I'm just tired and need a good night's sleep, but all of the recent discussion seems to point to the potential for such a blog to exist.

If you're interested, drop me a line at tjackson at masibikes dot com (have to spell it like that to keep the spammers at bay) or post a comment here.

Ok, I'm going to bed now.

Tim

Posted by Tim Jackson at 9:08 PM 6 comments

Big thanks!

Two big "thank you"s to give today;

1st- Carlton Reid, editor of BikeBiz.com in the UK, wrote a very nice piece about our little project here today. Carlton has been good to me personally for quite some time, it probably helps that he and his children are both avid fans of track cycling, but this article today really made my day. Thank you Carlton and hello UK! I see today that virtually everybody in the UK cycling industry has been by to visit. Welcome and I sincerely hope you'll continue to visit us and contribute to the discussions here. Also, I see a bunch of new US faces here- welcome to you too. One big happy international cycling family!

2nd- Jill Hamilton made her first post here last night. Well, it was certainly worth the wait, wasn't it? Jill is an office mate of mine and has the terrible misfortune of having her cubicle next to mine. I have a feeling part of her posting stems from a desire to get me to leave her alone and stop nagging her about when she plans to post to the blog. Jill- I'll leave you alone now and let you get some work done.

Thanks to all for stopping by. All of us here hope to keep seeing you visit us and hope that you find the content worth reading. Please feel free to make suggestions and leave comments.

Tim

Posted by Tim Jackson at 9:31 AM 5 comments

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hard to believe it's that time of year...again...

Earlier this week, I stood in the office doorway of one of my co-workers chatting about something (of which the topic escapes me now), when I suddenly realized that next weekend was Christmas. "Next weekend is Christmas weekend, isn't it?" I demanded. He looked at me kind of funny and replied that it indeed was. Where did this year go? It's really hard to beleive that it's time to deck the halls and jingle all the way all over again.

Honestly, I don't know why I should be all that surprised. It's not like I didn't have any warning. After all, we've been bombarded by Christmas decorations and holiday ads for the past 3 months. Is it just me, or does it seem like each year, there's a race by department stores and discount retailers to be the first to play Christmas carols and hang holiday decorations in their stores? It's worse than watching Cat 4's race for beer preems. Is there any reason we need to be looking at Christmas ornaments well before we've even started thinking about what we're going to dress up as for Halloween?!? For crying out loud, let me enjoy Halloween and Thanksgiving before having to even think about buying Christmas presents and stringing lights. Every year, it never ceases to make me wonder what the reward is. With all the hype that surrounds Christmas during the preceding 3 months , once Christmas does finally roll around, it's downright anti-climatic.

What else does this scenario remind you of? It's funny; I get a similar feeling when I walk through the front doors of the Interbike trade show each year. While it's a great opportunity for we industry folks to see people we only get to see once or twice a year, cut loose, and party a little bit, that's really not what trade shows are for. In a perfect world, trade shows are supposed to be a sales and marketing function where attendees come to see your new products. But what happens when all the attendees have already seen your product? It's about as anti-climatic as the holidays can be.

Welcome to the bike industry...where the model years just keep coming earlier and earlier. It's not uncommon for manufacturers to release their new models as early as May; a full seven months before the end of the year. Just like I do at Christmas, it really leaves me wondering what the reward is. Seems like everyone loses and nobody wins, to me. Dealers certainly don't win. Since much of the U.S. is under snow until Spring, "new" models pretty much become obsolete before their peak selling season even begins. Just when the dealer is ready to place orders to gear up for Summer, vendor's stock levels leave much to be desired since they are getting ready to start placing orders for the next year's new models. Any "new" product ordered better be turned around pretty quick, too. If the dealer has to sit on "old" product over the Fall and Winter months, they don't stand a chance at making full margin on it come Spring since consumers know that the new models will be released in July. I'm not real sure that vendors are big winners either. For the reasons just mentioned, you've gotta wonder if we'd stand to gain more sales if we had product when it's convenient (and easy) for our customers rather than the other way around.

So what's the solution? It's simple, really...we just move away from model years. I suppose this is easier said than done since there are fewer manufacturers living by this business model than are actually doing it. Unlike the traditional model, it seems like it's a win-win situation for everyone. Dealers have bikes to sell on a more consistent basis...when it's convenient (and easy) for them to sell. No longer do dealers have to suffer through long dry spells of unavailable product while being forced to wait for new product to be available. Plus, no more closeouts...dealers maintain margins year-round since there's no threat of a whole new batch of bikes being released when they still have "old" product on hand. Vendors will win in a big way. I can't even imagine what it would be like to not have to go through the brutal "crunch time" that occurs each year from roughly May through early July as we struggle to get sample bikes ready for catalog shoots and product launch meetings. Our expenses will decrease tremendously if we don't have to produce expensive catalogs and re-do our website each year. Inventory levels and supply chain management would be much easier to manage.

But, like many things in this world, it's going to take a major player to pioneer such drastic changes like this for others to follow suit. So who's going to go first? Is anyone brave enough to swallow the pill in the name of creating a better mouse trap? Who knows, if we're successful, we just might be able to use some of the skills we learned to convince the department stores to let us all enjoy Halloween and Thanksgiving for just a little while before rolling out the Christmas trappings.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Posted by jill hamilton at 8:01 PM 6 comments

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Now for something completely different

I came across this earlier today on cyclelicio.us and he found it on velochimp. So this is not an original find on my part but it does tie into cycling and marketing. Actually, this could be one of the best examples of integrating cycling into a marketing campaign effectively.

The video ends up being an ad for what I think is a UK cell phone company and was done by a Belgian ad firm, LG&F. It will make the hard core cyclists laugh, should not offend cyclists, and non-cyclists will even get the jokes. They have cleverly used cycling lingo and terminology without dumbing it down to the lowest common denominator and offending cyclists. This is a good example.

Now for a bad example. The first one that comes to mind that bothered me was for a deodorant, I think it was Mitchum. The tag line was something like "Real men don't have shaved legs." Basically their implication was that only girly men would shave their legs and therefore shouldn't use Mitchum. So right there they insulted me and many other cyclists and pushed them away from buying their product. So instead of gaining customers, they quite possibly lost many.

What do you think?

Chris - iheartbikes

Posted by iheartbikes at 4:39 PM 6 comments

LBS vs Online- Part Deux (or d'uh?)

Yesterday's post by Tim Grahl (aka- The Other Tim) was another good post for stirring up great conversations. The debate about the small (or even large) retailer and the online retailer is one that can not be answered or completed here. This is one of those topics that is hard fought on both sides of the issue and for good reasons. I can't pretend to know the answer and I have a tough time with the issue from the perspective of a manufacturer who is responsible for growing sales for my brand, to keep the bosses happy and keep my job, but I have to balance that against protecting the brand's image and then supporting those who are responsible for selling and servicing the bikes. It is by no means an easy issue to address.

The comments below were emailed directly to me and I have witheld the author's name, since he/ she did not post them directly here and may wish to remain "unknown". I felt that the comments were very valid to the discussion here though;

Hello Mr. Jackson.

I completely enjoy reading
your blog(s) especialy the new Kool-aid blog with your excellent team of
industry members.

This mornings blog has me
thinking.

More and more, I see companies that manufacture products
who sell their stuff wholesale to the local bike shop, but they also have their
own on-line website with ecommerce store selling pretty much the same selection
and possibly more than what the LBS is willing or capable of
carrying.

I am not picking on any of the following companies.
They are just companies I have found are successful in the industry and have
on-line stores.
Sock Guy (oh, so comfortable - my favorite sock) has an
on-line shop with what seems to be just about every sock design they make.Primal
Wear has an extensive on-line shop with an area to sign up for their mailing
list for "sale updates".
Pedros has an on-line shop too. I wonder
if Karl W. would share his thoughts on where they stand and if this
has ever been an issue with their dealers.

I know that many shops
are small and budgets are tight, so they cant afford or have the room in
their shop to carry every product, color, design that a company (like the few I
mentioned). It almost seems like a no brainer for the customer to shop
direct to the manufacture site where they have even more to choose from and the
potential of getting a better deal.

How can a bike shop
compete with that kind of selection?

Do local bike shops care that
manufactures are also selling direct?

Is the LBS is now
competing with the brands they carry?

Would buyers from local shops
looking for products to put in their stores consider if the manufacture has its
own outlet for sales and possibly decide to not carry their product knowing that
they have to then compete for sales with them?

If manufactures have
specials on their website: does that seem okay? Wouldnt that stear
customers away from the LBS?

Does this ultimately undermine the
relationship with the LBS?

These are a few thoughts that I had and
wanted to share with you.If you feel this is a worthy topic for the
bicyclemarketingwatch.blogspot.com then I will look forward to reading your
comments and others thoughts on this.

Thanks for your
time.


These are great comments and certainly worthy of discussion, so I will leave them "as is" for all to ponder and comment at will.

Now, some may be asking "what the heck does this have to do with Marketing?" Those folks have a valid question and I want to draw the discussion back that way.

To me, this is an issue of how the retailers market themselves to their customers. As Bernie from Panther City Bicycles commented in the earlier post, his strategy has been to point out the value of his relationship and service with his customers. Sure, some folks will go for the cheapest price and then bring it to him for installation/ service, but he is at least seeing that customer at some point in the store. Tim Grahl made a great point yesterday about this- service and customer service really do make the difference. I'm gonna pick on Bernie again because I like the guy a lot and think he's doing some great things [I have to point out that Bernie does sell Masi and Haro bikes at his shop, to be fair and honest.] Bernie maintains a blog for the shop that I believe is one of the ways that a shop can have a presence on the web that consumers can relate to and interact with. He's been effective, in my opinion, in building a good relationship with his customers and in promoting the brands he works with. I find this to be a great tool for him and his shop and believe that many retailers could duplicate his success very easily. Blogging is a great and often free way to stay in front of the customers who are already online looking for products.

Now I'll clear the floor for others to speak.

Tim
(PS- I'll address some of the other comments and issues in another post in the future.)





Posted by Tim Jackson at 10:50 AM 5 comments

Monday, December 12, 2005

LBS or Online Retailers? I say both.

Where does the Local Bike Shop stand in today's brave new world?

You've got the online retailers cutting prices lower then any brick and mortar can reach. And if people can get products for half the cost on the internet, then it's obvious that they're gonna do it.

It's inevitable. Online retailers that can buy in bulk at lower prices and resell to a worldwide marketplace are going to consistently beat out the pricing on the LBS. And the number of people buying online is only going to grow.

The way I see it, the local shops have two choices. They can moan, fight and advocate against this and slowly go into extinction or they can play on the strengths that they already have.

I've talked to way too many people that have had bad experiences with the local shops to think it's isolated incidents. They get attitude when they do come in to spend money because at some point in the past they went for the online deal. Or they are pushed to higher price items and end up leaving with nothing. Or they feel out of place when they walk in a shop full of 'pros'.

I think the LBS has two major strengths that many of them are overlooking.

Maintenance and Customer Service... two areas that no online retailer should ever be able to match.

First of all, shop maintenance is the highest level of income per sale. You sell a derailleur, you make a low margin of profit. You sell maintenance... 100% of that cash is going into the shop. Instead of advertising deals and cutting prices on products that are still going to be cheaper online, why not advertise and push all forms of maintenance? Your product with the highest level of profit and applicable to all products whether you sold them or not.

And the Customer Service is where shops can really shine. Don't push a $1000 bike if a customer only has $300 to spend. Just explain the pros and cons and remind them about your maintenance package. You want that customer to feel nothing but welcomed and encouraged to come back.

Sure, in a perfect world there would be no online retailers, and the Local Bike Shops (that carry a lot of the heart and soul of the sport) would have very little competition, but that's not how it works any more. And you can either fight against it and lose or compete with your strengths.

I've discussed the topic with employees and owners of both the online retailers and the brick and mortar shops, yet I consistently come to the same conclusion.

So am I wrong? What're your thoughts?

Posted by Tim Grahl at 12:47 PM 7 comments

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Another great honor.

Our little slice of commentary on the marketing world has once again been "picked" for recognition. The Carnival Of Marketing #5, over at MLMForums, has chosen us as a good example (specific to Ibis Bicycles could one day rule the world).

How flattering!

Thanks again to all of you who have found us and bookmarked us in the past few weeks. The "success" of this project has far outpaced my expectations.

We'll work hard to keep the content informative, witty and at least a little relevant.

Tim

Posted by Tim Jackson at 12:18 PM 3 comments

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ibis Bicycles could one day rule the world.

I've been a huge fan of the man known as Chuck Ibis, also known more legally as Scot Nicol, since the early 90's when I first really learned about Ibis Bicycles. Ibis Bicycles were the bikes to have for many people, including myself, for a long time... until they went away in 2002. I have a cousin here in San Diego who has 3 or 4 Ibis bikes and I was always hugely jealous of those bikes. I borrowed one of the mountain bikes for a few months, years ago, and I loved every mile on it even though it was too small for me. Ibis made great bicycles, from design to paint.

One of the more amazing things about the brand was the cult following it developed. Scot was, and still is, an incredibly smart and clever marketer. Scot himself has a great sense of humor to back up his incredible intelligence. Chuck Ibis was something of an alter ego and generally something of a wise-cracking funny guy. By using his own personality and the crafted pseudo persona, Scot was able to create a series of personalities that his many growing fans could latch on to and have a relationship with. Over the years, the legions of diehard fans grew and grew, as did the company's reputation for creating great bikes that were lusted after by people around the world. People bought the bikes most often because they were buying into the family and joining the cult of loyal worshipers. Scot and Ibis were smart enough to market themselves as more than just a bike and a bike company, but as a lifestyle of personality. I still have my old Ibis Handjob bottle opener/keychain (the Handjob was a brazed on cable guide on the bike frames that was literally shaped like a hand sticking out of the frame and later adapted to be used as a bottle opener that was one of the most sought after doo-dads of the time) and was majorly bummed out when my old cobalt blue Ibis pint glass shattered in a porcelain sink basin as I was washing the dishes more than 10 years ago. Stickers, t-shirts, thermoses (the Hot Unit), key ring/bottle openers and other widgets helped to propel the brand further and further into the "gotta have it" category.

In 2000, after 20 years of ownership, Scot decided to sell the company and rest a little after scrapping so hard to grow his business. However, in a little less than 2 years, the investment company that purchased the brand drove it into the ground and Ibis was no more. Scot himself was reportedly upset about the disaster and the throngs of Ibisians around the globe were left without an alter to heap their praise upon.

Now jump forward in time to 2005 and a few weeks to a month before the 2005 Interbike trade show. Rumors begin flying about that Ibis is making a comeback. Even more rumors begin to circulate that Scot himself is involved as well. Then, low and behold, just days before the show, the rumors are confirmed on both counts and the news spreads like a virus all over the cycling industry. A website/ blog even pops up with "the man" himself announcing his return and the resurrection of the brand... with a caveat; we're not the same Ibis, but like the old Ibis, being different is exactly what we're about (I paraphrase). When we all get to Vegas for the trade show, Ibis is of course the belle of the ball. Scot is swarmed by fans, press, shops and gawkers seeking a peek at the new Ibis. The bikes sell like proverbial hot cakes and the rave reviews roll in... before a single bike has even been ridden by anybody. Scot is seen grinning like the cat the swallowed the canary and the brand is re-embraced with warm loving arms.

There are actual lessons to be learned from all of my crazy "I love Scot Nicol" ramblings. First and foremost, personality goes a long, long way. Second, exploit the things you do well and tell everybody about it. Ibis did both things very, very well. Before the tradeshow, people were whispering and wondering about what the new Ibis was going to be like. All of the old Ibisians were waiting with feverish glee and all of the folks who never had the chance to get an Ibis before the bankruptcy were itching for a fix. It was one of the best marketing moves the cycling industry in the US has ever seen- if not the best. Here is one of the best examples of the effectiveness of the Ibis model; once the bikes were on display, many of the old guard of loyal fans felt let down because gone were the welded steel, aluminum and titanium beauties of years past. Instead, Ibis was now just a couple of carbon fiber bikes. No more smooth, flawless welds. No more hand mitered tubes. No more custom frames made specifically to your measurements. To them, gone was the soul and heart of what Ibis had always been about. However, the bikes still sold. Dealers still nearly knocked each other down to get into the booth to see Scot and the bikes. Magazines still shot photos of the bikes and hailed the return of Ibis as one of the most significant events in US cycling since Greg LeMond became the first American to win the Tour de France. Ibis was back and the world had been served notice.

By creating the mystique, legend, personality and interactive machine of "old Ibis" and blending it into the "new Ibis", Scot Nicol and his new partners have connected to old and new brand evangelists who will be singing the brand's praise all over again. To me, I see the return of Ibis as one of the biggest happenings in our little industry in the past several years. Scot's knowledge and humor have been missing around the industry water cooler. I, for one, will be watching every step he makes and will be trying to learn from him.

Tim

Posted by Tim Jackson at 9:33 PM 8 comments

Snow makes for great cyclo-cross!

My fellow Krew members have all done such great posts that I was thinking my first needed to be long and profound. Sorry to disappoint; this will be neither.

Just a quick reminder that the National Cyclo-cross Championships are in Providence, Rhode Island at Roger Williams Park this weekend. Mother Nature seems to have quite a storm planned to kick off the festivities on Friday. Then again, this is New England and that could change in a minute.

If you are in the area, c'mon down and join the fun. Keep in mind that you never know when or where you are going to bump into a Krew member or two. Dress warm and bring some hot chocolate, it's going to be a great weekend regardless of the weather.

Posted by Donna Tocci at 4:01 PM 1 comments

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sponsorship (or as way too many people spell it Sponcership)

‘Tis the season for the stacks of letters and proposals to completely take over my office. In one corner I have three large paper boxes. Each one has a specific label. One labeled Teams, one labeled Solo and one labeled Races. As the mail comes in I make a donation into each box. Each box contains the dreams and life stories of hundreds of passionate people who are doing what they can do be part of this crazy bike culture. Racers, advocacy groups, charity events, blind dog sled racers (yeah, we get some strange stuff) all looking for a handout. In one hand it is totally flattering that so many people want to be affiliated with our brand. On the other hand if we sponsored everyone who would buy our stuff from dealers?

A few years ago a group of us started emailing the craziest and most ridiculous proposals around for all to share in the amusement of what people honestly think they are going to get. Some of the more amusing ones have been donations for a high school cheerleaders bake sale, a pro bull rider willing to throw a logo on his vest in exchange for cash and one guy looking for chain lube to ride his unicycle around the world. I didn’t even know unicycles had chains.

For those playing the home version of the game here is a user guide on how to properly ask for sponsorship from small bike accessory companies with super-busy marketing directors:
1. Take the time to know who you are sending your proposal to. For the first couple of years I worked here I considered changing my name to Whom It May Concern Wiedemann.
2. DVDs, CDs, etc are great but there are not enough hours in a year to look through every one riding their bike in Moab.
3. Pictures are good, words are bad. I am a visual person and they help to show me what you are doing.
4. If you do use words, use spell check. It is one of the greatest inventions of the digital age.
5. Nothing will get your proposal into my trashcan faster than a letter addressed to me but praising my competitor’s products.
6. Please don’t call everyday to see if I have made a decision yet. In the time it takes me to answer my phone I could get through another two proposals and one could be yours.
7. Don’t ask for the world. Most companies in the bike industry don’t have GM sized marketing budgets. Know your audience and company size.
8. Be happy with what you get. If we were a charitable organization we would be a .org not a .com. Budgets are budgets.
9. Don’t threaten to go to my competitors if you are not happy. It is a small industry, people talk! And you don’t want to be on one of our secret industry blacklists!
10. If you don’t get something this year, try again next year. All three boxes should be empty by then.

Posted by Karl Wiedemann at 1:49 PM 8 comments

Why the reluctance?

Disclaimer: I run TwentyNineInches.com and have very strong feelings on the superiority of 29 inch wheeled mountain bikes.

What is it about the bike industry that keeps people stuck in their ways?

One of the biggest movements right now in the mtb world is the 29 inch wheeled mountain bike (actually 700cc, but who's counting?). For those of you that don't know, historically mountain bikes come equipped with 26 inch wheels. What's funny is the size of 26 inches was chosen out of convenience... not usability.

In the past few years people finally began questioning why we run cross country mountain bikes on small wheels. Big wheels are faster, roll over stuff easier, more comfortable for adult sized people... seems logical.

A lot of independent builders started jumping to 29ers and then Gary Fisher became the first to make production bikes running 29 inches. And currently they are still the only major manufacturer, other then Kona, that makes them.

Now let's look at the market:

MTBR.com runs a huge mountain bike forum that, I would guess, takes at least 60% of the market in online mtb forums. The third most popular forum on the site, only under two general forums, is the 29er forum.

Also, according to my sources at Gary Fisher, and not exactly a secret anyway, they can't keep the 29 inch wheeled bikes in stock. Everything is back ordered and being sold out before it even hits the showroom floors.

So people are constantly talking about them AND buying them... yet the industry still treats them like an annoying bastard child. The users and riders... the ones that spend the money keep asking for them and nada. I continually hear arguments out of different companies arguing why they aren't as good or it's just a fad...

This makes no sense to me. In any other industry companies would be tripping over each other trying to get involved in a niche that was making mad money, yet in the bike industry people drag their feet and have to be forced into markets that are turning a profit.

I always hear people complaining that it's hard to make money in the bike industry. Maybe cause you let your passion and preconceived notions get in the way of your business sense.

Posted by Tim Grahl at 7:15 AM 9 comments

Monday, December 05, 2005

Shut Up and Drink the Kool-Aid getting noticed already.

In the very short time since this project was launched, word has gotten out thanks to many different people. We're growing a bit of a following quiet quickly and I wanted to express a nice big thanks on behalf of the whole Krew of Kool-Aid Kontributors.

One of the most notable places we'ver turned up has been the venerable marketing industry blog Media Orchard, a blog from the Idea Grove. On 12/04 we were listed as a Pick of the Orchard. Needless to say, this is quiet a compliment and we're pretty excited about the recognition.

Another notable site to link to us has been Spinopsys. This is an excellent bicycling blog and one that I highly recommend. Thanks to Philip Gomes for the compliments.

We've been getting linked by lots of other folks as well and I apologize for not listing everybody right now. I will update our outbound links soon and want to name a few people who have been good to us at that time.

So thank you again for the great support and encouragement we've received already. It is our goal to provide you with an unique and hopefully entertaining view on the world of cycling related marketing.

Tim

Posted by Tim Jackson at 9:19 PM 1 comments

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Kool-Aid Krew; A belated introduction of sorts.

If you've been playing the home version of this game since this project was launched, then you will have noticed some new voices beginning to appear in this little chorus. As was my goal from the very beginning, this site is shaping up into the collaborative project I was hoping would be born from different and diverse personalities.

In the very short period of time since the first post, this blog has begun to gather a small following. Thanks in part to Jonathan Maus (formerly of JRA and currently of Bike Portland), things have really accelerated. Prior to Jonathan's "outing" of this blog, it had been my intention to let some posts build for awhile before going "public" with the existence of the blog. However, the cat is out of the bag and things are already progressing.

So without further delay, here is a brief introduction to the contributors here;
Donna Tocci- Donna is the Public Relations Manager for Kryptonite. She's a damned smart lady with a lot of incredible experience and knowledge in the PR/Marketing world. On top of it, she's also incredibly nice. One of the main reasons I wanted to invite her to the party is because of her non-cycling background. For all of her cycling knowledge, passion and experience, she doesn't "come from the cycling world" so to speak. Thanks to that, she has the unique perspectives of somebody who is simultaneously on the inside and on the outside of many issues. It is my belief that she will be able to lend some great perspectives.
Chris Cashbaugh- Chris is currently the "Marketing Guy" at SOG Knives. However, before you get nervous about the whole knife connection (even though I love knives and SOG products especially), he is also a devout bike nerd. Chris was one of the founders of the currently being reborn iheartbikes magazine and also worked with me at NiteRider Technical Lighting Systems years ago. Chris is a fantastic graphic artist on top of it all. The magazine was a wonderful project, which I wrote a piece for, and I really enjoyed getting to work with Chris again during that time. This blog is another excuse to get to keep working with him in some fashion.
Karl Wiedemann- Karl was introduced to me by Donna. They have known each other for some time now and Donna swears he's smart and funny. So far, I have to agree with her. Though I have yet to actually meet the guy, I am already happy to be getting to know him and work with him. Karl is the "Marketing Guy" over at Pedro's. If you've seen that distinctive black and yellow Pedro's logo around, he might have had something to do with that fact. Karl's view on things will be cool, since Pedro's has been very good at their marketing efforts for such a long time.
Jill Hamilton- Jill is one of the smartest people I know and has the misfortune of working directly beside me in the next cubicle. Jill is the Brand Manager (same position I have with Masi) of Haro ATB bikes. Prior to taking that role a few weeks ago, she was the Marketing Manager for Haro and also handled all of the teams and riders. Oh yeah, and she's got a Bachelor's degree in Marketing (she's a certified smarty pants). Jill also raced very successfully in downhill, almost turning Pro (Ed; I stand corrected- Jill was the #1 women's DH Expert rider in the nation in 2001 and then rode Pro in 2002), and in BMX. Let's put it this way- she's braver than me. I have more power than Jill, but she still kicks my ass on a mountain bike. Since Jill is a true Marketing professional, her contributions to this blog are going to be pretty evident, pretty quickly.
Tim Grahl- Tim is amazing. He runs/operates the Crooked Cog Network of cycling blogs/sites. He's also got a few other projects and is another damned smart fella. He will be adding a lot of great angles to things here. Maybe I can even get him to help with the technical stuff that I don't know how to do, since I am one of the least tech savvy people on this planet. Tim's Blue Collar MTB is one of the most trafficked and influential ATB/MTB (which is it anyway- maybe Tim and Jill can figure that out for us all) sites around. Since his post today, mentioning this blog, the site traffic here has nearly doubled. Apparently he has a few fans.

Those are the current actors in the play. There are others who will remain nameless until they are no longer in hiding and a few more on the radar who are "thinking about it". All in all, I'm thrilled with the crop of contributors we have now and will always look for more people to play a role here, whether as a full time contributor or as a guest contributor. If you have something you wish to share, please feel free to let me know.

So there you are. The Kool-Aid Krew is up and running now. We'll be posting when, where and how we can. Some times, it might be a lot of posts from me and other times it might be a lot of posts from another member. Maybe it'll even go quiet from time to time. Regardless, this is going to be fun and hopefully will serve as a good forum for all of us to share ideas about Marketing/PR as it relates to the cycling world or other ones that choose cycling to pitch their ideas.

For all of the other contributors here, I want to thank you all for visiting us recently. I hope you'll add us to your favorites and keep coming by to see what we're babbling about now.

Tim

Posted by Tim Jackson at 10:30 PM 5 comments

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Nothing like a lawsuit to get some good PR

There is nothing like a good controversy to get people talking about you.

Jeff Kerkove knows this.

And Donna... you definitely know this.

Now, Gary Boulanger, co-owner of Cycles Gaansari, is learning this as well. They were making this fixed gear bike called the "Skidstrong". They named it that before the "Livestrong" name was even copyrighted.

So those at the Lance Armstrong Foundation got their panties in a wad and decided to sue them.

While I'm not gonna get into my thoughts on the lawsuit, I think it's ridiculous that these people think this will help STOP muddying the brand name.

I had never heard of Cycles Gaansari and especially not their obscure fixed gear bike that was named similarly to the Livestrong brand. Now the word of what happened to them is spreading through the blogosphere like wildfire. People are talking and bitching about what LAF is doing.

And in each of these conversations, people who had never heard of Gaansari or the Skidstrong are learning about who and what they are. So be thankful Gary that the lawyers got involved cause sure, you had to change the name of your bike, but in return you are getting more PR, WOM and advertising then any marketing campaign you could ever have afforded.

Posted by Tim Grahl at 1:33 PM 8 comments

Swobo is back


Let me start out by saying, Hi everybody. This is my first post here, warning it may be really long, and I have been thinking about it for a couple days. I will post later to give you a little more info about me, but now on to my ramblings.

So, I just found out on Monday that Swobo, the legendary cycling clothing line from the 90's, is back. I had heard months ago about the impending revival of Swobo and was excited about the potential of a new clothing option they might bring back to cycling. It was all the buzz with many of my friends for weeks. I was constantly getting e-mails and talking to friends speculating about what might be coming. It was almost like a virus and everyone I knew seemed to be infected. Hey, that means that their marketing was working. I have to admit I was hooked and drank the Swobo Kool-Aid. The anticipation was killing me, I wanted to know what would be coming and what new clothing options I might have. Were they going to bring back their great cycling shorts, super cool wool jerseys, random stylish and ahead of the curve clothing, or was it going to be a whole new adventure.

I have to admit that I was a little late to the original Swobo party and really didn't find out about them until their last fading days. I fell in love with the clothing, it was pretty much the only company back then making good wool jerseys and just plain stylish looking clothing. I was caught up in the sort of undergroundness (did I just make up that word?) of the line and that it was not the standard cycling clothing worn by every rider out there was a nice bonus. We all like our individuality right? Best of all it performed better than most other clothing I owned at the time. I still have several of the wool jerseys and a really cool jacket (that I am sure very few people have).

Since Swobo has been away many people have stepped up and carried on where they left off. One example is Spot Brand, they did a really good job of picking up the wool jerseys that Swobo was making and were even very successful with it. Actually the whole wool jersey thing has taken off so much the companies like Canari and Novara (the REI cycling brand) are making wool or wool blend jerseys now. Nothing against either company, I just used them to illustrate a point that even some of the more main stream cycling companies are making wool a part of their line now. So wool, which was a big part of the uniqueness of Swobo is now not that unique.

I checked out the site and, well, let me say that I was unimpressed. There is some nice stuff, but nothing earth shattering or cutting edge cycling fashion. It is just basically one nice wool jersey - that is not all that unique now, a really cool looking non-wool jersey, and some accessories including stylish t-shirt designs. That's it. To me it just seems like they are doing it because the market for wool, which to their credit they did start to revive in the 90's, is so big right now that it was hard to pass up the money.

Now to the point of all this. Did their marketing fail? I don't think so. It worked great maybe even too great, I was hooked from day one. Do their designs fail? I don't think they do. I have not actually seen or handled the new stuff, so I don't know for sure but I am guessing they are great. Were my expectations too high? Most likely, I think that no matter what they did I would have been disappointed. To me it relates to the grass is greener on the other side thing. What I had envisioned in my head was so awe inspiring that they could do nothing but let me down.

What do you think?

Thanks for your time.
Chris - iheartbikes

Posted by iheartbikes at 10:19 AM 3 comments