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This article was first published in the August 2018 issue of British Dealer News.

When it comes to making friends and influencing people, your customers and staff are your secret weapon.

Nobody likes being sold to. That’s partly, perhaps subconsciously, because we don’t like to feel we might be being deceived or even railroaded into a decision we didn’t reach with certainty on our own. Nobody likes receiving poor service either. When we do, aside from how we react to rudeness or lack of consideration, it suggests we’re not important to the person we’re dealing with. And everyone wants to feel like they matter.

These traits of human nature have allowed independent peer review services like Feefo, and the kind of review functionality you can build into your website or Facebook Page, to become invaluable tools for businesses and consumers alike. Customers gain confidence in their decision-making when they have the opinions and experiences of others to act as their guide.

It all boils down to trust – not in businesses or brands, but in people. It’s taken for granted that every business has a commercial agenda behind its marketing, so no matter how compelling that marketing may be it’ll never be entirely trusted. On the other hand, if your best mate tells you a product or service is fantastic and great value for money, you’ll likely take their word for it. The adage that, “people do business with people they know, like and trust,” is no less true for its over-use.

The question is, how can that psychology be applied to the way your dealership interacts with customers in store, at events, and on social media? How you involve your staff and the customers themselves, and how you encourage and facilitate both groups to influence opinion, are at the heart of the answer.

Research a few months ago by MSLGroup reported that social media messages are, “re-shared 24 times more frequently when they’re sent by employees instead of the brand itself.” Multiply that by the number of staff you employ (most, if not all, of whom are active on social media and have plenty of motorcycling friends in your area) and the potential audience reach is significant. It’s not just about reach though. Because your staff are seen on social media as being themselves, rather than people promoting your business, they’re far more likely to be trusted and to have a positive influence on opinions and perceptions.

There are three obvious ways that members of your team could get involved. First of all, they could helpfully comment on social media posts published by your business, and by others (in Facebook Groups for example) where questions are being asked about products or services you happen to provide. Secondly, and this is the easiest one, they could share your posts on their own timelines. The third option, which is by far the most potent, would be for them to create their own posts (which your business might subsequently share). If one of your sales people was trying out a new jacket, for example, they could film a short video with their smartphone about the product and what it was like to ride in. Remember that people like to be entertained while they’re being educated.

As for involving customers in influencing other potential customers, think back to the psychology for a moment. Make them feel they’re important by asking for their help and you’ll immediately start to build rapport, trust and loyalty. As a result, they’ll naturally be inclined to talk about your business and its products or services when they’re at work, or down the pub, or on social media.

But asking for their help with what exactly? Although there are countless ideas you could experiment with, my suggestion would be you start with videos that tell some sort of story (see June’s column for advice on the practicalities) and make individual customers the stars of the show. For example, when someone comes along to organise a test ride, or to try on a new riding suit, ask them if they’d mind being filmed. Most people will be all too happy to oblige, and to share the final video when you publish it on social media. Servicing bikes in your workshop could make good material too, as would new model launch events and open days.