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Here’s what I think you might do to sell more trikes & (exponentially) grow your contingency of devoted 3-wheeled followers/enthusiasts: establish a Local Ambassadors Program. Ambassadors = Happy owners of your trikes, willing to allow interested buyers to test-ride. This program would be for those areas where a dealer is not within a reasonable traveling distance (a list of Local Ambassadors would be easily found on your websites, the same way you already direct potential buyers to local dealers). You get to choose your Ambassadors (because of course they should be knowledgeable riders & familiar with your trikes) and how you’d compensate them (discount on current or future purchase, points to be redeemed for accessories, consideration for Trike Knighthood, etc.).
Ambassadors would bridge a cavernous gap that truly needs a means of crossing. This need is felt keenly, on both sides; the trike makers on one end of the gap & the wanna-be trike-owning riders on the other side. As it is now, the gap separating the sides extends more than a few-hundred miles & often a state or two. Gap-distance is measured in space between potential buyers and dealers, as well as space between dealers. Keep in mind that most dealers only carry a couple makes of trikes, and a couple – not all – of the models. The result of which is potential buyers having to search out more than one dealer to test ride a variety of available makes & models.
Here’s the thing, we all know trikes are sold (and should be decided upon) through extensive butt-in-the-seat test riding. But trike shops are still few & far between enough that many of us cannot get to one without a major road trip or a flight, and in some cases it takes both. Don’t forget to factor all the time and expense of that kind of long-distance adventure. That’s money most of us don’t have; that’s money that could go to the purchase of the trike itself (those are good-weather days missed from work when we could’ve called in sick to go ride our new trikes!).
Test riding is especially crucial to those buying their first trikes, and even more so to differently-abled riders who are investigating trikes as a form of adaptive cycling to accommodate health issues and/or disabilities (as in my case). A rider finding her or his right match amid the many makes & models – along with the options available for each – is an important part of proper fit, of both safe and enjoyable cycling. A rider seeking adaptation to special needs depends greater upon a larger variety of options for that just-right fit and feel while piloting a trike.
Having Local Ambassadors – satisfied owners of your trikes, willing to share their experiences of your models & allow interested buyers to take test drives – would result in your products being widely available & accessible in a hands-on (or is that “butts-on”?) way, which I believe would solve the major challenges in trike purchasing and trike selling. You need more people to know about and to encounter your products (trike selling); interested buyers need convenient ways to access and encounter your products in consideration of what is, most often, quite a major purchase. People are more likely to make a purchase when a sample or “trial run” provides an experience similar to the actual enjoyments of ownership. The more money being spent, the more important the assurance of making the right choice. I think if you implement a Local Ambassadors Program, you’d end up with more sales than you could shake a stick at. (that’s a southern term, meaning “a helluva lot”)
As for safety/security concerns, interested buyers test-drive trikes and cars, motorcycles and boats every day. Simply replicate whatever practices best serve. My suggestion would be to partner the Local Ambassador Program with select local bike shops who are trike-friendly & would most likely be the LBS where the buyer would have her/his new trike assembled & maintained anyway. Ambassadors & interested buyers meet up at those LBSs (never at their own homes), which gives your trikes even more visibility. Picture the scene at the LBS, on a weekend, when the novelty of a 3-wheeler goes pedaling by, someone with newfound Trike Love grinning from the seat. Now envision how many more LBSs may decide to become your dealers once their customers realize that recumbent trikes not only exist, but turn regular folks into grinning fools. As in, foolish with delight.
OK, that’s my 2 cents & it’s free of charge. Can’t beat that with a stick! (translation: Whoa, cowboy, that’s a damn fine steal of a deal – Yahoo!) Though any of you are welcome to thank me for my oh-so-inspired trike marketing-&-sales ideas – if you feel like you just have to – with something shiny, curvey & speedy. Maybe even foldable :0)
With fond regards & fierce gratitude for the 3-wheeled human-powered vehicles you make,
— Elated Rider of a 2006 ICE Qnt, a 2008 Catrike Road & a 2011 Greenspeed Magnum
— Tricycle Evangelist: spreading the good news of recumbent trikes, enlightening the under-wheeled & wheel-less, saving shoe-soles & lessening carbon emissions the world over, since 2010
— Alternative & Adaptive Cycling Advocate: on a mission to make trikes more attainable to anyone who desires, and to everyone who – due to illness and/or disability – needs 3 wheels to be enabled to ride