In the Spring of 2010, bicycle riders from all over the country will stage a relay race in the 8 western states of California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. Approximately 500 selected bikers will attempt to ride the actual Pony Express Trail as it exists today faster than about 500 veteran horseback Pony Express riders. The 2010 Pony Express Bicycle Challenge authentic head to head relay race is a separate event from the historic Pony Express Reride and will compete day and night until there is a winner. The goal is to ride the roughly 2,000 miles from Sacramento, CA to St. Joseph, Missouri in just 7 days, 16 hours.
Not for 150 years has there gone out across the country an urgent call for ‘wiry 18 year old’ riders. Today, the Pony Express Bicycle Challenge is looking for great young bicycle riders from bike shops, bike clubs, college racing teams, military personnel, noted individuals and racing pros. You need not be an ‘orphan willing to risk death’ to apply.
Horses are clearly favored when climbing and powering through soft soil conditions. Naturally, there are huge advantages horses have over bike riders climbing up the Sierra Nevada range and up the western side of the continental divide. Nevada's 40 mile desert and Utah's Upper Sonoran Desert have hundreds of miles of less famous but no less difficult terrain conditions. The single most advantageous factor for the cyclist is that much of the original trail has become gravel roads and paved highways. Horses must run on roads and are at a disadvantage here. Wind and weather will also be a huge factor. Ultimately, the real ‘horse race’ of this horse race is in the marginal areas of terrain where decades of horsemanship experience may trump technology.
Both racing groups have taken advantage of technology. Horses are bred for better blood lines. Bicycles have drastically improved on the simple concept of two wheels and a frame. We intend to use all types of human-peddled bicycles just as horsemen select from Thoroughbreds, Mustangs, Pintos, and Arabians.
In addition to the 80 lb Mochilla (mail pouch), Pony Express riders will carry 150 years of history as a virtual burden. Bicycles, on the other hand, will carry 150 years of history, literally! Their 20 lbs bicycle mochilla contains all manner of portable digital devices filled with the last 150 years of recorded history, including the genealogies of original riders and their horses.
The Pony Express Bicycle Challenge is a historic moment with public morale riding on it. In truth, the Pony Express Bicycle Challenge itself has little meaning in terms of actual accomplishment. Modern bikes with the best riders could not compete over the original Trail with the motivated horses and horsemen of 150 years ago. Mostly, the country needs to be reminded its own historic struggles as a strength and regain an optimism for the future to build on. Motivated citizens can make the unusual and the seemingly impossible happen. Cross country mail delivered in days instead of weeks by boat: imagine that! Elect a black President: imagine that. Bicycles beating horses at their own game on their own 2,000 mile long turf. Imagine that. What’s' next? Imagine it.
The theme of the challenge is “Men propelling themselves on machines at speeds rivaling horses”. But, man against beast has its own tantalizing appeal. Beyond that, 200 horsemen racing against 500 bicyclists is interesting, competitive and just plain fun. Certainly, competition on the grand stage of the original Pony Express Trail speaks for itself.
The race is on for 2010. The country needs a spark to get going again. This head to head match may light that fire.
Google Street View Trike in Singapore!
There is NOWHERE Google won't go people!
Google Street View Trike at Stonehenge
Is Facebook's Pay-Per Click worth the expense to a Small Bicycle Business...Hmmm...NO! Believe it or not, Facebook probably has the most sophisticated consumers of any Social Networking page out there.
I will not waste space and quote their market demographics but it is safe to say that the average consumer on Facebook is much more savvy than the MySpace crowd. People with Facebook profiles tend to be Home owners whereas Myspace users tend to be renters...blah..blah..blah!
I have personally used Facebook's PPC advertising so I speak from experience when I tell you that the MOST VALUABLE piece of this for small bicycle business is not the 'Cost Per Click' but rather the 'Cost Per Impression'.
The difference in a nutshell shell is the cost to get someone to click on your ad could vary from 15 cents to 50 cents depending on your keyword selections.
Bikes are normally considered mid-level to high ticket items so that cost may seem small. It even becomes more attractive IF the bicycle biz drop ships the item. Customer clicks on ad, arrives at your website, buys a bicycle, you ship it and life is good, right?
How many people buy WHOLE bikes from websites though? Especially from an unknown small business? Parts...YES! But bikes are something that a discerning buyer wants to touch and feel.
After all reader, how many times have you purchased a complete bike off of a website?
Is it any wonder most companies put more focus on helping you locate a dealer as opposed to selling straight from their site.
For a small business, CPC can get expensive so I suggest you focus more on the Cost Per Impression! Facebook can get your ad in front of, say 17,000 people in a few days (if keyword is searched), out of that, maybe 150 people will click in your ad.
Let's assume that the 'Cost Per Click' is $.40, that would be $60 per day using CPC. If you have that kind of money...JUST for people to see your business that probably won't buy ($420.00 per week) GO FOR IT!
In contrast, CPM (Cost per Impression) gets your brand out in front of people who will see it, but may not click on it, therefore it will cost you no money!
What a great way to build your brand folks for LOW COSTS!
There are about a billion bicycles in the world, twice as many as motorcars. Almost 400 million bicycles are in China. Every year some 50 million bicycles - and 20 million cars - are produced.
Although Leonardo da Vinci drew some rough sketches of a contraption that looked like a bicycle, the Frenchman De Sivrac built the first bicycle-type vehicle in 1690. It was referred to as a hobbyhorse. However, it did not have pedals. Those were added in 1840 by a Scottish blacksmith, Kirkpatrick Macmillan, who is credited with inventing the real bicycle.
On a penny-farthing bicycle, one pedal gave the wheel one turn. A lot of pedalling was needed to get around! With the advent of gears, bicycles could move as fast as cars.
Air-filled tyres were used on bicycles before they were used on motorcars.
The bicycle as we know it today - with two wheels of the same size - looks almost exactly the same as one from 1900.
The first five-seat bicycle, the quindem, was built in 1940.
The world speed record on a bicycle is held by John Howard, Olympic Cyclist and Ironman triathlon winner from the US. In 1985 he reached 245,08 km/h (152.2 mph), cycling in the slipstream of a specially designed car.
Oh my...No words for this Cat....
This guy is a NUT JOB! I love it...
This DROP IS INSANE!
I really like this bike built for the ladies! The tires (in my opinion) are WAY to masculine unless you live in the country and certainly this isn't built for extreme mountain biking, but this design is nice...really nice!
As you all know, I don't get into these types of bicycle, but for some odd reason, this one caught my eye!
http://www.sitecube.com/promo_bw.asp?pid=bw309_kw_us (Best Value IF you THINK you need a Flash Site)
In a previous post, I waxed philosophical about concerning a status quo website OR a Social Media profile was the best way to interact with your customers. It is true that customers prefer to sit on a bike before they buy it which makes the job of a 'Website Bike Hustler' that much more challenging. That is why it is necessary for you to build an environment of TRUST with your customers and website visitors.
There is also the challenge of the right bike size for your customers. A guy my size, 6'5 230 lbs. would tend to stay away from a regular 26" cruiser frame and nothing would drive a customer crazier than such a large expense and it isn't a GREAT FIT! Adding a Widget to your website-profile where a customer can plug in their height and weight and this script could spit out the right size bike for the customer would certainly make your customers better able to chose the bike that is right for them.
Undoubtedly a Social Media Profile is a mandatory part of business on the web these days.I do not want to suggest that a regular web page is not necessary. I do believe IF your business requires a Flash Site utilize it...However, IF possible, stay away from them!
Why? Flash websites are viewed (by my readers anyway) as 'Sizzle' with no 'Steak'.Arguably, Flash Sites were the place to be in the late 1990s to probably 2004.
However, as Social Media began it's long march to where it is now, with all of it's pop and sizzle, these sites DO NOT hold the attention if visitors like they once did.
Where am I leading with this? I would seriously re-evaluate this expense! However, if you are insistent on building such a site, there is NO REASON (even a novice should spend more than $50 FOR HOSTING, SET-UP AND BUILD) to launch such a site. Email me and I will send you a link that will allow you to have the SAME STUFF the pros build for PENNIES and YOU CAN DO IT YOUR SELF it is SOOOO SIMPLE!
YES you have to have a 'Store Front' of some kind....However, Social Media Profiles have become a HUGE way to drive traffic to your website.
Social Media Profiles on Twitter, Facebook and LINKEDIN, in my opinion, can be the difference between 150 site visits per day and 250 or more (dependent upon the viral nature of your campaign). Traffic generates interest, interest generate return visits, return visits build relationships and those relationships will build your online business.
Even IF you just have a Blog (not to minimize the impact of this median), traffic can make you a few buckets without selling product of your own! We will talk about this in the next post which will deal with some simple changes and additions to your website that can generate TONS of traffic.
As we discuss topics concerning the migration of the 'Blah-Blah' Web page that should be replaced by a more socially interactive page, the question is "Should I feature my company or ME on my Facebook Profile?"I think the answer is fairly obvious...BOTH!
However, as we spoke about in a previous post concerning Company Websites versus Social Media profiles, Websites have come to be viewed as impersonal, sort of "Here is who we are, this is what WE have to offer, take action!"
Companies are always presented as 'WE' which is, from a team work standpoint RIGHT! What Social Media has brought to the table is the SUBTRACTION of WE and added the more personal approach of I.
Think about when you are invited to some sort of social gathering through a Flyer or Billboards. You show up alone and you have no idea who is going to be at this gathering.
You have never heard of the company or group who is throwing the bash and although you aren't gung-ho about going, you decide to anyway!
When you arrive, you stand around for awhile and see 'WE' (company employees) standing around in groups chatting with one another.
No one has welcomed you, spoken to you or anything. You just see a large banner on the wall that says 'Welcome Company employees and Friends.'
You came because you were invited (online ad), you were hesitant to go because you didn't know anyone (unfamiliar with product), company employees never greet you (WE) and all you know of the company is the Welcome Banner (Website). How great of an experience did you have?
To answer the opening question...Customers want to hear voices and see faces! This established repor and repor builds relationships and relationships is what will endure your current future customers to your brand. In closing, a good mix for a bicycle company on Social Media Profiles is 70 percent YOU (or employees) and 30 percent company.
That is a good question and I do believe that one of these is a better alternative than the other.
You have a choice between, let's say, advertising your Bicycle Company in a major sports publication where even an 1/6 of a page advertisement with picture is, say, $2,000 or more depending on magazine circulation numbers.
Utilizing Online CPM (Cost per impression) services from Google Ad words or Yahoo! Search Marketing
This particular magazine requires you commit to a 3 month run which means you are obligated to $6,000 before you ever know IF such a run will yield desired results even though you have top marketing data that says it will.
Magazine Ad Overview
-Upfront costs high
-Long term commitment required even IF results are poor
-Magazine buyer, no matter how well researched, will spend an average of 7.3 seconds glancing at your ad then move on
-Even if interested, they must take a few more steps for further action to be taken. Interest lost in the Interim.
-Services not directly linked to magazine ad for ease of using your product or service.
-No real time statistics available for tracking ad performance based on ad distribution.
-Even those not specifically looking for what you are selling will see your ad. This diminished any company's ROI.
Online Ad Serving
- LOW upfront costs
- Ads for products and services can be changed immediately depending on response.
-Highly targeted niche markets more easily penetrated based on keywords
-Real-Time ad statistics readily available for better decision making based on Ad Distribution (Service)
-Casual viewers weeded out as keywords serve ads to only those who are looking for what you are selling.
Of course much can be added to the above. I guess readers know which way I am leaning :) As someone who helped launch a Brand called Banneker Watches (bannekerwatches.com and banneker jewelry.com) 5 1/2 years ago, I only wish we had known then, and had the Online resources available that are available today!
My personal opinion having participated in a Brand Launch is spend as little as possible on Print Magazine spreads IF your target market is in the age range of 18-30. After all, ask one of them if they even have a magazine subscription.....You will be surprised by the results as was I!!!!!
In the 2 previous posts, I chatted briefly with you about the need for Bicycle Companies to LOSE the status quo websites and give their visitors a more interactive web experience.
I threw out 2 suggestions and want to expand on the 2 previous posts;
1. Lose the 'Dealer Locator' page and expand that into putting an employee within the zip code in charge of following up with a person IF site visitors fill out some sort of preference profile.
2. Lose the 'Contact Us' page in lieu of a page where a visitor can set up a profile and based on their Profile preferences, the company could feed the visitor company information based on their profiles.
The problem with a Dealer Locator pages in this age of Social Media is the user plugs in their Zip Code and the visitor is pointed in the direction of the retail outlet where the product is stocked...With no interactivity, what message is this sending to your POTENTIAL Customer?
-These are our products
-This is where you can go buy them.
My goodness!These same consumers are only 3 friend additions or less from having a LIVE CHAT or at a minimum receiving a 'Tweet' from super stars such as Beyonce, Lebron James and Hannah Montana online...How does your visitor experiences compare to this Bicycle Company owner?
In the last post, your 'Fearless Blogger waxed philosophical on the need for Bicycle Companies to morph their business models into a more Social Website experience than just a regular website that are well...BORING and unable to keep visitor's attention for any length of time. Hint, if your website stats show that the average length of visit is anything less than 2 minutes...You are headed nowhere fast.
Site visits for any business that is selling a product or service is crucial for the survival of said business. Think about this, even using the BEST online shopping cart technology, the average time in the industry to check out is 1 minute 38 Seconds! What can a bicycle company do to keep interested consumers on their page for longer than 2 minutes.(Anything visit shorter than 1 minute means you had nothing of value to your visitor within your targeted keywords...OR you get GARBAGE clicks which comes from people copying images from your page for their own use)
There can be much 'Push back' on these stats but 1 thing is sure, it is tough enough to sell a bicycle off of a website because such a large purchase is something people like to see and feel! Certainly this is true in the higher price points that are only frequented by those who are educated in the art of 'Cycling'.
So what does this mean?Bicycle companies, like I suggested in the last post concerning losing the 'Contact Us' tab on your site in favor of a visitor personal page which will build community.
Enhance the 'Dealer Locator' section of your site in favor of connecting them directly with somebody at the Dealers location who has set up their own personal profile so when and IF the potential client calls one of your dealers...A personal connection is already established!
Give them a more personal experience than the 'Dealer' and 'Contact Us' tab can offer them.
The direction of this blog will now migrate to more of a discussion of HOW the ever evolving nature of the web will impact the Business Model of all bicycle companies.
Let's face it readers, where once business cards were seen as an essential tool to be taken seriously as a business person, the time came where this card was no longer enough and a business having a website became the new standard.
Now, a website that, no matter how elaborate (Flash!), is just the starting point and actually can hurt a business if not done well. A standard website is quickly becoming something that must morph into something that offers a customer or visitor something more than a view of company goods and services.
Why? It is my belief that this started with the advent of what has become known as Social Media. Facebook, Twitter, Linked and other such online communities have created an environment where people (also their consumers) have gotten use to immediate answers from those they are close to.
Why not the companies these same consumers buy from? There is no reason why NOT! Bicycle Companies who hope to grow and prosper in this age of Social Media must redirect a large portion of their resources to mastering this median of Web 2.0. You may say "Well I blog about what my company and consumers want to know about."
SO WHAT! There are those business leaders who talk and those who listen. Those who talk have to shift their business models to be less 'Mouth' and more 'Ears'. This will mean you learning to. Grow your company based on your customer's direction, not your competition's!
Your competition may lead you in a direction where only moderate success is experienced. Those who purchase your goods or services will lead you in a direction where, by meeting their purchasing desires, promise to put you far ahead of the moderate success your competition experiences.
I wrote all of that to write this in particular. Right now, before your competition catches wind that you are heading in a direction that, no matter what their money and resources allow, will put you in the drivers seat...Start small..lose the 'Contact Us' icon on your site into, say, a page that your visitors can build a profile complete with a picture and there comments!!!