The Business Owner: Ross Walker, Rocket Centre

The Blackburn-based business owner and 'biking enthusiast' tells is4profit how to ensure customers keep coming back

The Business Owner: Ross Walker, Rocket Centre

Founder: Ross Walker
Company: Rocket Centre Ltd
Location: Trident Park, Blackburn
Proposition: Multi-franchised motorcycle dealership

How is your business different from what’s already out there?

We offer a multi-franchised motorcycle dealership in a state-of-the-art showroom with one of the largest selection of motorcycle clothing and accessories in the North West.

How did you finance your business?

The business was financed by the owner, who is a biking enthusiast as well as an entrepreneur.

What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?

The most important thing we keep track of is customer feedback, because we rely heavily on customer retention and their loyalty to the brand to grow our reputation in the area and online. We collect customer feedback in a post-sale postal questionnaire. We include a pre-paid envelope and an incentive of 10% off their next clothing purchase and get a good return of about 80%.

What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?

Our biggest challenge is to be able to meet all customer expectations. We’re in a culture of price-matching and everybody wants the latest products at the cheapest prices. When a customer asks for a discount or tells us about a deal elsewhere that we can’t match, we simply remind them of the benefits from buying from us. We’re on your doorstep, we’ve been running for more than 25 years and we’re not going anywhere. Our products are in stock and in-store, so you can try on clothes or test ride our motorcycles before you buy.

On top of that, we offer great customer service and provide professional and expert advice for our customers. We also reward loyalty and have a loyalty card that offers 5% off all clothing and accessory purchases.

What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?

We have a strong social media presence to try to attract new customers. We use Facebook predominantly and have a community feel of knowledge-sharing for bikers and non-bikers alike. We launch competitions on Facebook and encourage users to like and share posts to be entered into a prize draw to win free accessories. This gets a good response and gives us great exposure. It also helps to create partnerships with professional riders who have a strong following and promote our products.

We supply Rocket Centre-branded decals for their bikes, which gets us some great publicity. We’re also present on Twitter and building up our presence on Instagram. Every month, we send out an e-shot to our existing customers. We collect the email address of each new customer via online booking or in-store purchases, and invite people to sign up to our newsletter on our website. We attract new customers by giving our existing customers incentives to refer their friends and family, like discounts off clothing and accessories.

Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips? 

It would depend on the focus of your business and opportunities for growth. If you have better market prospects locally, don’t stray!

What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?

These days it isn’t enough to have a website for your business – our digital presence extends to social media apps like Facebook and Twitter. The unprecedented levels of access that these platforms provide allow us to connect directly with potential customers and buyers on an individual basis at all times.

Describe your company’s culture in three words:

Satisfy Customer Needs

What would you like the government to do for small business?

The government should give small businesses more tax breaks and reduce business rates so owners have more money to invest in their business.

Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?

The late Jack Walker, who was a British industrialist and businessman from Blackburn, Lancashire, where we have our showroom. He became the owner of Blackburn Rovers FC after amassing a personal fortune of £600 million, which he made from growing his family’s back-street scrap metal business into a major player in the steel industry.

Where do you want the business to be in three years?

We want to be the largest online motorcycle dealership. We already have a great turnover in-store so we’re looking to spread our net wider. We’re investing a lot of money into digital agency Bespoke, and re-branding our website to take our e-commerce to another level. We’ve just recruited an e-commerce manager who has lots of experience in the industry and we’re also in the first stages of investing in an eBay shop.

What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?

Our top tip is to maximize margins and don’t succumb to price matching every deal that comes your way. Show your customers the real value of buying their products from you, not just the monetary one.

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