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, PA based manufacturer and distributor of fixed gear and single speed bicycles. The company has been in operation as of October 2002, when its founder Tony and his wife Carrie opened their first factory doors in Staten Island. With the exploding popularity of this quickly growing company, they outgrew their Staten Island and moved their factory to a farm in Middleburg, PA. There, Tony and Co. fabricated a state-of-the art, environmentally friendly facility designed with the intentions of reducing the size of their carbon footprint. Electric carts transport employees and inventory between the shop and solar powered warehouse, and delivery vehicles were downsized in favor of better fuel-efficient alternatives. On the Internet, Tony has a visible presence on interest-related Internet forums. He is often seen answering customer inquiries about the company and their products from his personal accounts. The company website, IROCycle.com, has been undergoing a facelift as of lately. Links to the company’s social media profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Blogspot are easily accessed but the content is rarely updated. The owner’s online presence has apparently been on the decline as he has been focusing more on designing and building bikes to send out the door. IRO has recently abandoned distribution to brick-and-mortar stores to focus solely on Internet sales. This places IRO in a unique market position that is currently in flux. They need to compete with larger online distributors without having a presence in local bike shop (abbreviated LBS from this point forward). The biggest competing online-only bike distributers are Republic Bikes and Solé Cycles. Republic has many high-profile partnerships with Urban Outfitters, Guess, and Crate and Barrel. Other brands such as Motobecane and Mercier compete with IRO
and are primarily distributed by Bikesdirect.com and other mega-warehouse Internet firms. IRO competes with other established brands such as Bianchi, Specialized, Cinelli, and Surly. Objectives: IRO’s unique business structure and position in such a competitive and constantly changing industry presents many challenges, threats, and opportunities to Tony and his company’s viability. Brick-and-mortar bike shops, while not capable of generating the optimal volume of sales, are distinct from Internet distribution models in that the consumer is offered the opportunity to purchase a custom bike that is properly fit to their body dimensions. This is a positive aspect of this distribution model, but on the contrary, LBS employees are often responsible for instilling feelings of discomfort or inferiority in the first time buyer that may draw the consumer into buying a bike online. On other end of this spectrum, many customers may feel guilty for not supporting local businesses in favor of national Internet companies, while within a local cycling community these companies may find disfavor or disproval. Thus, one objective is to reintroduce IRO to the LBS scene in order to restore the brand’s credibility within these circles. The second objective of our public relations initiative is to improve the brand positioning of IRO cycle. We are striving for differentiation from other online bike distributors by avoiding the common perceptions of “value” bikes (such as “cheap,” “mass-produced,” “cookie-cutter design”) while strengthening and reinforcing the perceptions of a quality product that is unique to the customer produced and distributed using environmentally sustainable methods without imparting additional overhead costs that would impair the affordability of the product. This involves distinguishing IRO from other big-box online retailers while a retaining competitive position in both online and brick-and-mortar sales and growth. We also intend to increase the
visibility of IRO Cycle within the fixed gear community by establishing relationships that display the company’s commitment to the cyclists’ communities and lifestyles. The final objective of our plan is to increase the customizability of IRO Cycle’s product by increasing the variety of offered options under the “Build-A-Bike” section of the company website. Ideally, the customer should be able to choose between buying their IRO bike at a local bike shop or directly from the company without having to make sacrifices in quality and variety of selection in components. Many customers purchase their frames from Tony while electing to complete their custom projects using parts from other sources. Thus, the objective is to increase online sales of complete bikes. We can summarize the objectives of our plan with “Three C’s”: Credibility, Community, and Customizability. Target Audience: The target of our promotion is anybody who loves and lives fixed-gear bikes. Our first objective primarily aimed toward owners of bike shops, especially shops that specialize in fixed-gear offerings. The second two objectives will involve primarily targeting first-time buyers of fixed- and single-gear bicycles. This target is predominantly 16-28 years old and male, but may also be female (though at a much lower rate). This also includes anybody in the market for purchasing this style of bicycle, whether they own an IRO or another brand of cycle, with varying levels of cycling experience. Strategy: Ensuring that the customer still has the option of choosing to buy a bike from IRO Cycle while supporting local small businesses will satisfy our objective of increasing credibility. Showing IRO’s commitment to the cycling lifestyle and community will be achieved with a social media promotion. This will also include restoring the company’s waning presence within online communities. Customizability will be achieved through a restructuring of the company’s online store to include a wider variety of products.
Tactics: This multifaceted plan will involve many tactics that lead up to one big event: the IRO Alleycat Championship. This will involve a series of three bicycle races held in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City at the end of summer 2012, with the winners in each city receiving a complete bike from IRO cycle. Using each city as the track, a grueling 12-mile path will be carved out by the fastest and most daring fixed-gear cyclists these cities have to offer. The race will cost anywhere from $10-$15 for entrants but is free to IRO owners. Research the markets of cities considered “hubs” of the fixed gear scene, including San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City to find bike dealers that specialize in fixed-gear offerings. Cities such as Philadelphia, Boston, and Los Angeles will be included. This may be found by using a list of dealers that offer Bianchi, Specialized, Cinelli, or other companies’ frames. Find and contact dealers interested in offering IRO and install a branded fitting station in the selected locations as an incentive. The branded fitting station can be used by the shop employees to fit customers interested in buying any bike. The participating stores will offer a selection of IRO frames in limited sizes and materials. If a desired size or model is not in stock, customer will have the option of ordering his or her frame directly from the company and pick it up in the store at a later time. Partners will also be given a branded neon sign to display in the store. Leading up to the spring season, when bike sales are most common, the brand’s presence online will be increased. Social media outlets are to be kept up to date by the newly established Consumer Relations department. Online forums such as bikeforums.net will be monitored for IRO-related discussion and activity. An employee will be responsible for answering any questions about the company in a prompt and friendly manner. The company’s associated Twitter, Facebook, and Blogspot pages will be updated more frequently (weekly, at a minimum).
Using the customer-submitted photos on Flickr, contact past customers and ask them to create content for weekly features on the company blog. Participants will be mailed a free IRO shirt for their cooperation. They will be asked to complete a short, magazine-style interview designed for them to share their love of cycling, and especially their IRO cycle, with the world. They may want to share information about the components of their bike, daily biking routine, and any great stories of any memorable adventures they have created with their IRO bike. The Social Media specialist will be responsible for contacting the interviewees and compiling their responses to be posted on the company Blogspot page and creating Twitter and Facebook linking readers to the blog. City-specific forums, such as Chicago’s chainlink.org, will be used to promote the race in the appropriate cities. Social media will be used to cover the outcome of the races. Since the company is so small, the budget for traditional media is severely limited. Selected features will be used in advertisements purchased in nationally distributed magazines specifically dealing with fixed-gear culture. Volunteers will be asked to distribute printed flyers to bike shops in these cities to advertise the race no less than a month in advance. The race will also be advertised in free newspapers available in the selected cities. Along with this media, the installation of branded fitting stations and neon signs in selected bike stores will serve as advertisement for the brand. To achieve our final objective, we must expand the selection of components offered on the online store to match the offerings of a local bike shop. Upgraded and high-performance components will be offered, such as Brooks leather saddles, Chris King headsets, Phil Woods hubs, Zipp rims, and Aerospoke Wheels. The entire selection of drivetrain and cockpit components will be revamped to offer the consumer a full variety of parts for their custom bike, including high-performance as well as economy options. This goes beyond the competitors’
typical “customized” bike options that are usually restricted to color schemes and minimal selection. The customer seeking a completely optimized bike outfitted with heirloom-quality parts will now have the option of finding everything the most discerning of cyclists could be searching for all in one place. Calendar/Timetable: This will be carried out over the course of 2012, with some elements of the plan to begin immediately. IRO Alleycat Championships • • • Late September 2012, three separate dates TBD; consecutive weekends In order—San Francisco, Chicago, then New York City for final race. Owner is present and covers MC, announces the race’s start, judges at finish line, awards prizes to each winner. Dealership initiative • Complete in advance of Spring 2012 buying season; locate dealerships of interest in late January, begin negotiations for distribution. • Distribute fitting stations and neon signs by the end of February 2012.
Online store • • • Begin to locate distributors of desired products upon approval of plan. Redesign “Build-A-Bike” option to reflect changes in inventory as needed. Announce availability of new products during President’s Day weekend.
Social media • Blogspot, Twitter, and Facebook tactics are to begin upon the approval of this plan with the selection of candidates from Flickr submissions and invoices. Contact participants for content creation and release forms.
Announce dealer partnerships as they materialize on Twitter and Facebook, e.g. “We are proud to announce that IRO bikes will now be available for purchase at Handle Bars Bike shop in Chicago. Stop in today to find the perfect IRO for you!”
Begin race promotion online in June 2012, continue until after the end of the race providing coverage of each city’s competitions on Blogspot and tie up; post video and picture content when applicable.
Traditional media • • Magazine advertising begins in late February/March 2012. July and August, purchase advertising in national cycling magazines with information on all three locations. • • Begin distribution of race flyers in June 2012, on display by the end of July. Begin advertising the race in target cities’ free newspapers in July 2012.
Budget: Social Media: $30 • Includes cost of free tee shirts given to participants (estimated 10@$3.00)
Traditional Media: $24,000-$40,000 • • • Branded fitting station: $600 per store Neon sign: $200 per store Free Newspapers: $400/week, per city; 12 weeks; $7,200 (biweekly) to $14,400 (weekly) • • Race flyers: $200 printing, free distribution National magazine ads: $4,000/month per full-page ad; $24,000 for February-August coverage.
Website: $1,000 • Includes design, hosting, and other miscellaneous costs.
Race: $10,000 • • Includes cost of permits, prizes, insurance, staff, judges, referees, and airfare Offset by $10-$15/per contestant entry fee
Evaluation: One evaluation metric will be to see a 25% rise in complete bikes purchased online using the “Build-A-Bike” feature. We would like to see market share increase by 7% and to generate one million or more media impressions. “Likes” on our brand Facebook page and “Followers” on Twitter should at least double. We would also like to see 50% or more of inventory sent to LBS outlets sold before the end of the 2012 cycling season.
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