Web retailer says today's market calls for creativity
Don Becklin is much younger than many of the attendees he addressed at Thursday's Southern Oregon Business Conference.
Nonetheless, the president of Motorcycle Super Store Inc., and founder of MotorcycleUSA.com, is a pioneer with years of experience in the digital marketing world.
"We put our site up before there was Google," said the 40-year-old motorcycle enthusiast and entrepreneur who has built a $40 million enterprise in little over a decade.
MotorcycleUSA is comparable to the myriad of hobbyist blog sites scattered over the Web. What helped turn the venture into a money-making enterprise, however, was melding the content side to a parallel e-commerce site, where customers can buy a myriad of motorcycle accessories, such as helmets, boots, clothing and parts. The Medford firm has 115 employees, including a dozen dedicated programmers, whose work attracts a combined 3 million unique visits monthly to the two sites.
Internet Retailer lists Motorcycle Super Store No. 295 on its overall sales list, No. 13 among sporting goods retailers and No. 1 in the motorcycle field.
"It doesn't happen by magic," Becklin said. "You look at the good sites and they make sense."
Connecting with his audience and customers, in whatever manner it takes, is the goal. While his content channel runs the gamut from a social interaction site to an archived library of reviews, the other is loaded with stuff motorcycle enthusiasts crave.
"There is a fundamental change in the way you get your information out there," Becklin said. "Papers, magazines, and even television, are moving into the past. To reach our customer, we're going on to other things. We focus on reaching our customers through any channel we can. It's fragmented and it's a challenge."
Becklin was part of a panel, sharing the stage with Steve Blanton, that reviewed the real estate and construction market, and Tim McCabe, director of Oregon Economic and Community Development Department. Steve Schreiber, operations director and chief financial officer at the Port of Portland, and Michael Brandes, fixed income strategist for Citi Smith Barney, rounded out the presenters.
E-marketers can measure anything and everything once they attract traffic, but Becklin said it isn't necessary to spend enormous amounts of money to break into e-sales. His company has expanded through conservative capital expenditures and organic growth.
"We've built our business on what goes out the back door," Becklin said. "You don't need venture capital or to sell your soul."
He challenged employers to seek out the area's aspiring technology talent before it exits for greener pastures.
"Our company is all about a 24-year-old working on an application for an iPhone," he said. "Figure it out, mock it up, go through the process and make it work."
He said there are plenty of opportunities to find a niche e-market by finding something not being offered and sell it.
Schreiber said transportation is a major player in the state's economy, with 1 in 5 employed Oregonians holding a transportation-related job. Every day more than $16 million worth of goods is hauled on Oregon's highways.
To that end, the Port of Portland is a major backer for a third bridge across the Columbia in the Portland area. While that may seem far afield from Southern Oregon, he noted the trade that passes from Washington state to Oregon on Interstate 5 is directly tied to the hundreds of trucks using Jackson County shipping terminals every day. Because the project is competing for state and federal dollars, Schreiber said he anticipates it will likely be a toll bridge.
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463or e-mail email@example.com.