It's Time To Learn How to Lobby, (If Industry Leaders Really Care)

Sep. 01, 1999 By Greg Lonero

This is not another cry to make you write a letter to your government official. That is not enough to increase our political clout. If land closure issues are really serious then it's time for the leaders of this industry, (manufacturers, media and vendors), to get their head out of their exhaust ports and use some basic academic marketing practices to deliver the message.

Whether you view it as a popular or unpopular subject, if you have a strong lobbying effort, you will prevail. As an example, look at the success of the tobacco industry and the National Rifle Association (NRA); two controversial agendas, but both are well funded with strong lobbyists in everyone's back pocket. So why are snowmobilers still scrambling to stop land closures? It's because the manufacturers and dealers are more worried about the bottom line than the politics threatening our sport. We need to increase our political clout by a well supported and funded lobbying effort.

The snowmobile manufacturers need to make dealers accountable for increasing state snowmobile association membership. The incentives can range from zero, (saving our sport as a goodwill gesture), to a monetary matrix. With 500,000 registered sleds, and greater amounts sold each year, (new & used), we could have significant political clout if all snowmobilers were to join a unified association. The effect would be having much more money available to lobby for our cause.

That's the nutshell version of the message. Following is a more detailed blueprint which I came to realize based on a series of incidents I experienced. The location could very well have been named Yellowstone, but this letter was submitted to the Colorado Snowmobile Association.

Last year I voiced my concerns with the current restrictions, lack of parking, and fees at Vail Pass in central Colorado, as well as the state's snowmobile dealers lack of involvement in rallying their customers to join the state snowmobile association to help in our lobbying efforts.

One premise to problem solving is as follows: identify the problem, state the fallout of the problem, and state the solution; all of which I have done below.

Although I do not consider Vail Pass my favorite place to ride, I do consider it at the forefront of Colorado's most political and publicly visible riding areas. I also feel that any concessions made here, as well as any achievements earned, will set precedence for the balance of the state's riding areas.

The facts have shown us that states or regions with the least amount of political representation are the ones with the least amount of political muscle, regardless of their cause. In our state, various dealers and clubs will have to realize that we will have to funnel what resources we have into the front lines of our lobbying efforts for recreational land use - and Vail Pass is at the front line. For outlying clubs and dealers to think that the big city problems will not be theirs is an assumption that is riding on borrowed time (excuse the pun). Though the less populated areas may not be affected today by the activities that take place in the more populated areas, once the conflicts of the politically visible areas (Vail Pass) are resolved through legislation, it becomes law and precedence for the whole state. Those are the evolving facts of life.

Time is running out and the snowmobiling activists are in a reactive mode versus a proactive mode. Our lobbying is not up to the challenge of the fast paced, environmentally sanitary, diversified, growing population of this state, specifically coming from the front range - along with the political clout that goes with it. And for those dealers and riders in the outer fringes of the metropolitan area that feel they may be immune to the anti-snowmobiling tide, again, once precedence is set in a highly political arena (Vail Pass), it will be much easier for smaller anti-snowmobiling activist in less populated areas to change user use in their small part of the state, by making reference to an already establish precedent or law.

To begin to resolve the ever encroaching restrictions being placed upon us, we need to take the first step, which is to take inventory of our adversaries. Is it Vail & Associates, the Vail/Summit county snowmobile rental companies, the environmentalists, cross country skiers, an uninformed/biased Forest management staff or all of them? Next we need to have a central command post such as the Colorado Snowmobile Association, (CSA), to determine what and how our lobbying efforts should be employed.

Webster's defines lobbying as "a group of private persons engaged in favor of a special interest". It is hard to dispute that knowledge is power. So, if the issues are not hot enough for us, some surveys and information gathering may be necessary as a point of academics. Next, history has proven that there is strength in numbers. And finally, those with power, whether it is control of an area, positions of influence or knowledge of critical information, hold the responsibility of demonstrating standards of conduct. With public lands, it should not be up to those with wealth, although money is a great influence of power. These are public land issues, and should come from the voice of the people, lobbying people.

Having said that, I now bring the final factor into the equation, "channels of distribution", i.e., how will the message be conveyed and through what vehicles of communication will we utilize to have the greatest effect with the sources available.

We have seen, at least locally, that the manufacturers are not concerned about the events that take place in the lands where their products are sold and if they have a campaign, it is not visible and has fallen short of our actual needs.

Not to defend the manufactures, but they have to first answer to the stockholders who want to see a good return on their investment, thus, I dismiss them from the equation, (deductive reasoning would dictate that if they are not on our side, they're on the other side). Once their product becomes a menace to society, they then develop a safety program. This was evident with the ATV's in the early 80's, currently with the Jet Skis, and now not far behind are snowmobiles. Again, the manufacturers are reactive not proactive, thus, they fail to learn from their past mistakes. Nor do the manufacturers hire staff that can identify and implement the necessary loss and safety control measures with regards to public affairs, (and if they do, it's not visible).

Since we can not look to the manufactures for help, the next layer within the channels of distribution are the dealers. Dealers need to take a more responsible position because their sales dollars are more closely related to the local legislative actions. And without easy access, hassle free riding areas, people will not have a place or desire to ride, hence, there will not be a need for snowmobile sales. Therefore, I feel they need to be held to a higher degree of responsibility, for their own good, and as our greatest vehicle of communication that has daily and direct access to the potential new members.

The task is easy. Statewide, the dealers need to post a CSA Campaign banner and ask each customer to join CSA at each sale. Have a CSA mission statement, one for dealers and one for Joe Public - explaining our goals, how we plan to achieve them, and the fallout that will occur if we do not achieve them. Reward and recognize each dealer that participates by listing their name and their new membership sign-ups in the CSA magazine. Incentive options can include, member discounts with a CSA membership card, rebates at the end of the year, free advertising in your magazine for dealers that reach a certain level of CSA membership sales, and etc.

As people continue to pour into our state and the parking areas and riding areas remain ideal in development, the non-snowmobiling public will continue to win on every issue since more arguments can be made against us then for us, especially when we are constantly reacting to decisions that come from a voting public with greater numbers and dollars, and in-turn, more influence over government positions. Only with a strong lobbying effort on behalf of the snowmobilers will we gain victory.

Thanks again for your time,

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