When I first entered the marine industry in 1999 after a long and rewarding career in the auto business, we were designing and building websites for dealers at a company called BoatVentures, which later became Channel Blade. During that time, we worked closely with a great number of boatbuilders that had Vice President- or Director-level executives leading Dealer Development staffs.
These departments were very concerned about the effectiveness of dealers’ websites and their response to leads generated from these websites. We became one of many companies that would work with a Director of Dealer Development and the associated dealer network to improve dealers’ results with prospects and customers. I recall arriving to more than one of these Dealer Development meetings aboard a manufacturer’s corporate aircraft. They were hosted at posh locations such as the Ritz Carlton in Chicago during IMTEC, where hotel clubs were closed for the night to entertain their dealers and guests.
It’s amazing what a great recession will do to make the jets and 5-star hotels a thing of the past! The frills may no longer be a priority, but the real need for Dealer Development remains. Most boat manufacturers see themselves building boats that boaters want and creating high brand awareness that sets them apart in the sea of fiberglass or aluminum. They see the dealer managing the purchasing and ownership experiences. Too many times, a lack of alignment between the two results in a poor customer experience, and the efforts of both the OEM and the dealer are out the window.
I don’t see Dealer Development VPs coming back anytime soon, but after over a year of working with dealers going through the Marine Industry Certified Dealership Program, I can’t think of a better avenue to bring dealers and manufacturers together. Dealer Certification is entirely focused on the customer experience — before, during and after the sale — and in a sense, it allows the MRAA to execute what was once the OEM’s Dealer Development efforts. The results are not only a better customer experience, but also a more efficient, effective and profitable dealership with staying power. Case in point? If you were the average dealer heading into the Great Recession, you had about a 65-percent chance of survival. But if you were a Certified Dealer, you had greater than a 91-percent chance to make it through. Certification makes that much of a difference.
From the moment that MRAA became involved in the Certification program, dealers have told us that manufacturer support is critical to its and their long-term success. When the industry comes together to make the customer experience a priority, it moves the needle for all involved.
If you are an OEM interested in learning more about the industry’s Certification program or a dealer who would like to see your manufacturer(s) get involved, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
or (763) 333-2419.