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The drive to continuously grow and improve is at the heart of the MRAA, our members and our staff. That’s why we’re launching this blog: to share what we’re learning in our work and in our lives with you – and in hopes you’ll share what you’re learning too.


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OEM Boat Show support is only the tip of the iceberg

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, February 27, 2018
The take away from another Miami Boat Show is always the amazing amount of manufacturer’s support for their dealers at the show to guarantee their brands are well represented in front of world’s largest boating audience. Major financial investments with impressive displays and reinforced staffing.

I took particular note of the investment because of the conversations we are having with boat builders to help their dealers continue the exceptional experience after the show is over. Once the gates close, all focus turns to the delivery process and the oh-so-critical follow-up for the numerous leads collected. And of course, once they buy, we need to elevate the ownership experience from a customer relationship management and service standpoint.

Nearly every manufacturer supports their dealers during show selling season, but only a few continue this level of support beyond the show, during what all indications suggest is the most critical time of the cycle.

You see, once the boat leaves the factory, the dealer takes over, and to deliver an exceptional customer experience that creates higher customer satisfaction that results in loyalty, repeat business, referral business, raving fans, and lifetime customers, it’s the ownership experience that needs the most attention and investment. This requires more than product knowledge and sales training. It requires that the dealer and its employees are operating on all cylinders in every department.

Our trip to the Miami show proved that there are more manufacturers than in recent memory who are looking to put a focus on dealer development, and we are thrilled to be a part of that conversation. From the numerous performance-minded benefits we offer, to our world-class educational programs and all the way through to our blueprint for dealership success — Dealership Certification — our one and only mission here at MRAA remains focused on helping dealers grow and find greater success.

This is exactly the reason that MRAA now delivers a one-of-a-kind educational curriculum for our industry’s Certified Dealers. MRAA and its training partners deliver timely real-world dealership development that continues the improvement process for our already strongest dealers — and the brands they represent — with a modern educational curriculum that ensures dealers stay current with up-to-date technology and retail practices.

I encourage you to take a fresh look at what MRAA and Dealer Certification can do for you and your business.

Tags:  boat show  certification  continuous certification  continuous improvement  follow-up  OEM 

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5 Reasons To Engage with the New Certification Program

Posted By Mickaela Giese, Thursday, February 1, 2018
Updated: Thursday, February 1, 2018
The Continuous Certification Program that you all have been hearing about over the past few months has launched!

As we prepared for this day, many dealers asked us how the program’s courses differ from all the other educational content we offer. The answer is, actually, simple: It was designed to do more to help dealers like you improve your team’s results. And real results are worth talking about.

Here are the 5 reasons you will tell your friends about the new Continuous Certification program:

Learning Objectives. To maximize your takeaways, we designed each course with a specific list of objectives those marine dealers who take it should be able to know and do by the time they finish it. The difference maker? Each objective is measurable, so you and your team will be able to track your return on the time invested.

Hybrid Education. The courses were built with all types of learners in mind. Yes. Even you. You have probably heard of those who are visual learners or those that learn best through listening or doing. Well, the program has a variety of content to promote the engagement and retention of each type of learner.

Real-World Application. The program is for marine dealerships. The new insights you gain and strategies you test are designed specifically for the boating business.

Customized for Certified Dealers.
Each semester, the assigned course will build on the processes that you create through the initial Certification process. The content will support your procedures and help you implement change throughout your dealership.

Repetition and Follow-Up.
You have heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Well, research shows that learners do not retain new educational material in their long-term memory unless it is repeated. To ensure the success that comes with repetition, the course material is available to your dealership as long as you maintain your Certification. You (and your employees) can watch it over, and over, and over.

So if you are enrolled in the program, jump into the Continuous Certification process and the results will soon follow. And if you’re not enrolled, see what you are missing out on.

Tags:  application  certification  Continuous Certification  Education  Learning Objectives  Real-World  rentention  repetition 

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Taking on Dealers’ Challenge, Part Two

Posted By Mickaela Giese, Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Certified Dealers challenged us to make Recertification as valuable for them as Certification. So, we’ve spent the past year formulating a plan for how to do that and gaining industry insight into our plan. Read more about how we went about that in my last blog: Time for a Professional Change.

Now, we’re focused on execution. Our mission? Design relevant, timely and high impact education developed specifically for Certified Dealers and designed to drive continuous improvement in their dealerships. We call it Continuous Certification.

As we sketched it out, we knew the education needed to feature the topics that are most important now. Like how do you get a return on the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software you pay for each month? Or maybe even more importantly, how do you get a return on all the time and money you invest in getting people to contact and ultimately do business with your dealership?

That’s why the course we’re featuring in the first quarter of 2018 is: Taking Your Dealership from Good to Great, by Sam Dantzler of Garage Composites.
This session would be best learned when you need it the most – during prospecting season, also known as boat show season. When you execute a perfect CRM strategy, your CRM efforts will bring more traffic to your boat show display, traffic that you have a greater chance of selling at the show. More importantly, you will learn to start the follow-up process for those who don’t buy at the show and, as a result, sell more boats all year long.
Of course, boat show season is what makes this topic so timely. But relevant? How is this for relevant? Garage Composites estimates that dealers are letting 40 percent of their potential unit sales slip through their fingers, which could be solved through disciplined use of a CRM strategy. Get ready to learn from this session because Sam Dantzler takes this subject personally. He is going to show you how to adopt the core principles to make any CRM system work, including how to generate team buy-in, what data to capture, what to do with that data, and how to use your CRM to increase your customer satisfaction and loyalty.

I’m equally as excited about our second quarter course topic: Improve Loyalty with a Customer Experience Mindset, by Theresa Syer of Syer Hospitality. This is a perfect course for Certified dealers who are always looking for ways to exceed customer expectations.

Let’s get real: We serve customers with very lofty expectations. We are meeting and greeting prospects, many of whom likely drive two or more premium luxury cars, own large well-appointed homes, and have enough money left over to buy a boat that cost as much as a house! What do you think their service expectations might be? 

The NMMA CSI scores show that Certified Dealers already outperform dealers those who are not Certified. Is measuring the buying experience with other boat dealers using the right watermark? Should we look further?

Many of these prospects enjoy vacationing at hotels and resorts managed by the Four Season or Fairmont Hotels. I’m betting we can learn a thing or two from someone who trains and consults the upper end of the hospitality industry – not to mention several marine industry leaders. Someone like Theresa Syer.

Armed with the training this course provides, you will learn to provide a better retail experience, thus positioning yourself to sell more boats with improved profitability and retain more customers.

Stay tuned to this blog for information on the two other high impact topics for 2018: Accountability and Dealership Strategy.

In the meantime, have you and your team taken our Pilot Course, Buyer Motivation: The Key to Building Value? If not, it’s time! Simply sign into with your MRAA username and password, and scroll down to New & Popular Courses at the bottom of the homepage. Don’t have a username and password? Email us at or call 763-315-8043 to receive a username and password today.

The only investment required for this course is your time. We have opened our new learning system to you at no charge so you can experience this interactive, online course firsthand.

This training is sorely needed in our showrooms to make sure that our salespeople are effectively presenting a boat’s features and benefits to each customer. We know that Certified Dealers already have a documented, well-followed sales process. This course will complement your sales strategy and help you close more deals sooner.

Tags:  certification  Continuous Certification  Education  industry insight  Sam Dantzler  Theresa Syer 

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Time for a Professional Change, Part One

Posted By Mickaela Giese, Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Accountants, Architects, Construction Contractors, Cosmologists, Doctors, Engineers, Firefighters, Insurance Agents, Loan Officers, Nurses, Police, Real Estate Agents, Safety Personnel, Teachers.

What do these pros have in common? To keep their jobs and remain in business, they each need to stay updated on their profession by completing continuous education. 


And let’s be honest. Whether your industry requires it or not, just about any professional can say the same. That’s why I’m so fired up to share the latest development that we’ve been working on at the Marine Retailers Association.


Since joining the MRAA staff nearly two years ago, I've heard from many Certified dealers that the ReCertification program is not delivering the same impact that the initial Certification process did. The first time through was game changing, they said, and truly helped them fine tune their dealership for long-term success. They also liked being able to flaunt, “We’re Certified!” as a competitive advantage. They told me how much they learned about their own company during the Certification process by mapping out their processes for sales, service, parts, CRM, and other areas of the dealership.


But putting a check in the box showing that they still conform to all the requirements for Certification isn’t challenging them and doesn’t add the same kind of value it did the first time through. So, the MRAA leadership and I came up with a new ReCertification plan that would keep some of the dealer favorites of the current program, such as the Employee Satisfaction component, while integrating forward-looking learning strategies and content through continuous education.


We made our case to the Certification Committee and the MRAA Board of Directors, and the concept was overwhelming approved by those dealers and manufacturers, with one little caveat.  They wanted to change the name of ReCertification to Continuous Certification.


Frankly, the term ReCertification hints that the dealer fell from Certification graces and needs to be recertified, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Rather, this program aims to help dealers continually improve the customer and employee experiences to create a more professional, more successful marine business. By providing relevant, timely and high impact education developed specifically for Certified Dealers, Continuous Certification is our answer to the challenge posed by participants. It is designed to drive continuous improvement while raising the bar of marine dealership professionalism.


Want a sample? Check out our free Pilot Course, titled, “Buyer Motivation: The Key to Building Value.” It’s available now at

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Raising Our Game Together

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Over the past four or five years, we’ve had a lot of conversations with dealers like you about how you approach improving and growing your business.

Your commitment to continuing to get better at everything you do is inspiring to us. Especially when we consider all that you’re juggling.

Most dealers are running four or five different kinds of businesses under one roof, each of which has its own unique set of factors that need to be considered and managed to be successful. Add into that the challenges that come with seasonality, economic ups and downs, workforce shortages, the unpredictability of Mother Nature … the list goes on and on.

You are not only making the best of all of the uncertainty of running a business, but we can feel your passion for serving your customers, caring for your team and contributing to your community. You want to be among the best of the best in this industry. We can’t help but respect you and want to help.

As MRAA has worked to serve the marine retail community, our goal has been to offer tools, education and resources that can be quickly and easily put to work in the dealership.

The wake-up call for me has been the realization that, despite the best of intentions, most training and education out there doesn’t go far enough to make a real difference for dealers and their employees. And most dealers don’t have a training or human resources department that can pick up where the trainers and educators leave off.

So, the MRAA team has been working hard to ensure the educational tools, resources and content we provide ARE actionable, CAN be adopted by most dealers and WILL help them improve their performance.

The pinnacle of this effort is coming to life in what we introduced yesterday as Continuous Certification. Certified Dealers don’t just have the desire to improve and grow … they’ve made a commitment to laying down a foundation, a stable platform that they can build a better future on. Certification leads them through the development of this foundation.

Once they’ve built that foundation, it means that regardless of how big their business is, how many locations they have or how many people they employ, when they take on a new training initiative, they’re different from the average dealer. They have the processes in place to quickly and effectively adopt new strategies, and respond to changes in their prospects and customers, and in technology.

That’s why we’ve made the investment in developing a training curriculum just for Certified Dealers … One that we can be confident they can use to improve and grow. We’ve partnered with some of the best educators out there, those that are truly committed to our industry and have a track record for making a real difference. People like Sam Dantzler of Garage Composites, Theresa Syer of Syer Hospitality, John Spence of John Spence Inc. and David Spader of Spader Business Management.

We’re also working with Jim Million of Professional Research Group, Inc., an expert in designing dealer education that produces measurable results and a leading trainer and educator in his own right. In fact, if you’ve entered to take our Pilot Course on Buyer Motivation: The Key to Building Value, you’ve already had a chance to witness Jim in action as the course instructor.

All of us are really excited to see what we’re producing together pay off in spades for Certified Dealers, their employees and their customers.

At the end of the day, our mission with Dealer Certification, or any MRAA educational program, isn’t just to provide as much value as possible. That’s not enough. You trust us to help you and your team get better at what you do, to make a real difference in your businesses and in this industry, not just once, but on an ongoing basis. That’s what Continuous Certification – and everything we do at MRAA – is all about. And in order to keep up with you and your quest for continuous improvement, we have to keep raising our game too.

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Increase Attendance at Annual Meetings

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Tuesday, August 1, 2017

In a recent article for The Membership Management Report, MRAA President Matt Gruhn wrote about the association’s role in growing the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, which is co-produced by MRAA and Boating Industry magazine. Here is an expert from the article Matt was featured in:

Increase Attendance at Annual Meetings

“The Marine Retailers Association of America’s annual convention has grown by 1,100 percent over the last decade. Here’s how:

  1. “Authenticity. We exist to help our members find success and grow. We live and breathe that directive every day, so it’s very natural to extend the authenticity of that mission to our conference.

  2. “Curiosity. We could never fully understand the intricacies of our members’ businesses like they do. We need to remain curious about our members’ needs, so we ask them several times what they want to learn at our conference: in pre-event surveys, in personal conversations, in our committee meetings, in session evaluations, following a keynote, and in post- event surveys. And then we deliver exactly what they ask for.

  3. “Focus. We stay very focused on why this event exists: to educate our dealers. Association conferences tempt us with distractions to take us off of our mission, but we remain diligent about delivering a first-class educational experience. If we succeed in this effort, every other interested party succeeds as well.

  4. “Humility. We have a deep understanding that our formula is effective because our members gave us the opportunity to make it work. We owe our success to them for giving us the opportunity, for believing and trusting in us and for encouraging us to keep pushing forward. So, we shower them with gratitude in the form of complimentary tools and resources, in addition to personal outreach, handwritten cards and, sometimes, little thank-you gifts.”
— Matt Gruhn, President, Marine Retailers Association

Attached is the entire Membership Management Report.

Download File (PDF)

Tags:  \  Annual meetings  attendence  authenticity  Conference  curiosity  focus  humility  MDCE  Membership Management Report 

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What's in a Name (Tag)

Posted By Bob McCann, Monday, July 17, 2017

What do you think about your crew wearing name tags? If it was up to me, I would have the customers wear them too! I’m the worst at remembering names, even two minutes after an introduction. As a customer, I love it when the employees I meet are wearing name tags. It allows me to use their name, and I feel like I get better service because of the instant rapport we build. This is especially true when trying to get out of a middle seat on an airplane, into a nicer rental car or into a room with a view!

For the not so selfish, there are plenty of reasons for name tags too:

  • Ease of starting a conversation. Lack of communication is one of those reasons that often surfaces when we take a good look at an issue causing conflict at the dealership. If we can make it easier to get people talking and avoid the awkwardness of having to ask a staff member their name, it will help us avoid issues with customers and might even help us sell service or a boat.

  • Simplicity when reporting issues and problem solving for both customers and mangers. When a customer leaves the keys to a boat with the guy in the parking lot, it’s much easier to find the keys when that same customer remembers seeing Bob’s name tag!

  • Balance the playing field when talking with customers. It’s often taught to seek out and use the customer’s name during a conversation. This is done from reading the name on a credit card, warranty card, appointment card, etc. Why shouldn’t customers know employees names as well?

  • Credit where credit’s due when an employee goes out of their way to please a customer. It’s easier to tweet or post on Facebook, “Bob saved our day of fishing with his quick service to get our baitwell working before the start of the tournament” than “The tattooed guy with hipster facial hair…”

  • Deterrence and accountability. An employee who has had a long day would be less likely to tell off (or flip off) a customer if they have a name badge on. They provide deterrence and instant accountability.
Should all employees wear name tags?  Or should owners and managers be exempt? I’m always impressed when I visit MarineMax Team Support in Clearwater, Fla., where there are no customers but everyone wears a name badge, including Bill McGill. I don’t think you can tell your staff that for the above reasons, name badges are a good idea and not wear one yourself!

Name tags help to develop a genuine relationship between staff and guests. And “genuine” matters a lot to today’s customers. Rightly so.

Tags:  accountability  communication  credit  customers  ease  employees  name tags  sales  service  team 

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How to do Mergers and Acquisitions Right

Posted By Liz Walz, Thursday, July 13, 2017
If there’s one thing it seems you can count on in the marine industry’s news this year, it’s mergers and acquisitions. This trend doesn’t discriminate: it touches dealers, marinas, boat builders and suppliers alike. And probably other boat business sectors too.

I’ve been through a few of them in my career. My husband has endured three in the last five years. And I have friends in this industry who are feeling the effects too. With that said, I’m no expert – and I have a healthy respect for the challenge that they represent for leadership. Bringing two or more organizations together with different people, systems and cultures … well, it can’t be easy.

But what I’ve observed matches up with the insight provided by Steve Case, co-founder and former CEO of AOL, in his Daily Fuel video, “Worst Merger Ever.”

Where most mergers and acquisitions go wrong – 70 to 90 percent fail, according to Harvard Business Review – is a “failure in people and culture,” Case says.

“Get the right people on the bus in the right seats focusing on the right things, that’s how you take entrepreneurial ideas and turn them into significant iconic businesses that really do impact people’s lives.”

In my experience, businesses would benefit from helping the people who are most impacted by mergers and acquisitions understand, embrace and succeed in navigating the incredible change that often results. When transparency is lacking and new twists and turns are introduced in large, unexpected and unexplained doses, it can wreak havoc on individuals, teams, clients and partners for weeks, months and sometimes years afterward.

It’s not hard to figure out why this happens. Leaders are human. When you’re leading a merger or acquisition, you’re faced with adapting to new people, products, strategies, systems and cultures yourself. Until you understand all that newness and can determine the best path forward, it can be difficult to know what to communicate to your team or how to help them navigate changes that aren’t yet clear to you.

Maybe that’s where a missed opportunity lies. Do we as leaders need to figure it out ourselves? Or do the best leadership stories start when we seek insight and direction from our people? After all, they are our company’s and our industry’s most valuable assets.

I’m not sure. But I suspect Steve is on to something when he says: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, you must go together.” What do you think?

Tags:  acquisitions  culture  leadership  mergers  Steve Case  teamwork 

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Don’t forget the ING

Posted By Bob McCann, Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I know, I know, I’ve heard from ALL of you on the phone, emails, texts, Facebook and at dealer meetings: You are too busy this time of year! But to keep this thing called boat sales rolling for years to come, we need to remember to promote the “ING” in boating.

It’s easy when times are good to put off what got you back in the game when sales weren’t so plentiful. During those times, I watched dealers become good marketers and promoters of boating. Many of you found new ways of getting boaters involved in boating, whether it was thinking up a new trip or two for your boat club, adding another fishing tournament, or finding a spare weekend for Demo Days.

These events got your customers on the water and reconnected to their boats and families. Fortunately, a few prospects caught our beloved boating disease and made the jump. Imagine how those efforts would pay off today with customer confidence at an all-time high. But not if we’re too busy for the extra effort.

The dealers that formed the requirements for Certification knew that they needed to do more than just sell boats. They also needed to promote the lifestyle. So, they included requirements for a Certified dealer to have a CRM strategy and a process to keep improving it, as well as a list of customer activities and events to promote boating. The latter keep customers using their boats and move them to mingle with other owners. This gives them a chance to get reinfected with the disease, using their current boat more often or falling in love with one a foot or two larger.

This is especially important right now. It’s only a few days before the biggest weekend for boating. Have you promoted the best place to watch your local fireworks from a boat along with a few safety reminders? It’s not too late. A quick email will create a spark and inject the courage to pack up the family and watch the fireworks from the best place on earth: your own boat.

I’ve seen fireworks in New York, Washington, and at two Boy Scout National and World jamborees. The best fireworks experience is with my wife Carol, directly overhead our boat, with an unobstructed view, my own head, and booms that shake the T-top.

I hope your customers don’t miss a memorable 4th of July event on their boats. Hopefully, it inspires them to think about an even bigger boat next year!

Wishing a Happy and Safe America’s Birthday to all our dealer friends and families!

Your partners at MRAA

Tags:  certification  holiday  lifestyle  marketing  social media  time management  upselling 

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How to Get More Done Faster

Posted By Liz Walz, Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Over the weekend, I stumbled over something that might help both of us in the heat of the season – the boating season for you, and the product development season for the team at the Marine Retailers Association.

While you’re busy selling and servicing boats, we’re busy working with industry experts to create new workshops, sessions, online training, certification courses, and white papers to serve you now and throughout the coming year.

Neither of us have any extra time to spare, and it’s critical that we do everything we can to get ahead. That’s why I wanted to share something I read in the book, “Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success” by Rory Vaden.

If you’re like me, you feel compelled to do your research so you have all the facts before you make a decision. And yet this time of year, who has time for that? So what often happens is the key decision that could give us the edge is put off indefinitely, translating into lost opportunity. Not good.

Instead, Rory recommends that: “We need to stop spending so much of our time trying to make the right decision and … start spending our time making decisions and then making them right.”

Rather than wasting our time asking the question, “Should I?” we can then focus on answering the question, “How will I?”

A simple shift in mindset, but one that could really make a difference, especially this time of year. And that’s our goal: To really make a difference in your success, your team’s success and your dealership’s success.

That’s why we’re hiring Rory Vaden as the Closing Keynote speaker at the 2017 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, coming up this December 10-13 in Orlando. A record number of dealers have already signed up to join us there. I hope you will too.

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