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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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Marketing Certification to Consumers

Posted By Bob McCann, Wednesday, May 10, 2017

One of the most frequently asked questions by dealers considering getting Certified is: “What is the industry doing to make consumers aware of the benefits of doing business with a Certified dealer?” The answer is: Quite a bit!

  1. First and foremost, we believe in empowering YOU to tell your story of how Certification makes you a better boat dealer. We help you by providing resources like press releases, advertisements, sales strategies, the Consumer Commitment and more.

  2. Second, the Dealer Certification Program was launched by Grow Boating, and MRAA continues to work with a Grow Boating Committee to build a relevant program for today’s industry. Grow Boating, through its consumer-facing Discover Boating website, promotes Certified Dealers and why it’s important to buy and service a boat from a Certified Dealer.

  3. Speaking of why it’s important to buy or service your boat at a Certified Dealer, here’s an article we collaborated on with Boating magazine. Each year we work with Bonnier Corp., which publishes Boating magazine, to tell their subscribers about the value of doing business with Certified Dealers. Ads in their magazine and their newsletters, as well as custom content in their newsletters and on their social media sites, promote Certified Dealers and are distributed to boating consumers on an annual basis.

  4. Each year, the National Marine Manufacturers Association promotes Certified Dealers at its boat shows, providing a page in its show directory that highlights all the Certified Dealers displaying at that event as well as signage for Certified Dealers’ booths.

Tell Your Story
When you reach the pinnacle of the industry as a Certified Dealer and adhere the badge to your front door and your website, it’s a good time to take a breath and pat your team on the back for a job well done.

Then, use the marketing tools provided to you to create awareness and put the question in the mind of the boat buyer or owner: What does Certified mean? This is your team’s opportunity to blow their own horn and enthusiastically explain what a Certified Dealer must go through to reach this level of recognition.

This is the purpose of displaying the Consumer Commitment, aka ‘The Customer’s Bill of Rights.” Truth be known, customers come to your dealership to look at boats or to get their boat serviced. Reading plaques on the wall doesn’t rank high on their priority list during their visit. Therefore, mentioning Certification needs to become part of your pitch to every boat buyer or service customer. The plaque on the wall is simply a visual aid to help tell the story.

One of MRAA’s top performing dealer groups has taken this to the next level by restyling and enlarging the Bill of Rights to free standing banners that are proudly displayed in each of their many showrooms.   This group and others also bring the Customer Commitment with them to their boat shows because it helps separates them from the sea of fiberglass or aluminum at the show. They realize that a boat show often levels the playing field. The boat buyers only see bright shiny boats, all perfectly displayed for the weekend, and can’t see exhibitors’ decked-out dealerships (or not). I’ll never forget when one of our dealers told me that they walk everyone over to the Bill of Rights before they leave their boat show display and say, “When you’re looking around the Boat Show, make sure you look for dealerships that display these Bill of Rights.” He went on to say, “This sets up the next dealer for failure, and we enjoy a larger amount of B-Backs.” So, if you’ve been looking for the elusive B-Back powder, this might be it!

Bottom-line: You must beat your own chest and tell everyone you’re Certified because your competition won’t. Use all that we provide to help you create awareness and get customers asking: What does Certification mean?

Tags:  certification  competition  marketing  sales  service 

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The Tale of Two Milkshakes

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Hi, I’m Bob and I’m a chocolate milkshake-aholic!

Because of this addiction, I frequent places that serve such divine pleasure. One place that got my attention this week promotes a Happier Hour and offers milkshakes at half price. They are hand-dipped, old-fashioned shakes topped with whipped cream and a cherry, all for $1.61 including tax! What’s not to like? I’ll tell ya: The aggravation of getting one!

The only thing consistent at this shake establishment is a poor customer experience that starts with, “Is anyone helping you?” This after a several-minute wait with no other customers in the place, delivered by a checked-out employee. Yes, I do go into the restaurant with décor that gets me in the mood for this classic, smooth beverage. The reason I go into the restaurant is to confirm that they are open and there are people working. You can’t tell from the silence coming through the speaker in the drive-thru! Every time I manage to achieve one of these shakes, I’m thinking it will be my last because a place like this isn’t going to stay open long.

Serving vs. selling
Compare this experience with a place down the street that doesn’t have Shake in their name, a chicken sandwich place. How can a place that sells chicken compare with a place that serves Steak and Shakes?  The difference is that the chicken place SERVES their customers and the steak place SELLS their customers. Truth is, the shakes at Chick-fil-A are machine made and the flavor is spun in, but they don’t forget the whipped cream and cherry! It’s the pleasure of being served by such enthused employees that makes the shake taste better.

I’ve been a raving fan of Chick-fil-A for years, and they find ways to further delight me on every visit. I have always parked my car and gone into the restaurant because the line that wraps around the building for the drive-thru deters me. I went out today to do some errands and brought along our new puppy, Lilly. I had the urge to fulfill my addiction and pulled into Chick-fil-A knowing I couldn’t walk in for my shake because I couldn’t bring Lilly inside. Leaving a dog in a car in the Florida heat is not an option. There it was, the line wrapped around the building, and I had to wait for vehicles to leave the window so I could get in line!

As I was thinking, “Is this worth it?” a young lady walked up to my window and asked my name. “Do you know what you would like?” I gave her my order, and she asked if I was paying cash or card. Meanwhile, the line ahead of me is already rounding the first corner of the building, so she asked me to move forward and walked along with me. She told me that she could take my card, swiped it across her belt, and returned my card. Again, the traffic ahead had already turned the next corner, and I followed, encountering another young lady who was holding my receipt and said, “Here you go, Bob!”

I still hadn’t come to a full stop, and I saw a young man directing the car ahead of me forward to clear the window for me with their bag of food in hand. I finally could make a full stop and put my credit card away while another lady at the window asked, “How’s it going today, Bob?” as she bagged my sandwich and handed me my chocolate fix!

Wow! It took less time to get served from a line that wrapped around a building than it took for the other restaurant to say, “Is anyone helping you?” I don’t think I need to see the books for each of these businesses to determine which is more profitable or review employee satisfaction surveys to know which has happier, more engaged employees.

How they do what they do
How does Chick-fil-A do it? I’m certain it didn’t happen overnight. I’ve eaten Chick-fil-A sandwiches for too long, well before they started serving my version of crack. They were never this good. They went from good to great! They haven’t shared their secrets with me, and I’m not sure they will. But I’m certain it starts with a proper culture and training. Then lots of observing and talking with customers to find the less-than-desirable parts of the experience and make them a pleasure.

Can we do the same in the service department at a boat dealership? I think we can by creating a great place to work, always looking for ways to exceed the customer’s expectation that will naturally drive profits, thus having a viable company that will keep customers for life. Adopting the processes required to become a Marine Industry Certified Dealership is a good start to creating the right culture and making sure your dealership’s operations are in line with customer expectations. However, the process to stay Certified is the special sauce that keeps you looking for ways to further delight your customers on every visit.

I hope you enjoy your food and milkshake on your next visit to Chick-fil-A, and more importantly, enjoy how they serve their customers!

Tags:  certification  culture  customer experience  employee satisfaction  engaged  milkshakes  profitable 

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How to Protect Your Dealership’s Most Valuable Assets

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What’s most valuable to your dealership? Is it your customer database, physical assets, your boat brands? These are all important for sure, but none of them are more important to your business than the knowledge and know how of the people that do the work, which is captured in your dealership’s processes.

Such valuable assets need to be saved and protected. How? Through process documentation, the collection of mapped out visuals that anyone in your organization can easily navigate. The dealers who conceived the requirements for the Marine Industry Certified Dealership program knew of this thinking years ago and brilliantly decided to make process mapping a standard for a Certified Dealership.

Some dealers look at the prospect of creating process maps for everything they do a daunting task. It doesn’t have to be. Dealers have found ways to make quick work of this requirement, and I have some tips that can help too. But first, let’s look at the many payoffs.

    1. You can become certified, which offers a ton of marketing, sales and dealership operations benefits. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    2. You can easily use customer and employee feedback to improve dealership productivity and provide a higher quality and more consistent customer experience. All you do is use what you learn to continually update your process maps.

    3. As an educator, process maps allow me to deliver highly effective training that takes a fraction of the time to understand. The same will be true for you when you have new team members to train. With complete roadmaps to study, the newbie will become a useful part of the team in a fraction of the time it would take relying on the old guy’s memory!
Those are just a few of the benefits of dealership process mapping. Now, let’s look at how to do it fast and easy. Many dealers have found that they can make quick work of this requirement by getting their employees involved. Together, they can use a whiteboard to jot down everything that happens in their department. Once in place across all departments, these processes become the tool to visualize how everything in the dealership is done, which is critical for effective management.

So, once you’re ready to document your processes, the whiteboard exercise is the key to making the project easy and an effective use of time. Dealers say: “We don’t have whiteboards large enough to capture everything.” No worries. That’s why the MRAA invented smartphones with cameras! Just take a picture of the whiteboard, erase, and continue with your sub processes until the desired level of detail is captured.

The long pole in the tent to process mapping has always been publishing a good visual representation of the process. With the software and apps available today, this has become the easy part. I’ve become so comfortable with using PowerPoint (PPT), I lean on it to create most everything for desktop publishing, including my maps. But not all dealers are experienced with PPT. To find a simpler way, I Googled “Process Map Software.” It returned pages of solutions, and I tried out a few.  All were so much easier and intuitive than using PPT for creating maps. I settled on Lucidchart because it was simple and cheaper than the others!

So, don’t go another day without protecting your dealership’s most valuable asset. We’ve heard of dealers spending large amounts of money for consulting firms to interview their employees and create the documentation. Save the money and bring the benefits of process mapping to your dealership though Marine Dealer Certification. You can save thousands by using the experience gained by MRAA consultants who work with marine dealers every day. Learn more at MRAA.com/certification.

Tags:  certification  document  employees  MICD  process mapping  processes 

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That was then, this is now

Posted By Mickaela Giese, Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, November 28, 2017
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 allison@mraa.com or (763) 333-2419. 

Tags:  certification  dealer development  recession 

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Determine who comes first

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, April 4, 2017

There’s no doubt that there are aspects of the marine industry and the individual companies that make it up that are unique compared to other industries and businesses.

But exactly how different the factors that drive success in a given marine business vary from a similarly sized business in another industry … well, that’s debatable. Are they 60 percent the same? 90 percent the same?

Today, I’m leaning more toward 90 percent. In a book I’m reading called, “Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business,” the author – one of the most respected entrepreneurs of the restaurant industry – writes about his formula for success, which involves providing “enlightened hospitality” to his customers.

One of his core strategies is putting employees first, a concept that can apply to just about any organization. Easy to say, harder to do. Especially in an industry like the restaurant business with all the turnover it experiences. But that’s precisely why he does it.

“There are five primary stakeholders to whom we express our most caring hospitality and in whom we take the greatest interest,” writes Danny Meyer. “Prioritizing those people in the following order is the guiding principle for practically every decision we make, and it has made the single greatest contribution to the ongoing success of our company.”

  1. Our employees
  2. Our guests
  3. Our community
  4. Our suppliers
  5. Our investors

When he says “ongoing success,” what he really means is sustainable profits, which he argues is near impossible to achieve without a team of dedicated employees providing the best possible service to your customers.

If you put investors first – and let’s be clear: when he writes “investors” he’s talking primarily about delivering a return on investment for himself, his friends and family – “there will inevitably be a revolving door of staff members who, finding themselves in a business culture that does not place their own or the customers’ interests ahead of the other key stakeholders, will quickly cease to feel particularly proud, motivated or enthusiastic about coming to work,” he writes.

But what does it mean

It’s easy to get behind an idea like putting employees first. But what truly interests me is how it’s practiced in the business.

So many companies will tell you about their “values” or “mission” or “culture,” but even when management has the best of intentions, it rarely seems to be reflected in the day-to-day experience of the employee or the customer.

Here’s a few ways that Danny practices what he preaches in his restaurants:

  • Staff roundtable discussions where employees provide feedback on how they feel the business is performing;
  • Monthly dining voucher program through which staff can dine at the restaurant in exchange for completing a detailed questionnaire about their experience;
  • Walk the Talk” survey where employees rate the company’s leadership and management.

The best dealers in the industry have found similar ways to improve and grow their business.

  • Marine Industry Certified Dealerships adopt an Employee Satisfaction Process that includes conducting an annual survey, sharing the results with their team and using their insight to improve the way they do business.
  • Other dealers ask employees to rate their managers as part of the company’s performance review process.
  • And still others use more informal strategies, like employee suggestion boxes (They’re not just for customers!) and asking for feedback during company and one-on-one meetings.
  • We want to know: Do you believe in putting employees first? Why or why not? And if so, how do you do it? Respond to this blog or email me at liz@mraa.com.

As I learn more about other industries, I’m beginning to suspect that regardless of the size or target customer of a business – or even the product, the foundation on which success is built is much the same.

As Danny writes, “You may think, as I once did, that I’m primarily in the business of serving good food. Actually, though, food is secondary to something that matters even more. In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

Tags:  employees  experience  hospitality  satisfaction  sustainable profits 

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A common misunderstanding

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, March 28, 2017
In the year and half that has passed since taking on the roll as Lead Certification Consultant, I’ve witnessed a common misunderstanding among many dealers concerning the literal translation of the requirements for Certification.

It was bestowed upon me by the MRAA staff and the dealers who sit on our Board of Directors that each requirement has an intent. In order to fulfill the Certification requirement, a dealer must meet the intent of the requirement or standard, not the literal translation. As a consultant, I recommend dealers fulfill these requirements by the most simple and effective method allowed – ideally, using the tools a dealer already has in place, though I also make the dealer aware of cost effective solutions others are using.

That was my strategy when I sold cars. I hated filling out paperwork when I could be selling more cars!  I was amazed by the redundancy of filling out forms that asked for the same exact data, like the sales agreement, AVC form, credit app, odometer forms, temporary registration, and others the government kept adding to protect the customer from me!  

So, I wrote a basic program for my Commodore Vic-20 to print out these forms in minutes, which saved me all kinds of time and shortened the purchase experience for the customer. A side effect of this effort was floppy disks full of names and addresses that allowed me to print letters after I talked my dealer into buying tractor-feed letterhead for my dot matrix printer to stay in touch with my customers and prospects. A more timesaving way to fold, lick, and stamp envelopes is another story!

The point is: Dealers like you created the Certification requirements and agreed that they were the best practices to elevate the customer experience and make dealers more money. Now it’s the MRAA’s responsibility to make them easier to adhere to vs. unnecessarily adding work to your day.

As an example, Certification requires dealers to supply sales follow-up logs with customer name, sale date, call date, person calling and call results. To satisfy the requirement, you must show 100 percent follow-up by phone within seven days of delivery. If a dealer is currently using a CRM system that prompts the team to contact the customer at predetermined post sale intervals (7-day minimum) and generates a report that shows them complying 100 percent, that satisfies the requirement. In fact, it’s exactly what we’re looking for: a method that is integrated right into a dealer’s everyday tools that helps them sell and service more boats.

When we see a separate form filled out that shows post sale follow-up, we look to help the dealer find a way to make use of processes or tools already installed at the dealership to eliminate additional forms or paperwork used exclusively for becoming Certified. Each of the Certification requirements must be fulfilled naturally in your daily routine or they will become a burden rather than a means of enhancing the customer experience and dealer profits.

Your Certification consultants have spent their entire careers looking for the easiest and most effective ways to achieve success. We seek to help our Certified dealers do the same.

Tags:  certification  consultants  intent  requirements  resources  training 

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No time for training

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, March 21, 2017

During my early days running a dealership and then later at Channel Blade, we constantly made or heard the excuse: “We don’t have time for training. We need to work the phones or sell or fix something.” 

We learned later that not dedicating time to training cost us a ton in wasted time! Not to mention lost customers and sales because the crew wasn’t up to speed on their product, the competitor’s products, or the sales skills to help people buy.

Dealers today still find it difficult to dedicate time for training. That was the subject of a conversation I had with Liz Walz leading up to MDCE 2016. If you know Liz, you know that she is extremely passionate about dealer education and works vigorously to produce hours of training on multitudes of topics by industry experts, available at MDCE and MRAA.com in the MRAA Resource Center and MRAA Interactive Virtual Training System. She gets frustrated knowing that dealers are struggling to take advantage of training that could make a real difference for their team.

That’s where I came in. Liz asked me to create a training workshop at MDCE to show dealers how easy it is to create a simple plan to educate their people without adding more hours to the day. Fortunately, Liz asked me early in the year, as it took most of that time to find ways to make the process simple, with just a few steps.

We gave the workshop at MDCE, offering a complementary workbook to help attendees learn:

  • The why behind training
  • Who needs training
  • How to define your training needs and set training goals
  • Where to find training resources
  • How to schedule training
  • How to track and assess the results

It’s really that simple: determine who needs training, what training you need, what’s the goal for the training, find the training, and then schedule it! Schedule it? That’s the problem! We can help you find unique ways to work training in more often without working longer hours.

Now, we’re taking the research we did for that workshop and expanding upon it, transforming it into an MRAA Guide to Training that will walk you and your team through the planning (and if needed, budgeting) process from start to finish, offering you the chance to customize your strategy to fit your dealership’s and your team members’ unique needs and interests.

We spend time on getting buy-in from both employees and management. You simply need to find out what your crew wants to learn and keep it in line with management’s priorities. As we mentioned in a recent blog on job descriptions, marine dealers can see a big benefit from performance evaluations. This is yet another reason for them: So you can find out what your employees want and need to learn, instead of just checking the box that you did training. Click here to access the MRAA Member Resource: 10 Tips for Marine Dealership Performance Reviews.

Lastly, to keep training perpetual in your store, it’s important that every course your dealership attends or conducts has a goal and that you track the results. We are confident that when you train on a certain area, you will get better results in that area. When you get better results, you will keep doing what got you the results.

Tags:  education  resources  time management  training 

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Brick and mortar vs. click and order

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017

Amidst the monotony of the ongoing political banter and the optimism of a growing economy, you may have missed a troubling report coming out of CNN Money.

The report, published just last week, suggests that the American economy may be experiencing the bursting of a retail bubble. Dispute the concept of a retail bubble if you’d like — I think we could agree there has been no boom to set up the burst — but the fact remains that traditional brick-and-mortar retail is struggling.

The article documents disappointing quarterly results from several large retailers, store closures, an underperforming retail organization’s IPO, bankruptcies and more. All juxtaposed with the incredible continued success of Amazon and other online retailers.

There are examples of strong retail stores out there, some of which are also highlighted in the report. Each of those examples has differentiated itself by finding a niche to capitalize on.

And herein lies the challenge to you. What are you doing to differentiate yourself in the marketplace? How do you go about making yourself irreplaceable to your customers and your market?

If, as our industry continues to grow, you think there’s no risk to your business, I want to urge you to think again. The retail business is changing. Our industry is changing. And the business of online retailing, as you can tell by this article, “Amazon is going to sell cars online,” is soon to change even further.

How long it takes before Amazon considers moving into the marine industry, no one knows. But it would be a wise move for you to consider how you would capitalize on your competitive advantage under such circumstances. Begin today by defining how you currently differentiate your business and how you should further differentiate.

In the end, we can either evolve or stay the same. Amazon’s success has come at the expense of industries that have chosen to stay the same.

Tags:  Amazon  economy  online retailers  retail 

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Tools to compete in the job market

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Good people are hard to find. This statement is as old as any other business cliché, but it has never been more of a slap in the face for me than it is today.

I’m writing this blog as I wait for an interview candidate, who is now more than five minutes late for his interview. The assignment we asked him to complete prior to the interview still hasn’t arrived either. I’d love to exhale and simply move on to the next candidate, but our pool of candidates is bleak.

Five weeks ago, we actually hired someone for this position. She came to the Minneapolis Boat Show with us, a full weekend prior to when she was officially going to start. She had every skill and ability we were looking for, in addition to an eager attitude and a get-it-done mentality. She showed up as planned on Monday, was out until Friday with sick kids, and we haven’t seen her since. Vanished.

The best candidate for the position, after we resumed the recruiting process, took another job the day we were to interview her. Now this next interviewee hasn’t shown up, and it’s more than 10 minutes after his scheduled appointment. Don’t most people show up early for an interview?

I realize I’m singing to the choir here when I complain that it’s tough to find quality employees these days. Our members have been challenged to find technicians for a few years now, and the problem is only getting worse.

MRAA has committed itself to finding solutions for these issues. In fact, for the second year in a row, workforce development issues made our list of top issues to be addressed, which was created by the Advisory Council of Marine Associations, a group of trade association leaders who help to set the MRAA legislative agenda.

In 2016, our efforts created the first MRAA Marine Industry Workforce Assessment. It revealed that more than 21 percent of the positions budgeted to be on dealership payrolls went unfilled in the prior year and suggested that our industry could be short some 31,000 retail employees by 2019. MRAA members can download the assessment here.

In the end, dealers pointed to a few main reasons why they are having trouble finding good employees: the generation gap, a poor transition from schools to the workforce, a lack of tech schools to begin with, the seasonality of our business, a lack of employee training, and an inability to compete with the pay scales of other industries. With a mission to provide solutions for some of these issues, MRAA has:

  1. Held several generation-related topics at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo. MRAA Retail Members, sign into MRAATraining.com for access to some of these topics.
  2. Generated a database of marine specific technical schools.
  3. Been working on a guide to dealership training, to be published as a free member resource later this year.
  4. And launched a compensation study to give us a better understanding of the pay scales and structures in the marine industry.

The results of the 2017 MRAA Compensation Study are now available for purchase. For just $299, you can access the high-level executive summary; the full, in-depth report; and an online, dynamic salary calculator that will allow you to run an unlimited number of queries on up to 35 job descriptions, broken down by region, dealership size, and more.

Whether they’re training opportunities or customized resources, these are all tools designed to help you compete better in your market place. The only thing we can’t do is force these people to show up for interviews or for work.

Moving on…

Tags:  Compensation Study  hiring  MRAA  training 

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CRM: A look in the mirror

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Whether you believe in coincidence or not, you’ve probably had an experience like this. A topic comes up. Maybe it’s in conversation, a video or a podcast. You might read it in a book or on a website. And then it comes up again and again and again in the following days and weeks.

In my case, that topic is CRM: Customer Relationship Management. Wikipedia defines it as: “An approach to managing a company's interaction with current and potential future customers that tries to analyze data about customers' history with a company and to improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on customer retention and ultimately driving sales growth.”

If you attended the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in December, you may have heard Sam Dantzler talk about the relationship between CRM and Business Development Centers or BDCs. He believes that BDCs are unnecessary if your team is highly disciplined in its use of CRM technology. That means entering every person who walks in your door, calls your team or shoots you an email into the CRM – and then following up with them to gain the 20 touches it typically requires to convert a prospect to a customer. That kind of discipline is pretty rare, which is why he says most dealerships can benefit from a BDC.

Sam and his team at Garage Composites spoke about CRM in more depth during a powersports customer event in January. But they didn’t just emphasize putting 100% of prospects and customers into it – including the UPS delivery person. They also said failing to do so should be a serious violation of company policy, one with consequences.

CRM was a popular topic in MDCE’s Marketing Track as well. Today’s technology allows us to be highly targeted in our marketing, which tends to be more effective than messaging designed for the masses. Who doesn’t prefer to receive marketing messages that apply directly to our individual interests and preferences? But if you don’t have much prospect and customer data in your CRM, it’s nearly impossible to pull off targeted marketing campaigns.

CRM, CRM, CRM. I can’t escape. In my inbox, in my conversations with my team and with MDCE speakers. Everywhere. I started looking in the mirror. How disciplined have I been in using the MRAA CRM? The answer wasn’t pretty. So, I’m opening up a conversation with the rest of my team about how we all can improve our use of it. Here are the questions we’re asking ourselves – and you may want to ask yourselves too:

    • How does our CRM work? I thought I knew the answer, but it turns out there are several new features that make it much better than it used to be, which will help me use it more. If you haven’t checked in a while, make sure you do.
    • When should I use it? If you believe Sam, the answer is all the time. Not just the sales department, but the service department too. And the marina and boat rental, if you have it. Maybe instead the question should be: When shouldn’t I use it?
    • How do I get my team to use it consistently? If you believe it’s important – and I haven’t found a dealer or expert yet who doesn’t – you have to hold yourself and your employees accountable for using it. That means finding ways to incorporate it into your processes, tracking adherence to those processes, praising those who use it, and introducing coaching and eventually consequences for those who don’t.
    • What information do I include in the CRM? Many dealers focus their CRM notes on products the prospect is interested in or the boat they own right now. However, dealers have the opportunity to strengthen their relationship with the customer by including personal information. How many kids or pets do they have, and what are their names? What do they do for work? What are their hobbies and passions? Use this type of information to transform your follow-up calls in the best possible way.
    • How should I use data from my CRM? The short answer is sales, marketing and coaching. If you’re serious about improving and growing your people and your business, I can’t think of a more powerful tool.

Tags:  BDC  CRM  Dantzler  mdce  MRAA  training tuesday 

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