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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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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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How to Coach In the Heat of the Season

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Memorial Day Weekend is a memory. The winter shows are over. The spring cleaning is done. All the boats once in storage are now in the water. The units sold at the shows have been delivered. And sales training is complete.

Wait a minute! Do we ever stop learning or practicing our skills? Do athletes stop training or practicing when the season starts? The losers might, but the winners are always fine-tuning their skills. They continue to improve all season long to make sure they meet or exceed the goals they set before the season began.

When the season starts is when the coaches, aka Sales and Service Managers, earn their paychecks. Athletes keep their coaches close on the sidelines because pros know that they can get too close to the game and miss opportunities that come their way. A tuned-in Sales Manager with the help of modern-day systems can ensure their salespeople stay with the game plan by selecting the perfect boat for their customer, negotiating a mutually beneficial price, and delivering a better-than-expected buying experience. And a tuned-in Service Manager with the help of modern-day systems can ensure their technicians, riggers, yard staff and service writers stay with the game plan by selecting the perfect maintenance package for their customer, operating at high efficiency, and delivering a better-than-expected service experience.

I hear too often working with Certified Dealers that training is scheduled for the fall, and they have no plan to revisit what they learned during the offseason. Tell me it’s not so! Your favorite players continually develop and practice their skills, and you should do the same all season long.

Dealer Principles, Sales and Service Managers: We know this is a crazy time of year. We need to sell boats and keep up with the demand for service. We agree: It is time to put our heads down and sell, sell, sell and service. But there is still time to sharpen our skills during the game. I find that most dealers are still meeting with their sales and service teams on a regular schedule during the season. Since you’ve found the time to meet, make the most of this time and always touch on training.

I learned a formula for a successful meeting years ago during my Ford days that is a simple to execute and can apply to any dealership department. Every meeting should include:
  1. Recognition. They crave it and don’t get enough of it, which our Employee Satisfaction Survey results confirm. Note what they are doing well and give them a shout out. This requires making notes all week and reviewing them before your meeting.

  2. Housekeeping. Every dealership must stay on top of deals, scheduled jobs, deliveries, and the does & don’ts.

  3. Training. End every meeting with something that will help them sell or service a boat today. Take 10 minutes to review those nuggets you learned in the offseason so they don’t forget to use the information they’ve already picked up. Keep it simple. Go around the room and ask each salesperson why now is a good time to buy a boat. Each will have to think and answer, but often the biggest learning opportunity comes from the sharing of ideas. Or ask each technician how they can improve their efficiency or the customer experience. Or break-out those takeaways from MDCE. Review a page or two of your notes – or even better, an MDCE video or two – to relive those moments of brilliance in December and put the lessons to work. This is what good coaches do for their teams!

If after weeks of positive reinforcement, you still have a couple of team members not conforming to the process, meet with them privately for a refresher course that notes their deficiencies using my proven formula: Hug ‘em, Smack ‘em, Hug ‘em! Simply, start the conversation with what they are doing right. Give them the desired direction, and finish with some basic math: adding together what they are doing right along with the adjustment, which will end with a better result.

Champions never stop learning – and practicing what they know. When you make it a priority to carve out a few minutes a day during the heat of the summer to take advantage of the investments made in the off-season, you will reap the rewards of building a stronger foundation for success.

Tags:  housekeeping  off-season  positive reinforcement  recognition  Sales Managers  Service Managers  skills  Training 

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A Seat at the Table

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Today’s boating industry could teach politicians a thing or two about coming together for the greater good.

And who knows? Perhaps we’ll get the chance. This week, the industry is gathering in Washington, D.C., at the American Boating Congress, which attracts people from just about every corner of the recreational marine business.

While the No. 1 purpose of ABC is to lobby together on The Hill in support of the boating industry, there are a lot of other meetings here as well. For example, yesterday, local, state, regional and national trade associations representing dealers, marinas, manufacturers, distributors and representatives sat down together to share best practices during a National Marine Trades Council meeting.

That group joined the Recreational Boating Leadership Council at lunchtime for a joint panel discussion on solutions to the most painful challenge we’re facing right now: workforce issues. After lunch, the RBLC went on to discuss what else the industry is doing and can do to overcome some of our biggest barriers to growth.

Today, history will be made when the Marine Retailers Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association sit down at the same table for their first ever joint board meeting. Afterwards, BoatPAC – the joint political action committee of the NMMA and MRAA – will bring the industry together for a fundraising event.

We work in what has been often called a fragmented industry. And there have been times in our history when we’ve struggled to come together to sit at the same table. But there are few things that give me more faith in our future than the collaboration that’s taking place in our industry today. During a time when the United States is more divided along political lines than ever before, the recreational marine community is going in the opposite direction. We are working across the aisles that have historically divided our industry. And there’s no better city to be doing it in. Those that aren’t here to witness this and join in, I wish you could be.

Tags:  American Boating Congress  BoatPAC  collaboration  Legislation  marine industry  NMMA  politics  workforce issues 

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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

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 or (763) 333-2419. 

Tags:  certification  dealer development  recession 

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