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Norman-Spencer Marine Retail University
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The Norman-Spencer Marine Retail University program is the fastest-growing dealer education event in the marine industry. Co-producers Dominion Marine Media and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas announced the creation of the program in November, and have since announced partnerships with two state-based marine trades associations.

MRU was designed to offer market-specific content to the dealers that attend, and in that line of thinking MRU has partnered with Statistical Surveys and GE Capital Commercial Distribution Finance to deliver that information. Stat Surveys will provide in-depth analysis of the sales trends in each market that the MRU visits, while GE will provide insights into the state’s economy and dealer-level performance in that same market.

"We’ve really designed this to provide the dealers with information that they can use immediately to help them stock and market the right products and to help them understand what products are not moving in their markets,” says Matt Gruhn, President of the MRAA. "This is not an event that dealers from these respective markets will want to miss because if they do, their competitors, the attendees of this event will have a leg up on them when it comes to their knowledge of what’s happening the market.”

Each MRU event will offer a minimum of four educational sessions, and those sessions are being designed to offer dealers insights into how to use the data and information that Stat Surveys and GE provide. For example, Dominion Marine Media will provide its marketing expertise to share trends and opportunities for dealers to better connect with their markets. And through a customized format, the trade associations that partner with MRU will be able to decide upon the topics they want added to the mix.

"Because of our connections with experts from all areas of marine retailing,” explains Gruhn, "we can offer just about anything the dealers want from this event. If they want us to help them focus on sales training, we can provide that. If they are looking for ways to grow their service departments, we can provide that, as well. The options really are endless.”

Attendance at an MRU will be a low-cost opportunity, as well. Not only are their discounts available for MRAA members, but Dominion Marine Media is also reducing the cost of attendance through by significantly supplementing the cost of registration. In fact, Dominion Marine Media is picking up the cost of the meals for dealer attendees, which makes up the bulk of the registration.

"We want to make these events as accessible as possible for dealers,” says Courtney Chalmers, Director of Marketing for Dominion Marine Media. "We’ve worked hard to eliminate the two main barriers of attendance — time away from the dealership and the cost to attend. And the bottom line is that we understand the significance of the opportunity at these events, and we don’t want anything to prevent dealers from attending.”

The Boating Trades Association of Texas signed on to host the first MRU event, which will be held Oct. 21-22 in San Antonio, Texas. That event will feature a dinner cruise networking opportunity in addition to a full slate of educational sessions.

The Michigan Boating Industries Association has signed on to host an MRU event in East Lansing, Mich., Dec. 5-6. MBIA hosts an annual Recreational Boating Education Conference, and the MRU will join forces with that event, offering a separate track and adding in the marketing opportunity for exhibits and sponsorships.

MRAA and Dominion Marine Media expect to host four total events in 2012 before expanding the agenda for 2013. More locations will be announced soon.

"With the interest and excitement level that the MRU has already generated, we’re expecting these events to continue to gain momentum into next year,” says Chalmers. "It’s our goal to give dealers the data and insight they need and the tools and resources to capitalize on it, and MRU is delivering on that goal.”