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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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Dealer Week 2020: More Accessible Than Ever

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Wednesday, September 2, 2020

If you’re like most dealers, you can simply shake your head in amazement over what happened in 2020. A fast start, a sudden stop, and an unparalleled, dizzying re-acceleration to the business of selling boats.


The pressing question now appears to be: What does 2021 have in store?


There’s so much to consider with that question. Will I get the inventory I need? Will record sales resume? Will Covid concerns persist? Are there economic challenges ahead? What impact will the election have on my business? And how will my customers respond to it all?


Of course, these are questions you ask when you are at the mercy of whatever the market throws at you, but smart dealers know that the actions they take are what dictate their level of success.


The real question you should be asking yourself is: How will I steer my company to prosperity in 2021? Because the results are in your control.


As you seek to manage inventory levels, sales strategies, the customer experience, service department profitability and more, you can turn to Dealer Week, MRAA’s annual conference and expo, for direction. With the industry’s top experts and leading solution providers gathered in one event, Dealer Week is our industry’s only event geared to helping you maximize your success.


What’s more is that this year, as we move Dealer Week to an online-only event, this educational content becomes more accessible to you and your team than ever before. With no travel, hotel, or meal expenses, or required days out of the office, Dealer Week will be delivered to your dealership, making it the perfect way to train and prepare your team for the year ahead.



If you have not attended Dealer Week previously, you should know that dealers just like you have noted numerous strategies and tactics they have implemented based on what they learned at the event. And for 2020, MRAA has not only increased our investment in the educational content, but we are working with our experts to ensure that it’s as timely and relevant as possible in this rapidly changing business environment. That means you can trust that Dealer Week will provide you with the absolute latest trends, insights, strategies and best practices from the absolute best speakers and trainers.


As you seek to answer the questions that 2021 presents you — as you seek to remain in control of your business’ future — Dealer Week will take the guesswork out of your operations and help you run your business with clarity and confidence. I hope you’ll register today.

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“Second Opinion Service” – Business and Personal Wealth Evaluation Now Available To MRAA Members!

Posted By MRAA, Monday, August 24, 2020

Second Opinion

MRAA logoThe Marine Retailers Association has announced a new benefit for members designed to assess their personal and business wealth to bring them closer to their most meaningful financial goals. The “Second Opinion Service” benefit is provided by with The Stanek Group at Morgan Stanley.

Many of you have built up successful dealerships and concentrated on their business wealth. The Second Opinion Service evaluates how you can become financially independent of your business by taking a detailed view at your key financial documents and addressing areas such as:

•    Navigating your business succession, exit, and transfer of dealership to the next generation or third party.
•    Finding ways for your wealth to be tax efficient and to eliminate debt.  
•    Preserving your wealth through thoughtful insurance, long term care and disability insurance policies.

Here’s how the benefit works.

The Stanek Group will meet with you for a Discovery Meeting. Assuming both parties agree there is a basis to work together, you provide key financial documents for an in-depth financial review. A second meeting – the Wealth Planning Meeting – is then scheduled to review key findings, opportunities, and specific recommendations to help your wealth work better for you.

If you enjoy working with the Stanek Group, you can engage their services but are not obligated to do so.
Either way, you will receive:

•    A personalized written analysis of your current situation
•    Clarity on your wealth plan
•    Recommendations, suggestions and planning insights to help reach your most important goals.
•    Most importantly, a written plan that you can review, implement, and share with your other advisors.

If you would like to learn more, you can reach out directly to Tony Perrelli, Financial Advisor, with the Stanek Group at Morgan Stanley. Tony can be reached at or 312-648-3365.

Tony Perrelli
Financial Advisor
Morgan Stanley – Chicago Merc #628
227 West Monroe Street
Suite 3400
Chicago IL 60606

Since life insurance and long term care insurance are medically underwritten, you should not cancel your current policy until your new policy is in force.  A change to your current policy may incur charges, fees and costs.  A new policy will require a medical exam. Surrender charges may be imposed and the period of time for which the surrender charges apply may increase with a new policy.  You should consult with your own tax advisors regarding your potential tax liability on surrenders.

Guarantees and contractual obligations are backed by the claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”), its affiliates and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors or Private Wealth Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice.  Clients should consult their tax advisor for matters involving taxation and tax planning and their attorney for matters involving trust and estate planning and other legal matters.

Investments and services offered through Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC.  Member SIPC.
CRC 3176965  7/2020

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New Boater Interest Drives Boat Leads to Soar Past Expected July Fourth Peak

Posted By Courtney Chalmers, Friday, August 14, 2020
  • New visitors to Boat Trader, YachtWorld and up more than +50% in July
  • Leads flourished across U.S. with over +200% YoY growth in nearly all regions
  • Boats Group’s database shows boat sales increased +30% YoY

Data from July for Boat Trader, YachtWorld and show traffic (+49% YoY) and leads (+193% YoY) continue to soar past the expected July Fourth peak, suggesting the boat buying surge won’t end anytime soon in the United States. The recent rise in traffic, leads and boat sales has largely been driven by people new to boating and those quick to realize that escaping to the water on a boat is the best way to ‘staycation’ and stick to COVID’s restrictions on travel and gatherings. In fact, new visitors on Boats Group’s marketplaces were up 56% last month.
New boaters appear to be drawn to boats with multipurpose use, and right now cruisers, center consoles and pontoons are the top in-demand segments based on magnitude of leads. In comparison to last year in July, sailboats and fishing boats were among the leading categories – an indication that buyers in 2020 are looking for functional, family-friendly boats. The heightened popularity of pontoons (leads up +271% YoY) in particular, an easy-to-handle, versatile boat for the masses, is further evidence of a new boat-buying audience.
Following the progression of the virus, certain areas in the U.S. have experienced drastic upticks in the number of recorded infections, which could help explain changes in demand geographically in places like the West Coast where lead volume outpaced the Great Lakes for the first time. Lead volume across all regions remained strong beyond the usual Fourth of July peak, signaling that the typical sales season may be extended this year.
The latest information reported to Boats Group’s and YachtCloser data sources also confirms the current buying boom underway and reveals that the number of boats sold in July in the U.S. grew +30% over 2019. The surge in sales, coupled with the slowed to halted production, has resulted in tightened inventory, pushing the average price per boat sold up 18% YoY, as well as total value sold, which grew 54% YoY in July.

The boating industry has not seen this level of entrants in recent years and may need to adjust its sales and post-sales approach to ensure that this new audience remains engaged long term.

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Level Up Your Customer Experience Efforts by Getting Certified

Posted By Liz Keener, Monday, August 10, 2020

As your dealership begins turning up the dial on customer experience efforts, you’re likely looking at several options to better serve your customers and prospects. You may be considering steps, such as adding a customer experience representative, outsourcing some of your follow-up efforts, integrating more digital retail into your processes, and more to improve the experience customers have with your dealership.


But one of the ways to really amplify your efforts is to go through the Marine Industry Certified Dealership program.


The customer experience is one of three key pillars that the Certification program is based off of, so going through Certification will allow you and your Certification Consultant to analyze your current processes and how they impact your customer experience, and then use proven best practices to improve your efforts.


The following are just a few parts of the Certification process that can impact the customer experience you offer:

  • Marine Industry Consumer Commitment
  • Employee Satisfaction Survey
  • CRM process
  • CSI tracking & trending
  • Sales process, including 100 percent follow-up
  • Delivery
  • Customer product orientation
  • Website standards
  • Facility standards
  • Service process, including 100 percent follow-up
  • Repair orders
  • Quality assurance process
  • Service comeback tracking
  • Parts process
  • Mystery shopping


Through Certification, you’ll go over each of these areas and more, to cover your customer experience, employee engagement and dealership operations. It’s a surefire way to shore up your customer experience efforts, learn from your Certification Consultant, implement best practices of other Certified Dealers and improve upon the experience offered to your customers, which, in turn, should improve your dealership as a whole.


On top of that, after you’re Certified, you’ll enter into the Continuous Certification program in each subsequent year, offering you exclusive customer experience education annually. Thus far, the Continuous Certification has covered the following customer experience topics: Take Your Dealership From Good to Great with CRM, Improve Loyalty with a Customer Experience Mindset, Align Your Dealership with Today’s Customer, Supercharge Your Customer Experience and Update Your Sales Process for Today’s Marine Market. Other courses in Continuous Certification have also touched on customer experience as well.


If you’re interested in Certification but still have questions, reach out to Zane Stevenson at or 763-402-7234, or Liz Keener at or 763-333-2417. Or enroll at

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Continue to Train Your Customers in Boating

Posted By Liz Keener, Friday, August 7, 2020

When your customer received their boat, hopefully you were able to give them an in-depth orientation and demo at delivery. But, as many of us know, one hour or a couple hours of training do not make for an expert boater.

Now is the time to think about how you can offer additional training opportunities to your customers to make them safer boaters and offer them a better experience going forward.

Here are few ways you can continue to train your customers:

Women on the Water classes: Popular among many dealers, Women on the Water classes take the recent female boat buyers and offer them a class with their peers to learn how to drive, dock and trailer a boat. These sessions are no pressure, allowing the participants to ask questions and try each skill themselves. While having large class sizes is not advisable during the COVID-19 outbreak, you may consider hosting one-on-one or small group classes (with local safety regulations in mind).

Boat captains: If you don’t yet offer a captain’s service, this may be something your dealership could offer. Pair your new boat buyer with a captain either on staff or a captain service nearby, so the new boat buyer can get a hang of boating and a better understanding of the rules of the water, while on their own boat with a trained captain.

Wake boarding, wake surfing, or skiing classes: Have your on-staff or nearby watersports expert take customers out on their own boat, or a similar dealership-owned boat, to demonstrate the best way to use the boat for watersports. Allow the customer and their family to have a chance to try wake boarding, surfing, or skiing themselves, so they can get a hang of the sport.

Safety courses: Host safety courses either on site at your dealership, or virtually. This offers boaters a better idea of what they should be thinking about when it comes to safety. Some dealerships even host courses after which attendees can earn a license or certification.

Video training: Many dealers are getting into video creation, and one of the great things to do with video is to offer product demonstrations. In each video segment, released periodically, teach your customer about a different part of the boat, offering them tips and tricks for a successful day out on the water.

Second orientation: We all know it's hard to soak in all the information during the initial delivery orientation, so if you have the time, you can offer your customers a second demo, after they've gotten the hang of the general of the boat. During a second orientation, the buyer would be armed with questions that relate directly to what they've been experiencing, and it gives your team an additional touchpoint with that new customer.

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Certified Dealers Share How They Care for Customers

Posted By Liz Keener, Thursday, August 6, 2020

Customer experience is one of the three pillars of the Marine Industry Certified Dealership program, and Certified Dealers work on improving their customer experience, not just in the initial Certification process, but in Continuous Certification as well. And what they’ve learned throughout their time in Certification are best practices that can be shared for all dealers.

In 2018 and 2019 dealers in Continuous Certification participated in courses with Theresa Syer, focused on the customer experience. In 2018, the course was “Improve Loyalty with a Customer Experience Mindset,” and in 2019, it was “Supercharge Your Customer Experience,” a course which was also delivered as a live, in-person workshop at Dealer Week in December. As part of the e-learning course, dealers discuss what they’ve learned about customer experience, or what they’re working on.

The following are some tips on the customer experience that those dealers shared with us. Certified Dealers, you’ll be getting a more comprehensive report from these discussions later this month.

  • “We host several customer events throughout the year. Some of our customers attend the events more so than actually walking into our dealership. At these events, we can have one-on-one time with each customer outside of the dealership generating great conversations about what they are doing in their personal lives — be it weddings, showers, graduations, anniversaries, etc.”
  • “The Florida Keys are a very dog-friendly place and our staff is extremely pet friendly as well. We have, on average, five furry ones running around at any time.With that said, we encourage paw-friendly customers to bring their loved ones in with them.We always have bowls of water around and treats. It always helps break the ice and bring smiles to all when you see those tails wagging. It gives many customers someone to play with when they are waiting to be helped.”
  • “Our dealership uses a couple different strategies to help personalize our customer's experience. We always try to get to know our customers on more than just a business level. We take the time to talk to them on a personal level and ask them questions about their family and hobbies.”
  • “If you can incorporate empathy and understand a customer’s emotional motive for wanting a product or service and feed that back to them, you build trust and connect with your customer in a way that makes it personal. When you really hear what a customer says, and attempt to understand them, you take the selling process and the customer service process to another level.”
  • “In the past, we used to give the customers gifts when they purchased a boat. The usual gift included a basket with champagne and a few hats. It was a nice gift basket, but recently we made a big change and stopped giving those type of gifts. They were just customer-service type gifts. We changed our philosophy to give the customers customized gifts with the purchase instead of something generic. We really try to find a unique, cool gift that will show the customer that we really thought about the gift and wanted to go above and beyond with the experience. Now we do everything from signed sports memorabilia from their favorite teams to humidors with their boat’s name engraved on them.”

“One of the ways we make sure the customer has a great experience is by making sure our staff is in the right frame of mind to start the day. The staff have developed a way of greeting each other which creates a positive energy to kick the day off. By greeting customers as they come into our showroom and service dock, this energy comes out in a positive manner. We consistently emphasize treating the customer as we would like to be treated when arriving at a store. Our staff really builds up a positive attitude and are willing to help each other to give a great experience to customers.”  

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Dealer Case Study: Be the Resource for New Boaters

Posted By Jerrod Kelley, Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Attracting new buyers is essential in the effort to get more people on the water and keep them there. Despite all the economic impacts and health concerns, 2020 seems to be banner year for first-time boat buyers and the new-to-the-marine industry types. We all welcome the growth. And by growth, we’re talking about boat sales, website traffic and the increased demand for information. Now is the time to dedicate time, energy and resources to capitalizing on this surge of new customers. Dealer Case Study: MarineMax

MRAA spoke with Abbey Heimensen, Director of Marketing, and Lisa Harrison, PR and Content Manager, at MarineMax about their New to Boating webpage and unprecedented growth, which has seen a 461 percent year-to-year increase in pageviews in the past 90 days. Harrison says MarineMax, which has 59 locations and 29 different brands, has seen its reach flourish and grow within its own database. In fact, new site users are up 40 percent due to the increased consumer interest and the in-house New to Boating initiative.

“Statistics from the MRAA and NMAA tell us that approximately 3 percent of the [US] population boats, which is a very small percentage,” explained Heimensen. “We spend a lot of time supporting MRAA, Discovery Boating and things like that to help move that gauge. We know that we personally may not help move that gauge to four percent or five percentage, but we know we want to get a larger piece of the pie of the people who boat.”

They then took a different vantage point to determine how MarineMax could help get more people in, says Heimensen. “And once they get to our website, we found that one of the things they were searching for was ‘new to boating.’ We had been relying on other sources for that, like I have mentioned, and we felt that we were not doing our customers justice by not having that information on our website.”

She explains that when pandemic hit with full force, MarineMax was kind of catapulted forward and made to move more quickly and get the New to Boating page completed. “We got it out there for not only the customers who come to our website, but also in general for the boating industry. As much traffic as we are able to generate to our website, it really made sense to help the industry as whole have that information there.”

The site itself is pretty straightforward, and Heimensen says they didn’t reinvent the themes of fishing, cruising, tow sports, etc. “We knew those were things we didn’t have to reinvent. We did the design work from the ground up, and we featured products that MarineMax carries,” explained Heimensen. “If it was going to be on our website, we felt it was very important to reflect the brands we carry because we picked those brands very specifically in our portfolio to make our customers’ choices that much easier that they have the quality of brands from which to choose.”

Essentially, the New To Boating page features all the basic information a new boater and new buyer would need to know about the marine industry, MarineMax and its brands, including information on boat types, boating resources, education (classes and seminars) and online community initiatives. And for those consumers who seek to know even more, MarineMax features other consumer-related marketing and content in an effort to answer questions, enrich the purchasing process and enhance the overall boating experience.

The New To Boating page is an educational stop before making a purchase. “This is helping you make a decision before you make a large investment,” stated Heimensen. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an aluminum bass boat or a $6 million dollar yacht. It’s an investment of your time, your family, it’s a very serious investment … one that is different than purchasing a car. Purchasing a boat is purchasing a lifestyle for your family. You’re making a commitment that we’re going to be on the water, we’re going to do this on the weekends — everybody’s in!”

Our conversation has generated plenty of topics and tips to also aid you in enhancing your own marketing and content resources to capture more new boaters.

1. Grow your family: To target new boaters, you can use current resources provided by the MRAA, Discover Boating, NMAA and related outlets to enhance your site and social content. But the idea is to share your own industry knowledge with these new customers. One way to build a larger family is to sell them boats, but another way is to offer them informative and related education, ownership tips and buying advice according to your market, areas of expertise and brands. This also can make you their trusted source both on and off the water.
2. Develop a content team: MarineMax has its own in-house team comprised of content suppliers, proofreaders, graphic designers and also a new CMS (content management system) engineer. While most dealerships can’t afford to build a team that large, adding a content producer to your marketing team could be beneficial. That person could be in charge of creating content for your website, social media, videos, e-blasts, ads and more. At MarineMax, the CMS engineer’s role is key in the development of the site-specific page because they build platform from the ground up, using current site stats and things like heat maps to determine consumer flow and viewing patterns. This role, whether in house or provided by an agency, creates the behind-the-scenes work and steps necessary to keep many visitors headed down the purchasing funnel. The other team members serve as content writers, editors and experts to enhance the brand’s voice. Finally, the design team blends the behind-the-scenes with the content to ensure the message is on point, attractive and on brand. In addition, this original content comes from you and is in your voice, which further connects you with the customer.
3. Budget for time and resources: You’ll save some cost if you have the ability to do everything with your internal team, from management to sales to parts and PR. If not, you must be prepared to reserve money for site development, freelance copy, proofreaders and site designers. MarineMax says a lot of responsibility falls upon the team’s shoulders because people can use the content and it’s out in front of the entire industry. Your team’s leaders and most experienced boaters make fabulous information resources. The goal is to improve your customer’s experience and to act like a one-stop shop to them. One location with all the answers.
4. Educational by design: Educating the customers with content is essential, but it also comes in handy for your sales consultants during interactions with consumers. They can find the right answers and the correct boat for customers the first time; a must do to create repeat buyers.
5. CRM: Investing in data collection technology (like HubSpot) and lead generation is vital, too, says Heimensen. Using the insights from the data helps a better roadmap and other ways to interact with customers. This includes CRM efforts like, newsletters, live boat demos, giveaways and virtual events for those new to boating. Try meet-and-greets on Zoom, Facebook Live forums and weekly podcasts to connect with certain consumers. The “Boating Tips Live” effort from MarineMax involves a designated captain to discuss different topics with consumers.
6. Have some class: This is more about offering your customers or potential customers classes to learn more about boat ownership prior to buying or boat ownership after the purchase. It’s really about re-investing in your customers. MarineMax says it offers specialty trips, like its Getaways!® boating events — complete with integrated safety and social-distancing protocols — for its customers as a way to entice more interaction and to offer them a better boating experience.
7. Lifelong boater, first-time buyer: Always remember that just because someone has been in boating all their life, doesn’t mean they have ever purchased their own boat or know everything about boat ownership. You can help educate them and further gain their trust.

MarineMax’s New To Boating page is a clear winner for its ability to attract new customers who want to learn more about boats, the lifestyle and ownership. But it’s clear that MarineMax has also made a legitimate all-in effort to better connect with customers — new and old, alike — by becoming a resource people can depend on, pre-sale and post-sale. It’s a winning formula that, with these seven shared best practices, can also help you go next level as well.

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Give Your Service Advisor an Assist for an Improved Customer Experience

Posted By Liz Keener, Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Operation: Keep Your Customers Boating has been focused on providing exceptional customer experience to your new boat buyers, so they have a better boating lifestyle, stay in the sport, become loyal customers of your dealership and refer their family and friends to you.

And the service department is an integral piece in that equation. Service is the primary department your customers will interact with between their first boat purchase and any subsequent boat purchases. So the experience your customers have with your service department is critical to them returning to your dealership again and again.

One of the key things a dealership can do to improve the relationship a customer has with the service department is for the customer to have their “person,” their primary contact, the person the customer knows will always have their back, says Rallee Chupich, an MRAA Certification Consultant who spent 34 years working at the dealership level, specializing in service.

Sam Dantzler, of Garage Composites, also backs up that assertion in his 2018 Continuous Certification course, “Take Your Dealership from Good to Great with CRM.”

What customers want is a key contact in service who knows them by name, understands their past and current issues and will be liaison for them in the service department. To make that possible, Rallee recommends you hire one or more service advisor assistants, employees who may not have as much of a service knowledge base as your primary service advisor, but instead can focus on the customer experience and helping the customer close the gap between having an issue with the boat and having that boat fixed and back on their trailer or dock.

Service advisors are skilled individuals, who balance an understanding of the service department, service scheduling, technical knowhow and customer experience. But many could use additional help, with the number of clients and service appointments a dealership has to handle. So while a service advisor can still write up repair orders, work with VIP customers and coordinate with the service manager, the service advisor’s assistant can handle the rest.

A service advisor’s assistant, Rallee says, could handle some of the following tasks:
• Answering the service department phone
• Being the go-to person for most customers
• Calling customers the day before their appointment to confirm they’re coming in (saving a headache for the rest of the department, if the customer isn’t coming in)
• Calling customers to schedule boat pickup
• Getting pre-authorization or authorization of work to be completed
• Assisting in sales of service products
• Entering customer information into the CRM (customer relationship management system)

Having a service advisor’s assistant will help the dealership by preventing burnout among the talented advisor staff, offering a better customer experience, and possibly giving the dealership someone to train up to the next service advisor position.

When customers have that go-to contact at your dealership that they can trust will take care of them, it builds up their trust with your entire dealership, getting them closer to becoming a customer for life.

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Help Your Customers by Helping Your Techs

Posted By Liz Keener, Monday, August 3, 2020

While the sales team has been cranking out boats all spring and summer, we all know your service team is just as important to your business.

As the old saying goes, “Sales sells the first boat; service sells the rest.” (And dealers in 2020 Continuous Certification have a great course coming out in October with Valerie Ziebron that will highlight that.)

But hiring in service, let alone your other departments, has been difficult for quite a while. It’s no easy task to find skilled technicians or talented service advisors.

However, if you can fill those positions, you can also help those gifted folks by including more support staff that will keep both your technicians and your service advisors on track.

In today’s blog, we’re going to tackle getting help for your service techs. Tomorrow, we’ll cover how assisting your service advisors will improve your customer experience as well.

When you look at your service department, technicians are hard-to-find, well-paid employees, so they should be doing what they were hired to do — working on boats — as much as possible. As Jordan Schoolmeester of Garage Composites says in his course, you should “Keep Your Surgeons in Surgery.”

Technicians should have assistance from support positions, such as porters, riggers, a service and parts associate, a service assistant, or some sort of similar position or positions, so they can keep working in the shop. Job descriptions for these positions are available for MRAA members here.

While Jordan compares technicians to surgeons, MRAA Lead Certification Consultant Bob McCann likes to use the visual of a bar to demonstrate how these positions can help speed up efficiency in your service department.

Let’s say you go to Bar A. It’s busy, four people deep up at the bar rail (likely not now due to COVID-19, but you get our drift). There are three bartenders working, but they’re still struggling to pump out drinks. Supplies are running low, so one has to run and get ice, another has to head into the kitchen to get clean glasses, the third is cutting up some limes, and no one is serving a drink. The customers are getting frustrated, and not many sales are being made.

Bar B is just as busy, four people deep at the bar, but those customers are actually moving, getting drinks and getting back to their friends. Bar B has only two bartenders, BUT they also have a barback. The barback is taking care of refilling the ice, bringing in clean glasses and cutting up the limes. The barback makes sure that the skilled bartenders have everything they need to keep pumping out drinks, which means cranking out sales.

So which bar does your service department look like? Are your technicians turning wrenches for a large majority of their shifts? Or are they running to get their own parts, moving boats in and out of their bays, looking for keys, and reassembling every part of the boat after mechanical repair?

Those types of jobs can be trained to be completed by more entry-level employees, rather than a skilled technician. In turn, that keeps your technician in the shop, the dealership turning boats in and out of service more efficiently, and your customers happy because of the faster turnaround.

This step of prioritizing your technician’s work by hiring support help, is likely to make a significant impact on your service efficiency, your bottom line and your customer experience.

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9 Ways to Keep in Touch with Your Customers Year-round

Posted By Liz Keener, Friday, July 31, 2020

With the way lakes, oceans, rivers, bays and other waterways are busy right now, it’s hard to imagine a time when the boats will be put away. But for many of us, there is a boating season, and then there’s winter.


And when winter comes, as a a consumer, it becomes frustrating to make those boat payments, knowing your boat is sitting, unused in your garage, alongside the house, or in storage. This is especially true for first-time boat buyers, and those who used their vacation money in 2020 to buy a boat rather than travel.


Reaching out to your customers in these moments of doubt are key touchpoints to assure that we don’t lose our customers.


So, as the season winds down (whenever that might come in 2020), it’s time to start thinking about your marketing, sales and outreach plans for the fall, winter and early spring. What can you be doing in the off-season, if you have one, to reach out to your customers and get them excited about the next boating season?


Here are nine ideas of how to contact your customers in the coming months:


1.     Personal outreach to your customers: Call, text, email, or video chat with your customers. Aim for a personal outreach at least once in the off-season to check-in with each of your customers, understand how you can set them up for success for next year’s boating season, and get them more excited about the boating lifestyle.

2.     Run a customer photo contest: Ask your customers to dig out their summer photos for a contest. Give away some sort of prize or prizes. This helps customers go back to their boating photos, reminisce over their awesome summer and remember how great it is to own a boat. Plus, other customers and prospective customers will see the excitement those families experienced over the summer. Certified Dealer Norfolk Marine hosted a photo contest for their customers this past spring that’s worth checking out.

3.     Share boating lifestyle videos: When the chill has set in, people love thinking about the warmth. So share boating lifestyle videos with your customers via social media, email and/or text. Videos can be found for free through Discover Boating. Your manufacturers also likely have some available, as do any pro athletes associated with your brands. And your customers may have some to share as well. As Lead Certification Consultant Bob McCann reminded us recently, Video is King, so use it!

4.     Host off-season events: While COVID-19 may prevent your dealership from hosting in-person, indoor events this off-season, consider hosting a few virtual events. Maybe it’s a class on winterizing, or oil changes. Or maybe it’s information about safety or a boat show preview. Get creative, host the event live, and record the event, giving you optimal use of one event.

5.     Show your customers what off-season looks like at your dealership: Customers might think you just close up shop the second they put their boat in storage, so show them what kind of activity goes on within your store after the boats are out of the water. Showcase what service is up to. Remind them that the parts and accessories department is open. Take a spin through storage, asking your customers if they can spot their boat.

6.     Tell your customers how you’re improving: Many dealers spend the off-season getting their operations prepped for the next season. Show your customers the work your team is putting in to improve their experience with your dealership. If you’re going to Dealer Week to learn about the customer experience, tell them. If you get Certified or are working on your Continuous Certification education, let them know you’re making those improvements for their benefit. If you’re attending a 20 Group or participating in any other type of education, share that. Make sure you take photos and video to capture your customer’s attention.

7.     Host an ice-out contest: Many of you on icy bodies of water may be already doing this, but if you’re not yet, consider adding an ice-out contest. Have your customers vote for when they think the ice will break for boating season and offer a prize for the winner. This will build up the excitement right before the season begins.

8.     Create a countdown: Pick a boating date to get excited about, whether it’s your area’s fishing opener, the first holiday of the season (Memorial Day or Victoria Day), or a date that customers are typically pulling their boat out of storage and create a countdown. Remind your customers how many days are left on a weekly basis.

9.     Host a sale: Just because people are no longer boating doesn’t mean they aren’t still thinking about boating parts and accessories, especially around the holidays and shortly before the season starts. Put a product or a group of products on sale, and tell your customers to stop by, so you can continue to build your relationship with them, and they can get more used to coming into the showroom.


You probably have a hundred or more other ideas of how to reach out to customers when they can’t be out on their boat, and you’re probably already doing a lot of outreach. (Please share these ideas in the comments, if you have some.) The important thing to remember is to keep those dreams of the boating lifestyle alive, even when the boat is locked up for the year.


We don’t want customers to fall into new hobbies or habits in the off-season that will take them away from boating, instead we want customers to get to a point where they can’t imagine not owning a boat. And we can help get them in that mindset.

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