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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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Your Answer to Customer Questions in 2020

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Today’s customers are finicky. Technology has given them seemingly endless paths to purchase. They pop up almost as imaginary prospects, clicking on our website, opting out of our cookies permissions, closing our lead forms, denying our chat functions, and never EVER requesting a brochure. We want to believe they are out there.

They’re on our competitors’ sites. They’re comparing and contrasting. Not looking for our expertise. “There are no quality leads out there anymore,” we muse. Quietly, they navigate more than 70 percent of the way to a purchase without us even knowing. Without even stepping foot in our brick-and-mortars.

Then they show up and they’re ready to buy. Behind the scenes, they are evaluating us – our dealership, our receptionist, our sales guy -- as much if not more than they are our product. They are harder to please than ever before, wondering how and why they know more about our products than we do. Asking detailed questions that only an engineer could answer. Then they drive away with that new boat and they go back to that technology to grade us and tell the world how we did. It’s a challenging reality out there.

But here’s the thing: While these boat buyers have more choices on where to spend their discretionary dollars than at any point in the history of our earth’s blue waters, they are choosing boating. They are choosing you. Your business. Your sales person. And your product lines. That’s a big deal.

Today, we can measure the massive impact that outdoor recreation has on our economy. And we know that boating is the No. 1 contributor to outdoor recreation.

Take a moment to pause and congratulate yourself because YOU DID THAT. You, the boat dealer. You’re responsible for the success we’re seeing. When consumers choose to go outdoors, they are spending more of their discretionary income on boating than on any other recreational pursuit. You are the face of this boating industry, and of our broader outdoor recreation industry. Take a moment to let that sink in and give yourself a pat on the back.

We have some work to do, however. Despite out significant success and the growth we’ve seen over the last decade, we are seeing fewer people entering the boating market, and we’re losing boaters at an unprecedented clip. Some of this is out of our control – people just have more options. But a large part of it can be influenced by us upping our game. We can deliver a better boating experience that today’s finicky customers will rave about, but the path there is not an easy one.

Over the last year, our team here at MRAA has envisioned a brighter future for our industry. We believe that, together, we can help boating capture more new boaters and turn them into lifelong boaters. A year ago, it was difficult for us to tell you, specifically, how we would deliver on that promise at our all-new Dealer Week event. Today, though, it’s crystal clear, and I want to extend you this one last invitation to join us there — gasp! Next week — and take advantage of all that it offers.

If you, like so many other dealers, want to solve the mystery of today’s customer, Dealer Week actually offers a course specifically geared toward helping you with that. It also offers around 30 other educational opportunities that help you become a better leader and manager and to help you run a more successful dealership. I believe the content and the business solutions found at Dealer Week are perfectly tailored to helping you prepare for all that 2020 has in store for you and your team, whatever that may be.

We don’t envision Dealer Week as an event we’d like you to attend. We envision it as the year’s must-attend solution for attracting more customers, drive more business, and run a more successful dealership. That’s the MRAA vision, through and through.

I hope you’ll join us there.

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Dealer to Dealer: November 2019

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, November 19, 2019
What is one big trend are you watching as you
begin to prepare for 2020?


"Pontoon Inventory levels.” - Chad Taylor, Taylor’s South Shore Marine

"Triple & quad center consoles” - Jim Dragseth, Whiticar Boat Works, Inc.

"Watching the alternative propulsion methods. GreenLine Yachts is building the only true Hybrid currently available in the US market. So we have jumped into this space to be on the leading edge of the next wave of boating. Moving away from fossil fuels. “ - J.R. Means III., Bayport Yachts

"We are watching for a trend in boat leasing.” - Bryan Schiffli, AMC Marine


What trends are you currently following? Tell us below in the comment section.

Tags:  continuous improvement  customer experience  dealer development  future-proofing  industry insight  marine industry  member spotlight 

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A Rewarding Experience For All

Posted By Allison Gruhn, Tuesday, November 19, 2019
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is the opportunity to connect our industry’s manufacturers, suppliers and service providers to the great work that our MRAA team does in fueling dealer success.

As a testament to the importance of that work, one dealer went out of his way last week to tell us “I’m so proud to be a member of the MRAA. It is very obvious that you are not only concerned for the industry, but for me as an individual. You don’t come to me asking for money, you come with solutions for my business and to make me better.”

One glance at one of our most recent posts on the Dealer Week Facebook page demonstrates that this is not just one person’s sentiment. Dealers rave about their excitement to attend and participate in the most visible solutions-providing service we provide on a yearly basis: MRAA’s annual conference.

But here’s the thing: None of our team’s work would be possible without the support of our partners — the manufacturers, suppliers and service provider members, and the exhibitors and sponsors who invest in our annual conference. They make the literal world-class education possible at Dealer Week, in our Certification program, and throughout the many products and services our team creates and offers all year long.

The rebranding and relaunch of our annual conference and expo has given us the ability to connect with our partners on a much deeper level. At this year’s Dealer Week, we’re thrilled to welcome 106 exhibitors and sponsors, some 60-plus of whom are current MRAA Partner Members, which means they support MRAA’s tools, resources and educational programs on a year-round basis. They invest in MRAA Membership to help our dealer members grow and find greater success.

Within the Dealer Week Expo Hall, you’ll find MRAA partners who are ready to help you tackle the issues you are facing, and to offer tools and resources to help you reach for new opportunities. It’s rewarding for me to help them deliver on their business goals, but it’s even more rewarding knowing that their investment fuels the positive impact MRAA can have on its members, the entire dealer community and ultimately, today’s boaters.

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  Dealer Week  marine industry  MRAA member  partnership  relationships 

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Dealer to Dealer: October 2019

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, October 22, 2019
What is the most impactful lesson you learned about consumers during this selling season?

"Consumers are more than ever confused about what a boat costs. Some manufacturers post a (too low) retail selling prices then hide the additional fees which make the customer irate in the dealership. Bottom line dealerships with less than 5% net margin are not worth owning." - Jim Sabia, Top Notch Marine

"Even our higher end $150-200K boat customer does not like a $600-700 50HR service bill." - Greg Silver, Water Sports Central

"They want the lowest price, they DO NOT want the "sly or sneaky Sales Person experience" They want more tossed into the deal like bumpers, ropes, jackets, storage, etc." - Brandon Mick, Indian Lake Marina, Inc.

"Today’s consumers have a vast array of tools to shop. Now more than ever, you have a very small window of opportunity when a buyer is knocking at the door. Often times a consumer will “overthink”, or find other deals if it drags out to long, so always be closing, but tactfully and without appearing to pushy or desperate. Building a connection or relationship with the consumer is still your best ally." - Mike Osmanski, South Bay Marina

“...the selling season you really find out how well systems you've put in place are working. Customers, at least most of them, prove time and again just how patient they can be. As long as the lines of communication are open and they are kept abreast of where their boat is in the process, most of our customers can be very easy to get along with.

People understand that a boat purchase is not like a car purchase and spot deliveries rarely happen, so there is typically a few days of lag time between when a customer agrees to purchase their new boat and the time they are able to take delivery.

Since a boat purchase is usually something fun versus a necessity, customers in our industry tend to be much more relaxed about the process. Of course, they are anxious to get on the lake in their new ride, and we are just as anxious to get them there, but I feel they give us a lot more latitude than they do with other purchases where timelines are concerned. And the more experienced the boater, the more latitude they seem to offer.

The trick is not taking advantage of this attitude, and keeping the customer informed and excited throughout the process.” - Rob Poindexter, Blackbeard Marine

"We have learned that our users want a better online/digital experience. Everything from their first touch points on social media and YouTube to our website personalization experience. Our customers are affluent and have very little time. We need to help them shop for their boats, service their boats and use their free time in a much more efficient manner. Our Online Boat Shows are a testament to our dedication to changing the way our customer shops to fit their ever changing lifestyle and their needs.” - Abbey Heimensen, MarineMax

"Time is becoming more and more important to them.  Seeing this out weighing cost more often. Has become part of their value calculus." - Joe Lewis, Mount Dora Boating Center


What lesson did you learn? Tell us below in the comment section!

Tags:  arine industry  continuous improvement  ealer development  ealer to dealer  ember spotlight  rowth 

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Prepare for the Next Recession – Online and In-Person

Posted By Mike Davin, Tuesday, September 24, 2019
We’re often asked whether we have tools to help dealers survive the next recession. The answer is “yes.”

It's impossible to know when the next recession will arrive; however, as anyone who experienced the last downturn will attest, you'd be crazy not to be prepared when it does.

To help with that process, MRAA has a couple of tools available from Spader Business Management, one that is available online now, and one that will be hosted at Dealer Week in Tampa, Dec. 8-11.

The first is John Spader’s online course “Become Bulletproof for the Next Recession,” which is available via MRAATraining.com through February of 2020.

As John Spader notes in his description of the course, if your dealership survived the last recession, you may feel ready for the next one. But feeling ready isn’t the same thing as being ready. The course walks dealers through some tough questions like, “Have you and your business really gotten better since the last recession or have you just been riding the rising tide?”

The course explores what will be different about the next soft market compared to the last one, what will be the same, and walks dealers through assessments to determine the strength of their businesses. It also provides concrete benchmarks to measure your staying power and adaptability, whether you have the right people in the right seats, how well you’re steering the bus, and the speed with which you can change direction.

The course is available for purchase or for free with a Silver or Gold MRAA membership.

The second opportunity comes from David Spader, who will present “The Agile Dealership: Confidently Responding to Change & the Unknown” at MRAA’s Dealer Week.

The two-hour workshop is designed to help marine dealers identify, monitor, and respond to the key issues that their businesses are facing now and in the future. The workshop will walk through the characteristics of an agile leader, the six concerns employees have during change, key people indicators, key economic indicators, and share a dealership case study.

The course will cap off The Dealership Pathway at the Dealer Week. Early registration for Dealer Week runs through Sept. 30.

Tags:  Annual conference  best practices  continuous improvement  dealer development  future  industry insight  marine industry  MRAA member  resources 

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Dealer to Dealer: September 2019

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, September 11, 2019
How have you made purchasing decisions (for the next model year) at recent dealer meetings based on your current inventory levels?

I have brought in 2020 inventory, so that combined with my existing 2019 inventory, it will match my inventory level that I had last year heading into Q4. The primary difference being, last year at this time, I had less leftover 2018 inventory, where as this year roughly 30% of my inventory is MY 2019. Ultimately, my dealer meeting orders are down YOY. – Quinn Bellamy, Silver Lake Marine

We are backing are orders off by 20%. To much inventory and don’t think It will be a problem to find next year. – Ken Toby, Marine Sales Kentuckian

There has been lots of talk of 30% more inventory in the field than last year and I feel that it has a lot of people scared and dumping inventory at low margins.  The explanation in my opinion is two factors.  The obvious one is bad weather for the first part of the year.  The second is not as clear to many dealers and you guys maybe have a better handle on this and can shed some light.  Many dealers I talk with or sell against will often say sometime in May that they are sold out of new boats and can’t get orders fulfilled, etc.  This has gone on for years.  The often heard (and misguided) response to that is, “ that’s a good problem to have!”.  The fact is that it is not at all a good problem, it is poor planning plain and simple.  So now that the economy and consumers have proven over the past 7 years that things are good, dealers have ordered to accommodate demand.  And to do this you need to have stock over the summer when people are using and buying boats.  Just because 2020’s are now on our lots does not mean that you should be clear of all 2019 models.  It takes time to build inventory so if you were to be sold out in June and 2020s start slowly rolling in to your dealership in July, you will not have a full stock until winter.  The “overstock” of inventory is merely a correction of past “understocking” combined with a later start to the selling season.  No need to panic!  Just my .02. – Stuart Litjens, Boulder Boats

Yes, we did make ordering decisions based upon current inventory levels and the compressed selling season we experienced in 2019. The year began with political and economic news that, to some extent, hindered very early-season boat sales. We went into a dark, wet, cold, long spring before boaters saw any real sunshine around July 1. – Tighe Curran, Pier 33

After reviewing our current inventory we have made a decision to cut back on the initial 2020 orders. There are many dealers that have more inventory than previous years. This means there will be a glut of left over inventory and unfortunately dealers are willing to "blow out" their product below normal pricing. Also in the last few months it seems like the retail sales have slowed a little. Also election year is next year and I have seen for the last 45 years the boat sales slow up every four years just before the elections because of the uncertainty but after the elections business as usual.  We will be cautious for the next 12 months but by no means cut back on our normal inventory levels. You can't sell it if you don't have it! – Jim Wiborg, Bob Hewes Boats

Very carefully, still have ‘18s in stock. – Von Skinner, Cozy Cove Marina

Manufacturers have been forcing us to take on more, and in turn put our store into a volatile market. Our area/competition has high inventory levels for this time of year, and if the economy turns we will all be in trouble. While reps share our concerns, they can’t do as much as they could in the past. The continued rising price of new boats, and the cost of warranty to deliver a product in confidence to the consumer is higher. We are now in a situation where it requires more employees just to deliver on the same principles we have in the past, because of poor quality control from the factory. We have scaled back on ordering 2020 product because of this. – Anonymous

The amount of purchasing I'm doing is based on what has turned. I have 4 lines. [Our] purchasing decisions were made based on the idea that it will be a flat or slightly down year – Joe Hoffmaster, Hoffmaster’s Marina

We have, and in most cases we’re anticipating an increase. We doubled the order for one of our best-selling brands, from 40 units in 2019 to 80 units in 2020. – Roger Moore, Nautical Ventures


How have you made your purchasing decisions for next model year? Tell us below in the comment section!

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  growth  marine industry  member spotlight 

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MRAA Hits the Road

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The past few weeks have been busy for dealers like you. Just as you’re seeing the last blast of summer sales, you’re also jumping on planes or driving across the country to visit your reps and peers at manufacturer dealer meetings. And we have been, too!

In the past month, members of the MRAA team have visited meetings for Chris-Craft, Lowe, Bennington, Tiara, Alumacraft, Barletta and Chaparral. And we have more coming soon! We’re spreading the news about Dealer Week, MRAA membership and the Marine Industry Certified Dealership program with the goal of offering you solutions to improve your business and fuel your growth. We’re also sharing information about the Dealer Week Early Bird discount, which ends Sept. 30, and passing along a Certification bundle that allows you to bundle Bronze membership with Certification to take advantage of valuable resources and benefits while completing the Certification program.

If you missed us at your meeting, or if you want more information on anything MRAA has to offer, Nikki can help. Reach Member Development Manager Nikki Duffney at 763-333-2420 or at nikki@mraa.com for the full scoop.

Tags:  Annual conference  certification  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer education  growth  leadership  marine industry  MICD  MRAA member  networking 

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Dealer to Dealer: August 2019

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, August 7, 2019
As we push toward the end of the prime selling season, what is the one goal you want to accomplish by the end of the year?

"Figure out why our new boat sales are lacking behind 2018 when every other aspect of our business are well ahead." - Joe Lewis, Mount Dora Boating Center

"The one goal I’d like to accomplish would be to reclaim my sanity. Somewhere between Memorial Day and Labor day, all normal sanity was sucked out of my mind. Hopeful some cooler days and smooth sounds will restore my fried brain cells." - David deAndrade, White Lake Marine

"Top of my list is to reduce the inventory. Our inventory is high for this time of year and the manufacturers are asking for new 2020 orders to either met or exceed last year's orders. Being in this business for over 40 years we know that every election year the business tapers off towards election time. But after the elections, whether a Republican or Democrat is elected, there is business as usual. So we will adjust our inventory accordingly in 2020.  

Also we are training in house for new technicians. We are using our older tech's to train the younger new tech's and compensating the older tech's for their training." - Jim Wiborg, Bob Hewes Boats

"Be billing 80% of paid trades payroll hours." - Jim Dragseth, Whiticar Boat Yard

"We’ve outgrown our current location, both in size and scope. Our goal is to secure a bigger, deep water location that will allow us to inventory more boats, expand our service operations, accommodate more employees, add a full-service marina component, and more. Ideally we would migrate to the new location during 2020." - Roger Moore, Nautical Ventures

"We need to sell through our overstocked and aged inventory. There's also a challenging time ahead so far as inventory planning and management goes. Our primary goal is to identify when and where to shift our ordering and delivery dates, as well as volume of inbound orders." - Greg Knop, Family Boating Center


What do you want to accomplish in the upcoming months? Tell us below in the comment section!

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  growth  marine industry  member spotlight 

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Continuous Certification: It’s Like Learning How to Swim

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Last week, MRAA Lead Certification Consultant, Bob McCann, used the analogy of learning how to swim during our MICD Certification consultant training.

You can imagine it... You’re a kid in a pool. A trusted adult is standing a few feet away and motions you to swim toward them. At the last second they take a step back. What?! You were almost to the finish line and they made a step backwards that challenged you to go farther, to do more.

The MICD Continuous Certification curriculum is kind of like that. Each quarter offers new content that is designed to challenge the way you run your business. We want to make you think.

In Q1, Jim Million takes a step back and provides information on how you can work toward a coaching and mentoring culture that will lead to a more effective workplace.

Q2 addresses the productivity of your leadership team. Ty Bello takes a step back and identifies the areas that may be blocking you from being productive.

Liz Walz and a panel of experts take a step back and help you reconsider how you allocate your staff’s time and talent in sales, marketing and customer service and how your departments collaborate to grab the attention of prospects and customers in Q3.

And if you have caught on, you would guess that Q4 is sure to push you further and challenge the way you run your business in order to bring greater success, as Theresa Syer shows you how to understand and influence your customer’s Key Emotional Drivers.

We hold our Certified dealers to a high standard. They have proven that they have the desire to be the best and be a dealership that continues to strive to be better. So we will continue to take a step back and challenge you to swim.

Tags:  boating industry  continuous improvement  continuous process  dealer development  growth  marine industry  MICD 

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A Peek Behind the Curtain

Posted By Nikki Duffney, Thursday, July 25, 2019
Do you know about the people who show up every day to do work on your behalf – advocating for the marine industry and the talented people who work the front lines? We are your marine trades associations and collectively we are the National Marine Trades Council.

Last week, around 30 marine trades association professionals, gathered in Anacortes, Washington to continue to push the industry forward with our pooled expertise. We touched on important topics like workforce & talent management, sharing resources to support our members, continuing education and association best practices. We welcomed back Canadian associations to the council this year, which was a great addition. Having insight from the community with the shortest boating season in North America was insightful.

Building a community of trusted friends that understand the challenges and rewards that come out of your daily activity is rich with benefits. We share similar pains, we celebrate aligned victories and we keep showing up to support each other to achieve the best results we can.

Who is your community? Is it your 20 Group, local area dealers, MRAA members or your local MTA members… whoever you build community with, I encourage you to show up and share your expertise with others. You never know when you might be offered a nugget of valuable information in casual conversation that could change the way you operate.

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer focused  discussions  marine industry  networking  NMTA  relationships  workforce issues 

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