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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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Choose the Platinum Rule Over the Golden Rule

Posted By Liz Keener, Thursday, July 30, 2020

We’ve all heard the Golden Rule and probably had it engrained into us at a young age. The Golden Rule is to treat others like you would want to be treated.


While the Golden Rule is a great start, we should be living by the Platinum Rule, which is to treat others as they would like to be treated.


Dealers who were enrolled in the 2019 Continuous Certification Curriculum should remember the Platinum Rule from Jim Million’s course “Develop Your Dealership’s Workforce Outside In.” In that course, Jim discussed how we can use the Platinum Rule in coaching and mentoring our team.


But we can also talk about the Platinum Rule when it comes to your customers, treating each individual as they would like to be treated.


How would this look within your dealership? Here are just a few examples:


  •  When collecting customer information, ask the customer how they want to be contacted. Ask them if they prefer to communicate via phone, email, text and/or video. If you have them choose the option or options that work best, they’ll better appreciate the outreach and will be more likely to respond.
  • Going back to the blog on fixing customer’s issues, you want to work with each customer to come up with a solution, if they have a complaint. For example, if a customer’s boat gets stuck in the shop for an extra week, you may think you have to go over the top to make them happy, but maybe you just need to connect them with a rental boat for the weekend to keep their loyalty. You won’t know unless you ask.
  • When a customer has a family, especially when that family is involved in the purchase and delivery, during follow-up and subsequent visits, the customer will likely want you to ask about their whole family and how the family is enjoying the boating lifestyle, not just themselves.


There are numerous ways to treat people like they would like to be treated, but you have to ask and take notes. Of course, if you don’t know how people want to be treated, you can start with the Golden Rule and treat them as you’d like to be treated. But as you get to know the customer and build a relationship with them, take notes of their needs and wants. Record those in your customer relationship management (CRM) system and reference those notes every time you call or text your customer or see them in person.


Again, the goal is to serve them at the level at which they’ll want to return to your dealership and shop nowhere else for their boats and boating accessories.

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If Something Has Gone Wrong for Your Customer, Fix it ASAP

Posted By Liz Keener, Wednesday, July 29, 2020

When discussing following up with recent buyers, we’ve heard some dealer express reluctance. What if the customer is truly unhappy? What if the issue is something with the boat that you can’t fix yourself quickly? What if the customer’s boat needs to come back to service, and you’re already overbooked?

First, that’s no reason to not follow-up with your customers. The fear of the unknown is a poor excuse for not offering the levels of customer experience that your customers expect.

Second, follow-up helps you discover those issues that arise and address them as they come.

Sometimes the feedback may be something small, such as, “I thought I purchased four lifejackets, but when I got home, there were only three in the boat.” Other times, it will be something much bigger, as in, “After the second time out with the boat, the dang thing won’t even start.”

But without asking, you’ll never know where these issues are surfacing.

And, even better, by asking, you get the opportunity to fix the issue. Data from the Technical Assistance Research Programs (TARP) and others shows that by fixing a customer’s issue, you can actually build more loyalty than you can from just the sale.

Here’s some of that data from TARP:

  • Ninety-five percent of customers with minor complaints ($1-$5 losses) will buy from you again, if you solve their complaint quickly. Of those with major complaints (over $100 losses), 82 percent will buy from you again if you solve their complaint quickly.
  • On the flip side, if their complaints aren’t resolved, only 46 percent of customers with minor issues will return, while only 19 percent with major complaints will come back.
  • And, again, don’t think that not asking for feedback helps. Of those who are unhappy with minor issues, who don’t actually share their complaint, only 37 percent will return to your business. Those with major issues who don’t complain will only return 9 percent of the time.
  • And those non-complainers will tell 9-10 other people about their bad experience.

So, what can you do to serve your customers? In her course, “Turn Upset Customers into Loyal Ones” on, Valerie Ziebron shares the Five Keys to Turn Upset Customers into Dealership Advocates.

They are:

1.     Recognize basic expectations: Your customers have expectations of trust, quality, convenience, personalized service and value when they work with a dealership, so offer them those things.

2.     Fix the customer and the issue: You have to fix the customer, meaning restore the trust with them, first. You have to listen. You cannot assume that by fixing the issue, fixing the boat, that they will be happy.

3.     Create a partnership: As Valerie explains, “Customers who feel they participated in solving the issue are more satisfied with the solution.” As dealers, you need your customers to help you diagnose a problem (when, how often, under what conditions), so informing them that they’re part of the solution will empower them to help you, so you can ultimately fix their issue.

4.     Be open and fair: Most customers will accept honest mistakes if you own up to them, apologize and correct the mistake. Show the customers with a visual, if you can.

5.     Have a plan for recovery: In this session, Valerie talks about service recovery, but the same could be said for sales. Everyone on the team should be trained in conflict resolution and the dealership’s process for handling upset customers.

Of course, all situations can’t be fixed quickly. Right now, getting certain parts is hard, and you’re already extremely busy trying to get work done this summer. Just be honest and transparent with your customer and offer them the best solution you can at the time, while setting expectations for when the final resolution will come.

Remember, the goal of improving the customer experience at your dealership is to show your customers that you’re their friend and guide in their boating lifestyle. When a customer does come to you with a complaint, take a step back and think how you’d want to be treated in that same situation, or how you would treat your friend or neighbor if you sold a boat to them, and they had the same issue.

The data shows that by helping that customer, fixing their issue and restoring their trust, you can flip the unhappy customer to a raving, loyal fan.

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New Data: First-Time Boat Buyers are Here, but We Need to Keep Them

Posted By Liz Keener, Tuesday, July 28, 2020

We’ve heard anecdotally over the past few months that many of those customers who have purchased boats this year are first-time buyers. And new data is showing that is, in fact, the case. More than one-third of those who have purchased new and pre-owned powerboats this year are first-time boat buyers, Info-Link has confirmed.


The thought is that as people are still living socially-distanced lifestyles without vacations, a boat is that getaway we all need, a place to get out on the water, away from others, remove the mask and watch something other than the TV, as highlighted by this recent Associated Press article.


While first-time boat buyers are coming in at a higher clip than they have been since about 2014, the concern still lies that we may lose those boaters going forward, as their regular activities, lifestyles and vacations return. Looking at the Info-Link First-Time Boat Buyer purchasing chart, you’ll see that the industry averages about one-third of sales to first-time boat buyers.


But the issue is in the second chart here. When we look at the five-year attrition rate — how many buyers remain in the sport within five years of buying at boat —we’re losing 42 percent of first-time boat buyers before they hit that milestone. Forty-two percent! So what good is it bringing in new buyers, if we’re not going to keep them? All we’re doing is using our funnel to refill a bucket that has a big hole in the bottom of it.



That’s why we all need to be focused on the customer experience, as we have been with Operation: Keep Your Customers Boating. This isn’t a new problem — it’s something NMMA, Discover Boating, MRAA, Info-Link and others — have been discussing for at least the past few years, but it’s an issue that has really been brought to the forefront by the number of sales that have occurred in 2020.


If we want to build on the momentum we’ve built this year, we have to help our customers by showing them the boating lifestyle is THE lifestyle they want to be a part of, and a boat is something their family just can’t part with. If you look back at the Operation: Keep Your Customers webpage, you’ll see there are a variety of ideas to drive a positive customer experience, and the list of things to do may seem long, but the data shows that effort pays off. Once you get the customer to buy a second boat from you, the five-year attrition rate shortens to 24 percent, then down to 18 percent and 12 percent as they continue to buy, for an average of 19 percent for boats two through four.


As Jack Ellis, managing director at Info-Link shared, “One certainly can’t expect a 19 percent attrition rate for FTBBs (first-time boat buyers), but the information on this graphic suggests that it’s perfectly reasonable to think we could improve the attrition rate a bit. There are currently about 400,000 FTBBs each year, so if we could improve retention by just 5 percent, this translates to another 20,000 people we could keep in boating each year, rather than have them run off to a different activity.”


Converting those first-time boat buyers into second-time boat buyers is the key to plugging that hole in our sales bucket. Let’s, as individual businesses and as an industry, do what we can to fill that hole by improving our customer experience.

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Why F&I is Critical to the Customer Experience

Posted By Maxwell Haning , Monday, July 27, 2020

The F&I office is a second thought at many dealerships. If it exists at all, it primarily functions as a lending arm or paperwork administrator for the sales department. This approach not only loses your dealership significant amounts of money, it also greatly impacts your customer’s satisfaction with the sales process.

Every minute that a customer must sit in chair instead of driving off with their new boat decreases their overall satisfaction with your dealership. Your customer is now used to buying things off Amazon and having it delivered the next day. They get their movies and shows on Netflix instantly. Customers now expect an efficient and timely delivery of their goods and will seek out those companies that can deliver that to them, while avoiding those who cannot.


Nowhere in the sales process is inefficiency more apparent than in the F&I office. In fact, some dealers have no dedicated F&I process in place at all. Without a process, financing often must be secured externally, and consumer products that would otherwise be presented go overlooked. This creates more work for your customer and deprives them of additional services and products that may be of benefit to them. It also removes additional revenue opportunities from your dealership and opens you up to a whole slew of compliance issues.

By having a dedicated F&I office or partnering with a third party to provide the service remotely, you mitigate these issues while also greatly increasing customer satisfaction. Now instead of your customer having to pass information between the dealership and the bank, your dealership can quickly secure a lender while your customer is still working with sales, picking out the color of their seats. By the time the customer has made their purchasing decision, the paperwork is ready to go, and the F&I manager can introduce themselves and present the customer with their terms. This also allows a quick break for your salesperson so that they may print or procure any additional items for the customer, while the customer is engaged with F&I. This handoff also ensures that when the customer returns for delivery, they already know your F&I manager and are more comfortable during the delivery process.


Upon returning for delivery, your dedicated F&I manager has overseen the titling and financing paperwork, allowing your salesperson more time to look over the unit and ensure it meets the customer’s expectations. This separation of tasks also decreases the chances that a mistake is made on the paperwork or with the unit. Having an extra set of eyes on closing documents adds a level of redundancy that can save you — and your customer — major headaches. Since your customer is already familiar with your finance manager, sales can now do a complete hand-off and return to focusing on their duties.

Finance now has the responsibility to quickly and accurately present the customer with his or her closing documents and ancillary services. These documents need to be printed ahead of time and presented in a clear and concise way, along with a menu to clearly and quickly show additional services that are of value to the customer. Bringing additional value to your customer is extremely important during the delivery process, as it increases long-term satisfaction with your dealership and leads to more repeat customers.


Some of the products that build additional value are service contracts, appearance protection, pre-paid maintenance, GAP or trailer tire and wheel coverage. It is important to know these products intimately and only present ones that will have an added value to your customer. For instance, if a customer is buying a boat, but will keep it in a slip and not on a trailer, then you should exclude tire and wheel protection from your presentation. The inverse of that would be someone who drives 30 minutes to the lake every day. They may have a spare tire for their trailer, but since a normal car jack should not be used on a trailer, they have no way to install it. Most customers — especially first-time boat owners — do not know this. By bringing it to their attention and offering them a solution, you increase their initial satisfaction while also ensuring continued satisfaction down the road.

Another example of this is with service contracts and appearance protection. The customer expects that the new boat that you just sold them will continue to look new and operate without issue. However, things happen and that is not always the case. When they do, the customer will always reach out to the dealership to make things right. Having to explain to your customer why they now need to spend sometimes thousands more on a boat that they already spent so much on usually leaves your customer less than thrilled. Instead, if you had offered them a way to cover these items when they purchased the boat, and allowed them to wrap those payments into their financing, you could quickly fix the issues at no additional cost to your customer. Getting your customer quickly back on the water for no perceived cost greatly increases their satisfaction and goodwill towards your dealership. It also ensures they return to you for their services. This keeps those service dollars in-house and allows the customer to look at that shiny new boat that you have on the showroom floor.

Why F&I

Having dedicated F&I can greatly affect your customer’s buying process and ultimately how they perceive your dealership. With that said, it is not enough to just have an office – it is also essential that your processes and products are at a level of quality that your customers deserve.

This is a guest blog written by Maxwell Haning of Innovative Dealer Services, Inc., a partner member of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.

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Make Your Customer’s Boating Experience Better with Accessories

Posted By Liz Keener, Friday, July 24, 2020

It’s late July, and while boats may still be selling for you in what appears to be a record-setting season for the industry, we can all see the traditional slowdown coming. And, as we’ve heard, some of you are completely out of boats right now.


So how do you continue to build revenue for your business and continue to deliver an excellent customer experience? Accessory sales!


By now, your winter, spring and early summer buyers are fully settled into their boating lifestyle. They’ve become accustomed to what they like about boating and have started to learn to overcome anything they don’t like (backing up a trailer, anyone?).


If they weren’t thinking about accessories when they first purchased their boat, maybe they are now. They might be thinking that they’ve brought their boating experience to a 10 out of 10, but now they want to pump up the volume and bring it to an 11.


But many of them don’t know where to start. So this presents another opportunity for you to be the expert, the guide, the friend, who helps the customer improve upon their already fantastic boating experience.


So how can you promote the accessories that you sell to improve their boating lifestyle?


  • Well, you can’t deliver what they need without talking to them, so let’s note another great reason to have a follow-up plan.
  • As you’re making follow-up calls and sending follow-up text messages, ask the boater what activities they’ve been participating in and what they’re interested in doing that they haven’t tried.
  • Push out an email blast to your full database to showcase new, popular, sale, clearance and other products.  
  • Use your social media to highlight your customers using accessories. Describe which products(s) the customer is using, how they’re using the product and remind your customers that you sell it.
  • Create a video walkthrough of your Pro Shop, focusing on the most popular, visual products on the floor.


What types of accessories might a customer be interested in as they enter the back half of the season?


1.   Towables: Maybe they’ve been cruising all summer, but their kids are begging for a towable. Showcase the variety that you carry.


2.     Wakeboards, wakesurf boards, skis and accessories: Just like with towables, your new boat buyers may be out on the water, seeing more and more people participating in these sports. Encourage them to buy their first board, or upgrade what they already have.


3.     Fishing equipment: If you’re in a fishing-heavy location, show off your fishing rods, reels and accessories and encourage your customers to upgrade from the equipment they’ve been hanging onto for the past decade. Make sure you’re offering fishing advice, too. Fishing strategies evolve as the seasons progress, and fishing in late summer and into the fall is definitely different than fishing in the spring. Make sure they’re staying on the fish by giving them some much needed-tips or advice or even the recommendation of a guide.


4.     Electronics: Now that they’ve gotten out on the boat and have experienced driving it, your boat buyers may want to enhance their lifestyle by adding a GPS, a fish finder, a stereo system or some other electronics.


5.     Sun-safe products: We’ve all seen a photo or two of a bad sunburn this summer (or have had one ourselves). Remind customers that you sell sunscreen, tanning lotion, SPF shirts and hats.


6.     Coolers: If it has been particularly hot in your area, tell customers which coolers you carry and the benefit to using those coolers on their boat versus a cheap cooler they can buy elsewhere.


7.     Swimming accessories: If your boaters are anchoring out and going for a dip, they may want to bring along a swim mat, floats, goggles, or snorkels for themselves and their passengers. Also, they might need a new swimsuit after too many Instagram photos in the same one.


8.     Life vests: If you didn’t convince your customers to get new life vests when they purchased their boat, remind them again of the different, lightweight and comfortable options you have in stock (if you do still have them in stock), and remind them to have life vests for everyone on board!


9.     Boat covers: Again, maybe your buyer didn’t want to pony up the money to buy a boat cover with their initial purchase, but now they may be considering the longevity of their boat. Encourage them to protect their investment with a boat cover.


There are many other accessories, or parts, that your customers could be interested in, as they become more comfortable with their boat and their boating activities. Take a walk around your Pro Shop and your parts department and make sure you’re marketing what you have.


Again, if done right, sharing information with customers about how to improve their boating lifestyle will position your dealership as an expert, guide and friend. And it will drive traffic and revenue back into your dealership, even if you’re out of boats.

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Make the Commitment to Your Customers

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, July 23, 2020

In any business, it’s difficult to ascertain just what it is that our customers want and need. In a discretionary income business like boat sales, it’s even more difficult. And when you add in the technology that makes shopping from home a breeze, well, it can feel downright impossible.


There are, however, a few key fundamentals that customers expect from your business, and all of them can be found in MRAA’s Marine Industry Consumer Commitment, a one-page pledge created as part of the Grow Boating program at its inception. Drafted by both dealers and manufacturers, the Consumer Commitment is a staple of the Dealership Certification program and is a requirement to be publicly posted both in-store and online at Certified Dealerships.


If you’re looking for what customers expect of you, the Consumer Commitment is a great place to start.


It outlines 18 key deliverables your dealership and your team should ensure are present at all times. Broken down into sales, service and operations, this document could be a great guide for your business to start with. In fact, I would suggest it’s really the foundation of any great dealership.


A few of the key elements of this include items like:

  • A written disclosure of all details associated with a purchase.
  • An explanation of the proper usage and operation of products.
  • Products properly prepared, inspected and tested before delivery.
  • An itemized list of all service charges with thorough explanation.
  • Timely notice of changes in service delivery time if delays are experienced during repair.
  • Inspection of any replaced/damaged components upon presentation of invoice or work order.
  • Fair, open and honest treatment without discrimination.
  • Privacy and confidentiality of customer records.


There’s nothing about this Consumer Commitment that’s outside of what you would expect, and it’s designed that way. These are the basic fundamentals of running a dealership, but the power in this commitment is your pledge to make it happen.


If you want to demonstrate to your customers that they can expect a higher standard of professionalism when working with your business, Dealership Certification’s Consumer Commitment is the place to start.

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Build Your Customer Experience Strategy

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Wednesday, July 22, 2020

All this talk about the customer experience feels great. We can all nod, smile and agree that the steps we’ve shared over the last few weeks are great tactics for delivering for our customers. But how do you pull it all together in a customer experience strategy?


This is exactly where comes into play. is an online educational portal where you and your team can access well over 100 courses on just about every topic in marine dealership management, including, of course, the customer experience. It’s a good time to note here that some of the courses I outline below are FREE for anyone to access, while others can be accessed at no charge if you are an MRAA Silver Member or Gold Member. If you are not a Silver or Gold member, you can purchase courses a la carte.


To build your strategy on the customer experience, here are a few key courses I’d recommend you take a look at:


The cornerstones of our customer experience content include two courses by renowned expert Theresa Syer: Make Customer Service Your Competitive Advantage and a workshop called Supercharge Your Customer Experience. These courses will help you really think about how to focus you energies on delivering a powerful, rewarding customer experience. They are great for your team to watch together and to inspire the team to build customer-focused steps into all of your processes.


Make Customer Service Your Competitive Advantage promises to deliver a clear understanding the difference between good service and experiential service, fresh insights and techniques to provide a more emotional approach to customer engagement, and tips on how to make your customers feel valued and appreciated. In Supercharge Your Customer Experience, which was recorded at the 2019 Dealer Week, you will learn how to improve further upon the customer experience, with insights on defining the customers’ emotional motivators (what drives them to buy), identifying key emotional drivers that can shift conversations in your direction, and understanding the consistent actions required to elicit a positive emotional response from your customers. Any strategy on customer experience should start with these courses as the foundation.


Any great customer experience must begin in the sales process. MRAA’s course Buyer Motivation: The Key to Building Value offers incredible sales insights, but most importantly it has been designed to help dealers respond to changes in customer behavior and ultimately close more deals. It teaches sales team members how to customize sales presentations to buying motivation and will help any dealership drive more business at a higher profit while increasing customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. This course is free for anyone to take at and is made available by MRAA’s Dealership Certification Program.


Another set of free courses that will help you set the tone for a world-class customer experience is MRAA’s Grow Your Business With First-Time Boat Buyers three-part series. There’s no need to even login or visit a different website with these courses, and these courses will help you understand and guide first-time boat shoppers and sell to first-time buyer motivations, while providing you with a bunch of tools that will help you convert first-time shoppers into buyers.


While those courses offer great foundational concepts to build a customer experience strategy around, others found at can help you create solid tactics for enhancing that strategy:


At the MRAA, we seek to provide resources that you and your dealership need to help you make decisions and run your business with confidence. We know the challenges you face in adjusting your business to meet changing customer demands. That’s why we create powerful resources like those above, but please know that’s not all we have to offer you.


The MRAA runs the marine industry’s only program focused on helping dealers deliver a world-class customer experience: Dealership Certification. Not only can our expert consultants help you put the processes in place to ensure a great customer experience, but the continuing education that is built exclusively for Certified Dealers helps you and your team stay up to speed on the latest methods for developing a competitive advantage through the customer experience. These include two in-depth courses by Theresa Syer on building a customer experience strategy; a course titled Take Your Dealership From Good to Great with CRM, by Sam Dantzler; Align Your Dealership with Today’s Customer, with MRAA’s Liz Walz; and more. These courses are packed with great insights, downloadable resources and dealer discussions.


If you’re not ready to get Certified just yet, each year, MRAA’s Dealer Week conference and expo provides the latest insights, trends and strategies your business needs to thrive in any market conditions. This year, with all of the chaos in the marketplace and the uncertainty that plagued the economy, you can’t afford to miss Dealer Week. As the industry’s only dealer-focused event, it’s your one opportunity to access the leading experts, the top industry partners and like-minded dealers who are all vested in your success.


Finally, if there’s a resource you need or are looking for, please reach out and let us know. If we don’t have it for you already, we’ll help you find it.

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Arm Your Customers with the Resources They Need

Posted By Liz Keener, Tuesday, July 21, 2020

To those of us who have been boating for decades, operation of a boat may come easy, and knowledge of boating etiquette and laws are common knowledge. But the same is not the case for the first-time boat buyers you’ve sold to this year.


In fact, boating can be downright scary and intimidating to the amateur or novice. There are a lot of complexities: how to trailer the boat, how to launch from a ramp, how to drive the boat, how to use all the features of the boat, how to navigate the waterways, how to pull into a dock. I could go on and on with a list of things that new buyers are scared of and need to be trained on.


Last week, we talked about the importance of the demo at delivery. But, we should also be arming our customers with additional resources and information.


The great thing is that many of these resources already exist. You just have to curate the ones that work for your area and your customers. Or, you can make a few of your own to really personalize the message.


Here are several places you can find resources to share with your first-time boat buyers:


Discover Boating: Discover Boating is a huge resource for boat shoppers, but did you know Discover Boating also has materials you can send your dealership’s new boat buyers to help them become more comfortable in their boating lifestyle? Under the Owning & Operating section of, you’ll find customer-facing information on insuring a boat, towing and trailering, storage, boat maintenance, safety, boat etiquette and more. There are also articles about fishing, information on recommended accessories, tips on wake surfing and more.


BoatUS: Drawing from the BoatUS Magazine, the BoatUS website has a slew of articles that could be helpful to your customers. The content includes information on: boats and tow vehicles, how to do it yourself, safety and prevention, technology, lifestyle and seamanship.


Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation: RBFF provides resources on where to fish and boat, how to obtain a fishing license, resources for young anglers and much, much more.


Sea Tow: While many of Sea Tow’s blogs focus on the organization and membership, there are also plenty that non-Sea Tow members may find useful, including those on safety, maintenance and other boating tips.


Water Sports Industry Association: If your customers will be participating in water sports aboard their boat, WSIA has resources you can share with them, including materials from the Wake Responsibly campaign.


U.S. Coast Guard: The Coast Guard offers recreational boaters a number of resources with a focus on safety.


Boating Magazines: Keep an eye out for helpful articles that your customers may appreciate. Or search a boating magazine’s website for any specific topic you’d like to touch on. Magazines, like Boating magazine and Salt Water Sportsman, for example, are constantly producing new content for consumers, much of which is informational. Rely on these resources to keep your customers in the know.


Local Resources: While much of what’s listed above pertains to a wide variety of boaters, a few local resources would also be helpful for your customers. Again, you should be able to seek out some resources that are already available. Check with your area marine trades association, Department of Natural Resources, lake associations, boat clubs, marinas and more for materials. You may want to provide your customers with information about fishing and boating regulations, maps of area waterways, details on area boat ramps and/or marinas and more.


Build Your Own Resources: Personalizing the resources will take time, but it will also position your dealership as an expert. As you have time, create videos, blogs, emails, social media posts, brochures, handouts, and/or letters to help your customers navigate their boating lifestyle. You can create general boating operation resources, information on common boating lifestyle themes, or be extra helpful by filling in the holes of the resources you don’t have. For example, if there isn’t a resource already available about the waterway you’re on, you can create that. Make the resources engaging, insightful and helpful. One of the best ways to do this, as taught by long-time MRAA subject matter expert Marcus Sheridan, is to log all the questions you get from customers and then create resources — he recommends videos and short articles — that answer those questions. This simple task will solidify your position as the expert. (He also has a book on the topic titled, “They Ask, You Answer,” and we highly recommend it.)


The key with all of these resources is to comb through them, find the ones that will most apply to your customers and share them.


Curate a package of information (physical or digital) that you give to all customers after their boat purchase, maybe even while they’re waiting for delivery. And follow up with all of your customers with some of these resources year-round. Sharing this information with your customers will make for happier, safer, more knowledgeable boaters. And it will position your dealership as an expert, an organization that cares enough to share non-sales information, creating loyalty and a level of trust for the next time they’re ready to buy a boat or refer a friend to boating.

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Video is King

Posted By Bob McCann, Monday, July 20, 2020

Use of videos for promoting products and services has become extremely common. As the world goes digital, it's clear: Videos sell boats. So, it’s obvious that a boat dealer would also jump on the bandwagon.

As a boat dealer your goal should always be to discover new and effective ways of making people aware of the boats you are offering to sell, but without spending too much money. Advertising and promoting the boats through videos is probably the most cost-effective way of reaching a huge customer base.


Video isn’t exactly the next big thing, and although it’s a huge part of any good marketing strategy, we’re not going to try to pretend that digital retailing is just a new buzzword for video marketing. So, I figured we’d gather some of the best tactics we’ve seen and heard about and share them. Dealers know that the boat business is all about standing out. These video marketing tactics will help you do that.


1.     Use video because that content is getting Google’s attention.
When we think of SEO-boosting-content, we normally think of blog posts first, but ignoring the SEO potential in video marketing is a good way to miss out on attracting the attention of boat shoppers. Providing boat buyers with information is a great way to attract them to your dealership. Providing boat shoppers with information in the quick, helpful, and digestible form of a brief video is the perfect way to combine the research they want with a medium they enjoy. Google is well aware of the benefits of video and has begun to rank videos highly for many queries. And creating helpful and informative videos that are local specific will help boost your rankings with your local SEO efforts.


2.     Feature your boats.
Customers want information, and good dealers give shoppers the information they’re looking for. One of the best ways to do that is to feature walkthrough videos of the boats on your site and in your showroom. A good walkthrough video should be a quick overview of the boat with a focus on the features that make the boat interesting with a good voiceover. If you have a phone that can shoot video, a steady hand, and a pleasant voice, you can create videos easily for each of your boats. Once you have produced these videos, you can add them to your YouTube channel and embed these videos to your site’s listings. Now take full advantage of your efforts and tweet them, post them on Facebook, share them on Instagram and link to them from your prospecting emails.


3.     Bring video marketing to your Service Department.
Service departments tend to get neglected in marketing, but video marketing is a great opportunity to get your service department some attention. Videos about DIY boat maintenance, advice on common maintenance warning signs, seasonal service needs, etc., are great ways to drive boaters into the service department. Your service team knows the questions they hear on a daily basis and probably already have the answers. By making videos answering those questions, and more, you can capitalize on the opportunity to build credibility, trustworthiness and become the authority on local boat service.


4.     Create staff profiles.
Staff profile videos can help prospective customers feel more connected to your dealership as well as providing them with an advanced opportunity to get to know the person who is going to help them with their experience within your dealership. These videos further humanize your team and make them more approachable and likeable in the eyes of boat shoppers.


5.     Think mobile.
You’ve heard by now that mobile connectivity is outpacing the connections from our desktops, so we won’t go on about that too much more here. But really, mobile is important, especially as a platform for video marketing. Video can be particularly well suited to mobile if the content is suited for video-friendly mobile platforms, like Facebook and Instagram. Rule of thumb, some say 45 seconds for Facebook and just 15 seconds for Instagram. These videos are a great way to reach an audience that is interested in a boat but haven’t yet embarked on the deep research part of their journey. Start by sharing a short video about the boating lifestyle. From there, they can be directed to your website or YouTube page if they want to see more of your boats, service videos or check out what else your dealership has to offer.


6.     Share live video walkthroughs.
Some innovative dealers are using their smartphones to perform live video presentations and close deals while they have the prospect on the line! When a prospect calls to ask if a dealership has a boat in stock, salespeople will often respond in the affirmative and ask the prospect to come in for an appointment to take a closer look. Since the health-concerned marketplace set in, dealers have found that that they can keep that prospect on the phone and conduct a live video walkthrough using their cell phone. If you’re close to the boat, offer to do it on the spot. If not, offer to call the prospect back in a few minutes. And use our handy guide and action plan to effectively shoot boat walkthroughs.


7. Use video for quicker service authorizations.

For service writers, the dreaded voicemail can really hold up the service schedule when trying to get an OK from a customer to do the work. Instead of leaving a voicemail, record a video showing the problem while explaining the repair and the price and then text it to the customer. Remember, 98% of all text messages are opened and 95% are read within 3 minutes of receiving them!


8.     Invest in a video chat app.
To perform a live walkthrough or service video calls, you’ll need a video chat app on your smartphone. The iPhone’s integrated video chat app is FaceTime. If you have an Android or Windows smartphone, the best apps to use are Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger. It’s a good idea to have several apps on your phone and to know how to use them all. That way, odds are good you will have a video chat app that is compatible with your customer. Ideally, at some point you will want to use texting applications such as Kenect or Co-Video that allows for numerous customer and dealer benefits. Check out this webinar MRAA hosted with Kenect.


9.     Boost your dealership’s Wi-Fi.
While it’s possible to do video chat calls using a cellular data plan, it’s not very reliable. Cell service can spotty and can lead to a less than ideal sales experience. To offer this type of service to your customers, your dealership will need an external Wi-Fi network that reaches to the inventory and shop. This is also a big help for salespeople out on the lot with customers to look up product information, message their manager or find the answer to any question using a mobile phone or tablet.


Video is a great way to engage customers and just maybe, get them excited enough about the boat to want to come in for a sea trial or help the seasonal boater to get back on the water quickly. It’s helpful to have a mixture of content, but video can tell a story in greater depth than text alone. Using these suggestions, your dealership can stand out in the sea of fiberglass and aluminum using video marketing.

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Boat Dealers: It’s Time to Embrace Digital Retail

Posted By Bob McCann, Friday, July 17, 2020

Boat dealers are feeling the digital pressure from all sides as the marine industry rapidly evolves under the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic and most recently the significant influx of new boat buyers that have entered the market.

As an industry, we’ve been touting digital marketing for years — since at least the time I came on the scene in 1999 calling it e-business. Those who have been sharpening their digital tools over the years were prepared when the market place changed dramatically in March. In reality, though, it shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to get dealers to look more closely at digital retailing.

The systems, processes and tactics included in defining that engagement and full-fledged digital retailing remain fuzzy, at best, for most dealers. So, let me start by telling you what it’s NOT. Digital retailing is not digital marketing. It’s not your Facebook page, or your online inventory, email campaigning, chat bot or online payment calculator. It’s also not a button, “Get a Quote!”

Digital retailing is the customer’s ability to go deeper into the boat buying process online. Even if some car marketplaces, like Carvana and Vroom, allow 100 percent online sales, 95 percent of customers still buy their vehicles in a dealership. It’s becoming clear that buyer expectations are changing rapidly, and consumers are increasingly becoming impatient with a disjointed buying experience, both with the technology and the lack of dealership engagement. Digital retailing is the future of selling boats, and it’s ready for you to engage with today.

For boat dealers, digital retail requires a hybrid of online and offline boat-buying experiences. It gives boat buyers the ability to start the buying process online and then complete the purchase in-dealership — or vice versa. It’s giving consumers a complete set of shopping tools across both a dealer’s digital and physical showrooms and delivering a convenient, faster shopping experience.

A digital retailing experience should allow boat shoppers to build a deal online that reflects a realistic buying scenario. That includes mapping out standard and optional equipment with applicable destination and rigging fees, taxes, trade-in values and add-on protection plans.

Digital retailing platforms also transfer most ― if not all — physical paperwork online. Customers can complete paperwork on a tablet in the store, or log-in and finish the process from the their home. Whether at the dealership or at home, digital retailing streamlines the boat-buying journey while giving customers the flexibility and control they desire.

Outflanked by tech-savvy retailers with deep wallets, boat dealerships everywhere are faced with a choice: Adapt to this new reality or become irrelevant.

Here’s some real-world context:

1.     In 2000, car buyers visited an average of five dealerships before pulling the trigger. Today, you’re lucky if a customer visits two dealerships during their search.

2.     Customers know what they want to buy and where they want to buy it long before they show up to the showroom. Boat buyers are in search of a familiar way to buy boats, and the dealership is going to play a different role.

3.     If it feels like the Internet is pulling control away from your dealership and limiting your influence in the boat buying process, you’re not wrong. Your sales team’s chances to interact with their customers are arriving later in the process, and when they do finally get face time, key decisions have already been made under the influence of online content. Dealers are losing some of the control, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

It’s time for boat dealers to embrace digital retailing as the new standard for the dealership experience. Fortunately, a handful of new tools are helping boat dealers get into the fight. Digital retail platforms make it easy for them to upgrade the customer experience to keep pace with automotive, the larger marine dealer groups and the evolving expectations of the online marketplace.

As some boat dealers remain wary of moving more of the boat-buying process online, it’s important to note that digital retailing doesn’t replace the showroom; it extends the experience to a powerful new channel for reaching more customers. Digital retail is a major opportunity for boat dealers that will have long-term benefits for early adopters.


Personalizing the buying experience

Executed thoroughly, dealers in the digital landscape capture more customer intelligence up front, giving them a greater chance of closing the deal later. So digital-focused dealers are more informed and empowered when relating with a customer through the insights learned from digital retailing technology. Sales conversations can now include unique buyer information gathered well before a customer walks onto the dealership showroom floor.

Providing the right digital retailing experience means leveraging detailed shopper information to transform the customer relationship. The online workflow should remember boats browsed by a consumer and serve up other relevant options. Their searches and budget parameters should be saved and reapplied when returning to the site and used to market to them. For instance, I’m a 24-foot center console kind of guy. When manufacturers and dealers know this information, sending me ads by email or in my social media feed featuring their new 65’ yacht is a complete waste of effort that leads to me opting out of future campaigns.

It’s difficult for me to write this today — because I remember having to twist boat dealers’ arms to display their inventory online — but a static website today with boat listings doesn’t offer the detailed, personalized experience that today’s consumers want. Personalized buying experiences are, quite simply, the expectation, and today’s digital-first marketplace gives dealers more powerful tools to deliver on that.


The marine industry is going digital. Are you?

A strong digital retailing experience seamlessly integrates your dealership and online presence, and that gives you a new way to leverage customer data, build trust, generate leads, and increase your closing ratio. The best part is that when you do it right, you can close more deals and service more boats with less effort.

Boat dealers stand at a crossroads. As retail changes around them, every owner and GM must make a choice: Do we change with the times, or stick to “business as usual?” Regardless of the road you choose, the digital retail evolution is not stopping for anyone. No one can imagine a future where boat dealers aren’t required to adopt digital marketing tools.

Here’s the good news: it’s not too late to evolve. Every dealer in business today can still adapt to the modern boat-buying experience. Not only will digital retail help you keep up with fast-moving competitors, but it will give you an early-mover advantage over other boat dealerships.

Thanks to modern digital retail platforms, any dealership can offer a top-notch customer experience. We can’t control where the marine industry is going, but we can control how we respond to it.

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