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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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6 Key Steps to Making Video Sales

Posted By Bob McCann, Friday, April 3, 2020

For the past decade, salespeople have typically relegated video to the “nice-to-have” category. It’s something they know has potential, but many still haven’t taken the time to invest in it as a legitimate channel to sell a boat. After all, with phone, email, and now texting available to help bridge the communication divide between buyer and seller, is there really a need for salespeople to add video to that list as well? The short answer: Heck yes!

We’ve introduced video to dealers as a tool to market and sell boats over the past few years at MRAA’s annual conference, Dealer Week. However, this current interruption in our sales process is the push needed to make the dealer use it and make them more comfortable with this tool. I’m certain that when things get back to normal, lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis will change the way we sell boats.

Even though texting has impacted the way we sell by making it possible to better connect with boat buyers, there’s still no replacing a face-to-face — especially when a salesperson is trying to get a deal over the finish line. Text messages and emails are time-efficient communication methods but are inefficient persuasion methods. Video chat can help you re-create product presentations and therefore make it easier to gain your customers’ trust, tap into their emotions, and help create mental ownership.
One of the main reasons customers still hesitate to buy online is because they can’t always see the product they will get. Your online photos will make for good lead generation, but people have learned to be suspicious of good-looking photos. There is nothing more powerful than a face-to-face conversation when it comes to building trust. And one of the big advantages of video chat is that you can showcase your boats live. It requires preparation beforehand, but it can go a long way.

So, I have prepared for you some best practices for using FaceTime or similar apps for boat sales. This and our “Lights, Camera, ACTION PLAN” will help you make sure you look professional and not like an amateur when on a video call.

1. The Equipment
I’ve heard and I’ve experienced first-hand that an iPad might be the tool of choice to make your video call, if you have one on-hand. That being said, go with the device in your collection that has the newer, faster processor and the better camera. While the iPad is nice for its larger screen and is easier to keep stationary, a device with a better picture that focuses faster and allows for lower lighting will be your best device for the job.

2. The Lighting
Speaking of lighting, pay attention to the basic rules of photography/videography. They are:

  • Check your lighting and your background.
  • Always try to show the boat on a neutral one-color background so it instantly pops and grabs their attention. Lighting is always really important and will be your friend.
  • If you are inside, turn ALL the lights on.
  • If you’re outside and if practical, move the boat into the sun. Remember, we said, if practical — not “if you’re not feeling lazy!”

3. The Background
Consider the background and tidiness of the boat.

  • Ideally, the boat should be isolated, in the water, by itself without other boats in the background to distract your customer’s attention.
  • After years of coaching dealers on taking pictures of boats for their web listings, we’ve seen all the background blunders including, dumpsters, rusty chain-link fences, and poorly maintained marina equipment in the shot.
  • Not to mention staging a smaller boat beside a larger boat that immediately dwarfs the customer’s dream boat!
    These points are important when you’re selling high-end products. People expect the boat that they are considering to look better than average, and they won’t take into consideration the fact that lighting or location might be the reason it doesn’t look as good as it should.
  • Run some tests beforehand to see how your boat looks on another team member’s phone before it’s show time.

4. Prepare
You also need to think about how you will present your boat.

  • Remember, these video calls are not product walkthrough videos and shouldn’t be organized the same way.
  • Determine what kind of buyer you have and customize your presentation accordingly.
  • Chances are, before a prospect will commit to a FaceTime call with you, you’ve already connected via email or phone. Hopefully if the connection began via email or chat, the conversation was moved to the phone so important information could be shared, like:
    • What’s important to them about the boat they are considering?
    • Do they have a boat now?
    • What they like about their boat or other boats they are considering.
    • Or, what they don’t like about their boat or other boats of consideration.
    • Not to mention the important relationship things like, family, occupation, how they would use the boat, their pets, and favorite teams!
    • The more you know about your customer and their reasons for buying a boat the better you video call will go.
  • So, before you open your app and dial up the customer, you might want to jot down some notes on what you want to cover, based on what you know and practice doing so before the call.

5. Practice

  • When you have your notes prepared, practice your presentation with a co-worker to make certain that the message is coming across the video call well.
  • Make sure you don’t stumble into bad lighting! Avoid spotlights, backlighting and other concentrated light sources which can throw off the exposure with overexposed hotspots or underexposed shadows.
  • Consider getting a stand for your phone. This is a good idea for a few reasons:
    • It frees up your hands so you can demonstrate some of the features on the boat.
    • It prevents you from creating a lot of motion for the viewer, which can lead to sea sickness!
    • It prevents the phone from moving around and creating a lot of handling noise that gets picked up in the audio mic.
    • Speaking of mics, consider using earbuds to hear and speak during your call. This will keep the audio level consistent for when you are moving around.
6. Look Your Best
  • Lastly, check the mirror! Even though this is a video call make sure to look polished and professional, you don’t want to start that call with cappuccino foam on your face! FaceTime isn’t the most flattering thing in the world, you MUST make sure you look as together as possible before you initiate a video conversation.
  • So, wear your branded polo, nametag, touch up the cosmetics, smooth down that cowlick, clean the spinach from your teeth, etc.

These might seem like details for you right now but going the extra mile here can make a big difference. Remember that when you sell boats you are often selling a lifestyle, a dream that is as important as the boat in itself. Look at Apple for example and how the Apple stores look. The design is built to create a modern, high-end atmosphere around the products. You can replicate the same on a video chat and sell the ING in BOATING.

What are YOU doing to win the virtual video sales game?

Tags:  best practices  business advice  continuous improvement  dealer development  online sales  video 

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How are you doing? Really?

Posted By Nikki Duffney, Thursday, April 2, 2020

With everything in the world changing faster than we can wrap our brains around, just as I start to feel like I understand what’s going on – it changes. Keeping up morale and managing stress at a time when we are all maxed out on stress and worry is hard, and here are a few ideas to help manage.


Important to note, I am not a health expert or certified in any wellness related field(s). My experience comes from a decade of managing a differently-abled body from a spinal cord injury, and focus on my mental health has shown me that my physical health benefits.


1. Give people space, not only the physical space required for social distancing, but rather the emotional space for them to be distracted. We are all going through this uncertain situation together, and it is distracting. Yes, you can absolutely expect your staff to still produce, work hard and deliver on their jobs. Also realize many of us are figuring out how to work from home … with kids, animals and a spouse pulling at our attention. Compassion for the new world we live in will take time to adjust to, let everyone make that adjustment as they need.


2. If you are able to have staff in the dealership working, allow for extra breaks to go outside to take deep breaths. The power of breath is amazing, and many of us take advantage of the power in breath. One easy-to-do, breathing activity is to take 3-5 minutes to go somewhere you will have minimal distractions (leave your phone behind) and take slow, deep inhales through your nose (2- to 4-second inhale) and slowly out through pursed lips as if you were breathing out though a straw (6- to 8-second exhale) until all the air is out. Doing this can leave you feeling calmer and more grounded – maybe even in less discomfort than before, as breath work can release tension and pain you didn’t know you were carrying.


3. Going back to the basics of caring for yourself is critically important right now. Eat well, avoid overly processed foods if you can, drink lots of water, and commit to a sleep schedule that will allow for the productivity you need and give you the most rest possible. Exercise if you can, or simply find ways to move your body with purpose. Finding 10 minutes a day to move in a way that feels good for your body can help you sleep better and have more energy.

4. Safety is the No. 1 concern for most of us right now. The best way you can empower your customers and staff is to communicate that they need to make the choices that feel best to them. Give your staff the power to decide if they can or cannot work. We are all powerless in much of this pandemic, and giving people power back where, we can, will have rewards in the future.


Really, I want to know – how are you? Give me a call (763-333-2420) or send me an email if I can help. You are not alone, we are in this together. 

Tags:  compassion  COVID  empathy  stress management 

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Dramatic increase in temporarily closed dealerships

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, April 2, 2020

Over the course of the last three weeks, your MRAA team has been in contact with thousands of dealerships, including hundreds of one-to-one phone conversations and hundreds more email conversations. Additionally, we’ve been keeping a pulse on dealership operations as the government imposes more and more “shelter-at-home” orders and businesses scramble for “essential” status to remain open.

MRAA has conducted two surveys to date to understand how many of our dealerships are open for business, how many are closed and how many find themselves somewhere in between. There has been a dramatic shift, as you might imagine, in the operating status of our dealerships, as shown in these two images:


Combined, MRAA’s survey garnered over 1,160 responses (with some still trickling in from this week’s survey) and the results are eye-opening.

Two weeks ago, more than 47 percent were open with a business as normal status, and only 8 percent were temporarily closed. This week, the results have flipped: Less than 15 percent of dealerships were still open, while nearly 30 percent had closed.

The “open for business with modifications” status, which makes up nearly 60 percent of our dealerships today, primarily represents the businesses in various “shelter at home” states that are typically allowing dealership service facilities and marinas to remain open for specific purposes. The battle over earning “essential business” status has been the No. 1 legislative effort MRAA has worked over the last three weeks. You can find insights on that topic in these Frequently Asked Questions.

Those businesses seeking answers on how to conduct business when many team members are working from home should access the resources found on Your Action Guide for Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis.

Tags:  COVID 

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Take Control of Your Future

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, April 2, 2020
Remember The Great Recession? How out of control things felt at that time?

Can we agree that nothing has ever felt as out of control for our businesses as things do today? Forced shutdowns. Unfathomable spike in unemployment filings. The tenuous outlook of cash flow projections. It’s crazy. And that’s to speak nothing about the virus, its catastrophic impact on our society, how long it will stick around, or if it will reside and then come back again. In some ways, it feels like the Great Recession all over again, but in others, it’s very, very different.

So that’s out on the table, and it’s time for us to move on. It’s time for us to focus on what we CAN control.

Let’s start with this great video that boils down what I believe is all of our first priority in dealing with today’s uncertainty. Thank you for the clear, concise advice, John Spence! And when you’re done watching it, please add to your list of things that you can’t control, items like, whether your business is classified as essential or not; whether boating is allowed in your state or not; whether we’ll be able to reopen before Memorial Day; and so forth.

Now, here are three great tips from Gary Vaynerchuck on where your mind should be today. These are the things you CAN control: Your perspective, your response to uncertain times (he calls it innovation), your brand’s story, and your patience.

This is likely going to be a long road. You should align your mentality with that expectation and the opportunities that are within your control.

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Now’s the Time to Communicate with Your Customers Via Video

Posted By Liz Keener, Tuesday, March 31, 2020
There’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace right now. Is your dealership open? What are you doing to keep me, as a buyer, safe? Should I buy a boat, book a service appointment, or buy parts or accessories from you right now?

The easiest — and most sincere — way to communicate messages to your customer is through video, and we’re seeing more and more dealers take advantage of this outlet as COVID-19 has impacted the entire world, including here in North America.

If you’re no Brad Pitt or Steven Spielberg, that’s OK. Authentic, raw videos work great. They demonstrate your humanity and your realness. And they can show your customers that you’re empathetic to their needs and showing compassion toward your employees, as long as you’re being honest. Check out my video I created in just minutes here.

There are several platforms to use. Facebook is big — you can go live or upload pre-recorded videos. You can do the same with Instagram. You can also send links to videos from Vidyard, Vimeo, YouTube or other services. No matter which format you use, we recommend you at least think about your messaging before you hit the record button, and if you’re not live, don’t be afraid to record a few takes before picking the video you’ll post.

Quite a few dealers have gone to social media as of late to communicate with their customers:
  • Deb Dusenka and Frankie Howerton of Frankie’s Live Bait and Marine in Chisago City, Minnesota, went live with an update on Facebook on March 19.
  • Bob Petzold of Petzold’s Marine Center in Portland, Connecticut, shared alternative ways to buy a boat with their annual open house and boat show being canceled.
  • Rod Bensz of B&E Marine in Michigan City, Indiana, shot video while he was out practicing social distancing during a walk with his dog.
  • Mark Dougherty of N3 Boatworks in Indianapolis, Indiana, has been keeping his customers updated from before they closed their showroom until after they closed.
  • Lake Cumberland Marine in Kentucky has filled its YouTube channel with overhead video of individual boats.
These are just some examples. Send us yours, too! We’d love to see them all! And let Certification Manager Liz Keener (, 763-333-2417) or Member Development Manager Nikki Duffney (, 763-333-2420) know if you could use some additional tips on creating videos.

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Time to Reduce Your Repair Cycle Time

Posted By Liz Keener, Tuesday, March 31, 2020
As people start practicing social distancing by getting out on their boats, they’re going to need service.

I talked to one dealer in Florida yesterday who said her service business is booming because people want their boats prepped; they need their 100-hour service; and they’re using their boats enough to need some other repairs and maintenance already.

But customers, especially those self-quarantining, are going to want their boats back quickly, and they’re going to expect you to offer that. If you can promise and deliver upon quick turnarounds, customers are going to turn to your dealership, and your service department will prosper, even if unit sales are down. However, if you can’t get their boat back quickly, they’ll take it elsewhere.

That’s why Valerie Ziebron and Carrie Stacey’s course “Reduce Repair Cycle Time” is a timely one to watch right now. Presented at Dealer Week 2019, this session teaches you how to look at your service department’s management efficiency to improve the time boats are stuck in your shop.

The duo define management efficiency as how much of the available tech time is used. They give a great example of a fictional tech, Mike Fast, who in a 40-hour workweek bills 25 hours and spends 18 hours working on a R.O. He’s 140 percent efficient, which is almost unheard of. BUT his management efficiency is only 45 percent, meaning 55 percent of the time he’s at the dealership, he’s not turning a wrench.

It sounds crazy, but it happens. And improving that management efficiency is the “secret sauce that makes dealers successful,” Carrie Stacey says.

In the course, you’ll learn how to determine your current repair cycle time. You’ll learn that by reducing your repair time, you’ll increase your revenue and create happier customers. And Valerie and Carrie will teach you how to reduce your repair cycle time without cutting corners.

“Customers want their boats done fast,” Carrie said “but they want them done right the first time.”

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Now is the Time to Promote Boating as a Getaway

Posted By Liz Keener, Tuesday, March 31, 2020
People are stressed. People are worried. People are concerned.

Now is a great time to showcase the benefits that come with boating. It might be hard to remember this, as we’re all just as stressed as everyone else. But think about all of the ways boating can cure those quarantine ills.

Boating is a stress reliever. Boating can be a distraction from all of the negative news. Boating brings your family together somewhere other than your living room. Boating will get you in some fresh air, and if you’re wake surfing, wake boarding or skiing, boating can contribute to some great exercise.

We’ve seen several dealerships these past couple of weeks leaning on the message of boating as a positive place to quarantine in their social media posts. Here are some great ones:
  • Castaway Marina of Queensbury, New York, posted this adorable photo of a kid relaxing on a boat.
  • Grande Yachts posted on its Chesapeake Boats and Boating Facebook page that people could “Leave Your Worries at the Dock.
  • With a slow-mo video from the back of a Chris Craft, Harborside Marina & Yacht of Clinton, Connecticut posted: “Cruising away from Corona like … (All joking aside, we hope everyone stays healthy and safe).”
  • Port Harbor Marine posted a photo of a woman and a dog on a boat with the message: “Research has confirmed: being on, in, or near the water benefits your brain in ways that don't exist in everyday life. Double tap if boating is your favorite way to reset & unwind!”
  • River Valley Power & Sport of Red Wing, Minnesota, posted a photo of a family on a boat with the message, “With a boat, you don’t need a week or even a weekend to escape. Vacation on demand all summer long.”
If you feel like you don’t have the creativity, mindset or time to create your own lifestyle posts right now, visit your manufacturers’ and suppliers’ pages and share their content. Here are some good ones we’ve run across:
  • Alumacraft recently posted: “We’re ready for days cruising around the open water. Who’s with us?”
  • Boston Whaler said on Facebook, “Family time is the best time.”
  • Centurion Boats asked, “Is there any place you’d rather be?” alongside photos of one of their boats and the hashtag #socialdistancing.
  • Cobalt Boats shared an image of a boat in the middle of the water with the caption: “Try to maintain social distancing whenever possible, they said. Deal, we said.”
  • Engineered Marine Products posted: “Boating and fishing are 2 great ways to stay safe from COVID-19 while making lasting memories with family and close friends.”
  • Regal Boats encouraged their followers to “Find Your Escape.”
Remember, be mindful of any current laws in your area. Note if the beaches or boat ramps are closed. And remind people to practice social distancing (be mindful of raft-ups and island meetings that don’t follow CDC guidelines).

And have fun with it. Remind people that boating is the great getaway!

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What Kinds of Messaging Should I Be Sharing During this Pandemic?

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Communicating with customers right now is complicated. From your end, you want to sell more boats, book more service appointments and increase revenue (or at least stop it from slipping too low), so you can pay your staff and keep the lights on.

But it’s a sensitive and confusing time in the world, so any communication you send must be carefully vetted.

If you’re going to address COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, you must do so while taking the seriousness of the disease into account.

If you’re going to talk about the services you’re still offering, you should do so with the mindset that you’re doing all of this to help your customers have fun, relax and social distance somewhere other than home. You can also share the message that you’re supporting your employees, who are members of your community as well.

The following are a few messages we’ve seen from dealers that we think express the right messaging:
  • Action Watersports, in Commerce City, Colorado, opens its website scroll bar with this message: “Your safety and that of our staff is our main priority at Action Watersports. We are committed to stopping the spread of this COVID-19 virus.” The screen then goes on to show what temporary policies the dealership has adopted, including free concierge services, changes in service and changes in sales.
  • Frank Bongiorno of Staten Island Yacht Sales in New York and Rhode Island wrote a letter about the closing of two of his locations. He updated customers on deliveries and offered ways for customers to stay in touch. He opens the letter, “I hope this note finds you and your family in good health. As of Monday, March 23rd, our facilities will be closed in Staten Island and Freeport, New York. In addition to complying with all government mandates, our goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of our valued employees, of our customers, and our community.”
  • Baert Marine of Middleton, Massachusetts, shared this note in its customer email and Facebook post about its government-required closing: “Together if all work together and practice social distancing we know that as a Nation we will get through this crisis. We look forward to opening soon and continue ‘Making Fun on the Water’ as we have for the past 47 years!”
  • Nauset Marine of Orleans, Massachusetts, said in its mandatory-closure Facebook post: “Our most important focus is the health and safety of our employees, customers, friends and family.”
  • AMC Marine Sales & Service in Hamilton, Indiana, posted a COVID-19 statement on its website, that pops up when logging on to the dealership’s site. It starts, “With the emergence of COVID-19 in the U.S., we wanted to personally reach out to provide an update to the actions that AMC Marine Sales & Service is taking to address the Coronavirus pandemic. AMC considers the health and safety of our employees, their families, and our customers as our number one priority.”
There are a lot of other examples of how dealers are sharing COVID-19 news and plans with their customers, and we at the MRAA would love to see yours, if you could pass your communications along.

Video is another option that I discussed in an MRAA blog, and Sam Dantzler of Garage Composites suggested overcommunicating in his recent MRAA Ask the Expert webinar. Both are great resources when considering what you’ll communicate with your customers next.

What’s important is to communicate frequently, share your dealership’s current status, show the community how you can help them and your employees and be thoughtful with your words. If you do these things, you’ll offer the right types of messages for your area, and your customers will hopefully respond positively, when they’re ready to buy.

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How to Market During the Coronavirus Pandemic Recap

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Sunday, March 29, 2020

Marketing (and frankly, everything else) during a pandemic is something that businesses have never had to navigate before. A million questions run through my mind when I think about what could be and should be said in times like now.

In MRAA’s recent Ask the Expert webinar “How to Marketing During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Danny Decker of Marketing Simplified answered the question, “What types of content should people be sharing on social media right now?”

Danny’s main point was that the messages that worked for you and your business four weeks ago are NOT the messages that work now, in the time of COVID-19. It isn’t the time to sell, sell, sell. It is the time to provide reassurance, build brand equity and help your customers to dream.

The two types of “message buckets” that dealerships should be working from include:

1. The “immediate short-term crisis” message bucket

It is VERY important to let your customers know what is going on within your business and then share this message over and over (and over). Now is the time to let your customers know if you are open. Are you open, but with modifications? Have you put new procedures in place to protect your staff and customers? Your customers need to know this.

2. The “diversion” message bucket

This is the time to understand that everyone is looking for and needing a diversion. How can you help people start dreaming about boating again? Maybe it is as simple as re-sharing pictures from last boating season and then asking your customers to respond with photos and memories. This not only gives people a break from their reality, but it may help your customers prepare to get back to boating once everything “goes back to normal.”

Overall, Decker encouraged dealers to remember that now is the time just to be a good person and to make sure your messages are genuine and focus on building relationships. If you can do this, the sales will return.

Did you miss the webinar the first time or are looking to view it again? Click here to access the webinars and other resources the MRAA has compiled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Concentrating on What You Can Control: Managing Your Own Time

Posted By Mike Davin, Sunday, March 29, 2020

Note: In response to the COVID-19 crisis, all standard MRAA educational courses found at will be available free of charge to any dealer who wants to use the content from now through May 31st. Between now and then, we will be posting regularly to highlight courses that may be useful during this time.

During the current pandemic, one piece of advice we've heard from several experts is to focus on what you can control. At its most basic, one of those things is how we chose to manage our own time. Of course, this is frustratingly something that most of us struggle with even in the best circumstances.

At Dealer Week, Professor Art Hill of the University of Minnesota delivered a session focused on how we can all learn to better use our time. "The Managing Me Workshop" helped attendees evaluate their personal productivity in six key areas, identify principles to increase productivity and reduce stress, and improve productivity within their teams.

I would encourage you to take time to watch the session, which is available via to all dealers through May 31. It's tempting to continue to barrel forward in a crisis, putting out fires. But if you have a moment to step back and watch, you may pick up some tips that will help you be more productive as we move through a challenging period for businesses and our personal lives.

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