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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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Top tags: marine industry  dealer development  continuous improvement  MRAA member  member spotlight  business advice  growth  fun facts  dealer focused  customer experience  Annual conference  dealer to dealer  best practices  discussions  certification  mraa history  resources  Continuous Certification  experience  MICD  Education  relationships  training  Annual meetings  industry insight  MRAA  employee satisfaction  employees  Experiences  intent 

Education and Training Records

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Intent: Too many dealers are relying exclusively on OEM training. The more knowledge their team puts into place, the more the dealership will have opportunities to improve and grow.

What does training look like in your dealership?

From the conversations we have with dealers from all over the country, we know that many of you have great training and education programs that foster a culture of continuous improvement. But are you taking the time to record and track what team members are being trained and what they are being trained on?

Oftentimes, marine dealers, even the dealers who value education, become very one-sided in their training. Many fall into a routine of sending their sales team to OEM sales training at model year or enrolling technicians in manufacturer-based training to maintain their tech certifications. That is all great and valuable insight into the products you sell and service, but what about the rest of your team and the skills that they possess?

As part of the Marine Industry Certified Dealership program, you will be asked to record your staff’s training schedules (or provide training logs you already have!). From this exercise, you will be able to see gaps in your training programs and clear paths to ensure everyone is receiving the training they need to be successful in their job roles.

If you’re not currently tracking staff training, your Certification Consultant can provide you with a Training Matrix, which outlines the training topics and goals and results for each topic, so you can best assess which training is working and which training you should offer to more team members.

Tags:  best practices  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  dealer development  intent  intentions  marine industry  MICD  resources 

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Give Your Dealership Some Love this Valentine’s Day

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Thursday, February 13, 2020
Don’t just shower your significant other with love and presents on Valentine’s Day! Remember to give your business the time and attention it deserves by giving the gift of continuous improvement to your dealership.

Here at the MRAA, we know how difficult choosing the perfect gift can be so we have compiled a guide to help you navigate what your dealership (and employees) truly want…

For the dealership with a talented and aspiring sales manager…
Give the gift of the leadership training by enrolling them in “How to Excel as a Marine Dealership Leader and Manager.” This 7- part series will provide insight and tools to expand management and leadership skills, allowing viewers to grow professionally.

For the dealership with an outdated website…

Download Part One and Part Two of the 3Ds of Effective Website Marketing to give your website some much needed TLC. Its new look (and function) is sure to attract and keep those who visit your website engaged.

For the dealership with several job positions to fill…
Browse the MRAA Resource Center’s Career Center in order to create an environment that attracts and retains industry talent. Your employees will give “heart-eyes” over a more through job descriptions and a positive work culture.

Your dealership and employees are sure to swoon over the opportunities! For more ideas on ways to show love to your dealership this year, browse the MRAA Resource Center.

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer education  Education  marine industry  workforce issues 

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The Employee Process

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Intent: To assure that dealers are taking care of their staff. Employee satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction.

Certification Requirements:
  • An employee handbook... check!
  • Branded clothing and/or name tags... check!
  • Performance evaluations... check!
  • Quarterly Management Review process... check!
  • Process Improvement Reports... check!
As part of the Certification program, we want to make sure that your employees have the tools and resources necessary to be successful in their unique role at the dealership. The processes that you will work so hard to create and refine throughout the Certification process are only as good as the people who will execute on them daily. As most of you already know, happy and fulfilled employees tend to produce desired results and drive revenue within your business. So it is critical to take the time to check in with your employees.

So do your employees understand their job roles and responsibilities? Do they feel like their opinions and ideas are being heard? Do they have a cohesive look that makes them feel part of the team?

The intention of the Employee process ensures that your dealership is ready to take on the changes that the Certification process will bring.

Part of the Employee process is also the Employee Satisfaction Survey, but we will get into the intent of that in a later blog.

Tags:  best practices  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  dealer development  intent  intentions  marine industry  MICD  resources 

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Dealer to Dealer: February 2020

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, February 12, 2020
How do you and your team inspire prospects and customers to trust you?

“Lasting trust is accomplished over time. If you view your walk ins and leads like “just a number” you are going in the wrong direction. Helping a client find what truly fits their needs and not trying to cram them into your oldest non-current is a good start. My take on trust comes down to this, ‘if you wouldn’t treat your mother that way, don’t treat your client that way.’” - Greg Harvey, Tobler Marina

“At the risk of using some overused expressions, we are basically honest to a fault. We believe in complete transparency and treat customers with the utmost integrity. We under-promise but over-deliver. Procedurally, our sales process is pain free - from sea trials to closing to service after the sale – our customer are made to feel at ease and treated like friends. We’re always accessible, we carry reliable products, and we maintain consistency throughout our six locations.” - Frank Ferraro, Nautical Ventures Group

“By assimilating my life and experiences to theirs. By demonstrating that I am a professional boat dealer and I give them answers that are correct and make sense to them. I ask questions and use their answers to "fit" the boat to their needs in a transparent and entertaining way.” - Jim Sabia, Top Notch Marine

“We have always taken the approach that we are to guide and educate them on the journey to boat ownership- not sell them.” - David deAndrade, White Lake Marina

“Tell the customer the truth […] and you will earn the respect and a good customer. I have been doing this for the past 57 years.” - Anthony Cavallo, Hi-Tide Boat Sales & Service

“Review reputation with Google and Facebook. Prior customers provides that first line advantage.” - David Nichols, Eric's Outboard Marine Sevice, Inc.

“Become an advocate / educator for your customers. Work hard to communicate with your customers on a regular basis. For example, email / post tips and articles for your customers and prospects to see. Offer to take existing customers on test runs of new models as they arrive at dealership. Both of you will experience a new model together with no expectation to purchase. You never know where the experience will lead to!  Hopefully an upgrade and trade of their existing boat or potentially a referral to a friend looking for a similar boat!” - Kim Sweers, FB Marine Group

"At the conference this year I heard the statement that sales sell the first boat at a dealership and service sells the rest. We fully believe in that statement. Many of our customers do business with us because of the service they received from us before the made any purchases from us. Those same customers are our best promoters. It always seems to come back to quality service in a timely manner. Customers for life or even customers for generations." - Jeff Sanborn, Handberg's Marine

“Integrity and  backing of the product you sell, strong follow through, open communication which includes “listening” to the customer.  What tops the list for me is reassurance of how we will take care of them “after” the sale.” - Shauna Reetz, Tracker Marine Boat Center - Sidney, Nebraska

“Attitude, kindness, and holding ourselves to a higher standard, use our mistakes as wisdom and correct our shortcomings and successes, and use examples to others in our communications to teach, inspire, and build truth into the relationship. Lead by example.” - Ed Brailsford, Charlotte Ski Boats

“We get told over and over again from prospective customers, recent new customers and ones who are on their 4th+ round with Rinker’s; why they not only chose us but keep coming back … and it’s not a surprise if sometimes they pop-in to say “Hi” and/or for a visit to catch-up. It’s simple … we are genuine in showing we really do care! Our always friendly atmosphere, personalized service and amazing, timely follow-ups makes all of our customers feel special and like they have become an extension of our family, not just a ’one-and-done’ experience/relationship just to get another boat out the door. At Rinker’s Boat World we strive to provide the most comprehensive and enjoyable experience overall for the customer as our major, #1 objective. We listen to what their needs are, develop great communication with them and show empathy. Empathy matters in sales, leading with empathy can mean the difference between a good salesperson and a great salesperson. When you're able to connect with a customer on a higher emotional level, the more likely they are to trust and believe in your ability to help. When salespeople understand and feel what the customer feels, they gain deeper insight into the emotional foundations of the customer's needs. This enables them in turn to define and articulate the best solution in terms that resonate with the customer.” - Carrie Ranney, Rinker’s Boat World

What do you and your team do to inspire trust? Tell us below in the comment section.

Tags:  authenticity  best practices  business advice  continuous improvement  culture  customer experience  dealer development  dealer focused  dealer to dealer  discussions  employee satisfaction  growth  industry insight  marine industry  member spotlight  MRAA member  relationships  workforce 

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The Pre-Certification Assessment

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Intent: For the Dealer to understand where they need improvement and for the consultant to understand where and how they can help.

The Marine Industry Certified Dealership program’s Pre-Certification Assessment is the base from which the program begins.

We could argue that the Pre-Certification Assessment is one of the most important steps in the MICD program. It is the step that sets the context for the work that you will be doing (and achieving!!) throughout the Certification process. The Pre-Certification Assessment allows you to take a hard look at your business and analyze which areas you believe you’re already strong in and which you believe your consultant can help the most with.

So our challenge to you is to take time on your Pre-Certification Assessment. Really think about where your processes break down, or where you need more structure. Be thoughtful and honest in your completion of the assessment. Doing so will help you get the most out of the Certification program, allowing you to draw on the experience and knowledge of your consultant and the entire Certification team in helping your business improve.

Tags:  best practices  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  dealer development  intent  intentions  marine industry  MICD  resources 

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There's Always A Reason For That

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, January 15, 2020
When I think of the word intent, my mind often takes a step further and thinks of the word intentions. With anything that you make a commitment to – relationships, your health, continuing your education – there are always intentions attached.

So much like everything the association does, there is intent behind each resource and program that is built. For example, the Marine Industry Certified Dealership program…

Since the initial program was built, the intention of the program has always been to provide a set of standards or benchmarks that marine dealerships can strive for. It is not the intention of the program for a third-party (MRAA) to come in and tell marine retailers (you) how to run a business. The most rewarding part of the process for the MRAA Certification team is to witness the unique ways dealers across North America run their operations. Now that they program is 15 years old, we can tell you with confidence that not one location is exactly the same as another.

This is why we have clear intentions for each step of the program. Over the course of the next few months, members of the MRAA Certification team will walk you through the intentions and thought process behind each section of the MICD program. Make sure to follow along!

Tags:  best practices  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  dealer development  intent  intentions  marine industry  MICD  resources 

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Dealer to Dealer: January 2020

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, January 14, 2020
What's your number one factor / point of preparation for success at your upcoming boat shows?

“Nothing matters if you do not have the right people on the floor, with the right training and skills. Best boat, best layout, best prices - those all mean nothing if you don't have the tools (people) to convert on the opportunities that come in the booth. Always start with who will be in the booth and build the rest around that.” - Sean Horsfall, Len’s Cove Marina

“Pre-marketing campaign and then lead capture.” - Richard Cromwell, Maritime Solutions

“The absolute number one point to focus on while preparing for the boat show is progressing your clients as much as possible before the show even begins. Ensuring that we have laid as much groundwork before the show so that we can focus on finalizing the deal while in the booth is one of the things that we try to focus on so that we can serve as many of our other customers and other fresh walk-ins as possible. We also are adamant that having quotes ready and printed beforehand, complete with trade values of their current unit, makes it is as seamless as possible with our customers and we can be prepared for them when they arrive at the boat show. In order to properly make sure we are ready for clients when they arrive, we set firm appointment times and make sure our clients understand the importance of time while the boat show from our dealership and sales reps perspective. We explain that if we will be removing ourselves from the floor at the boat show, that could cost us a potential new sale, but we are doing so to make sure that we will be available for that client when they arrive for their appointment.” - Mike Sears, Pride Marine Group

“I think the biggest preparation consist of organization, job role implementation combined with weekly training meetings leading up to the show as well as brief training and game planning the mornings of the show. This will help educate your staff that does not typically work in the sales department become more knowledgeable of the product and also make sure everyone is on the same page!” - J Hurless, Reeder Trausch Marine

“Set pontoons, lay carpet, bring in boats on trailers. Flashy or new models up front. Set up marketing materials and banners. Set up closing table in the back or corner making it private. Curtains around booth separating booths next to yours. Clean up and it's show time!” - Alan Atkins, Sundown Marine

“The number one factor is having a correctly trained sales team.” - Robbie Brown, Action WaterSports

“Number one preparation for the Boat Show Season is the overall layout of our booth.  We normally have 2 separate booths with as many as 40 boats on display.  We chose to use the old fashion way of pre-layout which is graph paper and cut out boats of each model we want to display.  We meet as a group or Team and bounce ideas off from one another to develop the most effective layout for our show.  We take into consideration the closing area, traffic flow, TV placement, signage, while grouping the different models together to make the sales process as effective and efficient as possible for both the consumer and the sales person.   Once we have our booth(s) set we will invite a couple of Service personnel to give us some insight as to the most efficient way to set the boats.  We review this as a TEAM and then implement the process on paper to be shared with all of the Staff.  This ensures we are all on the same page for set up, tear down, and most of all successful selling at the show!” - Jeff Husby, Regal & Nautique of Orlando

“It’s paramount that we keep the brand integrity of our dealership front and center at our booths. That is, we promote Nautical Ventures as much, if not more, as the boat brands on display. That’s because as a dealer, Nautical Ventures is delivering a great customer experience, with trust and service paving the way for client retention. Visiting our both is like visiting a friend... welcoming, comfortable, and fun.” - Frank Ferraro, Nautical Ventures

“Be consistent and know your customer.” - Jim Dragseth, Whiticar Boat Works, Inc.

What are you doing to prepare for boat show season? Tell us below in the comment section.

Tags:  best practices  boat show  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  marine industry  member spotlight 

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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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8401 73rd Avenue North, Suite 71, Minneapolis, MN 55428