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The drive to continuously grow and improve is at the heart of the MRAA, our members and our staff. That’s why we’re launching this blog: to share what we’re learning in our work and in our lives with you – and in hopes you’ll share what you’re learning too.


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Dealer 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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A Peek Behind the Curtain

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

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

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

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

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

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Multiplying Success Through “Interdependence”

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Sometimes, though you can’t take any credit for it, you find yourself doing the right thing at the right time.
That was the case this past week. The “right thing” was reading a classic book: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. And the right time was rocketing through the air on a flight to join MRAA’s Dealer Development Manager Nikki Duffney at the National Marine Trades Council meeting in Anacortes, Washington.
The part of the book I was reading was on what Covey calls “the maturity continuum” – one in which we start life with physical, emotional, mental and financial dependence, then move to independence, and eventually – on a quest to achieve our greatest success – may reach the pinnacle of maturity, interdependence.
The way Covey explains it, “interdependence is the paradigm of we – we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.” In our society, we often put independence on a pedestal as the ultimate goal – but the author does an excellent job of reminding us that idea is misplaced.
“Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of other to achieve their greatest success,” he writes.  
I’m not telling you anything new. Most of you actively practice interdependence. For one, you experience the benefits of collaborating with your team to strengthen your business. You also might be a member of a 20 Group. And if you’re reading this, chances are you’re a member of a marine trade association. Or two. Or three. Take, for instance, the marine dealer with a marina who was a member of three of the associations in attendance at the meeting. He belongs to his state association, the MRAA and the Association of Marina Industries – each of which offers unique education and benefits to fuel success for that business owner and his team. Talk about 1 + 1 + 1 = 5!
It doesn’t hurt to be reminded of how much more we can achieve together than alone. The book was my first reminder this week, but it came to life again and again working alongside the brilliant and dedicated people who run the industry’s marine trade associations.
There are many ways in which we were already collaborating with the national, state and regional association professionals in the room. For example, we partner with the National Marine Manufacturers Association by sharing a political action committee, called BoatPAC. Many of us at the NMTC event co-host the American Boating Congress, which is produced by NMMA. MRAA collaborated with Wendy Mackie, her team at the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association and others to launch the Strategy 10 + 1 publication, a Guide to Growing the Workforce, and the MRAA Guide to Apprenticeship. And on a personal level, I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to work with Barb Caster of the Boating Industries Association of Upstate New York to serve those marine businesses in my local community.
One final example, inspired by the value of working alongside our marine trade association peers to serve you, is a co-host program at the Dealer Week event this December in Tampa. Five associations have already signed on as Dealer Week Co-Hosts, and after meeting with our peers to explore the value of this opportunity to our organizations and you, several more have expressed interest in co-hosting.

Thanks to NMTC leadership, there were lots of seeds planted that will sprout new opportunities for all of us who participated to practice interdependence this week, which multiply our ability to fuel your success.

To learn more about co-hosting at Dealer Week, MRAA's annual conference and expo, reach out to Allison Gruhn or visit our partner page.

Tags:  communication  dealer focused  discussions  guide to growing the workforce  marine industry  MRAA member  networking  NMTA  technician shortage  workforce 

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Step One: Evalute Your Website

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Step One: Evalute

As a marine retailer, you know that digital marketing is one of the fastest changing areas of your business. You have heard that your website is now your business’ “virtual storefront.” So with that understanding, it is key that your website not only provides its users with great content, BUT it also needs to provide them with a stellar user experience.

As discussed as part of the digital publication, "Evaluate Your Website’s Domain, Design and Digital Content", the first (and arguably the most important) purpose of a website’s design is to prevent a bounce. If you can convince your users to stay on your page for 30 seconds, you have a solid chance that they will stay much longer.

Use the following checklist, that is presented and explained in the whitepaper, to evaluate the USABILITY of your website:

How much time does it take to load the homepage? _________________

Can a visitor find information easily?  YES or NO

Is there a search button for visitors? YES or NO

Do all the links work? YES or NO

Is my site mobile friendly? YES or NO

Is my site compatible with multiple browsers? YES or NO

Are visitors able to navigate between different webpages in a simple an hassle-free manner?

Are all clickable items and navigation buttons clearly marked and easy to identify?

Are all the images clear and easy to see? YES or NO

Are there options for providing me feedback? YES or NO

Is the overall performance of my site acceptable?

Now that you made it through the checklist, what are you doing well? And what did you identify as an opportunity to better your website’s usability? Even one small change can dramatically advance the user experience of your website.

For two more guided checklists and additional guidance on auditing your website’s domain, design, and digital content, MRAA members can login and download the full white paper here.

The digital publication, "Evaluate Your Website’s Domain, Design and Digital Content” is the first in a three-part series, “The 3Ds of Effective Website Marketing,” created through a partnership between MRAA and Dominion Domains.

Tags:  best practices  continuous improvement  customer experience  dealer focused  growth  guides  Industry Guide  online retailers  usability  website 

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50 Reasons to Attend Dealer Week by our 100th Registrant

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Bob Bense, of Superior Boat Repair & Sales, was the 100th individual to register for Dealer Week! With the help of his wife, Kathy, the couple compiled a list of 50 reasons why they continue to support the MRAA and, now, Dealer Week.

We signed up for the Dealer Week because the MRAA team continues to deliver information and resources that help us to prosper and grow as a marine dealer. Here are half of one-hundred reasons why we love attending and how participating has been a really good thing for us as the owners of Superior Boat Repair & Sales, Inc.

    1. We get excited about the coming year and helping our boating community.

    2. We share quality time with other dealers.

    3. We enjoy time spent meeting dealers from all over the country and the world.

    4. We get ideas, fresh ideas, to implement at the dealership.

    5. We find solutions to problems we are facing at the office.

    6. We really enjoy being with so many other people that do the same thing for a living.

    7. We get to hear really entertaining and thought provoking speakers that inspire us to be better and do better.

    8. We are taught by marine industry experts in the educational work-shops.

    9. We get to get away and get a break from the dealership, which helps us to relax and unwind with our  staff.

    10. We bond with our employees and get quality time to talk to each other.

    11. We have the opportunity to win scholarships, which our dealership has won.

    12. We keep up with up marine industry news.

    13. We are able to meet with new vendors and learn about new products that we can purchase to help our business grow, like software.

    14. We rekindle relationships with old friends that work at the boat manufacturers’, some that are decades old.

    15. We get a chance to stop and think about our dealership, what we have done right and where we can improve.

    16. We learn from dealers that have been doing this so much longer than we have.

    17. We learn how to ride the wave through the good years and how to hold on to what we have created, during the bad.

    18. We pick up great ideas from new dealers that we meet over lunch.

    19. We get to see sunny Florida and get some vitamin D.

    20. We break out and each person from our dealership goes to a different workshops so we come back with so much more useful information to help us prosper.

    21. We make new contacts and network.

    22. We get the opportunity to enjoy our success with others.

    23. We get to hear what  the financial experts at the lending institutions predict the economy will do in the coming year(s), which helps us when ordering our inventory for the coming year.

    24. We get to visit the manufacturers for the boat lines that we carry, when we’re there in Florida.

    25. We get the opportunity to visit with our dear friends in our Parker Twenty Group.

    26. We get the privilege of meeting other husband and wife dealership owners and we share what makes it all work.                                                                            

    27. We can win prizes.

    28. We are given delicious food, like key lime pie, which we don’t get in California.

    29. We get SO excited again about owning a dealership and providing families with the joy that boat ownership brings.

    30. We learn tricks of the trade, like how to bring up and train your own mechanics, since there is such a huge shortage of technicians across the country.

    31. We get to wear shorts during the winter.

    32. We build up our sales-team and motivate them to sell more.

    33. We learn strategies on how to sell our business to others and market our business wisely.

    34. We can ask so many questions, questions regarding all aspects of owning a dealership.

    35. We hear how other dealers found solutions and what those solutions were, regarding the same problems we are facing at our boat dealership.

    36. We are reminded of important practices we must have in place to have a secure and healthy dealership... like having at least two lines of credit to get through the downturns.

    37. We learn vital lessons on how to make more money and get higher margins.

    38. We hear how to sell smarter and to close faster.

    39. We were able to get expert advice and helpful guidance when we were a brand new dealer, especially during a severe drought and terrible recession.

    40. We learned so much, all the while earning the respect of other dealers, because after implementing what we learned we grew by leaps and bounds.

    41. We are reminded that we sell JOY, memories and a great quality of life.

    42. We hear about other dealers that have gone out of business, why they closed shop and how we can learn from their mistakes, if we can.

    43. We are able to take a much needed cruise vacation, before we get slammed in the busy months, by taking a short drive to the Atlantic and hoping on one of many ships.

    44. We are challenged to think and grow in our roles at the dealership, through the many workshops.

    45. We are given the opportunity to purchase things, like insurance and flooring, at a much better rate, which saves us money and helps us stay in business.

    46. We really enjoy the whole experience.

    47. We are proud to be a dealer, when we realize there aren’t very many people selling boats across the country.

    48. We hear in the seminars what we are doing right and that is uplifting.

    49. We exchange contact information with other dealers selling the same lines, which helps us to be able to call them in the future, if we can ever sell each other inventory.

    50. We really, truly see the value of all that encompasses attending the Dealer Week and what we take away from that experience.

Take advantage of the lowest prices of the year by registering for Dealer Week before March 31, 2019.

Tags:  dealer development  dealer education  dealer focused  Education  experience  supporters  testimonials 

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Engaging Conversation

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Friday, November 30, 2018
Updated: Monday, January 7, 2019

Engage. [en-geyj] verb. to come together and occupy the attention of toward a joint effort task or idea.

A dealer friend found himself at odds with an employee today. His senior technician wants to be paid more — a common issue all the time, right? … but particularly in today’s growing economy and shrinking number of quality technicians.

Ultimately, the dealer wants to do right by his tech – he’s a good guy and he’s reliable. But behind the scenes, he’s also the least efficient in the shop, despite the “senior” designation — and by a long shot. He’s billing less than 50 percent of his clocked hours but seeks the pay of someone far more effective in their role.

As it shakes out, the guy who keeps the shop running while the boss isn’t around wouldn’t have a place to work if it weren’t for his more-efficient yet lower-paid brethren.

In many ways, there’s much to be gained when we can engage our employees in a conversation about the business. When we can sit down and outline the equation of revenue earned to expenses paid – personnel and otherwise. And that’s what this boiled down to: “I can pay you more, but let’s talk about and improve upon the profitability equation of the work you do for us.”

Far too often, however, we treat the idea of engaging like it’s a one-directional conversation. You come to work. You engage in your responsibilities. Everyone’s happy.

By definition, though, “to engage” means to come together and occupy the attention of toward a joint effort, task, or idea. It’s not a one-way street. We need to come together toward a joint effort, task or idea with our employees in order to be efficient and effective, both as individuals and as a business.

I often think of it the same way as our role here at MRAA. We want to engage you in a conversation about the business of boating and how we can aid in your growth and success. It’s a rewarding moment when we get to talk to our members — even our non-members, in this case — about these topics, and it’s even more rewarding when we see them engage in the tools, resources and educational opportunities we have to offer them.

Because ultimately, we need to come together toward a joint effort, task or idea in order to grow our industry. And we can only do that by opening up engaging dialog.

We look forward to doing just that next week at the MDCE. Hope to see you there.

Tags:  conversation  dealer focused  engage  engaging conversations  technician 

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The Path to Today’s Bottom-line Results

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, November 1, 2018

Excel. [ik-sel] verb. to exceed all expectations and achieve a level higher in performance, quality, or degree.

It was a truly memorable moment of my career. The boss and I were out on the road sharing the concept for an all-new program, trying to create buy-in. The meeting had arrived at the moment of the close, and she leaned in, focused and sincere: “We’ve really built this program to ensure that we can over-promise and under-deliver.”

The faux pas wasn’t lost on the group. We got a good laugh out of it then, and I still get a chuckle out of it when I think about it more than a decade later.

As author and sales guru Grant Cardone suggests in his book, “10X. The Only Difference Between Success and Failure,” even the culturally acceptable idea of under-promising and over-delivering is a poor way to capture business. Think about it. Let’s under-promise and tell our customers that the boat will float most of the time, so they’re surprised and delighted when it never actually sinks. How many more boats do you think you would sell?

In our demanding society, and particularly in a want-based industry like boating, where expectations are continually on the rise, there is still an easy pathway we can take to excel – to exceed all expectations and achieve a level higher in performance and quality. That pathway is to create better experiences for our customers.

A friend, who is the CEO for a fast-growing tech company, calls it the Amazon effect, noting that price, availability and delivery are no longer points to compete on. “So what’s left?” he asks. Brand and reputation … which are shaped by the experience you provide.

Experiences are today’s currency. Experiences – again, particularly in a want-based industry like boating – are what make or break our businesses and indeed, the success of our entire industry. How are you doing with the experiences you and your business provide? How is your team doing? And how do you know?

Several brief mystery shopping exercises around the marine and RV industries suggest that somewhere between 35 and 40 percent of the leads sent to our dealers are going unanswered. But not at your dealership, right? What does this tell you about the experiences our industry is providing?

Similarly, a recent study by AVALA Marketing Group showed that more than 40 percent of consumers who made it through the initial contact hurdle and have actually bought a boat never hear from their dealer again. There was no “thank you.” No, “how did we do?” No assistance. Just, “here’s your boat. And good luck.” Are you sure that doesn’t happen at your business?

If you want to excel in today’s market place, you have to focus on the experience. You have to make a commitment to creating world-class experiences and to over-delivering on that promise every step of the way. You have to exceed expectations. It’s not just a feel-good manner of taking care of your customers; it’s clear that this approach will not only set you apart from the competition, but will also offer you a long-term strategy with real-world, bottom-line business results at stake.

Tags:  dealer development  dealer focused  excel  future  growth 

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MRAA History: BoatPAC

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Thursday, October 25, 2018
In honor of BoatPAC reaching this year’s fundraising goal, let’s throwback to the BoatPAC event at MDCE 2016.

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  Annual conference  Annual meetings  BoatPAC  dealer focused  fundraising  mraa history 

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How do you stay energized?

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, October 18, 2018
I’m having issues with batteries these days. In our mobile, always-on-the-go society, batteries are more and more frequently the power source of choice. And while, yes, they’re getting better all the time, they’re still largely unpredictable.

I watch my daughter struggle with battery management on her new cell phone. Is it normal for teenagers to always hover around two-percent battery life? A coworker’s dead car battery nearly stranded her at the office. I have two dead – and very heavy – batteries I carry around in my cordless drill case. And I can’t tell you how many times the rechargeable battery in my trimmer has left my facial hair half manicured and half gray and shaggy.

This issue I’m having serves as a constant reminder that staying energized is not about recharging batteries. Recharging suggests you let your battery die or dwindle in its power before you give it life again.

I like to think of “energize” as a constant state of power, not something we allow to dissipate before we refuel. It’s the fuel that we use to attain goals at work, to foster meaningful relationships, to engage in hobbies, and to be passionate about anything we do. As Webster says it, it means to inspire action with invigorating effort.

Inspiration comes in many forms. You can find it in meeting a goal, selling that boat, landing that client, creating a relationship, taking a vacation, reading a book, hearing a great message, running a marathon, learning a new hobby, or countless other options. When it comes to your own power source, your own method for being energized, that diversity in where you find it is important. It can’t all come from work. It can’t all come from play. The balance is critical to not letting your batteries die.

At MRAA, we want to be your professional power source. We want to offer you the means for finding inspiration in your everyday work life and help you achieve the goals you’ve set. And we’re willing to provide the invigorating effort to make that happen.

Whether you’re looking for business solutions through membership or our annual conference, we can connect you with the right partners. Whether you’re looking for educational opportunities online or in person, we’ve got a world class catalog to offer you. Whether you’re looking for simple inspiration in a specific area of need or a proven template for running your entire dealership, MRAA wants to be your power choice of source to energize your performance and your business to bigger and better things in the year ahead.

Our means of being energized comes from the passion of the team that surrounds us here at MRAA. The passion that each of us pour into delivering inspiring, invigorating opportunities for you. Look at today’s opportunity alone. Membership Development Manager Nikki Duffney is celebrating her own birthday by delivering a powerful, energizing educational opportunity: A live webinar on how to unify your sales and service departments for delivering optimal customer experiences. “Happy birthday to me. Here’s an incredible gift for all of you.” That kind of passion is what we mean by Energize and it’s why we’re confident in becoming your power source of choice.

(NOTE: If you missed the live version of this event, there will be a recording available soon.)

Tags:  dealer development  dealer focused  energize  future  growth  inspiration  refuel 

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MRAA History: Shirtsleeve Session Workbook

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Thursday, October 11, 2018
The 1977 Dealer Shirtsleeve Sessions Work Book, brought to you by MRAA and the Boating Trades Association of Texas.

Tags:  Annual conference  Annual meetings  dealer focused  mraa history  shirtsleeve session  workbook 

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