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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: March 2020

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, March 11, 2020
If you were to start a brand new dealership today, what would be your first priority for establishing a foundation for success?

“The key to starting and maintaining any business begins with your people and their culture.  You can be the best at what you do but without a strong team behind you, the long term successes will be short lived.  A formal plan to educate and maintain your team allows them to grow within your business.  Your people are the face of your business and who form the relationships with your customers.  As a business owner you can only wear so many hats and be successful.  Hire and take care of your staff and they will look out for you.” - Jeff Siems, Blue Springs Marine

“Creating an internal company culture which promotes and fosters individual growth through collaborative, team centric and employee focused programs. Build the company around building up your team. That foundation is unshakeable. Businesses should promote human flourishing, both inside and outside of the company. But we have to start with allowing our people to flourish.” - David deAndrade, White Lake Marine

“To make sure the team is clear on the mission of the organization. This goes for President to the lot person. This needs to be put in a handbook. That is used and not stored away.” - Ken Toby, Marine Sales

“The first priority must be hiring the best people for where you want the company to go.  Sometimes that means paying up for a better person, but in the long run it's worth it.” - Jeremy Anderson, Big Thunder Marine

“Putting a good business plan together would be the first thing I would do. You need to know the area and the opportunities that exist. Establishing relationships with banks and vendors, what products you would like to sell and what lines are available for that area are key. Specialize in something! Have a product or service that no one else has or can provide. Although location is always important if you specialize in something I believe it is not as important as it used to be.” - Lou Cecchini,  Off Shore Marine, Inc.

“One of my first priorities would be to have a well laid out plan for departments which would include clearly documented processes along with properly educated employees with clear job descriptions and proper training.  This has been one of our biggest challenges to implement after being in business for 30 years and allowing the business to grow without these items in place.” - David Muirhead, Willey’s Marine

“Purchase a on-water location so storage and rental could be included as revenue contributors.” - Joe Lewis, Mount Dora Boating Center

“Products are an important piece that can attract a new customer. Many products are available online, but a store that carries quality merchandise can give consumers their first chance to experience a feel/smell/touch of something that makes them decide whether or not it is the right choice and why it is important to carry a wide variety of different items when trying to see what your new area is in need of.” - Dave Larrison, Waterfront Marine

“[When you first start a dealership], you have nothing… and nobody knows who you are. My first priority would be to create vision, mission and value statements. As you go out into the world to create your dream business, people need to know who you are and what you stand for. Having these statements will inform and impress prospective lenders, vendors, employees and customers that you have a direction, how you intend to get there, and that you are someone that can be trusted.” - Larry Russo, Sr., MarineMax Russo

“My first priority would be finding the right people to help me run it. I truly believe that The Sportsman is very successful because of our staff. You have to have the right people in the right places to do the right things!” - Christi Romero, The Sportsman

“It would be the location! We’ve all heard the saying “location, location, location”  Where are your competitors located? How close are you to water for demoing? How many people drive by your location each day? Freeway visibility is a huge way to get your name out in the local community.” - Bob Bense, Superior Boats

“With experienced personnel at a premium, finding the best Dealer Management System has become more important than ever. Picking the product that has a foundation of managing the day to day business and not just an accounting system with management tools added, is critical. The time spent learning the pros and cons of the many DMS that exist will pay dividends for years to come.  The DMS will be the very foundation that the business will be built upon and will play a pivotal role  in achieving success.” - Frank Sublette, Marine Sales


What would be your first priority? Tell us below in the comment section.

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

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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 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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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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Follow-up is Critical to Building Loyalty

Posted By Liz Keener, Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2018

Earning one sale from a customer is great, but building upon that relationship is key to earning service business and the subsequent sales. That’s why follow-up is so important.

Last month I explained why I bought the motorcycle I bought and how the salesperson understood me and my wants. However, since that purchase, my experience with that dealership has gone cold.

It seems that after I bought my bike, that dealership stopped caring. They earned my money and moved on to the next person. Does that make me feel welcome? No. Does that build my loyalty? Definitely not.

As great as the sales experience was, everything from the delivery on has been disappointing. At delivery, I was sent back to the service department to pick up my bike. There was little excitement, little instruction, and my bike was dusty. I was so thrown from the experience that I forgot to ask important questions, like where the manual is, so I can get to know my bike. I had to go back to get that instruction a few minutes later.

Since picking up the bike almost two months ago, I haven’t received one phone call or email asking me about how I’m enjoying my bike or if I need any further assistance.

In fact, just this week the dealership missed a key follow-up opportunity. My license plate finally arrived from the DMV, and the call to tell me about that was purely informational – again no questions about my motorcycling experience or if I need anything else to enjoy riding more. Later in the day, I stopped into the dealership, and my plate was simply handed to me with no other interaction.

Three people were on the floor of the dealership – one customer was being helped by two employees at the parts counter. I had to stop a third to be helped, and again no one asked me about my bike or if I was interested in any parts or accessories now that I’ve spent some time on it. In fact, I could use a tank bag and am interested in other accessories as well. But no one asked.

As any customer experience education has taught us, loyalty is built on the entire experience at your dealership, not one sale. Be mindful that you’re not leaving customers hanging after they make a purchase from you.

Tags:  customer experience  expectations  Experiences  follow-up  loyalty  motorcycle dealerships  relationships  Sales 

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Communication Is Key, Right?

Posted By Allison Gruhn, Monday, September 24, 2018

How many times have we heard the cliché that “communication is key”? Or, that it’s better to over-communicate to avoid misunderstandings?

In customer relationships, it is not enough to merely communicate.  Here’s a recent experience of mine that I believe proves that how often you are communicating with your customers and what you are actually saying, is even more important. Is your message sincere? Or is it just lip service?   

Last summer, a storm rolled through Minneapolis and caused damage to our siding and roof. After many “storm chasers” knocked on our door to offer services, my husband and I decided to go with a contractor who was recommended from a friend, and who lived in our area. We had an initial meeting to discuss the work that was needed, and decided to add-on some additional home improvement items. Our contract was signed and we were excited to have the work begin.

And then we waited. And waited. And waited.

Just waiting for the work to begin was agonizing. We signed our contract in August, with the promise that the work would be completed in time for Thanksgiving. But we waited. Waited for materials to be delivered, for a dumpster to be delivered, for any communication of a timeline. Anything.

We finally reached out to our contractor, who instead of taking a proactive approach and communicating with us a plan about the work schedule, left us hanging with multiple excuses of “I haven’t heard from the siders yet” or “I’m waiting for the shingles to be delivered” or “the materials were delayed from the factory” or “I ordered the wrong garage door,” or … or … or. At one point, we actually received a message that said: “We haven’t forgotten about you. Sorry about my crummy communication skills. I’ll let you know as soon as I know a better timeline.”

After every excuse, we waited days to weeks with no communication or updates, which caused us to become upset and frustrated. It seemed as if we were always the ones to be reaching out to him, instead of him contacting us first. But more importantly, when he did finally respond to us, he’d make promises he wouldn’t deliver on. So we lost faith in his words.

So the question here is, how do you stay in touch with your customers? When their boat is in for service, do you wait hours, days, a week or even a month before providing an update? When that part finally shows up, do you let the customer know, or do you just let the technician know? When your customer’s new boat is on order, are you diligent about communicating updates from the factory with them?

It is not enough to just communicate. That is the basic expectation. What you say and how you say it is just the first step. If you wait until the customer asks, you’re not meeting expectations. You need to be proactive with your communication. Think through what it’s like to be the customer and how you can exceed expectations and deliver an incredible buying and ownership experience. And never forget that your follow-through -- what you do after you make the promises – is what truly defines the quality of the customer experience.

Tags:  communication  continuous improvement  customer experience  expectations  experience  Experiences  misunderstandings  relationships 

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Track customer experiences at your dealership

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

It’s been 19 years since Joseph Pine and James Gilmore authored their groundbreaking book, “The Experience Economy,” which boldly predicted that “future economic growth lies in the value of experiences and transformations — goods and services are no longer enough.”

Whether Pine and Gilmore were premature in their prediction or it’s simply that their insight has multiplied over the last two decades, it’s become extraordinarily clear that their speculation has never been more accurate than it is today.

Experiences matter more now than ever before, and everywhere we turn, experts and businesses alike are preaching on the power of experiences. And please note: Customer experience-focused approaches for businesses are far different than the rather bland thinking that surrounds customer service and customer satisfaction.

As author, consultant and speaker Theresa Syer noted in her Dealership Certification Course, “Improve Loyalty With A Customer Experience Mindset,” customer service is defined as the most basic of interactions between a customer and a company. Its core focus is a single transaction that takes place at a specific time. “The customer asks for something. The employee provides it. Transaction complete,” Syer notes.

The customer experience, on the other hand, is the sum total of every interaction a customer has with your business. It includes the customer’s overall perception after every moment of contact throughout their relationship with your business. It’s the net result of your website, your phone greeting, your in-person meet and greet, your sales process, all the way through to interactions with the delivery person, service team and the yard staff. Customer service is a part of the experience, but it doesn’t define it, Syer explains.

In this scenario, you might provide outstanding customer service, but one other touchpoint — as small as it may be — could destroy the customer experience. Do you know for sure, how well your employees are focused on providing an outstanding customer experience?


Here’s a tool for you, courtesy of the Continuous Certification Course Theresa created for MRAA and its Certified Dealers. It’s just an introductory experience log that introduces participants to this course, which is rich with many other tools and resources to help you provide your customers with a much more rewarding experience. Print this form and use it to log the experiences you’re having every day when interacting with other businesses. And then use again to think through how your customers are interacting with your business. I recommend you have some of your customers log their experience with you so you can learn from it.

As Pine and Gilmore predicted back in the late 90s, customer experiences are the currency we deal with today. They matter more than we ever could have expected. Over the next few weeks, you’ll hear stories in this blog about some incredible experiences our staff members have had, and you’ll hear stories about some horrible experiences we have had.

Let’s start working today to ensure your customers are having only incredible experiences.

Tags:  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  customer experience  customer service  Experiences  relationships  resources  Theresa Syer  tools 

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Practice What You Learn

Posted By Bob McCann, Monday, May 7, 2018

In the Continuous Certification Q1 course, “Take Your Dealership From Good to Great with CRM,” instructor Sam Dantzler opened our eyes to asking how customers want to be contacted. Since then, I’ve been taking notice how the businesses that I interact with contact me. This week, I needed to get my bike tuned up and have the handle bar tape replaced.

I rode the bike to the shop and was greeted enthusiastically by the service team. They threw the bike on the rack and asked what I was looking for. I told them the rear derailleur needs adjusting and the bar tape replaced.

They grabbed a repair order and started filling it out with my name, my phone numbers and when I needed it back. After some small talk I tucked my copy of RO in the pocket, looked at a couple of new bikes and walked home.

Later in the day, when I was emptying my pockets, I noticed some boxes that were built into their RO that weren’t used. Based on what I learned in that Continuous Certification Course, I thought the bike shop missed two great opportunities to build a better relationship with me and build in more efficiencies.

The RO has two permission boxes for texting and emailing. These are built into the RO to remind the employee to ask the customer how they want to be contacted. Neither was used. I can only imagine the amount of time that could have been saved for both the shop and myself if they simply sent me a text that my bike was ready. I do believe if a business or representative can move into the customer’s text space, the relationship advances. And a growing number of people prefer to be contacted by text these days.

The second opportunity seems light years old and obvious: How could anyone miss out on collecting email addresses these days? We’ve been preaching to boat dealers at our annual conference for years to always capture a customer’s email address. Even after all these years, email marketing arguably gets you the best bang for the buck.

So, my question to you, are you executing on what you’re learning or are you missing these same opportunities?

Tags:  bike shop  communication  continuous improvement  CRM  relationships  repair order 

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