By Thom Dammrich
Everyone working in the recreational marine industry knows the dawn of each New Year marks the start of manufacturers and retailers’ busiest time in the coming 12 months: Boat show season. From late December through February and early March, the industry is focused on attending and exhibiting at consumer boat shows across the country, as boat shows are still considered one of the primary venues to attract new consumer business and generate boat sales.
Some dealers even maintain that half of their annual business is secured through contacts made at boat shows.
No doubt, boat shows are an important part of sales and lead generation for dealers. But with every dealer aware of this obvious fact, what would make a potential customer want to buy their boat from you as opposed to your competition? What is it that makes your business stand out from the crowd and scream “Buy a boat from us!”?
Marine Industry Dealership Certification not only provides dealers with the tools to improve their businesses and increase potential profits, but also helps dealerships set themselves apart on the exhibit floor.
Consumers can easily locate Certified Dealerships at the 23 consumer boat shows owned and produced by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)—through special boat show signage, designation on each boat show website, and recognition inside the respective boat show directories. Certified dealers that participate in NMMA shows also receive 50 free show tickets to use and distribute at their discretion.
Boat shows provide dealers with great opportunities to identify new customers—in particular new boat buyers looking to be first-time owners. In this day and age, where consumers are better educated than ever before (thanks largely, in part, to the internet), they are conditioned to look for details that make one product or service stand out as superior when weighed against another.
Boat show attendees are no exception. They, too, are browsing the exhibit floor looking for signs that designate the best possible dealership from which they can buy a boat.
Dealership Certification is that sign; it is the “wow” factor that makes potential customers stop in their tracks and decide to visit your booth over someone else’s. Becoming certified is an ideal way to draw in the “man or woman on the street” and demonstrate why, if they purchase a boat from you, they are more likely to get the best sales and service experience possible.
Having that certified designation showing proudly in your display area or receiving special recognition in the boat show directory or on the show website as belonging to this elite class of certified dealerships makes your business noteworthy to the consumer. Everyone wants the red-carpet treatment, and certified dealerships can make all customers feel Oscar-worthy.
The facts clearly support this sentiment. Research indicates consumers prefer to purchase boats from certified dealerships. A recent survey conducted by Kansas-based research firm Left-Brain Marketing revealed that if given the choice, 79 percent of people are more likely to buy boats from Certified Dealerships than their non-certified counterparts—particularly those individuals new to boating.
Nearly eight in 10 survey respondents said assuming they were in the market for a boat, and factors such as price and brand were identical, they were more apt to select the boat sold by the certified dealership.
If you’re not already enrolled in the Dealership Certification program, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to make the investment today. The advantages to becoming Marine Industry Certified are game-changing. Particularly at the start of a new year and new boat show season (in a reasonably challenging economic environment), all dealerships should ask themselves: Can we really afford NOT to take advantage of every opportunity available to make our businesses better and help us sell boats? Can we really afford NOT to be certified?
I urge every dealership that hasn’t yet taken steps to become Marine Industry Certified to visit DealerCertification.org and sign up to attend an upcoming spring Launch Workshop—the very first step in the Certification process.
For additional information about the Marine Industry Dealership Certification program or how to get enrolled, contact Dealer Certification program manager Elizabeth McAllister at (312) 946-6500; emcallister@DealerCertification.org.
Thom Dammrich is president of Grow Boating Inc. and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).