Dealership Certification Reaches Out to Consumers in 2008

By Thom Dammrich

The evidence is irrefutable; Marine Industry Dealership Certification is having a positive impact on recreational marine sales and service processes since first introduced almost three years ago. With more than 600 dealerships around the country enrolled in the program and nearly 400 officially “Marine Industry Certified,” the program’s value is clear and its biggest proponents are those who have experienced the benefits first hand!

So, what is this evidence we speak of? CSI results collected in both 2006 and 2007 confirm that consumers report greater overall satisfaction with both the dealership and the boat and engine product when they buy boats from a certified dealership. Research done by Left Brain Marketing also shows that 79 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to buy a boat from a certified dealership than a non-certified one, assuming the product and the terms of sale are the same.

The proof is in the pudding, and Marine Industry Dealership Certification is here to stay!

The positive industry buzz is extremely important, but there’s an even bigger, more critical factor we should be concerning ourselves with: What do consumers think about Dealership Certification? If you’re either already enrolled in the Dealership Certification program or are seriously considering enrollment, it makes perfect sense you’d want to know what, exactly, the program is doing to ensure consumers—your customers—are aware the program exists and that they fully understand what you, a Marine Industry Certified dealership, has to offer them.

We are working hard this year to make certain consumers are not only aware of the program, but that they truly understand how they will directly benefit by buying a boat from a certified dealership.

Since most potential boat-buyers turn to the Internet for advice and information, we focused our attention heavily on the web in 2008. The core of our promotional strategy is online. Dealership Certification banner advertisements are running on the top three boating websites: BoatTrader.com, boats.com, and BoatTest.com. Editorial content related to Dealership Certification is included on each of these sites, as well as special designation given to certified dealerships on dealer locators and product detail pages. The Marine Industry Dealership Certification program’s “Consumer Bill of Rights” is also posted on all three websites on its own, dedicated page.

As is the case with every Grow Boating program area, we’re tracking our Dealership Certification marketing results so we have a means of benchmarking our success. Since December 15, 2007 (when the 2008 Internet marketing initiative was first launched), we have delivered more than 26 million consumer impressions related to the program through banner ad placements on homepages, feature pages and dealer pages of the top three boating websites. We’ve also received more than 17,000 visits to the certification pages of DiscoverBoating.com from mid-December 2007 through early March 2008, proof that consumers show a growing interest in doing business with Marine Industry Certified dealers.

Consumers have a higher level of expectations related to the goods and services they purchase than ever before. Certification is not a fad; it’s here to stay, and businesses jumping on the certification bandwagon early are not only getting ahead of the industry curve, but they’re preparing for success when industry sales turn around.

Remaining competitive in today’s crowded marketplace requires continuous improvement. Marine Industry Dealership Certification gives you the tools to improve all aspects of your business and get a leg up on the competition. As consumers are becoming more aware of the program, it’s likely that in 2008 and beyond, they’ll be doing their research and seeking out a Marine Industry Certified dealership in their area.

Will YOU be that dealership?

For additional information about the Marine Industry Dealership Certification program or specific details regarding how to enroll, contact Dealer Certification program manager John Warnik at (312) 946-6500; jwarnik@DealerCertification.org.

Thom Dammrich is president of Grow Boating Inc. and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).

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