By Thom Dammrich
In light of growing concern over slumping sales and consumer confidence, marine companies are tightening their belts in order to weather the storm of economic malaise. This news isn’t surprising, as businesses are often faced with hard decisions and cost-cutting measures when times get tough and people aren’t buying they way they used to.
However, despite the apparent need to cut costs wherever possible, there’s one area dealerships really can’t afford to scale back: Customer satisfaction. In fact, there is no better time to get prepared and take maximum advantage when business conditions improve. And, there’s no better way for dealers to prepare for prosperity than by completing Marine Industry Dealership Certification.
As I explained in this very column back in March, satisfying increasingly demanding consumers is the number-one priority of U.S. retailers in 2008, based on results of a survey released by International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) and the National Retail Federation. Consumers may, indeed, have a bit less disposable income to spend in 2008 compared to what they earmarked the previous few years, but that doesn’t means they’re willing to compromise the level of quality and service they’ve grown accustomed to expecting.
This desire to consume “only the best” goods and services underscores the need for dealerships to continue pursuit of Marine Industry Certification, even in economically challenging times. Being labeled a “certified” dealership is a major advantage in today’s marketplace; it clearly sets your business apart from its surrounding competition and identifies you as special. It tells consumers you care about them!
It’s important for dealers to know that they’re not alone in this pursuit of excellence; boat manufacturers across all segments of the industry are stepping up to the plate (and have been for years) to make it more convenient and affordable for members of their retail networks to become Marine Industry Certified. Manufacturers recognize the value of Marine Industry Certification to their dealers, to their customers and to the manufacturer’s own success. And because they view the program as so critical to a dealerships’ ultimate success, boat manufacturers are doing their part to help dealers not only afford to participate, but actually incentivise them to enroll in the program.
At present, a total of 25 boat brands and two state Marine Trades Associations—the Marine Trade Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (MTAMA) and the Southern California Marine Association (SCMA)—have formal programs in place that offer dealerships both financial assistance and future incentives (financial and otherwise) to participate in Marine Industry Dealership Certification.
Specific details and incentives vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the underlying principal is the same: Manufacturers and MTAs want to make it easier for dealerships to get certified, and they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is. Actions really do speak louder than words, and these 27 organizations are leading the charge.
Many boat manufacturers already offer or are presently considering incentives for their dealer networks to become Marine Industry Certified. I encourage you to ask your manufacturers about what they’re doing to help dealers become certified. A complete list of manufacturers and MTAs that currently offer support for the Marine Industry Dealership Certification program is available on GrowBoating.org.
To date, a total of 612 dealerships have enrolled in the Marine Industry Dealership Certification program, 389 of which have completed the process and earned the official “Marine Industry Certified” designation. If that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, take a look at Boating Industry magazine’s “2008 Dealer Directory” in its May 2008 issue. Nearly every page has a Marine Industry Certified Dealership highlighted, and most pages have several.
Don’t waste this year; get Marine Industry Certified and be prepared to take market share when the good times return!
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).