The dealers in the Top 100 represent the elite of the boating industry – those that are judged by the team at Boating Industry to be the best dealers in North America.
Within that 100, many dealers are called out for special recognition – the Dealer of the Year and the Top 20 that qualify as the “best of the best.” And the Best in Class awards for those dealers that excel in one particular area of their business from marketing to customer service to boat show strategy.
While the standards for those awards are pretty straightforward, the companies recognized as Editor’s Choice are less so. Every editor who works on the Top 100 gets a chance to pick a dealership that stands out for them as one that impresses them as an “up and comer,” a dealership that is improving itself and constantly becoming better. Look back on past editors’ picks and you’ll see a lot of dealers that ended up cracking into the Top 20 or garnered a Best in Class award down the road.
Mark’s Marine is a perfect example of that as it continues to improve and excel in all aspects of its business. The dealership has impressed the Boating Industry team with its growth over the last several years and its plans for the future.
“Planning for future success is first about knowing who you are, making sure your staff knows and lives that vision, and delivering it to the customer,” Business Manager/Owner Karen Thykeson wrote in the company’s Top 100 application. “Once you really know who you are and strive always to grow and become better, success in the future develops naturally. We don’t take anything for granted in our processes. Just because we’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the best way.”
In budgeting and planning for the future, Mark’s Marine has made use of regional and national demographic and economic development data.
“In particular we track housing starts, and retirement population and seasonal boat registration data to help develop a comprehensive picture of what the upcoming year will look like,” Thykeson says. “We maintain history over time data on many of our key metrics so we can gauge how useful they are as a predictor of boating marketing conditions.”
More recently, Mark’s Marine has found days-on-market and available inventory for vacation lake homes to be an indicator of market strength.
“These have indicated a heating up market with an increase in customers having more than a single vacation home in our market area,” Thykeson says.
Mark’s Marine also made several improvements to the business in 2016, including an improved boat show strategy and a new website.
“In 2016, we dramatically increased our commitment to the Spokane Boat Show and designed and built an amazing new stage facility to make it easier for consumers to view our pontoon boats,” Thykeson says.
The dealership added boat show space to separate its fishing and pontoon boats and improve its sales focus in each area.
“The pontoon sales are much more lifestyle focused while the fishing sales are more technically oriented,” Thykeson says. “This allowed us to select the appropriate staff for each category and train accordingly.”
The Mark’s Marine team designed a new lift system and prepacked deck shims and pontoon blocks numbered for each boat.
“This allowed us to pull a boat from trailer and have it set in place every 10 minutes allowing for us to set every one of our 62 boats and get the ramping assembled in one day over both areas,” Thykeson says.
The new boat show strategy helped grow show sales by 30 percent for the year.
The company also switched to a responsive website in 2016 built by Dealer Spike. “This was the first time we took site creation out of our own hands and it was done primarily due to not having the internal time to develop a new responsive site,” Thykeson said. “The new site has resulted in a much more robust lead generation with multiple leads a day from our site.”
Mark’s Marine also added a digital boat builder to its showroom, located near the front door, with the ability to pull up the dealership’s full inventory. The system syncs automatically with its online inventory and lets customers build boats from several of Mark’s Marine’s manufacturers for units it might not have in stock.
“This interactive tool served as a silent salesman for times when our sales staff was otherwise occupied,” Thykeson says.