The NEW Marine Retailers Association

The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas has reinvented the way that it does business for its 40th anniversary.

Celebrating that anniversary in 2012, the MRAA has made several major moves to restructure and re-focus on its mission to be a vital voice and resource for marine retailers across North America.

Among the most significant of those moves was the re-creation of its membership structure. Late in 2011, the MRAA did away with a tiered structure and launched a one-rate, all-inclusive program that makes membership easy to understand and more attractive to belong to. And at the same time, the association unveiled the all-new MRAA Rewards Program, a program that offers its retail members exclusive access to numerous members-only benefits.

The MRAA Rewards Program has become even more valuable as new member benefits have been added over the last few months. Today, there are more than 20 benefits available to MRAA members only, and each of them provides exclusive access to cost savings, revenue-generating opportunities, educational programs, and business-improvement services, some of which have been custom-created by MRAA and its partners.

Building off of the success of the popular Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, the MRAA, in cooperation with Dominion Marine Media, launched Marine Retail University, a series of educational events to be held around the United States, beginning in 2012. These events will focus on helping retailers understand their markets and how to capitalize on the knowledge and understanding that the program provides.

As an acknowledgement of the significance that the MRAA is gaining as it grows, the association voted in late 2011 to alter its name to read “of the Americas.” The addition of the “s” at the end, however slight it may seem, notes a significant change in the focus of the association, from simply a U.S.-based association to one that is focused on the entire North American market of marine retailers. The addition of an 11th regional director, representing Canada, to the MRAA’s board solidified this expanding focus, and the association is working hard to increase its appeal to the Canadian market.

The most significant change the MRAA has made of late came in February of 2012 when the association invested in an all-new database management system. This program provides the association an entirely new way of conducting business. It features an all-new website with an array of new features for MRAA members, and it also integrates, for the association, numerous critical business functions into one digital platform.

The new site incorporates a database management system, customer relations management and e-newsletter tools, e-commerce opportunities, event registration functionality, news feeds and members-only content, in addition to full community functionality and an easy-to-use content management system.

“To put it simply, this new website provides us the platform to reinvent the way we do business,” says Matt Gruhn, who was named President of the MRAA in October of 2011. “This is much, much more than a simple redesign, or a couple new features. This allows us to interact with our members in ways we’ve never explored, and it provides much greater value to both our retailer and supplier membership experiences.

“In fact, all of the changes that we’ve made signal a rebirth of the MRAA. We’ve reinvented the way we do business from top to bottom. And the MRAA that our members know today is a more efficient and more effective organization than ever before.”

One of the greatest benefits of the new website is found in the efficiency that it creates for MRAA members. It used to take up to nine total steps to become a member of this association, for example; today, because of this new system, we’ve reduced that to two. Fill out a form, click submit, and you have instant access to all of the members-only benefits, the privileged access to the MRAA online community and all of the members-only content.”

One constant through all of the change has been the MRAA’s dedication to supporting the Boating Industry Top 100 Dealers Program. The MRAA became one of the early adopters of the Top 100 Awards Program, partnering with Boating Industry on the promotion of the program from its inception. Today, MRAA is thrilled to call more than two-thirds of the 2011 Top 100 Dealers our members, including 20 board members and members of our Young Leaders Advisory Council.

“The Top 100 Dealers are a critical group within the marine industry,” says Gruhn. “This entire program is focused on furthering the success of today’s dealers, and that is something the MRAA will always support. Its impact on the marine industry has been significant, inspiring dealers from all across North America to improve their operations as well as providing them the means to do grow through the sharing of best practices and timely strategies. The dealers who have been recognized with this outstanding achievement are to be commended.”

In 2012 and beyond, the MRAA is focused on solidifying a greater leadership role in the marine industry through its membership growth, participation in industry-wide efforts, and its approach to legislative and regulatory issues. In fact, the association has ramped up its involvement in legislative issues over the last couple months and has played a leadership role in communicating with Congress as well as in supporting the interests of Marine Trades Associations across North America. In 2012, the MRAA will, for the first time ever, co-host the American Boating Congress and support it by hosting a full board meeting at the event.

But like the subtle changes announced in the fall of 2011, these milestones mark merely the beginning of the transformation of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. Stay tuned.