Jeff Scherer, Associate Partner, Callbutton LLC — In attending the recent Marine Dealer Conference and Expo conference, I agree with Mike Davin's recent post that several of the presenters emphasized the need to review the overall business model by applying some simple math equations. This is certainly a critical measure that every dealer should do (if for some reason they haven't done it yet).
Another resounding comment that I repeatedly heard in my conversations is how almost every OEM and dealer has drastically cut (if not temporarily eliminated) their marketing budgets. Marketing is often an intangible part of business because generally it is not instantly identifiable as THE single trigger that made that consumer decide to purchase. It also may garner a budget that is comparably sizable, and therefore one that is more vulnerable when budget cuts are required. Marketing is also frequently an exercise that is rooted in a "gut feeling" instead of a strategic vision. In my conversations, I also noted that the companies that ARE still aggressively marketing have a plan, and seem to be the ones that have their bows pointing outside of the economic vortex that others are still stuck in. They are not sitting back and banking on the random chance that drive-by consumer will fall in their door. They are leveraging e-mail campaigns, banner ads, and hitting the phones.
Smaller budgets are a frustrating reality in all departments. Smarter spends are mandated. This means more discretion, evaluation, and visibility into what relevant messaging is reaching the more elusive prospect today. With some reevaluation and redeployment of web tools, and deploying some simple tracking methods, businesses can be assured that the marketing dollars that are still available will return the most bang for the buck.