If you’ve got it, if you’ve done it, flaunt it

Jim Ackerman and Paul B. FurseBy Jim Ackerman and Paul Furse — For most dealers, your trophies go largely unnoticed, to the detriment of your sales.

Wait. What trophies?

Not just races won or awards given, although they’re part of the mix, but also the training, credentials, certifications, experience and history of your dealership.

You see, most dealers simply take the ads slicks they’ve been given by manufacturers and run ‘em. If they make up their own ads, the resulting ads are very similar.

Most boat dealership ads focus on the product. They’re feature-laden efforts that typically display a sexy picture of the product, and maybe the beautiful people using it, along with descriptions that talk – sometimes at length – about specifications and performance.

Problem is, these features are available from anybody who sells what you sell. And even the people who don’t sell your exact lines will sell something similar that they will argue provides similar features and benefits for a similar or better price.

Think of your poor prospects. How are they to choose? If they’re not converted to a specific brand, their life can be a mass of confusion. No wonder they’re slow to decide – or don’t decide at all. And even if they have already developed a preference for the brands you carry, in many cases, they’ll have to decide on which dealer to buy that brand from. If you’re like most marine retailers, you’re not making it any easier on them with your current approach to advertising.

Don’t overlook credibility

The industry’s pre-occupation with the physical features of our products is understandable. People want what those features can do for them. But physical characteristics are just one of three kinds of features. Focusing on the physical alone may be causing you to leave thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars on the table.

But what are these other kinds of features and how can you exploit them for more money?

Features come in three forms, physical, which we’ve already discussed, credibility, and delivery.

Credibility characteristics are the features that enable buyers to justify buying from you, instead of the competition.

Delivery characteristics are features that describe how you deliver your product, whether that includes 24/7 customer pick-up, initial transport to the marina, easy payment plans or whatever.

The most overlooked category is the credibility features. And ironically, these are the easiest to exploit for greater sales, precisely because they are so overlooked by the competition. They also happen to be the category of features you’ve got the most control over.

Do you send your techs to school? Do you have Master Technicians on staff? Are they ABYC trained? It’s a good bet your prospects and customers don’t know that. If they did, they might be more confident in the service they get from you than from your competition, and that could sway their decision about where to buy. There is a peace of mind that comes to the customer, knowing the people she’s trusting her hard-earned dollars to really know what they’re doing.

Are you part of a 20 Group or have you gone through any management training programs? Your customers do want to know that when they buy a product from you – especially something as high-ticket as a boat – that you’re going to be around to take care of them for a long time to come. Your credibility is peace of mind for them.

What about your marine dealer certification through Five Star Solutions, or even a program like the Top 100 Dealers? You spend time, effort, personnel and money on these programs. To some degree, it’s to make you better at what you do, but it should also be to make you more attractive to those you sell to.

But here’s the problem… They’ll never know if you don’t ever tell.

Five steps to success

Here is a 5-step process you can quickly and easily undertake, to make sure you’re exploiting your credentials for maximum ROI…

1. Whenever you receive any kind of award or recognition, or whenever you or a staff member completes a training or certification of any kind, issue a press release to your local media, and post the release on your website.

2. Also seek coverage in the national trade magazines, and if you get it, then let the local press know you’ve been “written up” in the trades.

3. It isn’t enough to simply display your awards and certifications in a trophy case or put decals on the door. You’ve got to talk about them. Train your team members – especially sales staff – to talk about these things with prospects and customers.

4. Use in-store signage to tout your accomplishments. Signage should be big enough that it can’t be missed and staff should be trained to point these things out to your customers.

5. Perhaps most importantly, these things must be talked about in your advertising. If people perceive that a dealer is a dealer is a dealer, their only differentiator will be price. By telling them why your dealership is clearly the superior choice, you’ll not only get more of them coming your way, but you’ll protect your pricing as well.

You can use your credibility features to secure better deals with vendors and financial institutions as well. When they are confident in your history and ability, they’ll want to do business with you and find favorable ways to do it.

There are other credentials that can serve you as well. Conduct a customer satisfaction survey. Assuming you score very high, tell prospects that your customers report a 97.3% satisfaction rating for your company.

If you can secure the endorsement of local boating clubs or high profile marine enthusiasts, use that in your marketing as well.

Your longevity in business and an exceptional guarantee are excellent credibility features as well that give your buyers, vendors and lenders confidence in you. So tell them about these things.

Finally, don’t overlook the power of testimonials, endorsements and case histories. These can be powerful persuaders. They are credibility features that can go a long way to convincing the undecided.

Using your credibility features can go a long way indeed to calming the choppy waters of competition, providing smooth sailing in your marketplace.

For a FREE, 8-page report Selling The Benefits, send an e-mail request to mail@ascendmarketing.com. Jim Ackerman is president of Ascend Marketing, Inc. and a speaker. He also publishes the 30-Second Marketer’s Tip O’the Day. Find Jim at www.marketingspeakerjimackerman.com, where you can also subscribe for his daily marketing tip. Paul Furse is a manager, entrepreneur, and marketing coach who has helped hundreds of businesses grow for over two decades. Jim and Paul can be contacted at 800.584.7585.


  1. This is such great information. I would like to add a few things to it based on what I learned from other consumer competitive industries such as the Insurance Industry, Truck Sales Industry and the Real Estate Industry.
    The old style of selling: Selling and Telling(Informing, Features & Benefits, Persuading, Reminding) are pretty much gone giving way to the new style of selling: Demonstrating, Involving, Empowering
    Virtual Trust.
    People are buying from Individuals not companies when it comes to personal and especially pricy items. When networking, people will always mention the sales persons name above the company. When people leave with a stack of business cards, many will automatically Google the persons name, not the company.
    Everything that was stated in the article is so true. Get those trophies out there but it also raises the question… Who Are You that you won those trophies? Are they sales trophies? That may not be good in the mind of the buyer unless they are comfortable that you are a professional in your industry and not just a great Sales person.
    Individuals and Companies are realizing that the best asset are the ‘Me’s’ in their company. The Professionals that will bring in the business because of who they are. They realize that to do that, those individuals need to “Brand” themselves. Linkedin and other social medias don’t really show who they are and are somewhat limited in range but Personal Branding does. http://www.TheirName.com or .me creates that Brand. When they start writing articles about the industry and the products, demonstrating that they truly know what they are talking about does several things. First and most important, if done correctly, they start showing up at the top of the Google searches. Their articles and videos create interest and trust. Here is a great example of a lady that Branded herself and greatly created a much broader client base and sales. http://www.jamiesmith.biz The other industries mentioned above have seen the same results.
    So when it comes to growing a client base, it is so important that professionals Brand themselves. The ROI will start to show in the increase in business. Here is a video that I made that I think does a great job of explaining what I’m talking about. http://youtu.be/F1lucELYiTA

  2. I just paid an extra 60 because Mercury Marine, wants 60 Bucks for Grow Boating. Please tell me what this money is going for. I would like a detail break down.

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