Boating Industry's 2009 Dealer Directory was published last week and, since its mailing, several dealerships that were not included have contacted us to find out why. So I wanted to briefly outline how we put together our directory each year in the hopes that the explanation will help ensure the process goes more smoothly for everyone in the future.
In the four years that we've published a Dealer Directory, Boating Industry has cooperated with manufacturers, industry associations, consultants and other experts to compile a database of more than 5,000 marine dealerships. The two main tasks that we have every year in working to publish our directory are to: 1) make contact with all of the dealers in that database and 2) verify that all of the information we have for them is still accurate.
To do that, our first step is to e-mail a link to each dealership that takes them to their specific page in our database where they can review all of their information, correct it if necessary, and approve it before we publish. (We also have a link we can e-mail new dealerships that allows them to create their own listing in our database).
Updating the information via e-mail is the easiest way for a dealership to ensure it is included in our directory each year. Because of space limitations and because we want to make sure our information is as accurate as we can - especially this year with all the marine retailers who have gone out of business - we do not publish the listings of dealers we are not able to contact.
Unfortunately, the response rate to the e-mails we send out (this year we sent each dealership two messages, about one week apart) is 15 to 20 percent. Further complicating matters, is the fact that there are 1,700 dealerships in our database that either do not yet have e-mail address, or that we don't have e-mail addresses for.
Our second step, therefore, is to continue to try and reach those we couldn't contact via e-mail by hiring a third-party company to attempt to contact them by fax and phone. A series of broadcast faxes are sent first, asking the dealership to update its information and fax it back, then phone calls are made to the remaining dealerships that have not responded to the e-mails or faxes.
When those attempts have been made, the list of the dealers who responded to the faxes and phone calls is merged with the list of e-mail respondents in an Excel document. That file is then formatted to the publishing software we use and the information is put on the page.
One final note about how the listings are arranged in the directory (a handful of dealers have contacted us to ask why they weren't listed, only to discover that they were, but had just been looking in the wrong place). The dealerships are sorted alphabetically in three ways: first by state, then by city, then by dealership name. So, for example, if you were looking for Gruhn's Boats in Maple Grove, Minn., you would first locate Minnesota, then Maple Grove and then look for the dealership name.
In wrapping up, if I could offer just one tip to make sure your dealership is listed in our annual Dealer Directory (and this goes for our annual Buyer's Guide as well, which we use a similar process to compile), it is to make sure that you receive and respond to the e-mailed links we send.
By updating your own information, you remove the possibility of errors that can arise when someone unfamiliar with your business is trying to enter your data into a spreadsheet from a faxed form or over the phone.
If you have not received our e-mails in the past, please send your e-mail address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add them to our database.