The marrying kind

The dealer-manufacturer relationship is a little like marriage. None of us know the exact formula for lasting love, but there are some things all successful marriages have in common.

LizIn my last blog, I wrote about the opportunity presented by today’s economic conditions for marine companies to re-evaluate and potentially upgrade their staffs. But perhaps even more significant are the opportunities for dealers and manufacturers to re-evaluate and potentially upgrade their business partners.

As many before me have pointed out, the dealer-manufacturer relationship is a little like marriage.  None of us know the exact formula for lasting love. But there are some things all successful marriages have in common. Both partners take their relationship seriously. They trust and respect each other. They have strong communication skills. And they’re dedicated to making their marriage work, “for better or for worse.”

While there are so many other factors that contribute to a relationship’s success, if you see evidence of those things in a dealer or manufacturer partner, you know you have a strong foundation. And if you don’t, you have to ask yourself whether your potential or current partner is truly interested in partnership. Now is perhaps the best time in recent history for you to explore other options, both because the shake-up created by the downturn has dealers and manufacturers looking for new connections and because the time of change we’re living through has caused all of us to rethink how we conduct business.

If we’re going to recover from the challenges of the past few years, we have to do it together with a spirit of partnership, and that begins at a micro level with strong relationships between each dealer and their manufacturers.

We invite you to share with us the most important criteria you use to make decisions about your dealer or manufacturer partnerships – and how this many have changed during this economic downturn. If you’re a dealer, do you take into account warranty policies? CSI scores? J.D. Power & Associates rankings? NMMA certification? Boat ordering policies? Feedback from other dealers?

If you’re a manufacturer, do you take into account financial metrics? Dealer certification? CSI scores? Inventory levels? Business plans?


  1. When we launched almost 3 years ago, we mainly considered 3 qualities of potential manufacturers: strength/popularity of brand, manufacturers’ attention to customer satisfaction, and the care the manufacturer demonstrated for the success of the dealer. The popularity of the brand demonstrates if the product is a quality product, whether marketing is effective, and whether the management is moving in the right direction. The manufacturer’s attention to customer satisfaction requires a strong warranty program and the motivation to work with the dealer to get a deal done; it is difficult to have many happy customers without having happy dealers. These criteria have served us well over these three years, and we don’t regret any of our selections.

    The one thing that has changed in this environment is that we now also evaluate the required inventory levels established by the manufacturer. That’s a no-brainer now.

    Going forward, we will also evaluate two new criteria — the manufacturer’s focus on retail sales over wholesale (thanks to Dusty McCoy’s comment at MDCE) and the commitment of the manufacturer to help develop and educate the dealer principles through seminars, 20 groups, certification, and other educational support.

  2. Liz, although we get mentioned from time to time, I think at a minimum the dealers need to be courting the marina operators a bit more. We generally have more interaction with the boat buyer before, during and after a boat sale than any dealer ever does. They only get married at the chapel( dealer), but after the honeymoon(warranty)they live with us!

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