Top 100 Profile: Surfside 3 Marina, Inc., No. 3

It’s a simple calculation. The more customers you serve, the harder it is to satisfy them.

As the largest retailer in the world for several of its boat brands, Surfside 3 Marina, Inc. has a very hard job — one it does exceedingly well.

While this in itself is impressive, what makes SurfSide 3, Lindenhurst, N.Y., one of the top three dealers in North America, is a recipe for success that blends this high customer satisfaction with smartly crafted, detailed marketing strategies, a rewarding employee environment and closely tracked profit margins.

The dealership chain, which serves the New York metropolitan region and beyond, sold about 1,200 boats last year, delivering an average CSI score of 96 percent, a number that is unmatched by any dealer of its size and which continues to climb.

The company, owned by brothers Matthew and Paul Barbara, attributes its high score largely to the creation two years ago of its own CSI Department. Additionally, Janice Mottern, Surfside 3’s CSI expert, has performed job and process mapping, which has played a major role in the increase.

“To truly achieve total consumer satisfaction, we have to understand how each of our departments work, what functions each department performs, how issues and complaints are resolved and whether they are done so on a consistent basis,” explains Phil Wolhar, director of marketing. “We need to address the communication challenges that exist within businesses, let alone 12 locations, and strive to constantly better ourselves to guarantee repeat customers.”

While processes and procedures are important, another part of creating happy, long-term boaters involves helping them live the boating life. At Surfside 3, this translates into an exceptional range of opportunities for customers to use and learn about their boats, from Dine-Arounds and Getaways to navigation, boating safety and Women in Boating classes. The company also has its own glossy magazine, Beyond The Sea, that educates customers — and potential customers — about what it means to live the boating lifestyle … and makes it look so good.

These are just a few parts of Surfside 3’s impressive marketing strategy, which includes advertising at movie theaters, on billboards and on lifestyle boating television shows, such as “Ship Shape TV,” as well as boat shows, in-store sales events, lead management, print advertising, direct mail, the Web and charitable donations.

The lead management program is an extremely thorough approach to cultivating potential customers. Prospects are contacted with four different media: a letter from a salesperson, a Surfside 3 DVD, a customized postcard based on the boat brand sought, and a sample of the dealership’s seasonal magazine Beyond the Sea.

The magazine is accompanied by a letter from the Barbara’s summing up why the mailings have been sent, the benefits of the boating lifestyle and of buying a boat from Surfside 3, and offering their assistance should customers have any more questions.

Surfside 3 is also one of the few Top 100 dealerships that uses a formal system to track its return on marketing and advertising investments. Not only does it use toll-free tracking numbers in its ads, the dealership also reviews the type of boats sold and compares the profits on each boat with its event costs to determine ROI.

This careful money management is part of what boosts the company’s bottom line. Maintaining high profit margins is a challenge for many marine dealers, especially when it comes to service. Though Surfside 3’s service department makes up a relatively small percentage of its overall revenue, it generates more than $2 million per year, and Surfside takes it seriously. For example, its second quarter technician efficiency rate was 99.5 percent, which doesn’t happen by accident. The company tracks tech efficiency on a weekly and monthly basis, and compares labor price against labor cost to determine net profit per technician.

Working for Surfside 3 isn’t all work and no play, however. The dealership has established a fund to reward employees for efficiency, exceeding expectations, saving money and increasing revenues. Managers nominate employees for a bonus of up to 20 percent of their weekly income. In addition, the company schedules several employee events during the year, including BBQs, fishing charters, softball games and holiday parties.

And if its owners have their way, Surfside 3 will continue to grow, attracting new employees and customers, while ensuring loyalty among the current ones. Not only do the company’s goals for the future include adding new marinas, showrooms, service facilities and product lines, but the owners also believe they can increase market share.

If the company’s performance thus far is any indicator, Surfside 3 will meet those goals — and then some.

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