Despite access to more advanced forms of marketing, customer and community events remain strongholds for marine dealerships. Personal interaction is a key driver of marine sales. Staying in tune with changing customer wants and needs – and effectively meeting them – is nearly impossible without it. Here are a few examples of successful strategies the Top 100 Dealers have used to boost sales and a few of their best practices as well.
Back it up to get in front
Sponsorships can put a dealership’s name in front of the community or bring the community to the dealership. Both can generate top-of-mind awareness when consumers are looking for their next boat.
Many Top 100 Dealers sponsor a fishing or waterski/wakeboard team. Galati Yacht Sales (Ranked 2) sponsors three fishing teams and encourages customers to join them on the tournament circuit. In addition to fielding a watersports team, JOA Marine (Ranked 63) is one of many Top 100 Dealers that sponsored a stop for a watersports tournament tour.
While many dealerships sponsor the weather during local newscasts, Cannons Marine Inc. (Ranked 36) has found success underwriting National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” a comprehensive daily news program.
Sponsoring non-marine related activities can be fruitful if the right audience is reached. Following extensive marketing research, Marine Center of Indiana (Ranked 50) decided to sponsor the Indianapolis Fever, a WNBA team. The sponsorship included a boat giveaway during the team’s final home game, radio and television commercials during the game and four center court season tickets for MCI staff, vendors and customers. Slalom Shop Boats and Yachts (Ranked 6) has found similar success with the Texas Rangers and indoor football team the Dallas Desperados.
Let’s get together
Drawing boaters together can get them excited about boating, their boats and your dealership. Here are a few ideas with good follow-through examples:
Open Houses. Not your grandma’s open house with crackers and clowns, today’s events are strategically timed for the beginning of the season or post-boat show and include factory representatives (Comstock Yacht Sales and Marina, Ranked 75), entertainment (Rayburn’s Marine World, Ranked 55) and are catered (Utah Water Sports, Ranked 67).
Brand-Specific Events. While the original ideas for many of these events originate with manufacturers, many dealerships have been able to develop them into their own unique outings. Erickson Marine (Ranked 57) took its Cruisers Yachts Customer Rendezvous to a riverside casino, gave out manufacturer and dealership-logoed gifts, held carriage rides, brought in a comedian and built stronger relationships with its customers. Sea Ray dealers host annual AquaPalooza festivities. They are open to anyone who would like to attend and this year attracted more than 30,000 people.
Customer Appreciation Events. These can run the gamut from a demo day get together (Omaha Marine Center, Ranked 92) to a V.I.P. blowout with cocktails and valet parking (Colony Marine, Ranked 25). Legendary Marine (Ranked 52) hosts its customer appreciation party at a local restaurant and uses the opportunity to introduce new boat models.