Management Software Keeps Owners in Control

As the saying goes, “Knowledge is power,” and that knowledge has never been more important as marine dealers scrap for their share of the market.
Marine dealership software systems can bring efficiencies in the order, sales and service functions, allowing a dealership to do more with less. And because of the increased efficiencies that many systems tout, these systems can pay for themselves in a short period of time.
“Our dealership software solutions help dealerships decrease costs and increase profitability,” says Kevin Albertson, vice president of sales at ADP Lightspeed, Salt Lake City. “This is accomplished by giving the dealer [the ability] to analyze their operation’s expenses, productivity, inventory and individual department performance.”
Dealers that use Lightspeed Marine can thoroughly analyze the activities involved in daily operations and see how individual expenses or revenues affect their success. The dealer management software is used in a variety of marine operations, including marinas, trailer boats, yacht dealers and brokerages.
Paulson Computer Systems recently released an updated version of its InvenTrakk product, which is available for a free 30-day trial by download, says David Bledsoe, director of sales for the company based in Tacoma, Wash. The dealer management system can bring dealers a new level of accuracy and accountability, he notes.
“The new version of InvenTrakk has point-and-click functionality and can help dealers be more effective with margins,” Bledsoe says.
The ability to integrate with Microsoft Word and Outlook files is an advantage of the FSM.NET Marina Management System developed by Professional Software Inc., says Rick McCorkle, president.
“Dealers can match up boats and prospects better than on eHarmony,” quips McCorkle, referring to the popular dating Web site. “All floorplan data [are] automatically tracked and made instantly available for each boat, so that all costs on a boat are viewable in one place at the time of sale.”
When a boat arrives at the dealership, it gets entered into FSM’s boat inventory table, and then an e-mail message can be quickly and easily sent to prospects looking for a similar boat.
A new inventory module available on the system allows dealers to pull products from multiple databases into a single contract, which reduces errors or unintended giveaways that can result from long, hand-written documents. Ivan H. Blume, general manager of the Calabasas, Calif.-based company, describes that situation as “throwing in the fenders to avoid rewriting the contract.”
The Leasemaster product features the ability to fill in or print the contract, including all finance registration paperwork, with a single click. The system also can calculate totals and payments that include choices of accessories, insurance and finance options.
Helping marine dealers get big-picture information about their dealerships is the aim of Integrated Dealer Systems’ Astra Dealership Management System, according to John Prudente, marketing manager of the Raleigh, N.C.-based company.
“Whether it’s in accounting, inventory, sales, F&I or service, marine dealers have seen increases in productivity, efficiency and profitability simply by using the Astra Dealer Management System,” says Prudente. “Dealers finally have the information to make better decisions and eliminate problems as they occur.” The system features detailed reports, multi-user and multi-location capabilities and additional modules that a dealer can use to customize the store’s reporting functions.
Edward MacFawn, president of BiT Marine Software Inc., believes in the value of an integrated customer service/CRM module that ties into every department with the ability to automatically generate follow-up, organize and manage multi-departmental marketing, prospecting, service and customer satisfaction campaigns. This can be a valuable tool to increase sales and market share with decreased costs.
“Organizing targeted sales and marketing campaigns to your customers and prospects in minutes instead of hours or days is among the most effective ways to increase sales and market share,” MacFawn says. “At the same time, utilizing customer satisfaction surveys to capture and respond to customer issues quickly will help to drive down costs and keep your customers coming back.”
A good customer relationship management tool brings accountability to the sales process and can convert more leads and prospects into customers, says Clark Beaty, vice president of sales at DockMaster Software, North Palm Beach, Fla.
“Defining a manageable sales process within a quality CRM is a must for making sales management decisions,” Beaty says. “Managers must monitor lead capture, employee prospect conversion, lead sources, marketing effectiveness, salesperson follow-up and assure the dealership – not the salesperson — ownership of leads. The right CRM tool module can assure key data [are] captured and accurately reported to decision-makers.”
Specialized software products can help marine repair businesses or dealership service departments maximize their profits, too. MSHOP Software Inc., based in Canton, Ga., provides a niche product to small- and medium-sized marine repair shops that produce professional estimates and work orders and helps shops maintain inventory control, says Joseph DeMarco, president.
“Because of the software’s affordability, these businesses can access reports to help improve their inventory turns and provide the services their clients require,” DeMarco says. “Most MSHOP Software users are smaller repair-only businesses. However, we have a number of larger marine dealerships who use MSHOP exclusively for their service department separate from the accounting software used by the business.”
While even the smallest dealers or repair shops generally have some sort of software, a non-industry, off-the-shelf product won’t address the particular needs of the marine industry, says BiT Marine Software’s MacFawn.
“What most of these dealers fail to realize is that a system like the BiT Marine Software DMS would not only pay for itself in a very short amount of time, but also increase sales, efficiency and market share, driving success and growth while making the business easier to manage,” says MacFawn.
Beaty agrees that the use of a marine-specific dealer management software product is beneficial to the company’s bottom line. He points out that a comprehensive, industry-specific solution allows business managers or owners to manage costs through detailed tracking of numerous business metrics.
“Simply put, the right software and processes give decision-makers real-time control of their businesses by providing detailed information to make informed decisions,” says Beaty. “Need proof? Look at the most successful marine businesses. Every one uses DockMaster or another quality software product.”
No one would deny that sales are hard to come by in this market. The reputation of a dealership has never been more important. Blume believes products like his go a long way to give the dealer just the right image.
“Customers are used to seeing a well-typed contract for their $30,000 auto purchases and worry about a hand-scribbled document on a $100,000 boat,” Blume says. “The fact the documents are typed also means all the information is accurately stored for use in reports and tax filings, eliminating another chance for errors and omissions And the computer typed form protects the dealer against future disputes for missed items or calculation errors.”
“We now see salespeople with tablet and laptop PCs at boat shows ready to take prospect information, applications and quotes to the next level,” says Blume, “improving their chances at closing the sale before cold feet can stop the deal.”

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