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Editor’s Choice: Town & Country Marine

By Liz Keener

Town & Country Marine
Lakefield, Ontario, Canada

New and used boat sales have always led Town & Country’s revenue and profit, but at one point they completely dominated, accounting for 92 percent of gross revenue and 70 percent of gross profit.

In recent years, the dealership has realized that the key to long-term success is diversifying, and since 2010, the crew at TCMarine has put a bigger emphasis on its other departments, decreasing its reliance on new and pre-owned unit sales. However, the dealership has also found a way to increase its new and used margins, meaning boats are still big revenue generators.

Adding more brands has helped Town & Country diversify its business.

Adding more brands has helped Town & Country diversify its business.

“We are very excited to report that we have been able to maintain and now increase gross margins on new and used boats. With the addition [of] ... proven new brands in the past three years, overall sales have continued to climb despite difficult market conditions,” managing partner Scott Brundle said. The dealership added Boston Whaler and Harris Flotebote to its Bayliner, Malibu, Monterey and Polar Kraft lineup in 2011.

Service has been a large driver of the diversification, as a new focus on the department has led to an increase in profitability. Realizing that customers were keeping their boats longer, TCMarine added staff to its service department and increased training on older marine engines and related equipment.

On top of that, the dealership increased its revenue per repair order, and parts and service sales grew 15 percent in 2014. Through storage retention promotions, TCMarine also exceeded its storage retention target by 12 percent, while holding its rate of new storage customers.

To maintain a strong service department, TCMarine has a strict service scheduling process, assigning jobs to technicians based on their personal skillsets. Techs are compensated on time billed, and a contingency fund has been created to pay techs who, in rare instances, have to spend multiple hours of unbillable time on uncommon or difficult to diagnose jobs. Techs also sit down weekly to review their productivity and proficiency, which has brought the dealership’s overall efficiency to 102 percent.

Just as the contingency fund was created for the service department to help techs out during tough jobs, TCMarine has developed other programs to benefit its employees. All key employees are offered a performance-related incentive as part of their compensation, and work above and beyond frequently earns special rewards for the staff.

The three partners who run Town & Country Marine maintain an open door policy, encouraging all employees to talk to any one of them to discuss and seek solutions for better practices. The partners also share their business plans with the employees, meeting with the entire staff each fall to offer them an annual review of the company’s performance and details on the dealership’s future direction.

Although there were a number of facets of Town & Country Marine’s 2015 Top 100 application that stuck out as impressive, it’s clear the dealership has made major efforts to improve its marketing.

In 2014, TCMarine worked on its search engine marketing (SEM), putting marketing dollars toward search engine keywords to improve the reach of TCMarine.com. This led to more Page 1 placements on search engines, with the website averaging 900 visits per day, 3.2 minutes per visit and a 26 percent bounce rate in 2014. Using Google Analytics, the dealership was also able to track the volume of visits from areas it doesn’t sell to, so it could pinpoint which regions to geo-target. Organic and search engine traffic now account for 60 percent of TCMarine.com visits.

In addition to its SEM and paid search efforts, TCMarine also started revamping its website monthly and began changing its featured new and used boats weekly. Email campaigns to 6,000 addresses led to a 35 percent open rate and a 10 percent click-through rate.

To reach families who travel to the nearby cottage resorts, TCMarine has also increased the number of “fun on the water” events it hosts to educate newcomers about the boating lifestyle. Each weekend throughout the summer, the dealership hosts boat shows and/or rides that are free to attendees. To make the events full-day experiences, TCMarine invites partners such as the local power squadron and cottage toys retailers to participate, and the dealership offers boat operating licensing seminars and testing.

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