By Jonathan Sweet
Top 100 Program Director
Dockside Marine has only been in business for a decade, but has already established itself as a leading dealer in the Houston area.
What started out with $750,000 in sales from a single gravel lot in 2008 now operates on a three-acre facility with revenue at nearly $20 million in 2018 – with margins and net profits well above industry averages.
While there are number of reasons for the company’s success, company president L.P. Carlson gives much of the credit to Dockside Marine's dedication to customer satisfaction.
“The only thing that can fuel that kind of growth is a customer family that continues to want to do business with us and continues to tell everyone they know to do business with us,” Carlson said. “We have strived to make our customers so happy and maintain high CSI scores.”
Dockside Marine has also been honored with the NMMA Marine Dealer CSI Award for MasterCraft Sales and Service, NMMA Marine Dealer CSI Award for Nautique Sales and Service, MasterCraft Top Performing Dealer 2018, Nautique Top Performing Dealer Top Ten 2018, Top rated MasterCraft dealer for Customer Service, Nautique Top Sales Recognition in the Top 10 as well as Outstanding Customer Satisfaction.
Dockside uses a phone application to automate customer review requests and make it easier for customers to leave reviews.
“Our results have been remarkable; not only in our CSI scores, but in our customer feedback, online reviews, employee morale, and endless other parts of our business,” Carlson said. “Our customers are referring us to their friends in record numbers which allowed us to grow our company 16.37%. Our goal is to ‘Build a Customer Coalition’ full of our biggest fans spreading the word about Dockside Marine.”
This customer-centric approach also flows into the company’s boat show strategy, with past customers working the boat show as evangelists for the dealership.
“This strategy sets us apart from every other dealer when the potential customer realizes that our booth or showroom is full of our current customers,” Carlson said. “Another way we set our self above is by the promotion of the water sport lifestyle by bringing in professional water sport athletes to our boat shows as well as all of our on the water events. We want everyone who walks into our dealership to feel something different.”
That philosophy carries through the entire buying process
“Our ‘Dockside Family’ closing document, which communicates important aspects of boat ownership, has played an integral role in building an open line of communication with our customers from the very beginning,” Carlson said. “Our Buyer Acknowledgement form clarifies any and all agreements and avoids miscommunication with customer.”
Dockside made several other improvements to help drive growth. 2018 was the company’s first full year with an in-house finance department and a dedicated staff member to handle all financing, extended warranties, and prepaid maintenance packages.
“This gives us the opportunity to make sure we take care of the customer in all areas,” Carlson said. “Our finance division experienced a 87.06% increase in sales and an increase in margin up to 81.63%.”
The company also acquired a one-acre highway frontage property with 7,000 square feet of shop space right next to the dealership.
“This acquisition will allow us to provide a more enjoyable buying experience for our customers because it provides the additional room we needed to expand our showroom to almost three times the current size,” Carlson said. “The additional shop space is not only three times the space of our old shop, but it allows us to provide in house fiberglass and gel coat repair for the first time in our history.”
Dockside also hired a new employee dedicated to its digital and social media advertising to reach new buyers.
“As part of our marketing campaign we track SEO and SEM which includes extremely detailed analysis and reporting of online search results for our organic rankings as well as our adword rankings and performance,” Carlson said. “Research shows that today's boat buyer spends hours online before ever picking up the phone or stepping foot in your showroom. Customers know all about you from your online presence way before you get to interact with them. So this campaign focuses on who Dockside Marine is on someone's computer screen.”
In the dealership, Dockside also invested in new uniforms for the team to portray confidence and professionalism. An expanded Pro Shop has also helped meet customer needs and drive repeat business.
It all comes back to a dedication to a customer coalition that loves the company. “At Dockside Marine, our true love for our customers and our focus on their complete satisfaction has allowed us to achieve our mission of success,” Carlson said. “We are convinced that our customers would vote us the ‘Dealer of the Year’ every year if they had the chance.”