2021 Best in Class: Best Digital Strategy

Clemons Boats
Sandusky, Ohio

Clemons Boats is located on 15 acres of waterfront property in Sandusky, Ohio, along the shore of the Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie. The dealership, as third-generation dealer principal Jason Clemons points out, is in “vacationland,” i.e., where people boat, and not where they live.

Jason’s grandfather, Bob, founded Clemons Boats in 1966 when he purchased 10 acres of waterfront property, and simply put up a trailer and a gravel lot. By 1968, the operation had  grown, and Bob began the process of making additions to the property including building a marina and ramp.

In terms of significant events though, 1985 just might stand alone. The main showroom burned to the ground and obviously required rebuilding. And to top it off, the Sandusky Bay Bridge that had been taking all of those vacationers right past the store for decades was demolished and a new bridge was built in its place, re-routing traffic around Clemons Boats.

So innovative new ways of marketing and growing the dealership were borne out of necessity, that continue to this day.

Speaking of growth, they now have a total of 12 buildings, including three heated showrooms that house over 40 boats from 13-40 feet that can be shown all year long. Jason said in his Top 100 application they have invested lots of time, energy, and money in their place over the years, and in the last five particularly added a lot of infrastructure, all done with zero financing.

They had been on a strong trajectory of growth, and when COVID hit, they kept their foot on the gas. Even during the shutdowns, they continued to pay employees whether they were at work or not, and they also invested heavily in training and marketing.

And the payoff? Clemons Boats grew revenue by 45% in 2020, with fewer people.

“Our main source of marketing as a dealer is online,” explained Jason in his application. “The first part of a successful online presence is a great website that not only looks good on a computer but also on a tablet and a phone. Mobile devices have taken over and you must have a nice looking, functional, and easy-to-use mobile website.”

They built a new custom website in 2020 that not only looks good, and is functional across all platforms, but also ranks high in Google searches.

“We try to utilize a lot of videos as well,” added Jason. “We take inventory videos of each boat to post on YouTube and then link on our website. We also utilize video on social media as organic views and also as paid ads. Video is another thing that is taking over marketing.”

Clemons says they are constantly trying new platforms but find that their customer base lives mostly on YouTube as well as Facebook, and that they try to average three to four posts a day on social media.

“The great thing in today’s market is that they have apps and measuring tools for nearly every advertising and marketing source you use,” stated Clemons in closing. “Google AdWords tracks everything, and you can see it in live time on your phone to ensure you are spending the right amount of money in the right places. It is important to measure ROI for marketing and advertising, but I feel it is even more important to be omnipresent and whatever that takes, we will do. Being everywhere at once is critical, especially when you aren’t on the highway. This means we need to have wrapped trucks, billboards, mailers, Facebook ads, emails, and the list goes on and on – so if anyone is looking to buy a boat, they see us somehow.”

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