2011 Top 100: How to apply yourself

As you read this, the deadline to submit applications for Boating Industry’s 2011 Top 100 Dealers Program is less than two months away. For some, the process is well underway, or you may have already submitted your materials. But for those of you who have yet to get started, there is still plenty of time to put together an excellent application.

Whether you’ve been a Top 100 Dealer each of the past six years or you’re considering applying for the first time, the following tips and suggestions from the Boating Industry editorial team should make the process easier and more effective.

1. If you’ve applied to the program before, it’s fine to update a prior application rather than starting from scratch. In fact, we recommend that strategy as it ensures that you don’t leave out programs or processes that you had highlighted in the past and are still in place. However, please make sure you’re using the 2011 Application Form to guide you as the questions do change from year to year. For example, this year, four questions were removed from the 2010 application, five were added and several questions were modified in an effort to keep the content current and improve the information received. In addition, if you use this strategy, please ensure that any information that is held over from the prior year has not changed. If it has, we encourage you to explain how and why it has changed. That gives our team great insight into your business as it evolves.

2. In the Company Data section of the application, there is a question that asks what you’ve done to improve your business in the past year. It’s a broad question, allowing you to go wherever you want with the answer. In fact, how you answer this question tells us a lot about your business by itself. It’s important to remember that, while more is not necessarily better when it comes to answering questions (a few paragraphs of pertinent information are much more valuable than pages of material that don’t directly answer the question), this question is not one to hold back on.

By including even the smallest improvements – remodeling a bathroom or changing phone companies to save money – and why you chose to pursue them, you tell a story about what’s important to you and your dealership.

3. Another question in the Company Data section asks dealers to share their company’s short- and long-term goals. As with the improvements question, this one is open ended, and the more detailed the answer, the better. It’s not necessary to write a long narrative to illustrate those goals, although it’s fine if you choose to approach it that way. A bulleted list of goals is also perfectly acceptable.

4. Your answers to the questions that ask dealers to discuss and/or provide plans are also worth some special attention. One asks the dealership to outline its succession plan, another asks for a business plan and a third, a marketing plan. In any of these instances, if a dealer has a formal plan drawn up, we encourage you to submit it as the answer. Not only do these plans show the dealer is on top of things, they often provide us with valuable insight into your business. If no formal plan is in place, then we encourage answers that discuss your strategy in each of these areas.

If you haven’t taken the time to apply to the Top 100 Dealers Program, now is the time to reconsider. After all, as the economy begins to rebound, those dealers who want to ride the wave of recovery should not only ensure their houses are in order, but also leverage as many tools as possible to drive consumers into their showrooms.

“This application has brought to our attention areas we can improve,” say Jeff and Rick Hall, owners of Top 100 Dealer Hall Marine Group based in Lake Wylie, S.C. “Every dealership in the country should be required to do this questionnaire annually. The benefits are extraordinary as what is written is done 90 percent of the time. Realizing that we are not perfect and have many opportunities, we strive constantly to improve our business in every area.”

In addition, Boating Industry has created new tools to aide in the marketing of dealers’ Top 100 status. To learn more about these tools and receive further Top 100 tips and advice from Boating Industry’s editors, visit www.boatingindustry.com, type “webinar” into the search box and click on Top 100 Webinar in the search results.

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