If you want bigger sales in ’15 plan for them now

The vast majority of independent boat dealers have no marketing plan. Odds are you’re one of them.

Which means you have no plan for increasing sales; no plan for bringing in a specific number of new customers; no plan for maximizing your average transaction; no plan for getting existing customers to come back and buy more often.

You’d like to see a revenue and profit increase for next year… perhaps by double digits… but since you have no plan in place to make that happen, you’re dependent on the whims of the public, the economy or the government to provide those increases for you.

In other words, you’re riding the waves but not steering your ship. Dangerous!

How about a more empowering approach?

Begin by deciding specifically how much of an increase you want to see in 2015 in terms of revenue and profits. The numbers should be very specific, down to the dollar. This is called a projection (not a guess or a wish).

Second, determine what kind of effort you’re going to have to invest to make it happen. I’m not talking about money here. We’ll cover that in a minute. I’m talking about time. How much time are you personally going to devote to engineering the marketing systems of our enterprise, so that you reach those revenue and profit goals?

And on a side note, do you have key personnel in place, either inside or outside of your dealership, to enable you to make that happen?

Once you’ve made those decisions, it’s time to develop your formal marketing plan. Here are the pieces of the puzzle…

Situation Analysis

This is where you take a good, hard look at where you are today. How’d things go for this year? What’s your inventory situation; your competitive situation; that status of your selling systems and sales staff? How effective has your advertising been?

Make sure this section of your plan includes a SWOT analysis. This stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

What are your strengths from a marketing perspective? What do you do well, or better than your competition? What resources and public perceptions can you exploit?

What don’t you do well? Where are you getting beat? What elements of marketing have you ignored, that are hurting you? Where are you missing know-how and skills?

Some weaknesses can be opportunities. Plug a hole and not only do you stop the leakage, you may be able to float substantially higher. If you’re not good at up-selling and add-on selling, for example, plugging that hole, turning it to a strength, could increase your revenues and profits by double digits alone.

What other areas present an opportunity? Is a competitor going out of business? If so, can you get him to endorse you to his soon-to-be-orphaned customers? Can you get his phone number? Are you bringing in a new product line that can boost sales? How about new services like storage, cleaning, etc.? Are you getting exceptional training in the areas of sales, marketing or management that promises to dramatically improve your capabilities?

And what kinds of challenges are you facing? A new competitor opening in your market; a highway redevelopment project that is going to mess up your parking or access for months; mass defections to internet shopping, etc.

Objectives report

You’ve already defined your broad objectives in terms of revenue and profit for 2015. Now let’s drill a little deeper. You must…

Set a sales target for the next six months, year, two years and perhaps five or 10 years.

You may want to set goals for your reputation; what you want people to think about your dealership in the next year, two years, five years, 10 years.

You should definitely set a goal for what you want your LIFETIME PROFIT VALUE of an average customer to be, which is calculated by determining what your average ticket is, multiplied by your average profit margin, multiplied by how many times the average client buys over his or her buying lifetime.

Once you find out what your LPV is, set goals for what you’d like it to be.

Same with goals for Cost of Acquisition of a customer (COA). Divide the money you spent on marketing for new customers last year by the number of new customers you actually got, and you’ll have that COA. Then set goals for what you want it to be in 2015. (Could be lower, but could also serve you best if it’s higher.)

Strategies report

Define your philosophical (strategic) approach to the following questions, and any others you’d like to include…

  • What is your Unique Purchase Appeal (what sets you apart from competitors).
  • What is your pricing strategy?
  • What is your personal selling strategy, including how you compensate sales staff?
  • What is your advertising strategy? (Are you image-oriented or direct response oriented, for example) How did you come to this approach? Why? Should you consider a change in philosophy?
  • What is your testing and tracking strategy for your advertising and selling efforts?
  • What is your strategy for increasing your average transaction?
  • What is your strategy for getting repeat purchases?
  • What is your strategy for reactivating dormant clients?
  • What is your online marketing strategy?
  • What is your strategy for getting more referral business?

There may be others, of course. Add them as you see fit.


Rather than setting an arbitrary budget for marketing based on a percentage of last year’s revenue or this year’s anticipated revenue, or any other formula which produces a number, try this zero-based budgeting approach.

Identify your most important marketing initiative.

Then your next most important initiative, then the next and the next and the next, all the way down the line.
Plan to fully fund each project down the line until you have spent as much as you feel like you can and should. (Only now, at this point is a guideline like 5 percent, for example, relevant.)

Finally, schedule your expenditures on a week-by-week basis through the course of the year, so you’ll know when you’re going to spend what you have planned to spend.

NOTE: Make sure your marketing plan includes initiatives to increase repeat buying from existing clients and increase the average transaction. Marketing plans that don’t address these two critical elements of business building are incomplete.

Your marketing plan is a roadmap, not a track. You refer to it often and use it as a guideline. Remain flexible, so you can respond to circumstances and opportunities that arise.

But one thing is certain, now that you know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, the odds that you actually arrive go up exponentially.

Jim Ackerman is a marketing speaker and coach who has helped hundreds of businesses improve their marketing, advertising and sales results. Boating Industry readers can get a free Copy of his comprehensive Marketing Plan Template by contacting Jim at 800.584.7585. Go to Jim’s website at www.ascendmarketing.com.

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