Practical and profitable 2018 marketing plans

One of the most profitable planning projects you can invest in is to create a yearly marketing plan. I’m not talking about a business school type plan that sits on the shelf and will make an MBA professor giddy, but rather a marketing plan that will be followed throughout the season and lead to larger more predictable profits.

To help you create your 2018 marketing plan, here are five tips for more practical, profitable and predictable results. 

1. Keep it simple

Marketing doesn’t have to be voodoo where you invest your 6 percent of sales and cross your fingers that it works. A simple approach, like breaking your plan down into small, bite-sized pieces based on the actual results you want your budget to achieve, will keep you from getting overwhelmed and sold advertising and marketing that doesn’t achieve actually results and profits.

2. Focus on the specific results you want

Break your marketing down into the results you’d like it to deliver (generate boat buyer leads, build value and convert leads to appointments, generate business for various profit centers, etc.). Now that you have specific results you’d like to achieve, figure out how much you’re willing to invest to achieve each piece.

3. Apply your budget to each result, not to each ad source

If you want to sell 100 boats next year, how many leads will you need to generate? Assuming a 10 percent lead to delivery rate, you’ll need to generate 1,000 quality leads.  If you are willing to invest $1,500 marketing dollars to sell a boat, then you will need to allocate $150,000. Next, determine how much should be invested on lead generation and how much on value building and lead conversion. Use as an example, $100,000 on new lead generation and $50,000 on lead conversion.

Now that you have your budget, determine the most productive and measureable way to invest those dollars to achieve your desired goal. A quick hint: If you currently do mainly brand building, you have no way to know if your marketing budget is delivering results or not.

4. Build systems and tools to achieve each desired result

An example of a system would be a lead generation ad on Facebook that delivers a consistent number of leads for a fairly predictable cost per lead. Those leads are loaded into a 24/7 selling machine and followed up with systematically, including a monthly newsletter, boat preview emails and other communications (which are all planned out in advance) that drive those prospects to take a step closer to a buying decision (i.e. setting an appointment, attending an event, getting pre-qualified, etc.). This step is a continuous work in progress but can transform your dealership.

5. Keep the plan in front of you

An issue we see and hear all the time is that a dealer has good intentions when they kick off the year and have everything planned out; however, they get busy and next thing you know things aren’t getting done. One way to avoid this issue is to keep your plan in front of you. Many of our SPLASH System members use a 12-month laminated calendar tacked up right in front of their desk so they can see exactly what needs to be done and by when. This allows them to coordinate with their marketing team (internal or outsourced) to stay on track. For most dealership owners, this is not something they can do 100 percent on their own.

When you don’t make brand building your No. 1 priority and focus on the specific results you’d like to deliver, creating your marketing plan becomes much clearer. It also tends to deliver more predictable and repeatable results. After doing this dozens of times with clients, I can tell you it’s not easy; however, when you use these tips, it’s much simpler, more practical and much more profitable.

This month’s challenge: Create a practical and profitable marketing plan for the 2018 season that you can build on and improve over future seasons. If you’d like a copy of the tool we use with our SPLASH System clients, email me at   

Matt Sellhorst is the creator of the SPLASH System and committed to helping honest and ethical boat dealers, manufacturers and brokers sell more boats, make more money and have more fun. He is the author of two industry books: “Boat Dealer Profits: How the SPLASH System can help you sell more boats, make more money and have more fun” and “Marine Marketing Strategies.” Sellhorst is also host of the Boat Dealer Profits podcast and Boat Dealer Profits TV channel. For more articles, videos and webinars packed with tips, tricks and tactics, visit

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  1. Great Article! There are many boat/marine dealers who’ve still yet to develop themselves a decent website. In this day and age, with buyers willing to travel great distances for their recreational toys it’s important to have a solid web presence as part of any dealership marketing plan.

    How can boat and marine dealers strengthen their web presence? By avoiding some of the common mistakes many dealers are making. Here’s a few:

    1. Lack of complete inventory listed on their website. (every boat listed is fodder for search engines)
    2. Avoiding putting prices (trying to encourage calls). It encourages time wasting.
    3. Incomplete or poor photos on boat listings.
    4. Websites that aren’t mobile responsive.

    These are simple mistakes that drive boat buyers to competitors websites.

    1. Thanks for the comment and agreed their is much opportunity to improve. As a matter of fact, a forthcoming podcast will dive into many of these issues with Jim of LotVantage as the guest where we discuss solutions to some of these very areas. You can find it at it’s schedule to be released October 23rd if you want to give a listen. – Matt

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