18 Strategies for Continued Growth in 2018

Here’s a recap of MDCE speaker insights for success

Each year, attendees recognize the value and growth opportunities that are an invaluable part of the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo educational experience.

Conference speakers focus on delivering real world results for dealerships and industry players of all shapes and sizes.

Attendees turn to MDCE every year to gain insights into the latest trends, strategies, and best practices to maximize future success.

Attending MDCE each year is a great strategy starter for many marine businesses, but it’s only valuable if the good ideas learned at the conference are implemented once attendees return home.

With that thought in mind, here’s a recap of 18 MDCE strategies for continued growth that can be used throughout the coming year, as presented by this year’s slate of conference speakers.

Tim Sanders

1 – Supercharge With Digital 

MDCE opening keynote speaker Tim Sanders set the tone for attendees with his talk, “How Digital Can Supercharge Your Business” by providing advice on how to leverage customer media, use inexpensive content, and target social ads. Those working in the marine industry must strive to find radically new partners with perspectives and work with them on creating marketing and recruiting decisions, Sanders said. One of the easiest ways to do so is partnering with a millennial who doesn’t have any experience with boating but has a world of experience in marketing and digital. “Digital marketing is going to be the first tool we’ve ever had that can truly measure,” Sanders explained. “Those who go home and try new things and talk to new partners are going to see huge results in just a few years.”

2 – Consider CRM Coaching

Learning the proper approach to using a customer relationship management (CRM) is critical for success and growth. Bob McCann, Marine Retail Association of the Americas lead consultant for the Marine Industry Certified Dealership Program, suggests motivating dealership team members with a custom game plan that will sell more boats. “Sales performance suffers when you don’t coach your sales team,” McCann said, adding 73 percent of managers spend less than 5 percent of their time involved in coaching. Use your CRM to gain insight and leverage that’s needed to grease the wheels of coaching sessions to make them more effective and shorter.

Myril Shaw

3-9 – Rethink Your F&I

The concept of 100 percent turnover of the customer to the finance and insurance department is nothing new. But according to First Approval Source Chief Operating Officer Myril Shaw, few dealers actually accomplish it. ‘It is possible,” Shaw said during his MDCE presentation, which included seven strategies to success and a white paper entitled “Turnovers for maximum cash conversion.” Successful cash conversions don’t occur due to a mystical turnover event, they happen as a part of a comprehensive, storewide process, Shaw explained, adding only 8 percent to 15 percent of cash buyers use truly liquid cash. Smooth turnovers start when the customer starts shopping, not when they finish. Shaw suggests eliminating the finance office and replacing it with a business office, or better yet, a delivery office. Shaw also suggests ensuring that every piece of inventory that the customer sees has an attractive payment plainly visible. “The sales person must maintain control of the shopping process,” he said. Part of the process of understanding the customer’s needs should always include the question, “What kind of a payment are you looking for?” Sales must control the shopping/selling process and in doing so point the customer toward the payment option while refusing to take a check. That makes the turnover to the business manager or delivery coordinator a simple process. For committed cash buyers, determining if they are truly paying cash is as simple as asking if there will be a lien on the title. “Effective turnovers, especially when it comes to converting cash buyers, are not isolated events,” Shaw contends. “They are a function of a comprehensive plan and process that starts with the first customer contact and don’t end until maximum profit has been achieved.”

10 – Transform Customer Service 

Theresa Syer, consultant, keynote speaker and trainer, said it’s critical for dealers to capitalize on the boat buyer emotions that help the brain make decisions. Doing so will help customers write memorable boating stories. In order to compete and win in a high-tech world, businesses must still connect with their customers on a personal level and provide the kind of attention and service that creates loyalty and advocacy. But there’s a difference between the traditional service we are all used to and the kind of experiential service offered by the most successful companies, According to Syer, when a dealership is able to deliver a consistent customer experience at all touch points, service will be transformed into a defendable, competitive advantage that will drive growth. The customer experience, however, is unlike customer service because it’s not just one transaction and done. It’s the totality of all interactions the customer has with your organization. This includes the customer’s overall perception subsequent to every moment of contact throughout the duration of the relationship. Customer service is one aspect of the total experience, but it doesn’t define it. Delivering consistent levels of superior customer experiences creates emotional connections and develops loyal customers.

Samantha Scott

11 – Make Inventory Move 

Moving inventory is the name of the game, but did you know that how you present it could be holding you back? Embracing photography best practices, using keywords to promote consideration, and targeted outreach within social media are all tools that can help dealers move inventory, according to Samantha Scott, an APR-accredited speaker and owner of Pushing the Envelope Inc., an award-winning marketing communications firm. If consistently moving your inventory is an ongoing problem, it’s time to take a look at how you position and promote it. Consider menu listings, or how restaurants entice you to order their food based on how they describe the taste of the dish. Or, think about advertisements that really attract your attention. Are they listing all the widgets or functions of the product they are selling, or are they telling you what you can expect, experience, desire, etc.? Be specific and make it easy for your target customer to visualize not only the product, but how it will make their life better. “Focus on the user’s need, even if it’s merely psychological. Make your information scannable – people read less than 20 percent of content on webpages,” she said. “Use callouts for key points, and present information in bulleted lists. The average attention span is less than 7 seconds.”

Aaron Weiche

12 – Keep After KPIs

According to Aaron Weiche, chief marketing officer at GetFiveStars.com, a customer feedback and online review platform that serves Fortune 500 companies, it’s critical for dealers to understand key performance indicators and outcomes for local digital marketing. In today’s digital marketing universe, so many options exist: Search, mobile, social media and many others, but where should you focus? Win customers online that don’t make it to your website, and understand how Google presents your business by leveraging tools such as Google Posts, Q&A, Small Thanks, and more. “These are all free and you need to use them, Weiche said. “Referrals and word of mouth are king, but most fail to track or quantify it. Engage customers in online review cycles. Generating first-party and third-party reviews is a must.”

13 – Close With Content Marketing

Content marketing can be the greatest sales tool in the world, but only if your dealership knows how to properly use it. Marcus Sheridan, a small business owner who used content marketing to turn his retail store around during the recession, describes content marketing as the process of using text, video, and audio communication in an effort to establish your dealership as the best and most helpful teacher in the world. “Honest and transparent content is the greatest sales and trust-building tool in the world,” Sheridan told MCDE session attendees. We’re all media companies, whether we like it or not. If we don’t show it, it doesn’t exist.”

Valerie Ziebron

14 – Master the Write-Up

The write-up is far more than simply generating a work order. It builds or breaks customer confidence and trust in the entire dealership, and it makes or breaks profitability, said VRZ Consulting President Valerie Ziebron. Miscommunication at write-up is the No. 1 cause of comebacks. Master advisors build rapport, identify needs, make recommendations, address concerns, and reach agreement with the customer one write-up at a time. When the write-up is done well, the shop runs smoother and more profitably. A good write-up will build customer confidence, generate trust and provide profitability. Ziebron suggests picking up a stack of recently completed or ready to deliver work orders for review. “If you were to look at this work order in a year would it still make sense to you?” she asked.

15 – Control Service Communication 

Internal communication within the dealership can sometimes feel like a drag, but it’s one of the most important pieces of a profitable, proactive dealership, Ziebron adds. Everyone should be on the same page, have an understanding of common problems and solutions, and be working toward the same goals. 

Jordon Schoolmeester

16 – Increase Invoice Hours

If a boat isn’t sold today, the sales staff at a dealership can try again tomorrow. But if a dealer doesn’t sell all of his or her available labor hours, that revenue is lost forever, said Jordon Schoolmeester, a Garage Composites consultant. With that said, it’s critical for dealers to focus on the science of selling and how this process can be engrained into the conversation of every service writer or advisor. It’s time to get more than just the low-lying fruit. When you don’t sell all of your revenue hours, that money is gone forever, and you will never maximize your service profitability. The psychology of selling applies everywhere, even the service department.

Jim Million

17 – Service Team Coaching

Coaching isn’t easy. And while coaching in the service department can be particularly challenging, retaining your service employees and maximizing their performance has never been more critical, particularly in today’s technician-starved job market, explains Jim Million, an independent professional training and coaching professional who is CEO and creative director of PRG, Inc. and Million Learning. A good technician is becoming harder and harder to find, which is why retaining the technicians you do have, and maximizing their performance, is more important than ever. “Coaching is the art of helping someone reach a higher level of their own personal potential,” Million said. He suggests a “Naughty and Nice” notebook to document service team accomplishments as well as improvement needs.

Rory Vaden

18 – Create A New Culture

Self-discipline strategist and business motivational speaker Rory Vaden presented the MDCE closing keynote. He urged attendees to develop strong systems of accountability for measuring activity and results while adopting an attitude of discipline. Companies that make the leap to greatness have an almost fanatical mindset of making short-term sacrifices for a long-term vision, Vaden explained.   


Editor’s Note: To learn additional strategies for continued business growth, visit www.marinedealerconference.com/2017downloads, to find the full list of  MDCE PowerPoint presentations and handouts from this year’s speakers.


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