Last week, I received a press release from BoatU.S. with the following subject line, “The Shocking Truth: More Recreational Boaters Having Battery Problems.” And I saw an opportunity. Or at least one I’d jump on if I was a boat dealer, marina operator or boating supplies store manager.
BoatU.S. Towing Services reports that the number of non-emergency assistance calls it received in 2009 was up 8 percent (to more than 65,000) compared to 2008, largely as a result of boaters cutting back on routine maintenance. Of the top-five reasons why boaters needed a tow, battery problems was No. 2, a jump from its No. 4 ranking the prior year. (No. 1 was general engine failures, No. 3 was groundings, No. 4 was out of fuel or fuel problems and No. 5 was propulsion system failures.)
“Boaters told us they forgot to monitor their battery’s charge level, delayed replacing a poorly performing battery or substituted a less-expensive starting battery when a deep-cycle was needed, said BoatU.S. Vice President of Towing Services Jerry Cardarelli. “And some boaters simply drained their batteries by running sound systems, refrigerators, and fans.”
For the 2010 season, BoatU.S. recommends boaters be “vigilant about battery charge levels and basic maintenance such as cleaning or replacing corroded wiring” so as to avoid an average cost of about $600 a tow, unless you’ve purchased an unlimited towing plan.
This is the perfect information to pass on to boaters through an e-mail newsletter, a customer blog, or even a boater information board at your location, perhaps in conjunction with a special battery or service promotion, a do-it-yourself class or a column on the importance of general maintenance. Boaters are sometimes more receptive to factual information from a third-party. And by passing it along, you get to be “the good guy,” trying to help them avoid the hassle and expense of being towed, rather than the salesperson, trying to make a buck.
This information could also be used to promote a “free boat check-up” for the boating public. Dealers that offer such services typically report finding multiple opportunities for service per boat. Even if some boaters who receive a check-up don’t set an appointment that day, it makes it that much more likely they’ll contact you for service when they have a serious problem.
No matter how you use this kind of information, sharing it with customers is a win-win for them and for your dealership.