Dealer Outlook

Trade Only Dealer Outlook Blog

Already fed up with “poor” politics

The presidential election is still four months away, but I’ve already heard more than I can take about poverty in America. Now, please don’t get me wrong – I know there are poor in our country and we should be sensitive to that. But if we continue to listen to the constant exaggerations by candidates, […]

One brand makes palms sweat

The push by some manufacturers for dealers to carry only one brand of boats received a major setback recently. The announcement by Brunswick Corp. that it will stop producing 4 boat lines brings into sharp focus whether it’s in the best interest of dealers to embrace a one brand business model.

The ethanol picture is changing fast

“Turn more corn into ethanol and we’ll solve our energy problems!” Sound familiar? That was such a politically popular “feel-good fantasy” we heard over the last couple of years. But the NMMA’s president, Thom Dammrich, correctly labeled this knee-jerk policy “the greatest scam in America” as he often referred to potential problems that ethanol has […]

Let’s help the federal deficit

It’s no secret the federal government is running a big deficit these days. And in so recognizing our patriotic duty to bail out Washington, here is a plan to help balance the books.

Retargeting: New Internet Technology

Have you ever purchased an ad for your brand or dealership on an internet website? Then you may be interested to know that, as lucrative as internet advertising might be, almost all of the $19.9 billion advertisers will spend this year on internet advertising will be wasted!

Working together can make things happen

If you missed the announcement, the members of the Marine Trades Association of Metro Atlanta have apparently embraced the most-memorable line from the movie Network — “I’m fed up and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Times dictate new sales approaches

The recent announcements by Bass Pro Shops and MarineMax, or news that 37 dealers are raising the “Boaters Edge” flag, are sure signs that some dealers are embracing the old maxim — “you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results” — and all dealers need to be thinking about it.

Is change in the model year launch date dead?

For longer than I can remember, the retail side of our industry has been advocating an industry-wide change back to September 1 for the new model year launch. It was that way many years ago. But, for the 2009 model year, it seems safe to report the idea will be DOA.

Dealers “inconsistent” in reporting cash

When it comes to reporting cash income these days, I can safely assume all dealers would be thrilled to have any to report in the first place! Still, the MRAA recently determined it was important to warn its member dealers via its newsletter, MRAA Bearings, that the IRS claims it is strictly enforcing the cash […]

Boat shows to see shakeup next year

The National Marine Trades Council (NMTC) wrapped up its annual meeting in Chicago yesterday and many labeled it the best conference ever. The NMTC is made up of leaders from the national and regional marine trade associations that began meeting annually 35 years ago. This year, 41 attendees from 23 associations gathered to talk about […]

Reinforcing the customer’s decision to buy

Today’s consumers are faced with more choices than ever. At first glance, that would seem desirable. But it may be proving otherwise and it’s likely affecting the response we’re getting from prospects and customers in our showrooms.

Should security have limits?

The other night, Jay Leno reportedly quipped that America’s waterways will now boast “millions of fisherman with rifles.”  He was, of course, mocking the new Small Vessel Security Strategy announced by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at NMMA’s annual American Boating Congress Legislative Conference.

Oil from ANWR shot down again

Gas pump prices are causing us to gasp. We’re laying out 33 percent more at the supermarket checkout. The rising cost of everything petroleum-based is sucking the life out of our discretionary income. Our economy is seriously stumbling. So, it’s time for Congress to take action! And last week it did . . . it screwed […]

NMMA’s CPR initiative is a good example

What the NMMA is about to require of all its show personnel raises a timely issue and sets an excellent new standard other boat show producers should ponder. Moreover, I think such a policy should be considered by all dealers and marina operators, too. Let me explain.

Seniors: Our underestimated prospects

We’re all aware of the Baby Boomers — that huge generation born between ’46 and ’64. There are 76 million of them. They represent 27 percent of the population, a titanic target market and, clearly, our industry is taking aim at them.

Sales tools found on

DO NOT read “Discover Boating”. . . unless you want to get pumped up! Hey, you probably recognized this long ago but I admit I just got it: Our “Discover Boating” national website is as much for us as it is for the public.

Good news from Washington

We would all like to hear some good news these days. And when I say there’s “good news from Washington,” I’ll bet you’re thinking I’ve smoked some bad stuff!  But the truth is in the last few days boating has received some good news from Congress.

Fuel will be an issue this summer

In recent years, we speculated that gas price wouldn’t have a serious negative impact on boating activity until it reached the fairy tale $4.00 gallon. We believed our customers were primarily concerned with gas availability, not price; that boaters would pay $3.00 or $3.50/gallon and keep boating.

Staging can help sell boats

In the last year or so, I’ve spent a lot of time fishing the Tampa Bay area. On my way to our boat at the Harborage Marina in downtown St. Petersburg, I pass two dealerships less than 1/2-mile apart, both with excellent frontage on the main highway.

RFA fights for recreational anglers

It appears politics is outgunning science and common sense when it comes to fishing regulations these days. Enter the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), an organization worthy of boating industry support as it advocates in Washington and elsewhere for the nation’s recreational saltwater anglers.

Creativity can draw them to the showroom

On Tuesday I accused the media of relentlessly playing on people’s fears, and I tried to be convincing that we’ve got to resist being dragged down to low expectations and complacency. Nyla Deputy commented, asking the pointed question:  “…if there is no traffic coming in the door, isn’t it a little hard to sell a […]

Ignore the “Panic du Jour!”

Every day, the news is filled with one crisis or another, real or imagined. Television networks prepare frightening stories to get ratings while magazines and newspapers flash alarming headlines to spur newsstand sales. The result: people’s expectations get lowered and their fears elevated by the media’s relentless negative skew.

Great Lakes boaters want to keep their water

Ohio’s Lt. Governor, Lee Fisher, tossed Great Lakes boating interests a curve this week when the Toledo Blade reported Fisher said the Great Lakes might divert its water to other parts of the country in the future. Preventing the diversion of Great Lakes water has been a major objective of boat owner organizations, the boating […]

RBFF’s lapsed angler program is a winner

If the industry adage is true, fishermen will remain active in the boating market even in tough times. I know several dealers who readily confirm that without the anglers who are still buying boats, their dealerships would be DOA. So, the worth of fishing to our industry cannot be overstated.

Contact your senators immediately

We’re in a battle . . . and losing is not an option! I’ve written before about the looming debacle that will come for every boater this September if Congress does not exempt us from a required EPA discharge permit!

Ethanol still an industry problem

NMMA’s Washington lobbying team did a great job of getting some provisions into the recently passed energy bill that will slow down the push for increased mid grade levels over E10 in the nation’s gasoline. But I fear it’s kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with […]

The date is getting closer!

I was addressing the All-Ohio Boating Legislative Conference in Columbus yesterday and I asked how many attendees were familiar with the pending EPA requirement that all boaters get a discharge permit beginning this September? I was taken back when only a few hands went up and most of those were attendees from the Ohio Division […]

Detroit show makes bold move

Kudos to Van Snider, President, and all the members of the Michigan Boating Industries Association (MBIA). As previously reported in TradeOnlyToday’s e-mail newsletter and on  Trade Talk blogs (, attendance at their Detroit Boat Show (Feb. 16-24) was 85,087 this year, up a whopping 19.2% over last year.

Dealer agreement issue boiling up again

It was anything but cold for dealers in Alaska’s House Judiciary Committee hearing room on February 13 when H.B. 303 received a favorable Committee vote. But the fact there’s a bill in Alaska’s legislature at all sadly indicates that the decades-long quest for better dealer agreements rolls on.

Make room for pets. Are you kidding?

When the Discover Boating national campaign unveiled its TV commercial “Dogs Need Weekends, Too” I must admit I was skeptical. “Dogs on boats just don’t have an appealing advertising message,” I commented. Boy was I wrong. What I failed to understand is that America’s love of pets is roaring on! For example, we’re now a […]

Web-based customer surveys can help dealers

Every dealer should want to know what customers are thinking because customers can tell us a lot about what we’re doing right. Conversely, getting ex-customers to talk can give us a real clue into what we may be doing wrong!

Boat shows remain critical in a soft market

Last Tuesday (Feb. 19) I reported on dealers saying some manufacturer boat show support programs had been reduced. I also commented that I believe boat shows remain critical to our overall marketing efforts and this is the time (a soft market) for manufacturers to continue, even increase, their show support for their dealers.

Selling boats on consignment?

Yesterday, I picked up The News-Press in Cape Coral, Fla., turned to the Sports Section for some late scores and found myself looking at an awesome full page ad for boats. Dead center across the page, in large bold print no one could miss, was the statement: “Let Us Sell Your Boat!! Consignment Boats Wanted!!”

Dealers need more boat show support

While much of the industry focused last week on the Miami Boat Show, I was attending a show every bit as classy and exciting, even if not as large. The Los Angeles Boat Show was underway and SCMA’s Dave Geoffreys and Terry Tjaden put together a superb event.

Can the teacher learn from the pupil?

If you’re like me, you’ve attended your share of seminars on good customer service. And if I asked you what auto company is most often credited with “raising the bar” for customer service expectations you’d probably answer – Lexus. “Learn from the Lexus example” we’ve been told many times.

Hands-on customer training: good or bad?

Legend Marine Group in Carrollton, Texas, recently announced it will offer hands-on training to customers who buy certain boat models. The dealership sells Formula, Fountain, Monterey and Donzi and, obviously, the program will be a buying incentive for their performance boat buyers.

I don’t want to hear any more doom and gloom

During the recent Houston and Cleveland boat shows and, undoubtedly, in other cities, too, the media was filled with headlines about possible recession and market drops and mortgage foreclosures. “Don’t buy any big ticket items,” one so-called expert financial reporter wrote, “this is not the time.”

Public relations should not be overlooked

I recognize that variable budgets, media advertising among them, will inevitably suffer some cuts when sales and profits are down. So, here’s another way for dealerships to keep their name in front of the marketplace.

Get Connected with

The clock keeps ticking. Congress isn’t moving. The deadline’s getting closer! I’m referring, of course, to the ballast water issue, the looming EPA discharge permit requirements for recreational boats.

Economic stimulus package would help boating

MRAA’s representative in Washington, Larry Innis, yesterday said he’s sensing Congress moving closer to agreement on the need for an economic stimulus package. “I’ve heard that many members who opposed a package as late as two weeks ago now favor one,” says Innis.

Boat show blogs draw interesting comments

I usually don’t comment on your comments to Dealer Outlook. My goal in doing the blog is to be only a catalyst for an open exchange of ideas. It’s happening and I thank you. But, based on your most recent comments about boat shows, I want to inject a few more thoughts.

It’s Who’s in the Exhibit That Counts

Let’s face facts. Today there is so much product parity you can no longer win on product design, quality or price alone. As the public walks through the boat show they’re going to see every dealer has shiny boats, added warranties, low interest rates, NMMA Certified stickers and so on. So what’s going to make […]

Exhibiting by Hope Doesn’t Work

“The reason some exhibitors don’t do well at boat shows is because they exhibit by hope instead of by objective.  They hope a good prospect will come into their booth. They hope they might make some sales!” So says sales trainer Jefferson Davis of Competitive Edge in Charlotte, N.C. But the successful dealers exhibit by objective […]

Winter boat shows

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the boat shows are here again. I can’t recall a winter show season more critical to retailers (manufacturers, too) than the one that began last Saturday when the 2008 New York Boat Show opened. Shows in every major and secondary market will rapidly follow.