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Events are a great way to know your customers

A recent email from MarineMax reminded me that the time is now for dealers to plan customer events during the upcoming boating season. In this case, MarineMax was promoting a trip for its trailer-boating customers to Mount Dora in Florida and an antique boat show. MarineMax puts a lot of stake in its customer events and for good reason. It’s the best way to get to know customers and build customer loyalty.

More specifically, holding customer events helps establish a closer relationship with customers. That’s because you’re face to face with those customers. You’re sharing an enjoyable experience with them. You have time to talk about what they feel is important, what might bug them and what needs they might have that you could meet to improve their boating experiences. The exchanges are relaxed and open because it’s not a “selling” situation.

Not a “selling” situation? Wrong! The fact is there might be no better selling situation than at customer events. You’re interacting with existing customers, the most likely group to buy from you again. A new connection is established. There’s a camaraderie that can develop, an excitement that can’t be created at the store. And it can render the customers much more open to looking at another boat or signing up for a new program. It is a selling situation, however subtle.

And it’s not just customers who benefit. Events are great for the dealership team, too. It can break an often tiresome routine and get dealership personnel out of the showroom or service department and acting together with customers. New relationships are established, old ones strengthened and personnel see firsthand the results of their efforts.

Events are excellent opportunities to capture the fun and excitement of boating in pictures and video clips that can later be used on the dealership website, photo boards in the showroom and boat show displays, among other ways. In fact, the photos or videos are really visual testimonials to the way buying a boat from your dealership fulfills customer desires to enjoy their ownership. The pictures are worth truly worth a thousand words.

Finally, events like the MarineMax owner’s trek to Mount Dora get customers out on the water using their boats. That can be particularly good for newer boating families who might feel more confident going with a group of similar owners, accompanied by some dealership staffers that often include a mechanic ready to jump on any problem that might crop up.

There’s really no way around this: events will take your time to plan and execute and will likely take some investment. However, capitalizing on an existing event, like the example of the MarineMax trip to an antique boat show, is a great way to go because it means you don’t have to invest effort in creating an event from scratch. But whether you create one or just travel to an existing event, the bottom line is your customers want to experience ways to use their boats and you’re extending that opportunity.

With most of the winter boat shows and related planning now behind us, it’s time to fill in the boating season calendar with an event or events that will result in stronger relationships with your customers — and more future business.

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