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The missing link in certification

I’ve always believed the Dealer Certification Program, which began less than two years ago, would become an important component in the industry’s overall Grow Boating initiative. But I’ll also admit I often struggled with answers when dealers would ask me about its real value to them when measured against its cost.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I would always point out that becoming a Certified Dealer would improve business operations in major ways. For example, it’s clear the Certification Program is not some “expert” coming in and telling dealers how to run their business. Rather, the program is designed to help each dealer discover for himself where the dealership measures up and where it may be falling short. It involves a process that lets all employees participate and maps all the major dealership functions that ultimately impact the customer’s experience. In other words, it’s a very powerful self-evaluation, and each Certified Dealer I’ve spoken with indicates he discovered something(s) about his dealership’s way of doing business that he could, and did, significantly improve.

Now, just that alone is well worth the “price of admission” I would say.

But when dealers asked me about marketplace impact, specifically questioning consumer awareness, that’s when I’d try to change the subject! There wasn’t any. . . that is, until now. The Dealership Certification Board last month launched its first-ever internet advertising and marketing campaign aimed squarely at consumers. The campaign will raise consumer awareness of Dealership Certification by communicating the benefits of seeking out and doing business with a Marine Industry Certified Dealership. For example, banner ads on large internet sites like and will explain the advantages of buying boats at Certified Dealerships while linking directly to the program’s Consumer Bill of Rights.

In addition to the advertisements, Certified Dealerships will be individually recognized on these websites through logo placement, boat listings and various other means of identification aimed at boosting public recognition.

So the missing link is now in place, and while I think getting a dealership certified was worth the effort even without the advertising campaign, it’s now elevated to the must do level for dealerships looking to the future. Many have already seen the advantages. A recent report indicates 537 dealerships have enrolled in the Dealership Certification program; 237 of which have completed the process and earned the official “Marine Industry Certified” designation.

Now’s the time for a lot more dealers to commit to improving their business in this way. Check it out at


2 comments on “The missing link in certification

  1. jim

    That being said and agreeing with it all, when do we hold the manufacturers to the same standards. I realize this is repetetive, but nonetheless is a must in our industry. I tire of the one way street as it were.

  2. Joe Lewis

    Norm you’re right, the advertising and promotion of Certified Dealers to boat buyers has just started. It’s an important step forward. I think it will have a noticable impact. NMMA has also recently announced Certified Dealers would receive special recognition at all their boats shows. Hopefully other boat show promotors accross the country will follow thier lead and do the same.
    There have been a number of other benifits for certified dealers that seems to have been over looked or forgotten. The “Discover Boating” Web site which is receiving outstanding traffic has always had a page devoted to reasons why buying from a certified dealer is a good idea. It also features a listing and locator by state so consumers can find the closest certified dealer.
    The biggest advantage for us as a certified dealer is direct access the the leads being generated by the “Dicsovery Boating” marketing effort. Were able to retrive leads on a daily basis and start working them immediately. Most dealer think they’ll get these leads from their manufacturers. That may or may not be ture. In a study we conducted early this year we found a thirty to forty-five day lag time from when we received a lead directly vs from our manufacturers. We were also receiving leads directly that never came from our manufacturers. So as you say, to us direct access to the leads is “Well worth the price of admission”.
    This program is in it’s infancy and just coming into it’s own. Over the next three years we’re expecting it to pay big dividends for our dealership.

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