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CRM Is Not Just for the Big Guys

Good CRM (Customer Relationship Management) in many dealerships is a desirable objective, but it’s often a hard reality. I find many dealers think CRM is something for big corporations that can spend big bucks on it. But good CRM is adaptable to small businesses willing to make the effort.

CRM today is just a broad business term for programs used to manage relationships with customers. While CRM often refers to computerized programs for contact management, etc., I’m referring to all aspects of connecting a dealership with its customer, whether sales or service related. Interestingly, just as the computers have changed the buying behavior of customers, they have also changed CRM approaches and made them easier than ever. Logically, more CRM is being conducted today via the Internet than by old fashioned direct mail. 

Some confuse CRM with Customer Service. They’re not the same. Customer Service is action taken to meet the customer’s expectations. CRM is intended to maintain a connection. It can, and should, be done by all dealers and the easy and least costly way to do it is via e-mail. That’s what the big boys are doing.

For example, Procter & Gamble regularly sends its customers an e-newsletter called “Home Made Simple.”  First, what a great title! It implies what every homemaker wants — keep it easy. Second, the e-newsletter contains helpful tips to make things easier for the homemaker, using P & G products, of course. This concept can easily be adapted by a boat dealership — “Boating at Its Best” or “More Boating Fun for You!”

Another example comes from Unilever with its newsletter “Dove Dimensions.” More than just soap, Dove now includes a full line of personal care products so there are lots of tips and ideas that can be included in the newsletter to help customers get more out of their Dove products.

Four points: (1) Because spam is out-of-control on the net, you must have your customers sign up for your e-newsletter. If they understand it will help them enjoy their boat more, they’ll happily sign up. (2) The content needs to be enlightening, it’s not a sales piece. Articles that make maintenance simple, talk about interesting places to go, list upcoming customer-only events, and present ideas to improve every day’s outing are what will keep the relationship you want. (3) All departments — sales, service, parts, store, marina — should contribute ideas to the content. (4) Personalize your online newsletter (a process referred to as mass customization.)

After all, you’re communicating with people you know and with whom you want an ongoing relationship. It is personal.


4 comments on “CRM Is Not Just for the Big Guys

  1. Phil Keeter


    Good thoughts–MRAA has supported this concept for a good many years. We feel it is a must for all dealers. MRAA endorses Customer Service Intelligence, a firm that provides a complete program for this very important dealer service.

  2. Noel Osborne

    CRM is so important to the success of Yamaha’s dealer network that a separate course on CRM was added to this years Yamaha Symposium series. Your CRM program has to assure you that your customers will never forget about who you are. If they do then their repurchase decision will not give you any edge over your competition. A simple way to look at CRM is ” If you forget about your customers, they will forget about you.”

  3. John Wisse

    Presumably, the essence of your message Norm is that marine dealers need to better convey and genuinely demonstrate that “we care” is a value they hold highest with the boating customer. It’s the very reason for their existence. If CRM were to be focused first on a “we care” belief, then perhaps it can follow in the footsteps of some other industries which hold dear the essence of promoting education and safety in the use of their products and related activities. By adopting an education-to-sales business model, marine dealers can show they care about their customer needs because it’s the right thing to do. If CRM programs and business models were to be adapted in this fashion, our recreational boating industry could become vastly enhanced on the industry side as well as the recreation side. Who among the USA’s marine dealers and manufacturers dare to be great by accepting the challenge of forging ahead by demonstrating a new industry leadership in this fashion?

  4. Nyla Deputy

    I have been trying to ‘sell’ Norm’s “4 POINTS” to boat dealers for the past 10 years. I have presented plans with ideas for newsletters and information to dealers for use by their customers in a format that is NOT a strictly sales oriented piece just as Norm described. I have the knowledge and ability along with 10 years worth of experience, to be able to do this. But so far, I have only found 1 manufacturer and 1 dealer who was interested in my services. Dealers are small businesses for the most part and don’t have a marketing staff to do CRM . They could benefit from CRM. But from my experience, it has been nearly impossible to sell this idea to them. Beleive me, I have tried. Too expensive and “NO MONEY IN THE BUDGET” is the reason most often cited even though my services are very low in cost.

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