A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Don’t ignore your most important store

It’s time to kick things up a notch.

Economists are talking about the “R” word. The Federal Reserve’s move to cut the rate by a half point may not derail the nation’s tumble towards recession as a result of the housing crisis. Even former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan says the central bank’s move may not be enough to move the glut of unsold newly constructed homes.

What do we, as an industry, do? We look at our businesses and do it better.

An industry colleague recently offered at least one tactic. Don’t ignore your most important store — the Internet. Some 76 percent of the customers start their search on their computer screens. They are hungry for information. They want to know about boats, how to finance, and where to service them.

Don’t stop there, says our colleague. Follow the lead. If they request information, don’t wait. Call, e-mail, and write that same day. Don’t pass it around. Don’t let dust gather. Don’t let them find another boat, another dealer or, even worse, another hobby. (We want more boaters, not RVers). This is the electronic meet-and-greet.  Follow that lead as if you met them in person at a boat show, or a dealership.

Hey, a Web site isn’t going to change the economy. But, at the end of the day, a Web savvy dealer may move a few more boats, with just a little more effort.

JoAnn W. Goddard
Associate Editor
Soundings Trade Only


3 comments on “Don’t ignore your most important store

  1. Anonymous Bob

    One way of doing things better is to cultivate your current customer base. The industry experienced tremendous growth the last few years and probably neglected previous customers because we were all “too busy”. Wouldn’t we all love to be too busy now?. So, in addition to a same day (same hour?) response to those internet leads, don’t forget to dive into the customer files and start contacting those customers who bought from us 4-5 years ago and begin planting those seeds now. It’s always easier, more effective, and less costly to retain your customers than it is to gain new ones. Today’s market is even more competitive, so taking care of your customers is more important than ever. Remember, if you don’t do it, someone else will. And we can’t afford to lose another customer to the RV, motorcycle, or some other “toy” market.

  2. Dave Waugh

    Having spent a lot of time in the Marine and Motorcycle industries,they seem to share a common “problem” in that they attract enthusiasts as employees and don’t seem to convert that enthusiastic employee into a professional employee.Over-time it seems that many valuable assets these industries attract will leave out of frustration(the enthusiasm stays,and the cereer goes)
    Toys are Toys,and those of us “addicted” to them will continue to play,a boat is a toy that very often carries a payment-term that will outlast most marriages in this country.So, when you represent such a “toy” to a customer…..how professional should you or your employee be?What should a customer reasonably expect before he/she signs that paperwork in your F&I office?You might consider compairing the commitment you expect your customer to make, to the commitment you make to your employees.
    Your Employee Satisfaction Index(ESI) will walk hand in hand with your Customer Satisfaction Index(CSI) and BOTH parties will leave you if not satisfied.
    Do we/they turn to the internet to conduct our business because the “in-person” or “by-phone” experience(s) we encounter are so-good?
    Would we rather conduct our “toy” buying by computer or in-person?
    What makes the difference?
    Your data-base is a GOLD MINE….make sure you don’t go digging for SAND!!!

  3. Terry Hines

    Wholesale Suppliers Scenario Northwest: Good aggresive supplier comes to NorthWest, Good aggresive supplier gets bought out by Brunswick. Now New supplier [Brunswick/L+S offers good service, and some nice products. Many quicksilver products very reasonable, good shipping terms, good people with knowledge. A true improvement for the small boat shop. Wow, then the big B spins off good products like NavMan, then merges with a new Northwest supplier. Diversified. The good ordering system is gone for now. Diversified struggled big time and is now doing a reasonable job. WHAT IS NEXT. MY prices have gone up considerably, and the only training I get is online in a limited way. Even Small Engine Dist meet once a year for limited training at Hotels in the larger cities. And we wonder why no one wants to be a Tech, It simply is a joke, The big B wants me to sell their engines, with No Yearly training. Even a Day? at local Hotels. We will even pay the for lunch. Big B just show up and do your job. Show me why your expensive oil is any better than Mallory Marine oil with twice the warranty.
    Another quick example. Garmin buys local autopilot mfg from Newport oregon. Good product, good supplier. Promises to Garmanize product to make better. Call the local rep and watch how many days it takes for local dealer support. Try 7 days. A JOKE. It took 7 days to get approved by local Seattle Marine Electronics wholesaler. Then approved my $2000.00 order. Promised to set me up to access their website, that was three weeks ago.
    My first $2000.00 order had an $80.00 HANDLING CHARGE from GARMIN/SEAWIDE. I only had a 20% margin at full retail in the first place. A JOKE.
    It is very clear most dealer/repair shops are simply on their own. We will survive because we simply enjoy our boating customers. But I can not imagine a worst industry to try to make a profit with. We on the front lines, are not asking for much. But please dont offer me a trip to Sin City to try to help or appease me. I would much rather spend quality time with my family, or on my boat.
    In business for 11 years now and love the marine business. Sincerely Terry Hines.
    By the way, Good Customers that can afford boating will continue to come to their local facility because most truly know good good customer service. Big B it is your turn to show us on the front lines you are in it for the long run. A simple Thanks at Christmas is Cool.

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