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MDCE 2010: Dealers share best practices

ORLANDO, Fla. - One of the most popular sessions at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo was "The Best Ideas for Success in the Current Economy" panel, which featured low-cost, innovative ideas from five dealers and allowed the audience to vote on the best one.

The winner, who will be announced later today, will receive a new Apple iPad.

A committee chose the five best ideas from more than 40 that were submitted for review. Here's an overview of the nominees:

  • Customer Connection Campaigns, by Kay Woltman, Lake Union Sea Ray: The dealership used its database of more than 50,000 names and created targeted lists for specific events and specials that it was promoting. Phone calls were made to prospects and those who made the calls were given detailed instructions, such as the reason for the call, a description of the event/promotion and a deadline to complete the calls. The company also got the message out online and through social media and it used traditional media where applicable. The strategy produced a 23 percent increase in winterization service revenue.
  • Personalized On-Hold Marketing, by Carly Poole, Buckeye Marine: Rather than have customers listen to music while on hold, the dealership created messages about coming events, products, services and dealership trivia, using its own staff as the voiceover talent. The messages also were played in the showroom and around the dealership on a "shuffle" system. The outcome: Customers were willing to stay on hold longer, if need be, and they often asked questions about the promotions/events discussed in the messages. The strategy created more awareness of what the dealership offers.
  • Service Inspection Initiative, by Jerry Brouwer, Action Water Sports: Technicians now have a detailed list of things to check when a boat is brought in for service. If a technician determines that additional repairs are needed, he will call the customer and explain the problem. Technicians are paid 10 percent of the work they find. This spring the new method brought in, on average, an extra $2,000 per technician each week. The initiative also makes the customer feel well taken care of and helps cement the relationship.
  • YouTube Integration, by Kyle Kelly, Kelly's Port: Using a $150 camera, Kelly's Port began posting walkthroughs of its used boats on its YouTube channel. The result: The first boat sold in 10 days and the second boat sold in two hours. The key to success, Kelly said, is creating two-minute videos that look "raw." The salesperson gives details about the boat - good and bad - and that allows customers to more clearly see the boats at the dealership. The videos include contact information, but not the price of a boat, so the prospect has to call the dealership to learn more about it.
  • Targeted Boat Owner Promotion, by Joe Lewis, Mount Dora Boating Center: The dealership created three targeted lists of prospects: those who had never owned a boat, those who used to own a boat and current boaters. The dealership sent targeted mailings to the people on each list that included coupons, specials, incentives and events designed to bring them into the dealership. There was no immediate return on investment using this strategy, but Lewis said his dealership had its best fall ever and he credits the targeted promotion with helping to achieve that.



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