ORLANDO, Fla. — The "next generation" of the Marine Industry Dealership Certification program is less expensive, accessible to more dealers and will yield value for those who enroll: That's the message the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas is spreading at this year's MDCE.
"It's a brand-new approach to the program, building on what we had previously," Sonja Moseley, director of certification and benefits, told me Tuesday. "We've integrated all the feedback we got from the dealers. We had 100-plus people who contributed to that feedback. These dealers included those who were in the program, have dropped out of the program or have never been in the program. We really collected the good, the bad and the ugly."
Jon Kukuk, owner of Nestegg Marine in Marinette, Wis., dropped out of the program because of the cost and what he perceived as a lack of value. He talked to Moseley Tuesday about the changes and was considering rejoining.
"I was on the ground floor when this first started and I held on to it for about five years," Kukuk told me after speaking to Moseley. "So when I heard it was coming, that these changes were coming, it was sort of a 'hallelujah.' "
The MRAA earlier this year began managing, administering and promoting the dealership certification program, working with Five Star Solutions, the third-party group that helped to create and that implements the program.
Moseley said the association has addressed the top three complaints about the first generation of the certification program: It's too expensive, its cost and requirements make it inaccessible to many dealers and the actual "certification" lacks value.
"We are making the new program accessible," she said. "Instead of 72 requirements and an all-or-nothing option, you have the ability to get involved in the program in steps — tiers I, II and III. And the program is significantly less expensive. It is $575 to enter the first tier, which is a huge improvement because it was $3,000 to enroll, and then it was $1,595 every year to recertify.”
The modified program now requires recertification every two years instead of annually, Moseley said. "We encourage continuing education, but a lot of dealers were saying, 'As soon as I get recertified they are coming to my door in less than a year, wanting more money for another recertification.’ "
The two-year period gives members more time to implement all of the facets of the program, Moseley said. "They'll have more of an opportunity to see the effects of what they're doing with certification or through certification," she added.
Launched in 2005, the dealer certification program has been one of several pillars of the industry’s Grow Boating effort. The program is designed to offer dealerships methods for continuous improvement through the adoption of processes and systems that make them and their employees more efficient, more professional and more profitable.
The association is attacking the third gripe — lack of value — by stepping up its marketing efforts and working harder for the dealers, Moseley said.
"We've completely redone the marketing kit that the dealers receive themselves," Moseley said. "So they're getting all these great ads for their website; great print ads they can use; and press releases. They're also getting tips on how to market themselves as a certified dealer."
Kukuk welcomes the changes, but will be happier when that value starts to materialize. "The jury is still out on whether the marketing is going to be good," he said. "I wish all dealers would get certified because it makes them better. I would like to see marketing that is going to drive people to our doorstep, as opposed to a non-certified dealership. Why wouldn't people want to do business with a certified dealership that has all its ducks in a row?"
About 300 dealers are enrolled in the program, Moseley said.
"We really believe there is potential for massive growth there," she said. "There are 3,000 dealers in North America.”
The association has made strides at the MDCE. "We've had some brand-new dealers come in and sign up for the program at this event,” Moseley said. “We met some people who had fallen out of the program and heard about changes and have filled out their recertification application right here."
Moseley invites MDCE attendees to visit the certification display at the show. MRAA and Five Star Solutions also are providing the new information at www.dealercertification.org; www.facebook.com/DealerCertification; and www.twitter.com/MarineDirCert.
— Chris Landry