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MDCE 2017: Dealers urged to meet customers’ digital expectations

Bestselling author Tim Sanders, who is known as an Internet pioneer, delivers a keynote speech at the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo on Monday.

Bestselling author Tim Sanders, who is known as an Internet pioneer, delivers a keynote speech at the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo on Monday.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Tim Sanders remembers pitching Blockbuster on digitizing the company’s business. Netflix had recently emerged as a competitor, but Blockbuster executives were unconcerned, thinking it was a passing fad.

Three years later, Blockbuster attempted to compete by offering its own DVD mail service. But at that point it was too late, said Sanders, keynote speaker at the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo on Monday.

“What I learned about that process over the course of those years is that dealing with change is hard,” Sanders said. “It’s a big change to move from trade shows, hand-to-hand contact and newspapers. It’s emotionally upsetting, and I understand that. We fight change. Most of the time when something comes along, like getting DVDs in the mail and never pay late fees, that is seriously disruptive to your business. Most people go through shock.”

But time is of the essence, Sanders said, and marine dealers who don’t adjust to the digital demands of customers will get left behind.

“People stuck at the bottom of the roller coaster, they die,” he said.

The fact is that consumers don’t shop the way they used to, and they’re not going back. So dealers have to reach them where and how they want to be reached.

One of the answers, he said, is video. “For SEO, video is really important,” Sanders said. “Seventy percent of consumers are more likely to purchase a product if they watch a video that explains the product.”

And videos need to address a variety of needs, not just the shopping journey, he said.

“How do you use the boat? You want product content across your site that answers key decisions,” he said. And the more companies use data to measure how effective their marketing dollars are, they will arrive at the same conclusion — post more video.

“The better we get at marketing, the more we get our market to grow,” said Sanders, a bestselling author who is known as an Internet pioneer.

Getting employees to get on board can be tough, Sanders said.

“Change is painful, and empathy is the only way as a builder, or leader, to have your people grapple with and embrace change,” he said. “The reality is it scares the heck out of people in retail to make that change. As owners, we need to recognize it’s hard for them to do that. It’s a different world where we feel lost.”

Sanders was on the ground floor of the quality movement, the launch of the mobile phone industry and the birth of the Internet. He was an early member of Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner’s broadcast.com, which had the largest opening day IPO in history.

After Yahoo acquired the company, Sanders was tapped to lead its ValueLab, which enabled sales teams to close hundreds of millions of dollars of new business through rapid collaboration.

In 2005 he founded Deeper Media, which provides consulting and training services for leading companies, trade associations and government agencies.

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