ORLANDO, Fla. — Some speakers at the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo seemed to have at least one common thread, regardless of the subject matter.
“I’ve been saying this for seven years, but I’ll keep saying it until you all listen,” Marcus Sheridan, who is called a web marketing guru by The New York Times after saving his swimming pool company, River Pools, simply by giving consumers honest information on his company website.
“If you don’t ask 20 people specifically why they do business with you, I won’t talk to you,” said John Spence, another sought-after speaker on the national circuit who specializes in delivering superior customer service. “I won’t take your money. I won’t consult you. I won’t have breakfast with you. There are a lot of people I won’t talk to anymore. And only one out of five of you will do this.”
“They know they should be doing it, but they don’t make the time to do it,” popular speaker Sam Dantzler said of training at dealerships. “They’re trying to convince themselves that because they don’t have a big employee turnover, they don’t have a problem. We play in three industries, and they’re all the same regarding this.”
Dealers reacted overwhelmingly positively to the content at MDCE, so why aren’t they taking the ideas home and implementing them?
“If you look at it as a dealer, you come here and get inspired; then you get on the plane and go home,” Dantzler told Trade Only Tuesday evening. “You’ve got social media to deal with; you’re jumping back into the retail swirl. You can understand how they are overwhelmed. But the fact is they can’t run a company like they did five years ago, let alone 20 years ago.”
One encouraging sign at the conference was the number of 20- to 35-year-olds spotted at events, taking notes and convening around dealer roundtables at signs marked “social media and video.”
“Our son finally talked us into a CRM,” a customer relationship management system, said Rob Brown, general manager at Clark Marine in Maine, as he gestured to 25-year-old Patrick Fortier-Brown.
At the Chaparral and Robalo booth was a virtual reality system that allowed visitors to “test-drive” the latest boats. It was built in-house by 33-year-old Ryan Swaims. “It took me two years to convince them, but after they saw it, they were like, ‘I get it now,’ ” Swaims said.
“One of our hashtags is, ‘You only get 18 summers with your kids,’ ” said Honey Tejero at a social media roundtable, which was occupied mostly by people under 35.
The third generation at Prince William Marina, Corey Phillips, has been spearheading the social media for the dealership. Before that, the work was not getting done.
“You can’t sell the product if you can’t sell the lifestyle,” Phillips said.