How to Be Ready for Anything

There’s never been a better time than the present to update your digital strategy
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In considering plans for 2021, an adage comes to mind: Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Designing a digital strategy for the upcoming year will require the ability to adapt quickly as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to unfold. Change, however, creates uncertainty. And when uncertainty meets the introduction of fresh ideas, ambiguity can make it difficult for any company to respond. Many companies simply stop advancing.

The cure for this inertia is action, and some fundamentals of digital design will allow companies to act no matter the market conditions. These digital-strategy tips apply to boatbuilders, dealers and affiliates alike.

Collect Information

The digital marketing tools available today provide an advantage not typically found in traditional marketing, especially marketing at in-person boat shows. Digital platforms can create deeper, more actionable profiles about your customers.

Strive for full integration of your customer relationship management system. All too often, leads are delivered in ways that don’t fit into a sales team’s process or systems. Challenge your lead-generation sources to send leads automatically into your system with a two-way flow of information. Offline, use the system’s app or a spreadsheet to collect leads that can be imported into your system. The easier you make it for your sales team to follow up on leads, the more likely the prospective clients will receive a rapid response.

Today’s lead-collection process is fragmented and creates friction for companies and prospects alike. If a prospect provides information on your website, you must ensure that the information is available in the next form he completes. For instance, if the prospect gives his name and address in a “contact us” form, that information should prepopulate when he clicks to fill out a finance application.

If a prospect signs up for a newsletter, collect a name and email address. If he requests a trade-in value, expand your request to a phone number in exchange for that information. If he wants to view boat-show pricing or other promotions, ask him to opt in for texting, request his buying timeframe and so forth.

You can use this escalating approach to equip your sales teams with a consolidated view of every prospect’s profile. Salespeople should not have to look at multiple leads in your system to get all the data about a prospect.

In addition, track the engagement on your website and digital marketing programs. Challenge outside partners, including boat-show producers, to provide this information. Important clues in this data will help you to personalize the experience for the customer, increase lead conversion, and prioritize sales and service activities.

Document Your Plan

Understand the customer relationship management systems that you have in place, whether you use a file card system or the market’s best software. It is critical that each person in your business knows how she is going to use the tools you already have. What you do with phone inquiries, inbound leads or in-person visits will affect your business six months, a year or even three years later. Create a clear picture of accountability and responsibilities, and give your team real time each day to follow up with prospects.

Next, have a plan for using your tools. Understand the options that each tool allows, then build a plan that your team understands and can execute.

Communicate with Everyone

Multiple studies show that only 40 percent of online leads in the boating industry receive a response. The data conversely demonstrates that the chance of converting a prospect to a buyer significantly improves the faster he receives a response, and the more information he receives in that response.

If a customer submits a lead, respond to his inquiry. Make sure the sales or service representative making that first contact has read the information the customer provided and is responding in a relevant way. Also, respond via the medium of communication that best reflects the customer’s request. Based on the permission and information the customer provides, the best options (in order of effectiveness) are a video call, an online chat, texting, a phone call and email.

Existing customers are the crown jewel of your business. They should get preferential treatment by receiving timely callbacks and true concierge service. With the influx of first-time boaters that came with the pandemic this past year, it is critical that the customer experience is first-class, to help maintain the industry’s expansion.

Most prospects will not purchase on the first try, so follow up. Build a schedule of email and social media followups that will put you in the lead position when the prospect decides to buy a boat or to seek parts and service. Find ways to stay relevant in the prospect’s on-water activities or future buying choices.

Also, be transparent. Today’s prospects are empowered and informed. Make sure the information they want is coming from you, so you can control the messaging and build a trusted relationship. Get price discussions out of the way early in the process (online or via immediate followup) so your sales team can focus on the excitement of boating and closing the deal.

Outsourcing also works. If your teams are overwhelmed with demand, deliveries, inventory issues and outside distractions, many high-quality resources can provide prospects with a first response and/or ongoing communication.

Use the uncertainty ahead to design a digital program that will allow you to be flexible and take advantage of the renewed interest in boating. Now is the ideal time to upgrade your websites, social media presence, tools and processes. Doing so will equip you to capitalize on what could be a continuing radical shift in the market. 

Mike Adams is vice president of enterprise solutions at Rollick. He offers advice on product development and market strategy related to boating brands, manufacturers, dealers and affinity partners.

This article was originally published in the December 2020 issue.

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