Why nothing beats word-of-mouth referrals


These days, dealers face a time-consuming process in selecting what marketing media to use to acquire new customers. Technology keeps growing that list with each outlet possessing unique characteristics, though not all would likely be effective. 

That said, there is one sure bet. It’s word-of-mouth marketing and it’s unquestionably the most valuable.

Think about it this way. Would a prospect be more likely to buy a boat because of the pitch of a salesperson or because of the recommendation of a friend who’s been sharing a great experience he’s had with your product and dealership? Add to that the possibility that they’ve been talking about the experience on social media and the word-of-mouth importance is heightened.

A good word-of-mouth marketing strategy starts and ends with a good customer experience. Any dealership team that makes it their highest priority to assure the best experience to every customer will end up with happy customers who share it with those around them.

While it’s hard to find a definitive number, many marketing sources say it costs between four and 10 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. But if a new customer comes in because of an existing customer’s word of mouth, it’s free marketing.

So the key strategy to good word-of-mouth marketing is a good customer experience. And that can easily dovetail with the dealership’s good reputation in the community for a powerful one-two punch.

When it comes to conveying a good reputation, it isn’t using better adjectives, it’s better storytelling, according to Ryan Clancy at FTI Consulting, where he advises business leaders on communications strategy. He previously served as a speechwriter for Vice President Joe Biden and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

“The novelist Elmore Leonard once said that ‘When you're reading a novel, you don't want people telling you things, you want to see it, to hear it,’ ” Clancy said. “The advice is just as relevant to business leaders and companies. Don’t tell an audience how innovative you are. Show them with a great story.���

Good stories utilized, for example, on your website will highlight what really makes your dealership different and how you value taking care of the customer. In deciding on applicable stories, look to examples of how you fulfilled current customers’ needs, solved a problem and how they use and enjoy their boats.

Storytelling is actually very important today. Proof of that comes is seeing the explosion in demand for content marketing writers and applicable budgets in industries from technical to soap suds. However, a random look at many websites indicates most marine dealers are still lagging behind in storytelling, instead just putting up boring industry sales jargon when they should be separating themselves with better stories.

“Almost every company, no matter what they do, has interesting stories to tell that will resonate and be relevant to the audiences they care about,” Clancy said. “Now, they just need to tell them.”


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