The missing link in certification


I’ve always believed the Dealer Certification Program, which began less than two years ago, would become an important component in the industry’s overall Grow Boating initiative. But I’ll also admit I often struggled with answers when dealers would ask me about its real value to them when measured against its cost.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I would always point out that becoming a Certified Dealer would improve business operations in major ways. For example, it’s clear the Certification Program is not some “expert” coming in and telling dealers how to run their business. Rather, the program is designed to help each dealer discover for himself where the dealership measures up and where it may be falling short. It involves a process that lets all employees participate and maps all the major dealership functions that ultimately impact the customer’s experience. In other words, it’s a very powerful self-evaluation, and each Certified Dealer I’ve spoken with indicates he discovered something(s) about his dealership’s way of doing business that he could, and did, significantly improve.

Now, just that alone is well worth the “price of admission” I would say.

But when dealers asked me about marketplace impact, specifically questioning consumer awareness, that’s when I’d try to change the subject! There wasn’t any. . . that is, until now. The Dealership Certification Board last month launched its first-ever internet advertising and marketing campaign aimed squarely at consumers. The campaign will raise consumer awareness of Dealership Certification by communicating the benefits of seeking out and doing business with a Marine Industry Certified Dealership. For example, banner ads on large internet sites like and will explain the advantages of buying boats at Certified Dealerships while linking directly to the program's Consumer Bill of Rights.

In addition to the advertisements, Certified Dealerships will be individually recognized on these websites through logo placement, boat listings and various other means of identification aimed at boosting public recognition.

So the missing link is now in place, and while I think getting a dealership certified was worth the effort even without the advertising campaign, it’s now elevated to the must do level for dealerships looking to the future. Many have already seen the advantages. A recent report indicates 537 dealerships have enrolled in the Dealership Certification program; 237 of which have completed the process and earned the official "Marine Industry Certified" designation.

Now’s the time for a lot more dealers to commit to improving their business in this way. Check it out at


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