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  • Writer's pictureWanda Kenton Smith

5 Marketing Takeaways From Dealer Week

Wanda Kenton Smith

If you were seeking plenty of practical how-tos, the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas’ Dealer Week delivered. MRAA chose “discipline amidst disruption” as the theme for its annual conference, which featured educational pathways focused on leadership, sales and marketing, and service and parts.

Here are my five top takeaways.

A Remarkable Customer Experience

My favorite part of Dealer Week was the opening keynote by Dan Gingiss: “A Remarkable Customer Experience — Your Dealership’s Best Strategy for 2023.” I’ve long championed the customer experience as fundamental for business success, so I was especially pleased to see MRAA give it top billing. Gingiss talked about how consumers are barraged by marketing.

There are 7.5 million blog posts and 500 million tweets made daily, and 306.4 billion emails sent each day. “Consumers don’t need more messaging and marketing,” Gingiss said. What they need are more awesome customer experiences.

Really great or equally bad experiences are what people remember and share. He said 30% of consumers share bad experiences, while 49% share positive experiences. Sadly, 66% of consumers can’t remember the last time an experience exceeded their expectations at all. Retailers should take a hard look at what customers are saying, or not saying, about their business. Are customers sharing positive experiences? If not, what can you do to create experiences that people can’t help but want to talk about?

The WISE Approach

My second-favorite takeaway from Dealer Week was Gingiss explaining his WISE approach, which stands for witty, immersive, shareable and extraordinary. Witty means an approach to advertising that’s clever, fun, refreshing, unexpected and memorable. As he explains, it’s about “using language to your advantage” and “refusing to be boring.” Whether it’s welcome letters or on-site and digital signage, social media posts, packaging or invoices, every touch point or communication with a customer presents an opportunity to create a positive experience.

Immersive means doing a thorough review of the entire customer journey, envisioning it as one smooth ride that customers can “feel” along the way. Consider transitions between departments: could they be simplified? How might you appeal to customer emotions? I loved this question: Where in your business can you do the opposite of what every other competitor does, to create a uniquely immersive experience? As an example, Gingiss told the story of an automotive service tech who shot video for a customer on his cellphone, showing exactly what he was doing while underneath the car. That’s impact, a great way to actively engage the customer in the service process.

Sales staff can create short video bios to introduce themselves to prospects in advance of a visit.

Shareable is about the kind of experience that customers feel compelled to share. A personal example: My husband and I chose Ruth’s Chris for our anniversary dinner. We were greeted by name and promptly escorted to our table, which was sprinkled with rosebuds and bathed in romantic candlelight. Following an impeccable dining experience, we were served a beautiful, customized dessert and presented with an anniversary card hand-signed by the entire restaurant staff. To cap off our celebration, the manager stopped by to introduce himself, wish us a happy anniversary and thank us for choosing Ruth’s Chris for our special occasion. You can bet I snapped photos and shared them with glowing remarks. They created an exceptional experience that made us feel special.

Extraordinary is about being better than ordinary. Forget the excuse, We’ve always done it that way. Change how you’ve done things to eliminate pain points in the customer journey. I loved Gingiss’ story about a dad in a children’s hospital waiting area during surgery. Imagine the stress. As he emerged from the restroom, he discovered a touching message inscribed on the mirror: “Hang in there, Dad.” That’s an exceptional emotional connection, perfectly positioned and timed.

In a workbook available to conference participants, Gingiss had added an R to WISE, standing for responsive. He says 82% of customers expect an immediate response to a sales or marketing question, while 90% expect the same for a customer service question. In today’s employee-strapped workforce, this area is in desperate need of attention. I’ve suffered through being on hold for what seemed like an eternity, only to finally connect with a human who seemed unmotivated or unqualified to do the job. I’ve waited days for responses to email inquiries regarding time-sensitive business questions, sometimes never getting a response at all. What’s the experience like for your customers?

Questions To Answer Online

My third-favorite takeaway from Dealer Week was about five questions to answer online. I first heard Marcus Sheridan years ago when he presented “They Ask, You Answer,” based on his best-selling book by the same title. He says we’re in the business of trust and must build our sales and marketing strategies accordingly. To voice trust, we must consistently talk about things competitors won’t discuss. We must show, through videos, what the competitors won’t show. And we must sell what others in our space aren’t willing to sell.

He says 75% of the content we produce for our buyers online should be based on five questions customers want to know about: cost, problems, comparisons with other products, reviews and what the product is best for.


My fourth-favorite takeaway from Dealer Week was about creating a self-serve sales conversation. Sheridan also talks about this. He suggests that we replicate the sales conversation on our websites, allowing customers to “self-serve” prior to engagement. This includes the ability for customers to self-schedule appointments and sync their calendars with specific team members after reviewing online bios. Customers can also self-select product through directed questions and assessments, so they can be guided to conclusions based on their inputs.

The self-pricing component is delivered via online calculators that let customers build their boat or other product using price ranges (including what is standard versus optional) and explaining the differences in their choices. The process entails the customer filling out a form, with the incentive that the pricing will be instantly emailed, allowing the dealership to capture data for follow-up.

Videos That Work

My fifth-favorite takeaway was about video. Sheridan convinced me long ago about the value of video. In this session, he identified seven types of videos that directly impact sales.

His first type of video answers the top seven to 10 questions that all customers have. To determine content, your sales team should collaborate and identify the most frequently asked questions and answers, then create a video. Always invite prospects to review this video before coming to the showroom.

Second on the video playlist: 90-second bios of all team members with customer-facing roles. Add a link to the video in email signatures. Bios humanize team members, helping customers connect and feel more comfortable.

The third set of videos should focus on service and product. Fourth, Sheridan recommends embedding a video link adjacent to the forms on landing pages, featuring content that clearly explains what transpires when a customer submits data. This video allows prospects to feel more relaxed and confident when sharing information. He says explainer videos like these generate 80% more conversions.

Fifth, the pricing-cost video, which explains the differences in pricing so customers can better understand why products within a specific niche are priced all over the place. Some products sell for less, others are midrange, and still others are more costly. Explain why. Don’t assume customers understand the distinctions.

Sixth is the customer hero journey video. Sharing authentic, third-party customer testimonials about their experiences adds credibility. And if you add customer stories where something went wrong and your dealership took care of it, so much the better.

Finally, what unique claims can you make about your team or business? Substantiate your truth, your way, on video.

I’ve worked with numerous retailers, and with one exception, sales team members are often reluctant to go on camera. Because of the importance of video in the sales process, I encourage sales managers to invest in on-camera performance training for their crew. Video practice should be an integral part of ongoing sales training. Sheridan is on the record stating that participation should not be optional.

Article originally posted on Soundings Trade Only Online


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