MRAA Shirt Sleeve Sessions
The MRAA (Marine Retailers Association of America held the "Shirt Sleeve" sessions to report the status of several industry wide committees working on industry issues. I found them very interesting. Topics included: The Buying Process, The Delivery Process, Maintenance and Warranty, Education and Training, Manufacturer - Dealer Relations, and Pre-Owned Boats. I think it is great that those involved in the industry are working together on these important issues. About 170 people have been involved in the various committees. It is sad that it has taken this long to come about.
For those wishing copies of the reports or more information, the NMMA will supply it to its members. I will address a few of the areas I found most interesting.
Jeff Napier, NMMA president, explained how this had all came about. They had commissioned a study a 3 years ago, the Broh Study, that identified 7 or 8 areas customers had problems in doing business with the industry or were industry problems that needed addressed before the industry could expand. Now, a new study is doing a "value analysis" in this area. Message Factors is the company running the new study. They surveyed 50,000 U.S. families (part of a larger group of 200,00 families used by many survey groups) for basic demographic data and their boating experiences. They have just completed the value chain analysis. They received data 6 weeks ago.
The next group (survey) will be looking into barriers to getting into boating.
The group took 3 paths:
The boating promotional group said they hoped to "develop a unified message and tools that deliver that message."
RBBI comment - I think that promoting boating is a great idea. I'm not too sure it can be done with a "unified message." I tried to push the concept of promoting boating and the fun of boating at an earlier job within Brunswick and it didn't fly. The finding that boaters can be demographically "segmented" by identifying the type of boat they buy may force you to have more than one message.
They discussed the 4 legs the funding program must have.
Participation (paying the fee) would result in "certification" by the NMMA . Major industry publications would be asked to encourage readers to call a 1-800 NMMA number to determine if specific manufacturers were certified members of NMMA and MRAA.
RBBI Comment after the meeting - A few very large firms bear the brunt of the costs, and probably obtain a large share of the benefits. It was specifically mentioned that, Brunswick, was not currently "buying in" to the idea. One quote was "if the big dog don't go nobody goes." At a time when everybody is trying to cut pennies (most Brunswick companies don't even have 1-800- HELP numbers for their customers) its going to be a tough sell. Estimating Brunswick's marine revenues at $2 billion, their share could be $5 million (1/3 of the $15million total). Perhaps it would be easier to get the large companies to "buy in" if the fees has a saturation level (I'm about to get statistical on you) of about two sigma. This means that if you listed all the fees in a row from smallest to largest, the first 97.7 % of them would be valid and the largest 2.3 % of them (about the largest 35 companies) would pay the same level as was paid by the 97.7 % company. Basically this creates a fee "cap" at the top end. The fixed percentage (.0025%) would be increased to generate the same total funding. This results in an actual larger percentage being paid by the smaller companies, but the large companies would still be substantially contributing to the funding.
Note- my 35 company estimate is considering the "Brunswick Companies" and other similar units to be composed of individual companies. Brunswick may have several members of NMMA (Mercury Marine, U.S. Marine, Sea Ray, Boston Whaler, etc.). The largest 35 individual units would be the ones saturated under my suggestion.
Large companies will very scared of not being listed on some "approved list." The program and its benefits need to be made attractive to them. Several larger companies are already "promoting boating" within their own programs. If they can do that effectively, there are few reasons for them to support similar programs elsewhere.
NMMA is a very respected organization. They handle large sums of money involved with boat shows. It still would make me a little nervous to turning them loose with administering a program involving sums of this magnitude. Many similar organizations do not have the proper financial "watchdog" programs in effect until the "horse is already out of the barn." I would encourage the industry to make sure proper "watchdog" policies are in place before beginning the program.
It was mentioned that Canada has an owners manual that is one specific size and alphabetized. All the small different size pieces of paper in the U.S. are very cumbersome.
They also suggested standards and certification. 41 people had volunteered to work in this group which was co-chaired by Roger Patterson, now with U.S. Marine.
They tried to divide the issues into groups and then prioritize them as perceived by the customers.
One goal was to pay warranty claims within 30 days.
I later mentioned to Roger that Harley Davidson now pays warranty claims over the internet in a few days. They might want to make sure they catch up to the "bar" before they set a standard.
Specific standards will be developed for "turn around time."
They want to provide a "hassle free" period of ownership in which we provide everything.
We need a Mr. Goodwrench philosophy.
Ended with 4 overall plans:
No means of funding this specific program has been discussed. Funding is anticipated to come from the overall program (.0025 % of revenues).
A certified dealer program administered from within the industry might prevent future external regulation by local state governments.
All the various "certification" programs would be tied together into one overall certification. It might have different levels (like A, AA, AAA, etc) they have not gotten that far yet.
Dealers do not trust the manufacturers to support them.
Consumers do not trust either one.
The keywords seem to be TRUST and EXCELLENCE.
The committee got embroiled in manufacturer dealer agreements and felt they do need written agreements and they need to be for longer periods of time that currently written for.
These agreements should address:
Lots of economic opportunities, especially in newer well kept boats for remanufacturing them, providing warranties, having pre-owned boat shows, pre owned boat auctions, moving boats between dealers, etc.
The term "pre-owned" adds value to them vs. "used". Some areas (Ohio, Virginia, Maine, and others) have sales taxes that apply to "pre-owned" boats sold by dealers and not to private transactions of used boats. Several areas have challenged that and either had it removed from the dealer or reduced and applied to both. This results in a much more level playing field.
Why aren't we selling new boats? Not enough people are walking in our doors. We need more good prospects.
If this person could make us just 10% more effective we could generate $50 million dollars in improved sales from our advertising.
He hopes the unity meetings will continue. Sales will come from better marketing.
When each boat is sold it makes a ripple in our industry. We'll sell enough to make a tidal wave!
RBBI Comments: he started pretty weird (like I don't also) but he ended with some very good ideas. His presentation could use some work but the crowd seemed to accept him quite well.
RBBI is trying to act as a resource for some of the ideas he was looking for. We post a lot of clips from the various magazines and journals that have application to the boating industry.
It was really weird having a half day of presentations, then having a 15 minute off-the-wall speaker with a good totally different idea and then everybody goes home. It some how seemed appropriate for this industry. What am I supposed to think now??? Are we going to hire an industry marketing guru and flush all these certification, education, and boating promotion programs? I think it will probably all be forgotten by the time the groups meet again. I sat by a gentleman from Volvo that I had met throught the internet and did not realize it was him till he "popped up" for one of the presentations. I continued to meet many people at the show that I had first met throught the internet.
Some examples are: "boat in" hamburger & hot dog place, a hair dresser salon on the water or at the waters edge, aerobics classes, day care center, theater, snow cone stand, cotton candy machine, boating rallys & treasure hunts, and a generic church. These activities could be provided 3 days a week (friday, saturday, and sunday) for 3 months a year (June, July, August). Normal costs and fees could be charged. Any remaining monies needed to support the site would come from the "fund." Most of the sites could use college student labor. Companies wishing to donate facilities, land, labor, and management oversight could count those donations as "in kind" toward their NMMA assessment.
These sites would all bear a consistent appearance so they could be identified as being a part of the "boating is fun" program. Boaters and their entire families would have much more fun. Studies already show existing boaters are our best source of new customers. Imagine how many more boaters would be attracted by programs like this for a fraction of the costs the other program is promoting. We are talking about providing some activities on or near the water about 45 days a year. With an average budget of $100 a day in excess of revenues generated by a site, a typical site would cost $4,500 a year in operational costs. One million dollars (1/15 of the budget of the other program) could provide 200 of these sites (average of 4 per state) and still have $100,000 left over for administrative, training costs, and marketing costs.
If you wanted to really low budget it, just put up a bunch of snowcone and cotton candy machines. They should come close to paying for themselves. You might even be able to lease them from some company that has a use for them the rest of the year.
I would suggest food and drink items be in single units and sold for onsite consumption. We are supposed to be putting cold drinks and snacks in the hands of those that would not otherwise have them, not selling 24 can packs and competing with existing stores.
Additionally, the college students are going to have a summer experience surrounded by boating and may one day become customers themselves. The other proposal just throws money at marketing and the boaters really get nothing in return. This proposal costs much less and the boaters get much more. The NMMA proposal certainly does good things. Many of those things need to be being done by the participants anyway. I've been through many certification processes and they all seem to end up as money generating ventures for some organization. How about doing something for our customers, the boaters?
Later at the Fishing Show I encountered Fishbone Fred in the Fishing Show. This interesting gentleman sings some funny fishing songs and has a group of "safety songs" for kids that teach them "how to spot dangerous situations and where to turn for help." I thought he was very interesting. This is the "kind of thing" that could promote boating and boating safety. With a little added funding from the NMMA / MRAA he might be quite a missionary. I think operations like this could get a "lot of bang for our buck." His flyer says he is Fishbone Fred Enterprises located in Boca Raton FL. We have a photo of him taken from his brochure.
Also, going back to the motto on the "stickers" card placed on the All Industry Breakfast tables, "Our goal is to make the two best days of a boat owner's life the day of purchase and each day of use thereafter.", seems to indicate that it would be better to invest in providing fun boating activities than than to just spend marketing dollars telling people boating is fun.
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