Annual Conference Educates & Entertains

As part of my commitment to life-long learning and my absolute fascination with innovation, I attended this year's MDCE conference that was held in Orlando. The purpose of the conference was to gather, in one venue, dealer principles and reps from around the country to learn about new products. The conference also provided an insight of the latest topics of interest to the marine industry.

I would like to tell you about one new product, the Quad Ski, and two seminars that I found fascinating. The Quad Ski is a super-cool amphibious watercraft that is a cross between a jet ski and an ATV. What is it? "We don't really know," responded Jeff Bottrell, Sales and Marketing Director for Gibbs Sports Amphibians when asked by onlookers. "But, I can tell you that it will do 40 mph on land or sea and is powered by a BMW engine." Of course, Jeff knows exactly what a Quad Ski is but smartly got his audience thinking about how they could use it. Perhaps it could double as a dinghy, shuttling guests from the boat to a deserted Bahama island? Or, perhaps it can sit idle in the garage, until which time it is driven directly to the boat launch for a fun day on the water. Or, perhaps still yet, life guards could use it to rescue a distressed swimmer? If you have an extra $45,000 of discretionary income, let us know what you do with the Quad Ski!

An insightful presentation by the social media marketing expert Kathi Kruise was very educational. I love hearing experts talk about the "black magic" of group think, trend setting, and reaching people who are genuinely interested in learning more about boats and the boating industry. Kathi is all in when it comes to social marketing. One of her keen observations was that great company storytellers always talk about the "why" instead of the "what" when it comes to their boats. Rather, she encouraged the dealers to talk about how a fast boat can improve the fish catching results, as opposed to how great the horsepower is. In addition, she suggested not utilizing all of the social media posts to try to sell something. Instead, use Facebook and Twitter to give customers information that matters to them. She explained, “ When you build an audience by providing helpful information, sales will come.” Makes sense to me!

And, finally, I had the great opportunity to listen to one of the most dynamic presentations on selling and keeping customers by Chip Thomas, a life-long, top tier Honda car salesman. “Mastering the basics and fundamentals” and “good ole fashion hard work” probably best describe Chip’s sales methods. He made great points explaining what customers really want. "Show up, do what you say you'll do, finish everything you start, and stay in touch." The difference between Chip and other sales people is that he actually does what he preaches, with high intensity. As an example, Chip sends out handwritten thank you notes and birthday and anniversary cards to his customers - all of them, all of the time. He noted that one particular customer bought their first car from him in 1982 and 5 more cars since. But, as he said, he earned the right to sell them their next car, and their next car, and their next car again, considering that he sent them 385 personal handwritten cards and notes. What I found most interesting is that Chip said he does not do any marketing to find new customers. In fact, he has not spoken to a walk-in customer in over 20 years. He said, "I leave the job of finding new customers to my existing customers. And, they do it well, often going out of their way to tell friends and family to buy from Chip."

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