Perception is Reality!

What image comes to mind when prospective customers think about your dealership?  What feelings does it evoke in them?

When I was head of sales for Johnson and Evinrude, one of our good dealerships was very successful in creating the perception in customer’s minds that it was the trustworthy place to buy a boat and motor and also to have it serviced. It was a well-deserved perception, as they did indeed sell quality products at fair prices and provide excellent service.

Gene and Hank (not their actual names) were partners in a Midwest dealership in a very competitive market. When asked, “Why should I buy a boat from you,” Gene, who handled most of the sales, would respond with, “Because you get me when you buy a boat here.” When asked, “What does that mean,” Gene was always ready with his answer.

Gene would begin, “It means we keep you on the water. We sell only quality boats and engines that will keep you boating. Let me show you our service department, which will show you how we keep you on the water.” He would then take the prospect back for a tour of the spotless service department and introduce him to the staff. This was done in a way that always impressed the prospects. Sometimes the prospect would ask, “But how are you going to keep me on the water if I have a breakdown?” Gene would answer, “If we can’t fix it right away, I’ll have another boat available for you to use.” He seldom had to loan a boat to keep his customers happy. He created a positive perception of a trustworthy dealership. And they earned it!

Remember this…perception is reality. So dealers need to figure out what is special about their dealership and why consumers should buy a boat from them rather than from a competitor. The dealers who have learned how to market themselves and their dealerships to create the right perception will do better. That doesn’t mean being phony. It means taking the positives of your business and staff and promoting them to create the perception that your dealership is the place to buy boats, accessories and to get quality service.

I see a lot of dealer websites that miss the target in creating a positive, winning perception. These websites might do a great job in showing the products they handle and the service they provide. But they miss creating a positive perception by not talking about the value of dealing with them. And too many dealer websites fail to include customer testimonials. Satisfied customers can do a better and more credible job of selling you and your dealership and creating the positive perception that you want than you ever could. You might even consider including video testimonials on your website.

The “About Us” page on so many websites are also missing the target. They should talk more about you, your staff, and tell more about your dedication to quality products and service. “Sell the sizzle, not the steak,” as the old saying goes. Create the perception that your dealership is the place to buy boats and get them serviced. You will soon see the benefits!

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About Ben H. Sherwood

Ben H. Sherwood is a marine industry veteran and a marketing consultant who operates Sherwood Marine Marketing in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. For more info, click About on the main menu.

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