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11 Takeaways from Dealer Week 2020

An Authentic Dreamland for Training, Education and Connection

By Jerrod Kelley, Content Manager


What does it mean when you dream about work? We’ve all been there one time or another, you awake at 4 a.m., from a deep sleep with thoughts — in some cases even nightmares — about your place of employment.


For me, the scenario was different. I’ve been a part of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas team since July and have had nothing but positive experiences. It makes complete sense, then, that my dream follow suit and not involve much anxiety, but rather concepts for improvement heading into 2021.


This was one of those dreams when you wake up and wish you had a pen and scratch pad next to the bed. One where ideas feel as though they were “placed” in your head for a reason. Lacking a notebook or even a pencil, I decided it was time to wake up and jot down some of these burning topics.


As background, I was part of the MRAA team that monitored the Dealer Week chats and I participated in the roundtables and networking sessions during last week’s online conference. While the live portion of the event may have ended, it’s not over, technically, for anyone who’d like to still jump in and experience the content that’s inspiring me to write the following list of my own top 11 takeaways. Check it out:


1. Looking Forward: With 2020 mostly in the rearview mirror, it’s time to focus on the future while using the past as guidance for educational and emotional growth. The session “Thrive on the Other Side of 2020,” with John Spence helps dealers like you take better care of yourself and your entire team. The goal is to improve your culture by understanding emotions, handling anxiety and overcoming stress. In turn, this helps you boost results, retain the best employees and, ultimately, provide the best possible customer experience. Similarly, Marcus Sheridan discussed building a marketing plan for a year with or without boat shows, centered on understanding today’s savvy and informed customers and how to build a plan to engage them with seven actionable methods.


2. It’s time to see it differently: Speaker Kelly McDonald taught us that the phrase “I see it differently” is better to use than “Let’s agree to disagree.” This little gem is about how you can handle conflict with a refined approach. It comes from her “How to Recruit, Work With and Lead People Not Like You” Employee Pathway session. Frankly, this is a must-watch presentation for anyone in business.



3. The Empathetic Path: It’s easy to wear your own shoes and see it your way. It’s far more challenging, impressive, meaningful and worldly to think of others, their feelings and the outcome of your actions. Humans makes mistakes all the time. It’s true. But they can also apologize, forgive and show grace in an effort to communicate more openly and honestly (without hostility). Showing more empathy must be part of your approach to 2021, in work and your personal life.


4. A Kind Heart Beats Burnout: Speaker David Spader taught us to not only think and interact with our brains, but also with a full heart. Why? Because compassion and kind heartedness are indispensable for overcoming burnout. And not just for you, but others, too (customers, co-workers, employees and neighbors), because it changes corporate culture for the better.


5. Digital Deluge: Digital’s impact on our businesses is expanding like never before because traditional buying methods and customer thinking was forced to change even more because of the pandemic. Dealers have to use digital methods to reach more customers, through the use of targeted marketing efforts, data interpretation and implementation. Internally, increased digital functionality with checklists, procedures and the use of outside service companies can also improve efficiency, internal and external communications and, in the long run, help enhance the customer experience.


6. Video or Bust: At least three educational sessions at Dealer Week focused on video. It’s clear, especially with more consumers at home and participating virtually, becoming a video guru is as timely as it is necessary for growth. We’ve been told some dealerships have employees that have vowed to never be on camera, yet even these opponents (whether from fear or nervousness) have even given it a shot to be part of the video team and showcase their expertise with customers. Find a team that gives you the best opportunity to create informative videos for the boating public and answers your customers’ questions. A solid video game gives you credibility and a competitive advantage.


7. The New-To-Them Segment: This really is about the used boat market or the potential and growth within the pre-owned boat market due to the lack of new inventory and a likely increase in buyer demand. Two sessions at Dealer Week discussed this hot spot within the marine industry. One focused on photography and videography adaptation with pre-owned boats while the other shared key benchmarks all dealers should aim for when committing fully to winning with pre-owned boat sales and growing profits.


8. Virtual anything just doesn’t work. FALSE! Not only has virtual learning at thousands of schools and universities proven this to be false, but technically watching sports, listening to podcasts and viewing TED sessions all have to do with you NOT attending the content you’re consuming and partaking at home, in a Tesla or in an office setting. When you hear someone say, “I’m not a virtual learner. I prefer to meet with people in person,” you, like me, can relate. But this is simply not true for most people who give it a chance. Dealer Week 2020 was online for the first time and proved that even though something is online, that it could feel almost as real as being at the conference — sans the sore feet. With consumers seeking more things digital, from shopping to eating to communicating so it’s best to explore how you can accept virtual, not ignore it.


9. Chatrooms are critical: To make Dealer Week 2020 a true experience, participating within the various chatrooms was essential. Whether you posted questions for our hosts or educators to answer, or to simply give someone a “thumbs up” for their post, human interaction felt tremendous and long overdue, at least in terms of the boat show scene. At Dealer Week, the chatrooms were used to promote peer sharing in F&I, Marketing, Advocacy, Sales, Service, Parts & Accessories and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Dealer Week also featured a general session chatroom where trend sharing, honesty and genuine stories about best practices were told. A reminder here, pay close attention to your pop-up chat features on your sites, capitalizing on fresh contacts when they reach out to your team for more information.


10. Cue the Music: They say music soothes the savage beast, but it also connects us with others and can take the edge off of a new experience. Dealer Week featured awesome mood-setting songs from Aaron Goodvin and some hot tracks from DJ Impulse during our awards presentation — all presented by KICKER. The key to remember with music is to actually listen to the song lyrics to help you break down the entire story to get the full effect and message. Much like a great keynote speech or learning experience, when you break down everything, you’re learning, connecting and, hopefully, enhancing your individual and community approach. The message here is to be more inviting than you think you’re already being.


11. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over: First, Dealer Week 2020 runs through March 31, 2021. While you may have missed the LIVE interactions, you can still consume all the educational sessions, exhibits and training for another three months. If you’re like me, you’ll need this extra time to CONSUME EVERYTHING! But you can also still network with your fellow dealers and reach out to manufacturers and suppliers. Second, MRAA Silver Members also retain continuous access, so they can view all the pathway sessions (Dealership, Customer and Employee), keynote speaker address, exhibitors, products and more. Finally, it’s not altogether done because the content is so relevant and timely — even if you’re not a marine dealer. Yes, it’s that good! Why else would I be dreaming about my first-ever Dealer Week Experience?

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