An enthusiastic crowd of 100 gathered for the annual MMA meeting and luncheon at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show on November 1, 2019 sponsored by FLIBS/Informa, Sea Tow and MarineMax. As usual, it was an opportunity to meet, mix and mingle with fellow marketers from throughout the industry plus learn from a top-notch professional development panel of industry marketers latest practices regarding the hot topic of “CX: Why It Should Be Your Marketing RX.”
The event, which scored a 96% excellent rating by attendees, included an introduction and overview of the emergence of CX (Customer Experience) by MMA President and panel moderator Wanda Kenton Smith of Kenton Smith Marketing who noted CX is the #1 marketing priority nationwide among top marketing organizations. As the national marketing columnist for Soundings Trade Only since 1998, Kenton Smith had recently produced a column in September on this topic that generated industry buzz and interest.
“CX refers to the Customer Experience, the sum total of all touch points between a customer and a business, embodying the entire lifecycle and all phases of the relationship,” she said. “CX embraces everything from a customer’s initial awareness and discovery through the stages of nurturing, purchase, post service and advocacy. While the lion’s share of traditional marketing budgets and effort previously centered on prospective customers, there has been a major shift nationwide among leading marketers to expand the focus and funds to include prospects and customers at all touch points … before, during and long after the sale is transacted.
“This topic is incredibly important for our industry as we work to engage and retain customers,” she added. “All of our industry businesses need to understand CX, embrace it and integrate it into their respective marketing strategies and plans.”
Four industry experts with internal CX programs were tapped to present best practices including Matt Gruhn, president of the Marine Retailers Association of America; Lee Sanderlin, director of digital marketing and web for the NMMA; Amanda Ward, campaign and web content manager for MarineMax; and Margriet Mitchell, director of marketing for Jeanneau America and Prestige Yachts.
Gruhn shared recent Grow Boating research that noted 66% of lapsed shoppers at marine dealerships in the United States failed to consummate the sale because they did not have a helpful experience at the dealership. To illustrate all the potential opportunities for a retailer to either positively build the relationship or to drop the ball, he presented an entertaining interactive exercise that clearly demonstrated how CX works. He used a ball of yarn that was tossed between a series of identified prospect contacts including everyone from the web master, the individual responsible for lead assignment, sales staff members, lot attendant, service writer, service tech, receptionist to the owner.
“Everyone at the dealership is included in delivering a perfect customer experience,” he said, noting that a customer who is pleased by their experience is more forgiving when they experience dissatisfaction with a product, while a customer who is upset with their dealer is more likely to walk away from the dealership and the boat brand altogether.
Sanderlin, the guru behind NMMA’s CX and digital marketing program, quoted Steve Jobs to reference her approach, citing “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology.”
“It’s always about the customer,” she said, noting that customers take charge of how they choose to engage with brands, how they consume content and how they shop.
Marketers must minimize opportunities for customer abandonment, ensuring the right messages and information are delivered at every touch point. She emphasized the importance of leveraging landing pages for inbound tactics, creating personalization and establishing clear call to action for customers to follow. She also encouraged leveraging technology including marketing automation tools, content management and web-based solutions as well as heat map technology.
Ward, who operates a robust CX program for MarineMax said, “Our goal as an organization is to understand how we can help positively change the lives of our customers through boating.”
MarineMax includes a comprehensive owner nurture email program that generates an average 45% open rate and 8.3% click rate, each featuring a video spotlight and welcome message from a different key member of the team. The organization is also an early adopter of artificial intelligence, using an AI assistant to find and re-engage lost or lapsed prospects. However, its largest marketing tool is designed to get people to use and enjoy their boats. They strategically deliver CX through a steady serving of classes, seminars and customer events.
Mitchell of Jeanneau America and Prestige focuses her marketing and CX efforts on engaging two separate silos: their dealers who represent both sail and powerboat brands, as well as prospects and customers from both camps.
“Our goal is to create a closer bond between our brands and our clients by offering fun, unique and memorable experiences,” she said. “We incorporate our dealers as part of the conversation and experience, with the goal to create brand loyalty and positive ROI.”
Jeanneau’s primary CX initiative is big on boat shows. The manufacturer invests in dealership training, while providing partnerships in educational programs, VIP experiences including owner parties, special branded gifts for buyers and kids, plus experiential “Take the Wheel” programs with free boat rides. They also encourage prospect and customer interaction with senior management, women’s cruising groups and celebrity members of the U.S. sailing team.
Other areas of major CX focus include unique owner gatherings, customer advocacy programs and the recent launch of “Jeanneau Underway,” a YouTube video storytelling platform that allows customers to share their cruising experiences.
“The MMA panel on CX was very enlightening and demonstrated that a great CX doesn’t just happen, it requires thoughtful consideration about all the touch points with the customer and the importance of nurturing customers before and after the sale,” said event attendee, NMMA President Thom Dammrich.
MMA Members are invited to view or download the Marine Marketers powerpoint deck: “Why CX Should be Your Marketing RX.”
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