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Dreaming of boating

Tom Kaiser, Senior Editor

Tom Kaiser, Senior Editor
February 5, 2013
Filed under Tom Kaiser

Here at the Minneapolis office of Boating Industry, it’s a crunchy 26 degrees with fresh snow on the ground and the pond outside my window is safely frozen over. Yet I find myself thinking of boating. Sure, we’re on deadline and I’m reading about all things marine in the pages of our forthcoming March issue — so that’s basically cheating — but I wonder how marine dealerships maintain interest and customers while winter forces hibernation upon much of the continent.

As the new senior editor at BI, I’m new to the industry but not to the boating lifestyle. Whether it’s fishing, cruising, tubing or hopping between swimming holes on Lake Minnetonka with friends and family, I’ve always enjoyed boating.

Bringing myself up to speed on a new industry is no quick process, so it’s best to start with general, educational topics. Working on our annual Best Ideas e-white paper was the ideal project, and I was genuinely impressed with the creativity and variety of ideas presented by last year’s MDCE and Top 100 attendees. (Download the free white paper HERE.)

Several of the ideas included ways for making more money during the winter months. Up in Canada, Desmasdons Boatworks started up an in-house coffee and ice cream shop that became more successful and profitable than they ever could have imagined, with boaters coming in just for a hot cup of coffee or a cone. It’s currently 19 degrees in Pointe au Baril, Canada, so I’m guessing ice cream sales have taken a dip.

Another idea that stuck with me was Grand Pointe Marina’s clever idea to start a bi-annual off-site boat and RV show with a nearby RV dealership. Being involved in several different outdoor industries, it’s clear we Midwesterners love going to our local convention center for outdoor shows, whether it be RV, boats, motorcycles or even the annual auto show. Consider teaming up with a similar event to give your customers a reason to start thinking boating, and a warm, indoor place to do so. I had a terrific time trolling around the Minneapolis boat show last week, and with the city’s skyway network, I didn’t even have to step outside to get there!

Another off-season ideas included a way to double boat storage space inside a warehouse by building innovative racks to hold more boats in the same footprint. Or you could jump-start service sales by offering discounted rates for repairs or accessory upgrades that were put off last summer.

It’s too early to start prepping boats for the summer season, but surely some customers can be lured in with a good deal. Don’t underestimate the power of a big discount.

So what’s the moral of the story? Winter is the best time of year to get extra-creative coming up with fresh ideas to grow your business. Don’t just think out of the box — think outside the four walls of your dealership and consider any idea where you can engage current, future or potential boating enthusiasts, or outdoor enthusiasts in general.

Or, maybe you could just start selling snowmobiles, too.

Don’t forget to download the Best Ideas white paper at http://www.boattrader.com/research/resources/industry-ideas — it’s a great read full of excellent ideas.

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