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At the Helm: Reinventing the Top 100

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Liz Walz, Editor-in-Chief
April 1, 2012
Filed under Columns

In the first year of the Top 100 Dealers Program, Boating Industry’s editors took a one-week retreat to evaluate and rank the applications it received. And what a week – and an education – it was!

Seven years later, it takes an entire week just to name the Top 10. From that, we can only conclude that marine dealers operate in a different universe today.

That’s why we’re introducing a NEW Top 100 Program.

The dealers now vying for a spot in the Top 100 are innovative and aggressive, constantly challenging the status quo in each and every area of their businesses. While we’ve always been proud of our Top 100 Dealers, you have to be truly exceptional to be considered one of the 100 best dealers in North America these days.

Compare that to 2005, when the industry held a singular view of the dealer body. Their lack of professionalism, poor service, terrible follow-up and lousy deliveries were driving consumers away from the boating lifestyle, we were told again and again.

In fact, that’s what inspired the launch of the Top 100 program. We knew there were dealerships on the front lines that were thriving because of the quality experience they offered customers. But they were operating as islands, separated from each other and the industry. There was nowhere to find benchmarking statistics, no repository of best practices to turn to, and certainly no community of excellence.

When we launched the Top 100, boy, did those dealers take notice! They stepped up to the plate, improved their game, raised the bar and busted through that one-dimensional stereotype of the marine dealer.

That’s what got us where we are today. With the resources marine dealers can now draw upon to raise the level of their game, the gap between individual rankings has become extremely tight. So much so that the number has become trivial when compared to the incredible value of the knowledge, insight and information that the Top 100 Dealers collectively generate.

In this new environment, the tables have turned. With the introduction of the Top 100 Program, we challenged you, marine dealers, to rise to the occasion. Now, you’re the ones challenging us to create a Top 100 that meets your changing needs and exceeds your rising expectations. And we’re prepared to face that challenge head-on. Here’s a peek at what we’re working on.

Beginning at this year’s Top 100 Gala, rather than offering the elite among dealers a number each year, we’ll celebrate the accomplishments of the entire Top 100 Dealer community and the unique strengths of many individual dealers. We’ll name one Dealer of the Year and award special recognition to those who excel in as many as a dozen categories, such as Best Social Media Strategy, Best Service Department and Best Strategy for Growth. As a Top 100 Dealer, you’ll be recognized for the intelligence you bring to this elite group, not as No. 37.

Those who are selected to be a part of the 2012 Top 100 will have access to a steady stream of data and best practices to help them improve and grow their dealerships. They’ll have the opportunity to belong to and draw upon a community of leaders with a shared passion for and record of excellence. And they’ll be presented with an increasingly powerful suite of marketing tools. The new Top 100 will deliver all of that and more.

Though we are tailoring the Top 100 Dealers Program to the needs of today’s dealer universe, its mission remains the same: to raise the level of professionalism within the marine dealer body.

Through the incredible actions and support of our dealer participants and the sponsors who have made the program possible, we’ve seen continuous improvement each year in this regard. However, as we’ve learned from these industry innovators, when you’re in pursuit of excellence, your work is never done.

And what great work it is. For that, we are eternally grateful.

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