Boating Retailer Boosts Sales 40%

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Reed's Marine, Delavan, WI, dropped a modest 11,000 newsletters late last month to old, current and prospective customers, but the mailing represents a sea change for the boating retailer that has seen sales increase 40 percent during the past year when it refocused its efforts from traditional advertising to direct marketing.


Tom Johnson, co-owner of Reed's said he decided to make the switch to direct marketing because he felt the mass advertising technique being used by the boating industry had become very ineffective.


"By just putting up a sign somewhere or putting an add in the middle of a newspaper is not going to get people to come to your store," he said. "The newsletter gives me a way of contacting people and staying in touch with them. It is far more personalized."


The newsletters come from Dockside rudder, Scottsdale, AZ, a semi-customized newsletter firm that designs the publications for boat dealers throughout the country.


Reed's has dropped five mailings with Dockside at this point, and Johnson said the response rates to the coupons placed in the newsletter are much higher compared to those placed in newspaper ads.


The retailer expects to drop another mailing July 4.


The mailings include a 10 percent discount coupon on accessories along with articles on fishing basics, how to get the most from water sports, how best to protect the skin from the sun, how to boost ice chest efficiency and the five biggest mistakes people make when buying a boat.


Dockside rudder works with six boating retailers throughout the United States. Arthur Consoli, publisher of Dockside rudder, said he would be working with a lot more boat dealers if they understood the necessity of having an effective mailing list.


Tom Johnson, co-owner of Reed's agrees. "If you want [the program] to work you have to go through the aches and pains of finding the right people who will compile a list that works," he said. "It should be made up of current, past and very good potential customers. You have to find your customers and keep your name in front of them."


Within the eight-page newsletter retailers are allowed to place their logo and an introductory letter in the left hand column on the front page. On the inside they can place ads, special offers or articles on boating.


Depending on where a retailer is located dictates when mailings go out.


Consoli said most of the boat sales taking place in this country are not being done through retailers. Based on that fact, he said if the newsletter is used properly it can allow a retailer to develop the necessary brand name awareness that will drive those looking to purchase a boat into their store.


"The boating industry is flat," Consoli said. "Over half of the boats sold in this country are from person-to-person. Although the boat market is growing at a small pace of about 5 percent a year, it is an industry in the throws of change.


"The newsletter is a building block tool," he said. "A user who diligently stays with it will see new customers, old ones continually come back, develop name recognition and brand awareness."


Dockside handles the design work for the ads and photos. It also edits articles written by dealers and also will write articles for dealers if they request it. Pricing for the newsletter is based on volume. In most cases it comes to about 45 cents a copy, and Dockside rudder also handles the drop of the mailing.
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