Barletta Content Manager, 6+ years Manufacturer Marketing, Brand Management, Content Marketing, Customer Experience
March 24, 2021
It’s probably safe to assume that you’re shopping the web for a new boat, am I right? You’ve landed here and are ready to learn everything you need to know before making the big purchase.
If you’re wondering what the next steps might look like, my biggest piece of advice is to contact your local boat dealer. Buying local, or where you boat, is incredibly important and will pay off for years to come.
One of Barletta Boat Company’s great dealer partners out of Michigan, Action Water Sports, offered up some shocking intel that should help you understand why this is so important.
During peak season, it’s not uncommon that their service team will receive up to 500 customer calls in one day with 200 of them needing repairs. There’s no team big enough in the entire industry to handle that many service needs in one day, but they make it happen.
Why is this important? Buying from your local dealer is good for many reasons, but especially when it comes to service. I’m going to explain why buying from your local boat dealer will make your customer experience the best it could be.
The relationship that you cultivate with your boat dealer starts from day one. Building that sense of trust and understanding is not only important for the purchase process, but also for the ownership experience.
Here at Barletta, we believe in the overall ownership experience, meaning you don’t just become a number once you buy the pontoon boat. For that reason, we mindfully choose mature, service-oriented dealerships to be our partners.
We do this because we know our customers will be best supported if they have a local dealer that is relationship-driven. This type of dealer values your business far beyond just the initial sale.
That said, once you know you’re going to buy and begin the purchase process with your dealer, ask the salesperson to introduce you to their service team. They will be your lifeline for most things after the sale.
By having a relationship with your dealer, you will be prioritized when it comes to service needs. In the same sense, if you choose not to invest in their business and buy outside of the local area, then don't expect them to go above and beyond to invest in your boat.
It’s a two-way street in this boutique market especially. If you support local, they will support you, especially if it’s peak season and your boat is dead in the water.
Murphy’s Law says you will need support at the most important time of the year. If it’s peak season and you don’t have a relationship with your local dealer, you could be stuck paddling to the sandbar for a while.
Regardless of how well a boat is built, they’re man-made and they’re not perfect. Your boat will need service at some point and that’s on top of the routine maintenance.
The seasonality of boats being used requires dealers to pick and choose how to prioritize their service capacity in the most important months of the season. Midwinter, you can get help immediately, mid-summer, you’re on a waitlist.
Remember that stat about 500 calls into the dealer service center in one day? They have to prioritize who gets service first so that everyone has a functioning boat in the middle of peak season.
With that said, you should know that customers of that dealership will typically take priority over someone who did not buy the boat from that location. Again, invest in them and they’ll invest in you.
Dealers also prefer to sell their inventory into local markets. The best type of customer is one that not only purchases a boat but also comes back for service and storage needs for years to come.
Of course, there are dealers out there that might sell you a boat if you are from outside of their territory, but who are you going to call when you have a problem on July 4 and can’t use your boat?
It’s even helpful to be near your dealer for routine maintenance. If you plan on having the dealer pull and store the boat for you, you have to be reasonably close by for them to make this happen.
If you plan to tow the boat yourself and you just need them for winterizing and prepping the boat in the spring, are you really looking to make a four-hour drive just for simple maintenance?
Buying local will make all of these service-related needs a much simpler process. The benefits will always outweigh whatever you think you might gain from purchasing far away.
Your local boat dealer orders and stocks a certain number of boats that they know they will sell within their territory. There are many reasons behind this such as brand loyalty and gaining a life-long customer.
They want to continue to promote the brands that they carry within their market. If they sell a boat to someone who lives states away, they not only lose out on service-related business but also the opportunity to advertise the brand to other local prospects.
It’s not always the best business decision to sell the boat outside of their territory. They may not be able to get a replacement boat for months so if they send it across the country, they won’t have another one for a while to sell to the local laker.
The closer you are to your dealer’s location, the more likely it is that they will make the trip to perform dockside service. A reasonable expectation for their travel time is 1-2 hours, anything further and you are less likely to receive this service.
Local techs are also valuable because they know the market. They will know the ins and outs of your water which is helpful for delivery reasons. They’ll also know the area and the people which helps in many different instances.
There are a few situations that could come up that don’t allow you to buy local, in that case, what about service? One instance would be if you move to another area and already own a boat that you plan on keeping for a while.
The best thing you can do is get to know your local dealer well in advance of needing service, most dealers will understand this situation. They’re likely to work with you because they do want to gain your service/storage business for the next 10+ years.
What if your local dealer does not carry the brand you’re set on buying? This is a different story and there’s a potential you could run into this. First, make sure you are absolutely set on buying that brand.
Most dealers will carry a plethora of different boat types and brands, so I recommend shopping your local dealer’s inventory first. Whether you visit the local boat show or stop by the dealership for a demo event, there are multiple ways to learn what they have to offer.
If you’re really set on buying a brand outside of your local area, just be prepared for how you’re going to handle service needs once you take delivery of the boat. It’s worth having someone there for you nearby especially after the sale is over.
If you’re ready to buy a boat, now it’s time to find a dealer. Most boat manufacturers will have a dealer finder on their website that utilizes your zip code and lets you know who sells their product nearest you.
Once you find a dealer nearby, start shopping their inventory immediately. If they have something on the lot that meets your needs, you might be able to take delivery before boat season starts.
If your perfect boat has to be ordered, make sure to start that process as soon as you can. Lead times for ordering a boat can be months so be safe and get that process started in the winter for spring delivery.
There are many perks to buying from your local boat dealership. Of course, you have the choice to shop anywhere as it’s a free market, but like anything in life, there will be trade-offs.
If you’re looking to find a local pontoon dealership, check out our dealer finder below.