Have you heard?

Of course you have, Volkswagen is on the hot seat because of some not-so-ethical behavior. It’s a shame. It’s embarrassing. It’s downright criminal. But what do boat manufacturers need to beware of now that the scandal is scattered all across the headlines?

The American consumer is now more skeptical than ever of marketing, advertising, independent reviews and virtually anything a “company” has to say in any media.

That means your fancy full color glossy brochure.

That means your website.

That means your full-page ads.

That means your Boat Test review.

That means virtually any message and any media that includes your logo is met with a boatload of skepticism. This skepticism has been getting worse for decades because of the perceived lack of honesty and ethics in the world as of late.

Let’s look at just a few examples: Watergate (1972), Enron (2001), Catholic Church Sex Abuse Case (2002), John Edwards (2007), Bernie Madoff (2008), Lehman Brothers (2008), Lance Armstrong (2013) and now Volkswagen (2015).

Oh yeah, I didn’t have room to list every national, local and business scandal but you get the idea.

Is it any wonder the American consumer is skeptical of your sales and marketing messages?

And now, VW is added to the list. A company with a long-standing reputation. A valuable “brand.” But it’s all lost and we’ll see what the next 24 to 48 months looks like for its future.

So, what do you do as a boat manufacturer or boat dealer?


In my mystery shopping, I request dozens of manufacturer brochures to see their messaging and their follow-up program. I also research their websites and try to experience the buying process as a consumer.

Want to know what I’ve discovered?

Virtually every single manufacturer sends the same form letter with their brochure. It goes something like this:

“We offer the best products and service.”

 “We are confident we can satisfy your boating needs.”

 “We look forward to you joining the _____ group of boaters.”

Does your business use some of these same words or phrases?

Because our consumers are so skeptical and because every single manufacturer (and dealer for that matter) says “we offer the best ____” and “we offer the best service” this nice-looking letter has virtually no impact.

In the wake of the ever-publicized scandals and now the VW mess, platitudes and unsupported statements of being the “best” just don’t work anymore.

So my advice to you manufacturers, dealers and brokers… do something different… say something impactful (and true)… deliver that impactful message in more meaningful ways.

Do these things and you will convince… no make that compel your skeptical consumers to visit your dealers and buy your boats more often.

Matt Sellhorst is the author of the book “Marine Marketing Strategies” and Head Profits Coach at Boat Dealer Profits. Sellhorst was also the winner of the MDCE Best Ideas Contest, Boating Industry’s Movers and Shakers Bold Moves award, a top producing boat salesman, and a speaker and presenter at the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo. He now helps manufacturers, dealers and brokers sell more boats with proven sales and marketing systems.

 To receive a free copy of his book, visit  to receive instant access (and your special bonus training). For manufacturers interested in working with Matt to improve their marketing strategy, you can request more info at .