In a crowded marketplace, differentiation is key.

Standing out from your competition means your dealership needs to reach shoppers at the right time with content that relates to their specific search.


Increased Demand for Personalized Marketing

Salesforce reports that 66% of consumers expect brands to understand their unique expectations and needs.

Following the sharp demand increase for digital business, some dealerships are challenged with how to provide the unique and tailored experiences that shoppers want. This is especially burdensome for smaller dealerships whose teams already wear multiple hats. In order to compete against larger dealerships for shoppers’ coveted attention, dealers need a strategy that automates their marketing efforts to reach qualified buyers at the right time without time-consuming repetitive efforts from the team.

Portside Marine, a marine dealership in Orlando, FL, depends on their online presence to keep prospective buyers aware of their brand. As a busy dealership needing all hands on deck, they decided to re-evaluate their marketing strategy in 2022 and learn how they can reach more qualified buyers without stretching the team too thin.


Portside Marine Finds a Way to Be in Every Customer’s Pocket

With marine dealerships lining both sides of the main streets, standing out from the competition in Orlando, FL, is not an easy feat. Portside Marine is not located on a large main road, so they’re already at a geographical disadvantage compared to their more visible competitors. Instead of relying on foot traffic, they’ve built up their online presence to reach shoppers where their attention is already fixed – on their phones.

Consumers are constantly using their mobile devices to scroll social media or shop online at any moment. Portside Marine learned that if they can be in a customer’s hand, pocket or purse all theTwo young women staring at their smartphones on a park bench time, they’re going to sell more product.

In the beginning, Portside Marine was working with ARI to drive sales leads through paid ads on Google and Facebook, as well as listing their inventory on Marketplace. The dealership had built up a large online presence to keep their single-store business competing with mega-dealerships. “I’d say at least 95% of the customers that come in here to purchase a boat, motor or trailer have found us on the internet,” says Josh Nunnally, the Co-Owner and Sales Manager at Portside Marine.

The dealership’s ultimate goal with their online presence is to get more traffic to their site, more leads and more conversions, and they determined the best way to do this was to focus more on their email marketing.


The Need for a Better Email Marketing Tool

At first, Portside Marine used a manual email tool to reach their customers, but the return on investment was not worth the effort. They did not have the time or resources to regularly send out high-quality messages and fresh inventory listings, and when a link broke or an email malfunctioned, there was no support team to call for assistance. Josh knew that every outdated message and skipped email meant his team was missing opportunities to connect with qualified customers, but he just didn’t have the time to manage a full email campaign.


“I feel it’s our responsibility to be doing the best marketing that we can all the time, and Automated Email Marketing takes the stress off me because I’m not missing something that I should be doing. It’s handled basically effortlessly.”

– Josh Nunnally, Co-Owner & Sales Manager


The Power of Automated Email Marketing

Email marketing has proven to be a valuable tool, but as Portside Marine found, the traditional manual approach is time-consuming and often lacks personalization. HubSpot found that automating your email campaigns is one of the most effective strategies for email marketing.

Automated email marketing goes beyond sending a one-time email blast. It allows your dealership to send emails based on specific triggers and timing. For instance, website visitors who view a unit but don’t convert can receive an email inviting them to revisit the unit or view similar listings, ultimately recovering potential lost sales. By leveraging triggers, you can engage customers at critical moments, delivering timely and relevant content that enhances customer experiences, drive conversions and foster a deeper connection with your brand.

This level of consistency is crucial because customers’ needs and behaviors change as they pass through different stages of the buying journey. An automated email tool notes these changes and adjusts each shopper’s emails accordingly.


Seeing Great Results with Automated Email Marketing

Portside Marine launched ARI’s Automated Email Marketing in August 2022 to replace their manual efforts.  The Automated Email Marketing tool is managed by the ARI team, which handles the template design, messaging, launch and campaign reporting – all with minimal input from the dealer. “With ARI’s email marketing, it’s all pretty well automatic,” says Josh. “All of the latest inventory is up, and it gets sent out every week.”

Within the first month of using the email tool, Portside Marine sent out a buyback offer that resulted in the dealership purchasing two boats from customers that they were able to sell right off the bat to turn a profit. The swift lucrative results convinced Portside Marine that Automated Email Marketing was an incredibly valuable tool to have in their digital marketing. Their buyback campaigns alone see a return every month. “It seems like we’re always buying somebody’s boat ’cause they’ve seen that email,” says Josh.

What really appealed to Portside Marine is that the automated emails are targeting the 10,000 local contacts that already exist in their customer database. These are customers that have either made a purchase, sent a request or made some form of contact with the dealership. And those are the best customers to re-engage because the sales team already knows they’re interested in the product.

Additionally, the emails sent out on the dealership’s behalf feature high-quality graphics and visuals to create a memorable first impression. The bright visuals are accompanied by eye-catching text that conveys the dealership’s most important messaging – whether that be new inventory, buyback offers or service promotions. Each feature links directly to its corresponding webpage, driving traffic back to the website, where the audience receives all the information they need to convert from a lead to a customer.


“It was incredible to see how many people actually opened and read the emails. I was thinking it was all going to spam, but thousands of people were opening the emails and clicking on our website links in a month.”

– Josh Nunnally, Co-Owner & Sales Manager


Keeping the Revenue Flowing Through All Departments

Automated Email Marketing delivers a more comprehensive view of the dealership for customers who may not have been aware of the full offerings. For example, a customer who contacts the dealership with the singular focus of having their boat winterized could later receive a marketing email with listings for motors and trailers. “Through the email marketing, they can actually see the full scope of the business without us sounding like pushy salesmen,” says Josh.

Faceless male mechanic in workshop taking metal socket from toolbox Portside Marine’s biggest goal with Automated Email Marketing is to increase their service revenue by sending more service reminders. Customers are less enthusiastic about purchasing a service than they are about a tangible boat they can use and enjoy. Short of offering discounts, dealerships struggle to effectively market their service sectors.

“We rely on our service department,” says Josh. “Depending on the month, it will account for 40% to 60% of our total revenue. We believe that if we keep service first, we’re going to be very stable in the future because everybody needs to get their boat serviced.” Josh and his team have found that when market trends shift and prices increase, many customers don’t want to buy a new or used boat; they’re going to keep the boat they have because it’s cheaper to fix than to replace it.

Portside Marine reasons that their customer base is full of individuals who currently own a boat and will need service or repair work in the future. The dealership proactively engages these customers by sending out service reminders about a month after the first sale, and then following up six months later.

These regular reminders help the dealership combat the consumer mentality that having a boat serviced at the dealership is too expensive, and the customer is better off going to a repair shop. Portside Marine knows that while their prices may be higher than the neighborhood mechanic’s, they offer much greater expertise and value. Automated Email Marketing makes it easy for them to communicate that value directly to their customer base without coming off as overbearing.


“The data shows that our best return on investment for any type of marketing has been the email marketing.”

– Josh Nunnally, Co-Owner & Sales Manager


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