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New Markets Task Force brings educational module to industry

By Brianna Liestman

The Recreational Boating and Leadership Council New Markets Task Force spent 2016 working on an educational training module for the industry, and its first presentations so far have been well received.

The 45-minute module includes the latest statistics on the Hispanic, African American and Asian markets in the U.S., as well as original best practice case study videos featuring five different boating industry businesses who have successfully engaged and sold to these markets in their regions.

“We have updated all the latest demographic trends for Hispanic, Asian and African-Americans, everything from the ages, the boom of the youth in their specific markets – which are outpacing the Caucasian/white market pretty significantly – as well as their enhanced economic buying power,” said Wanda Kenton-Smith, chief marketing officer at Freedom Boat Club and president of Kenton-Smith Marketing. Kenton-Smith chairs the New Markets Task Force for the RBLC. “We wanted to be able to prove that there’s business out there that can be realized in engaging, welcoming and selling to new markets.”

Those companies profiled in the module include West Marine, Boating Industry Top 100 Dealer M & P Mercury, Freedom Boat Club, Boating Industry Top 100 Hall of Fame Dealer Prince William Marine and TUI Marine/The Moorings.

“We were looking for different types of businesses from different geographic points, so we’d have a nice, diverse mix of businesses shown, because we wanted to reflect the fact that no matter the type of business you’re in, this is important to you,” said Kenton-Smith. “Within this profile, it’s not just an overview of these companies but specifically they share their stories on why and how they got involved in engaging new markets and what their sales strategies are, and in most instances [they] share the specifics. They talk about how they’re selling to the new markets and the impact it’s having on the business.”

The module was first presented in November at the Marine Marketers of America luncheon during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The module was also presented at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo during the State of the Industry luncheon.

“People were very attentive to what these companies did, how they did it, why they did it and I think that, balanced with the data and the facts, was a really good combination,” said Kenton-Smith. “In fact, the most exciting thing I got [was] four or five business cards of people in the crowd [at MDCE] who are selling to diverse audiences who wanted to share their story.”

The New Markets Task Force aims to engage the industry in becoming more inclusive and welcoming to new markets, as the traditional 35- to 54-year old Caucasian male buyer is graying and the number of buyers in this group is shrinking. Breaking down stereotypes about the affluency of demographics offers the industry a significant opportunity for growing sales.

“In one of the case studies – M&P Mercury in Vancouver – [Owner Bob Pappajohn] shared the statistic that 40 percent of his boat sales today is directly from the Mandarin Chinese market that he’s nurtured and developed. Forty percent of his business,” said Kenton-Smith. “If you look at the size and the scope of boats that he sells, you understand that’s a lot of money.”

It is also important to highlight the disconnect in the industry between the desire to reach Millennials and the lack of concern reaching new markets, as evidenced in our August survey. As the data presented by the New Markets Task Force shows, the Millennials the industry aims to reach are much more diverse than previous generations.

“If you study the statistics and you want to reach affluent Millennials, these three demographics that we’re talking about engaging, that’s where the growth’s at. Those are Millennials. They’re younger, affluent, they’re African-American and they’re Hispanic and they’re Asian, in addition to white [buyers],” said Kenton-Smith. “It’s really important that we pay attention from a business standpoint, because that’s where our future growth lies. It’s a smart business decision.”

Opening the industry to new markets will have a ripple effect with the workforce shortage problem as well. As new markets are opened up to boating as a recreation, a career in the marine industry becomes possible.

“The more that we work to promote or showcase boating to these groups, the more that we open the door and plant the thought that this is an awesome opportunity for career advancement,” said Kenton-Smith.

Boating Industry will be hosting a webinar, "Proven Strategies for Engaging New Markets," at 2 p.m. EST on Jan. 5, delivered by NMMA President Thom Dammrich, which will cover all of the statistics and best practices outlined in the training module. An archive of the webinar will be available on the Boating Industry and RBLC websites. The module will also be presented at the International Marina and Boatyard Conference on Jan. 25 at a combined keynote and conference session.

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