Getting a handle on Discover Boating

Tonight, when you get home from work, turn on your television, spend some time surfing the Web or crack open your favorite magazine, and you shouldn’t need to look too long before you’re invited to discover boating.

This year’s advertising campaign to promote the boating lifestyle has cranked up, and the million-dollar media blitz is on to collect names, numbers and e-mail addresses so that marine businesses can reach new customers and make more sales.

But new customers are just that — new. Many have never before been on a boat or have just begun to entertain the idea of buying one. Grow Boating Director Steve Tadd says tracking metrics show that more than half the customers who’ve so far purchased boats as a result of Discover Boating’s efforts, are first-time buyers, and trying to sell to these people the same way as more seasoned boaters is not the most effective approach.

“We’re hesitant to even call them leads since they are very different from what dealers might receive from a retail promotion or from a boat brand’s Web site or a boat show,” Tadd says. “We should probably call them prospects. Advertising and PR can peak the interest of otherwise uninterested consumers, but the dealer must hold their hand and help them to connect with the lifestyle.”

Whether or not most dealers realize that is another question, one Boating Industry magazine set out to answer.

We worked with Grow Boating to create and distribute a survey, sent out at the beginning of February to more than 5,600 marine businesses, to learn how the leads generated by Discover Boating are being handled. Are dealers treating these prospects the same as other potential customers or do they take a different approach with them? Do they even realize that they need to?

The answers to these questions, and others, show that while some in the industry understand the nature of the Discover Boating leads, many more do not. And a fair number still don’t know what Discover Boating is or, if they do, have no idea how to get the leads.

In fact, 64 percent of the marine dealers who responded say they have not yet received any leads from Discover Boating, which is not surprising given the fact that only 26 percent of the dealers surveyed said they were Marine Industry Certified – which allows them to access the leads. But the truly disturbing result from the 10-question survey is that just 16 percent of those businesses that have used the Discover Boating leads approached those customers differently than they would their usual lead – a finding Tadd calls “scary.”

“It is clear to me that we must help dealers understand that they are an important part of the Discover Boating program and the industry’s efforts to grow boating,” Tadd says. “Each time they receive a Discover Boating lead, they should look at it as an opportunity to sell a boat to someone who otherwise would be spending their time golfing, going to Disney World, RVing, or something else.”

One reason that percentage is so low may be because many dealers don’t approach selling to first-time buyers any differently than to repeat customers. When asked in the survey if they used a “unique procedure selling a boat to a first-time boat buyer,” 51 percent of the respondents said no. And only 38 percent said they market to novices or first-time buyers differently than existing boaters.

That can spell trouble if part of a dealer’s lead management process includes a phone call. Tadd says research done by Discover Boating shows that in many cases those leads don’t want to be called, even if they’ve provided their phone number.

However, 30 percent of those surveyed who’ve used the Discover Boating leads say a phone call is the method they use most for contacting them.

The brunt of the Discover Boating ad campaign is focused between March and the end of June. And as the campaign matures and is continually fine-tuned, the number of leads it generates will only continue to grow. To learn how to take advantage of the campaign go to www.growboating.org.

Discover Boating Lead FAQs

Q. What are the Discover Boating leads?

A. Lead generation tools have been designed into the Discover Boating campaign so that when a person requests further information about boating, their contact information is catalogued in a database manufacturers and dealers can use to follow up.

Q. Who has access to the leads?

A. Manufacturers who are actively paying their Grow Boating engine assessment or dealers who have received their Marine Industry Certified Dealership status.

Q. Where do I find the leads?

A. Participating manufacturers and certified dealers can retrieve leads by logging on to www.growboating.org.

Q. Who are these leads and what’s the best way to approach them?

A. Grow Boating has compiled an 18-page “Best Practices Guide” that can be downloaded from growboating.org. It includes templates for email and phone conversations and step-by-step instructions for using the system.

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