By Marcia Kull, vice president and general counsel, Volvo Penta and 2007 Darlene Briggs Woman of the Year
In order to attract, engage and retain all boaters, we need to simplify the experience. Boating, at least as the majority of our industry understands it, is a leisure activity that should bring with it pleasure and joy. We can enhance that experience in two ways: by working to create products that are intuitive and easy to use, and by taking the time to teach people to use those products successfully. The explosion of interest in the Volvo Penta IPS, and particularly the joystick docking maneuvering system, has shown us that facilitating the boating process for families leads to unprecedented consumer demand in the midst of a well documented downturn in the marketplace. If you design it (for the ability range of an entire family), they will buy.
Simplicity can also be imparted through educational programs to improve the confidence of boaters. The best practices shared by the Top 100 dealers uniformly highlight programs to educate all users (men, women and kids) on how to operate (and enjoy) their boat. Confident users are satisfied owners and repeat purchasers. As an industry, we cannot delegate the training responsibility back to the user. In market research conducted in connection with the Genmar Women Making Waves program, I remember woman after woman telling me that she only needed two things to become an independent boater: an opportunity to try and experience a boat before she was ready to buy, and lessons on how to use the boat safely and enjoyably. These two steps still hold true. Give all boaters an experience with an intuitive, enjoyable product and take the time to show them how to use it. Boating will grow the way it used to grow — by testimonial word of mouth from satisfied consumers.
This contribution is one in a series of solutions to the industry’s challenges as offered by female boating business professionals for the March 2008 issue of Boating Industry magazine. To view the article, Leading the way, including links to the entire list of solutions, click here.