‘Going girly’

Matt GruhnI was fortunate enough to get to the television before my kids the other day. It’s almost a contest to see who can get up, dressed and in front of the television first. Breakfast in hand, of course. As I flipped from the Disney channel to CNN, I was greeted with some updated facts regarding an old topic with relevance to the marine industry.

In a segment titled “Banking on women in recession,” CNN reported that nearly 78 percent of the four million people who have lost jobs in “the first year of the recession” have been men. That’s 3.12 million men, as of mid March, who have lost their jobs. The journalist also rattled off a few other facts, such as that which outlined that women make 80 percent of the buying decisions when it comes to household items.

Historically, the marine industry has had its share of trouble catering to the women who may not be the ones to sign on the dotted line but who so deeply influence discretionary purchases. CNN’s feature spoke of how women used to be considered by many as a “niche” market, but that their decision-making power is greater than ever today.

The power of women as an influential decision maker in the household has long been a concept that industries just don’t understand. And it’s not just boating, either.

One of the daycare providers at my children’s preschool had her mind set on a special edition Dodge Challenger when these retro muscle cars first hit the market. She waited patiently, shopped the entire nation online, and when she found the deal she wanted, she put her husband in the passenger seat and drove a full day from Minneapolis to Michigan to buy the black beauty.

She paid for the car with her own money, and when the deal was closed and she was ready to take her new car on the long drive home, the sales guy stood up and handed the keys to her husband. I think she would have been happier with a slap in the face.

Examples of this abound. The point is that we in the marine industry have an opportunity to change the way we do business in this regard. It’s time to reformat our thinking. It’s time to re-tool our marketing and refocus how we’re approaching our prospects.

Today’s savvy marketers are “going girly” with their messages, CNN reported. Volkswagon and Frito-Lay have gone “girl crazy,” while Office Depot has changed dramatically in who its marketing messages target.

Bottom line, CNN reports, is that women have higher quality expectations and want more variety. What does that mean for their boating experience and, closer to home, what does it mean for your business?

One comment

  1. Matt,

    After reading P 4 of this weeks magazine I went to look for your Going Girly blog,

    It took awhile to find it but eventually I did.

    I thought I would tell you a bit about a project we have underway that I think is related.

    I am a very small boat builder. Duroboat. I do manage to sell our boats on 5 continents and we have built about 10,000 over the years. The economy has us hanging on by our fingernails but we are hanging on.

    It has been my observation that young folks and particularly single women heads of households are not entering boating. The reasons are many but basically it either does not occur to them or it just seems too hard.

    I think I have a product that performs at a high level but is simple in concept. I think it is the kind of product that the industry needs to promote. It needs to be promoted equally to men and women. Because we are light we tow easily with small cars and because of our unique construction we are sporty in looks, and very very rugged and seaworthy. Duroboats are a great ewntry level product but have many upscale attributes.

    Companies who make low cost products like ours do not have the resource to publicize too much. The deep pockets in our industry understandably promote their new, complex and expensive gear. They do so to an ever shrinking audience.

    We must all do our part to bring new folks into the industry, particularly women. Otherwise there will be no continueing audience for the stuff that sells to the well healed 35 to 70 crowds. What we are doing relates to your Girly atricle and to your social networking advice.

    We have launched our own modest effort to draw attention to women in boating and to simplified boating but in a slightly dramatic way.

    We have with the cooperation of Randy Vance at Boating Life Magazine and several other suppliers launched a project to send two young girls on a 6000 mile Great Loop trip in a small 16 ft aluminum Duroboat. They are about 1500 miles into the trip as I write this. They are getting some press but could use more. They could use some recognition with in the industry.

    The gilrs are using several social networking resources to try to get folks involved.

    For the basics see http://www.duroboat.com and follow the great loop event link
    Also their blog is running at http://www.boatinglife.com
    at http://www.twitter.com follow greatloopsibbs.

    Collectively this is our sort of gorilla marketing effort that hopes to get some attention for our boat and its capability but also get attention from potential entry level boaters. We particularly want to let folks know boating is not out of reach of those on a budget and there are economical and ecologically sound boating choices.

    If you have any desire to know more or would like to contact the girls enroute give me a shout at 206 399 2466


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