Hook, line and sinker

matt_new-mugWhen I was seven years old, I spent a lot of time fishing with my brother and our buddies. I would ride my bike about a mile from our house, rod and reel resting comfortably across the handlebars, to an old bridge that spanned a river in the local park. Catching fish seemed incredibly easy back then. We'd fill a hook with corn, straight out of the can, and it was rare when we wouldn't wrestle with a day's full of fish. We caught some big fish in those days - monsters for a kid my age - but we always dreamt of a better day when we could fish from a boat. As it turns out, there are about 8.5 million fishing enthusiasts who currently are not only dreaming of owning their own boat, but they are also actually considering boat ownership, as well. Do you have something to offer them?

According to a study conducted by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation and the Outdoor Foundation, there are currently 48.5 million anglers in the United States. Of those, 33 percent (12.7 million) own a boat, and of the 35.8 million anglers who don't own a boat, nearly 25 percent are considering a purchase. That sounds like a prime opportunity to me.

We all know (and the study makes it official) that boats make access to fishing better. Fishing off a dock, a shoreline or an old rickety bridge is tolerable for only so long. The fish are either there, or they're not. There's no way to change your strategy and go find the fish. Boats make that possible, which is another reason that we can add to the list of thousands of reasons why boats are desirable.

But the catch is that 46 percent of those who are not considering a boat have made that decision based on the fact that boats cost "too much money," according to the survey. Now, we've seen a number of boats introduced this year and last that are smaller and more affordable, and that's an excellent step toward attracting new boaters, especially in this economy. We need more of this.

On the dealer front, too, there are ways to get these people into boats. You just need to create them. You can offer rentals. You can offer guide services. You can put them in a pre-owned boat, treat them like gold and work them up to a new boat. The opportunities are endless.

I fished for years, through college, in fact, off of docks, shorelines and that old bridge. I own a boat that I love now, but I purchased it after taking a path familiar to many long-time boaters. I bought a small, old boat with a small, old outboard and worked my way up. Now I have my eyes set on something better.

So do the 8.5 million fishermen and women out there just waiting for an opportunity to get in their first boat. Go get 'em.

One comment

  1. Great post Matt - the challenge today is to get the buyers to come out - not sure but believe that buying habits and patterns will change once the current economic winter subsides. There are some very aggressive pricing deals out there being supported by manufacturers; floor plan companies and dealers - yet the buyers are not beating down the doors - there is real buyers reluctance (fear) today based upon the real money that has been lost. Many economists feel that it will take several years (maybe as much as 4 to 5) for that lost money to be recovered. There are other situations where luxury product sales have been hit the hardest. The consumer today is asking why do I need it at all? We all know that boats are a classic emotional buy - I know - I have done it 7 times over the last 20 years (every 3 years). But today for many buyers the emotion is fear and not the pursuit of happiness or pleasure. Dealers in my opinion will have to re-invent themselves personally first and then their businesses - that's the only way they can take advantage of the tools and knowledge out there - From my experience once a person gets better - their business automatically follows here are some points that I believe dealers need to consider to become/remain a "dealer in the future" -

    1. Consolidation and reduction of locations will be key

    2. Many dealers will have to re-event themselves first and then their dealerships/businesses second

    3. Every aspect of a dealership will need to be evaluated to determine its profit - not just revenue contribution - shortfalls will need to be fixed or the functions will need to be eliminated

    4. Leadership will be a key aspect - the owners will need to be the leaders of their business and act differently than an owner

    5. Leadership will carryover into each aspect of the dealers operations

    6. Dealers will have to have a greater appreciation of expenses in their operations - many operated as if the good times would never end. There is an old expression - good weather makes for bad sailors - many dealers fall under this description

    7. Technology will play a bigger part in the dealers of the future

    8. Really building and enhancing relationships will be key in the future - relationships with customers; venders; manufacturers and financing companies will be very different in the future over what the are today

    9. Value will be key - i.e. does a dealer really provide value or just give it lip-service will need to be examined

    10. Looking for new customers will be where change will need to take place - while boat shows will be a key strategy, the internet will play a bigger role

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