Building a boating culture anywhere (even Iowa)

We talk a lot in this industry about developing the boating lifestyle and extending the boating culture to customers.

Recently, the Boating Industry team took a day trip to see a couple of our Top 100 dealers in action. I know there are great businesses across the country promoting the lifestyle, but Parks Marina is among the best I’ve seen.

When we first started talking about a trip to Iowa, I wasn’t expecting to be thinking much about culture. To a longtime Minneapolitan like myself, Iowa culture typically means a heard of cows.

I did see plenty of cows, but I also saw how Parks Marina embraces a laid back lifestyle that would make Jimmy Buffet ponder a summer home on Lake Okoboji.

The entire customer-facing message demonstrates that culture. Parks’ cheeky knickknacks, the towering Hawaiian T-shirt, many events and the forest of palm trees out on the patio all say, “Sit back and relax.” And people listen.

As the crowd of residents, weekend boaters and far-flung travelers grew, the single patio bar became a sprawling tropical gathering spot. The iconic barefoot logo has become a symbol of not just the party atmosphere of the Barefoot Bar, but also a symbol of the laid-back boating lifestyle as a whole. Logoed merchandise has even become it’s own valuable profit center.

So what does all this have to do with selling boats? I’m talking about a dealership and marina after all, not a bar.

Well, getting all those people into the business forms a strong bond. If they get into the habit of heading down to Parks Marina for the many events, or just to have a beer, you can guess where they’re going to go when they start thinking of buying a boat or finding storage. Who doesn’t want a head start on basking in the sun with a cold beer while the crew gets their boat in the water?

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