A Different Tack

The leads from the Discover Boating program have begun to come in and initial research indicates the industry’s efforts are paying off. Sales are being made.

Grow Boating Director Steve Tadd, who oversees Discover Boating, says research conducted by Info-Link and based on new boat registrations show that, of all the people who have opted into the program, 10 percent have already bought a boat. For more than half, it’s the first they’ve ever purchased.

People truly are discovering boating. But as they do, marine retailers are beginning to discover something obvious, but also easy to overlook. Discover Boating customers are not the same as the average customer a marine retailer is used to seeing.

These people are green — and not because they’re seasick. Many have never been aboard a boat and aren’t convinced that necessarily needs to change.

So a marine business looking to turn curiosity into a sale probably needs to approach a Discover Boating lead differently than its average customer. And that’s a message that needs to spread if the industry is to maximize the potential of the Discover Boating campaign.

Educated sales
“These are different types of leads than what most dealers are used to,” Tadd says. “This is somebody who, typically, is brand new to boating. And our research showed us that. Dealers do need to recognize that these are different.”

One dealer who has is Mt. Dora Boating Center in Mt. Dora, Fla. As his dealership began to receive leads from the Discover Boating effort, general manager, Joe Lewis, says it quickly became clear that the people he was talking to were not yet in a position to make a decision about buying a boat. They were still in the discovery stage.

Because of this, people at Mt. Dora began “setting our sights on how we can help them make that decision,” Lewis says. “And what it boiled down to was we needed to become more of a resource for them to learn more about boating, learn more about the different types of boats, their applications, what the opportunities were for them locally to enjoy their boats. Where else was there for them to go to enjoy their boats. Being able to invite them down here to learn more about this thing called boating and what it’s all about.”

Mt. Dora has planned monthly events designed to do just that. For example, the dealership will invite Discover Boating leads to special events the day before Mother’s Day and the day before Father’s Day, where the whole family is taken on a boat ride.

Kid gloves
Events like these are indicative of the soft-sell approach that may have the best chance of success with Discover Boating leads.

“There was some indication from our research that unless [the leads] indicated that their purchase horizon was in 1 to 3 months, they really didn’t want a phone call at all, even if they gave their phone number,” Tadd says.

Some at Discover Boating have even stopped calling these people leads, preferring the term “prospects” to indicate that they are different from the average boat buyer.

“They’re not at a boat show, they’re not at the brand Web site necessarily,” Tadd says. “They’re at Discover Boating and they may have upwards of a year or more, maybe even three years, before they actually purchase a boat. They’ve said, ‘Hey, I may be interested in this, I think I can actually do this,’ and they want some more information on how they can get started basically.”

Dealers who recognize that may have more success than those who don’t. But the main competition marine businesses face for these customers may come more from dealers outside of the industry (motorcycle, ATV, RV, etc.) than from the boat dealer down the street, so it’s important word gets out, and the work to do that has begun.

“We probably haven’t done as good of a job as we ought to have [of letting dealers know the nature of the leads], because we’ve been learning how different these people are,” Tadd says. “Now we kind of know and I think that we need to compile a document that kind of walks people through how to approach these different types of leads.”

Tadd says that the Grow Boating Board of Directors has asked him to create a lead analysis and best practices document that can be sent out to dealers and manufacturers to instruct them how best to do that.

Turning prospects into leads, then buyers, is in everyone’s best interest.

17% of all hot leads that were generated on discoverboating.com purchased a boat.

Nearly 50% of those boat buyers were first time purchasers (source-Left Brain Marketing).

45% of the boats purchased were new and 55% used.

10% of ALL leads that were generated on discoverboating.com purchased a boat (source Info-Link). (According to 2005 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract, the proportion of new to pre-owned is normally 29%/71%.)

— By Jonathan Mohr

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