The educational spectrum of a boat buyer

I’m in the process of upgrading my laptop. My Dell is 3 years old, ancient in today’s fast-paced world. But away I go, considering my options. Do I stay with a Dell (it’s been good)? Do I become a hipster Apple guy? Or do I try to get another year or so out of what I have?

As I pondered my options, I realized that I am in the “Educational Spectrum of a Laptop Buyer.” Because I’m always thinking about marketing and sales, I’m surprised it took me so long to realize what I was going through.

I teach this in my coaching programs as it relates to boat buyers and it blows people away. Here’s the concept: a buyer moves through a continuum of steps before getting to the buying decision. As they progress, the sales and marketing message they respond to changes. It looks like this:

>->->->->->->->->->->->->->->-> $
Researchers Evaluators Now Buyers

A B C prospects are Researchers. Prospects at this stage are in the stage I’m in right now with my laptop decision.

In the research stage, buyers are gathering information. I’ve been all over the internet researching options, looking for what’s new and different, getting all my basic questions answered

At this stage, the prospect may be comparing the cost of boat ownership to building a pool or taking a big vacation. (Or figuring out if upgrading or changing boating styles makes sense.)

It’s important to know that a lot of this research is done online, via emails, and phone calls before coming face to face with your sales staff.

There is a huge opportunity here to move more of these prospects towards a new boat and boating if you have the right message and handle them properly. I’ll talk more about this in a moment.

L M N O P = Evaluators

As the prospect moves down the spectrum to L M N O P, they are a little deeper in the buying process. They are still searching for information; however, they are diving deeper, and they begin evaluating.

• Evaluating one style vs. another (pontoon vs. deck boat)
• Evaluating one brand vs. another
• Evaluating one dealer vs. another

The prospect is probably building boats online, scouring and message boards to confirm what he’s learned from the dealers’ and manufacturers’ websites or sales people.

At this stage, the prospect is focused on price to a certain extent but mainly to see what his investment would look like in a general sense. Typically, a price drop must be significant to have any impact at this stage.

At this stage many Evaluators visit a boat show or walk into your showroom, but not always.

W X Y = Now Buyers

For Now Buyers, the research and evaluation continues, yet the focus deepens. The prospect may be down to one or two models, one or two manufacturers, one or two specific boats, evaluating what might be the best option.

At this stage, the buyer is likely talking with a sales person or visiting your showroom, so your sales staff should shine with these Now Buyers.

They have narrowed their search down at this stage to the specific model and options. They are most sensitive to price at this stage. They’ve almost bought the boat in their mind, and they are really looking for the “best deal” on the boat they want.

A quick note on the best deal: the best deal does not mean lowest price. The prospect wants to know he received the lowest price he could at that point in time on that particular boat.

When the prospect is convinced it’s the right boat at the right price, he will write the check and move to Z. Congratulations, you’ve made a sale!

So, how long does all this take?

The process of going from point A to point Z could take minutes. We’ve all seen the client walk in to the dealership, see a boat they love, and write the check that afternoon.

Or it could take years.

I became a top-producing sales person within a very short period of time by capitalizing on the prospects on the left to middle of the spectrum, nurturing them and converting them into high-margin boat sales.

Here’s why all this is important

In marketing and sales you must understand that different messages work for those on the left, middle and right side of the educational spectrum.

Most boat dealers focus their marketing and sales message solely on the “Now Buyers” forgetting about those in the “Researcher” and “Evaluator” stages. There is a huge opportunity to capture those on the left and middle, before your competition even knows they are prospects. Then you nurture and cultivate them into high-margin sales.

This is easier than it sounds, especially when you use an ‘automated conversion system.’

Stay tuned for my next article on how you capture those “Researchers and Evaluators” on the left side of the educational spectrum and convert them into high margin boat sales.

Matt Sellhorst is the author of “Marine Marketing Strategies” and Head Profits Coach at Boat Dealer Profits. He helps honest and ethical dealers and brokers implement powerful sales and marketing strategies that create more higher-margin boat sales and ultimately more profits for their dealerships, employees and families so they can enjoy the boat business and have a life.

For instant access to his free business building report, “The 5 Biggest Sales & Marketing Mistakes Boat Dealers (& Brokers) Make… And How to Avoid Them,” visit or call (803) 818-1984.


  1. This is some great information. This gives the insight to see who is more likely to buy and where to spend your marketing time. Thanks for the great resourse.

  2. Thank you for the comments, glad the article was helpful.

    Matt Sellhorst

  3. Very informative. I like the analogy.
    Looking forward to your next segment.
    Educating sounds like an important key in the process.

    Great Article.

  4. Ross – Thank you for the comment, in today’s information overloaded world, its amazing how hard it is to find good quality information on buying the right boat. I hope you enjoy the next one.


  5. Knowing that consumers are more likely to buy from who they like, an advantage is gained by investing the time to educate those early in the process. The dealers that ignore the request for more information are less likely to considered when decision time comes.

  6. Gary- great point – you’ve got to respond and stay in touch.

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