The boating industry is embracing digital marketing to an even larger extent than in past years, with mobile advertising, social media and the Web grabbing a larger share of the marketing dollar in 2015.
Still, traditional methods like boat shows and print advertising aren’t being abandoned in the quest for the elusive boat buyer, according to the latest Boating Industry marketing survey.
For the third year in a row, we surveyed the readers of our print and digital products about how they market their businesses. We surveyed dealers, service providers, manufacturers and others in January about how they promoted their businesses in 2015 and their plans for 2016.
The full results of this year's survey will appear in the March issue.
Even a quick glance at the results of this year’s survey shows that, generally speaking, Boating Industry readers are expended more effort on digital marketing, especially social media, in 2015 and plan to continue to do so in 2016.
Facebook is still the king of the hill in social media, but the boating industry isn’t afraid to use other networks as well.
While only 8 percent of readers rated Facebook as their most important marketing tactic in 2015 (the same as in 2014), 71 percent reported they used it for marketing last year. That was up from 55 percent just two years ago, the biggest jump over that period.
Even with that in mind, 53 percent said they plan to use Facebook more this year, while only 5 percent plan to use it less than in 2015.
Instagram and YouTube are the two other big gainers in this year’s survey. Twenty-two percent of respondents used Instagram in 2015, up from 14 percent in 2014, the second-largest one-year gain in the survey. (We didn’t ask about Instagram in 2013.) Nearly a third of readers plan to use Instagram more in 2016, while 17 percent plan to use it less this year.
As for YouTube, 31 percent reported using it last year, up from 27 percent in 2014 and 19 percent in 2013. Fifty-five percent said they plan to use the video service more this year, while only 8 percent plan to use it less than in 2015.
The top marketing tactic in 2015 – the most used and the most useful – was a company website. Eighty-five percent of companies said they had a website, basically flat over the last three years, while 29 percent said their website was the most successful marketing outlet last year. That represents a slight increase from 2014 (27 percent) and 2013 (25 percent). Despite that high usage, 65 percent said they plan to use their website more in marketing this year.
A focus on digital doesn’t mean that readers have given up on the more traditional marketing tactics, even though their use is declining for the most part.
Boat shows continue to be a mainstay for many, chosen by 19 percent as their most successful marketing tactic in 2015, the second highest total after company website. However, after being the second most used tactic in 2013 and 2014 (after website), boat shows did drop to fourth this year, behind both Facebook and email marketing at 67 percent (down from 73 percent in 2014).
The use of boat shows appears to be fairly stable, though, as 75 percent of respondents said they do not plan to increase or decrease their boat show participation in 2016.