Discover Boating launched in 2005 with a mission to formulate and execute initiatives that promote the boating lifestyle, and evidence suggests those efforts are working.
In 2015, Discover Boating moved 2.9 million site visitors from its website to manufacturer websites. There were 5.3 million site visits to Discover Boating that year, 75 percent of which were new visitors.
“Let’s say one percent [of the 2.9 million visitors] actually converted into a lead. That’s almost 30,000 leads that we generated on their sites – not on our site but on individual sites,” said Carl Blackwell, president of Discover Boating.
Discover Boating works at captivating the “harder-to-get” folks that most businesses do not have the time or resources to target. Younger boaters tend to fall into this category more than other groups, as many young adults do not have the finances to afford a boat but still want to get on the water.
Essentially, Discover Boating is working to make sure the industry doesn’t end up like golf: engaging younger adults too late and closing up shops.
“The great thing about Millennials is they’re much more diverse, so we’re kind of hitting a more diverse audience – which is important for our future growth – as well as a younger demographic,” said Blackwell. “We want to make sure these folks are warmed up and are staying attached to boating and continue to be increased in boating so when [they’re] ready, they will actually go out and buy that boat.”
Proof is in the analytics
Discover Boating’s marketing efforts are all digital, which is easier to track, target and retarget audiences. The Discover Boating website, which Blackwell views as the most valuable asset the industry has, contains 500 key words that are ranked Nos. 1 or 2 in Google rankings.
If a user visits the Discover Boating website and doesn’t fill out a lead form or visit a manufacturer site, Discover Boating retargets that user with ads on the next three to five websites they visit. Blackwell encourages industry stakeholders to visit the Discover Boating website, then continue web browsing, to see the retargeted advertising in action.
Discover Boating plans to add educational webinars to its offerings this summer, one of which will be on understanding Google Analytics. The goal of the webinar will be to help dealers and manufacturers know what consumers visit and don’t visit on their websites, thus identifying opportunities to improve web content, and understand how many people Discover Boating links to their websites.
“We’re the assist person. We set people up. And so what we’ve done, instead of trying to generate leads and trying to force people to fill out forms, which they don’t want to fill out … we actually put them directly on a manufacturer website so that exchange of information happens immediately,” Blackwell said. “People are not seeing our results because it’s being filtered. It’s going from our site to a manufacturer site, and then it loses its identity.”
Using Discover Boating tools for success
Among the greatest benefits of Discover Boating are the tools provided to the industry through GrowBoating.org. These tools include content, videos and collateral, which are free for anyone to pull or have shipped directly if looking for tangible materials. These can be found in the Tools You Can Use tab on GrowBoating.org.
Blackwell identifies the Boat Loan Calculator as one of the most useful tools available to dealers and manufacturers, if businesses do not already have one. Business owners can ask an HTML-savvy employee to merely cut the HTML code and paste it into the website to add the calculator.
“I know of some dealers that get about 3,500 [visitors] using that calculator on their site in a year,” Blackwell said. “If 3,500 people are actually taking the time to figure out what that boat payment’s going to be for them, I would say that person is probably staying on your website … and they are probably pretty interested in a boat.”
The Stories of Discovery videos, which promote the boating lifestyle through the told experiences of real boaters, can also be placed on websites for direct streaming.
“You don’t have to put them all on your site; I would look at the ones that make the most sense for you. We have saltwater versions and freshwater versions, fishing versions, [etc.],” said Blackwell.
Joe Lewis, general manager of Mount Dora Boating Center & Marina, tracks how many visitors view the Stories of Discovery on the dealership’s website and said the video content helps bring about 10 percent of Mount Dora’s referral traffic.
The collateral provided by Discover Boating includes brochures, stickers, checklists and more. They offer information on how to get started with boating, winterization and summarization checklists and more.
Mount Dora Boating Center & Marina hosted a Welcome to the Water event during the last weekend of April, ahead of when most kids in the area finish the school year and parents start planning summer activities. The event was branded with the messaging and materials from Discover Boating, utilizing much of the collateral offered.
Lewis said Discover Boating provides plenty of materials that are boating- and lifestyle-themed so dealers don’t need to spend hours creating materials themselves or developing huge ad campaigns. The tools offer strong messaging that is easy to grab and use.
“Folks need to realize what Discover Boating is and the types of prospects Discover Boating is creating. These are folks that are interested in boating but may not have quite made the decision that boat ownership is right for them,” said Lewis. “They’re in the funnel in terms of boating is now on their radar, but they may not have quite made the decision that this is right for them.”
The event was advertised on Facebook, directly targeting the over 775,000 people who have liked that Discover Boating page. Lewis said the dealership saw as much success with this weekend event as with its annual boat show, in terms of sales.
“Go to GrowBoating.org and just look at all the materials that are available to you for no charge,” said Lewis. “It works.”
New materials are added regularly and old materials are pulled down, so businesses should keep checking the Tools You Can Use tab for more information.
More details on the upcoming webinars, which will also share best practices on social media engagement that have been successful for Discover Boating, will be provided on Boating Industry.com as they become available.