I've never been to Seattle, but it's pretty high up on my list of places to visit. My favorite cities are those where you can be in the thick of what makes them so appealing - the museums, restaurants, shops and marketplaces - and you can look up and see the evidence of the natural world, the water and the mountains, just beyond. But even more attractive is the city's large and progressive boating business community. Just look at the Northwest Marine Trade Association's (NMTA) Grow Boating Initiative and particularly its most recent promotion, unveiled yesterday.
Here's the background. In 2003, the association's members voted to pay a $0.75 surcharge per square foot of exhibit space rented at its annual Seattle Boat Show in January to fund the NMTA's own Grow Boating efforts. Since then, NMTA has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting boating in a number of different ways. But its newest promotion is among its best.
"When the bottom fell out of the economy," explains NMTA Director of Communications & Marketing John Thorburn, "the Grow Boating Committee and our staff asked ourselves, 'What can we do now that will hopefully help our members stay afloat?'" The answer was to create a Web site where all its members could list their boats, marine products and services for sale. But as with any site, the challenge was to drive traffic to it so that it would be an effective sales tool for members. To give the initiative a head start, they decided to use the SeattleBoatShow.com site , which already had brand recognition and therefore traffic of its own. But they needed a way to promote the site's new features.
That's where the genius comes in, as far as I'm concerned. The committee decided to launch a contest in which 12 local families will win the opportunity to use a Cobalt 222 for a week this summer. To register for the contest - which is being hosted by a local magazine TV Show called "Evening Magazine" and conducted in partnership with the State of Washington Parks Department, NBC affiliate KING TV (the NBC affiliate), boat builder Cobalt Boats and boat dealership Seattle Boat Co. - contestants will have to fill out a form on SeattleBoatShow.com.
That's 12 families - some of which will have likely never boated before and others of which will probably be experienced boaters - whose daily routine will be pleasantly suspended by immersion in all sorts of new boating adventures. Imagine all the possibilities the contestants must be dreaming of. Watching the sun set behind the city from the boat. Taking the boat to a waterfront restaurant for dinner, and then gliding back to the dry dock under the stars. Sharing the boating experience with friends for the first time. Going tubing, water skiing and wakeboarding with the kids and their pals. Exploring new swimming holes or fishing hot spots. Talk about the ultimate test drive!
I am incredibly impressed that Seattle Boat Show exhibitors continue to invest in their future by funding their association's Grow Boating Initiative, not to mention the national campaign, during these tough times. They clearly understand that, with an ever-increasing number of consumers using the Internet to research and purchase goods and services, online marketing is the way to go. But they also know this: the best sales tool our industry can use to sell the products and services we provide consumers is the boating experience itself. I don't think there's a better investment right now. Because it isn't just the boating industry that's suffering from the stress of these economic times, it's most Americans. And what's better at easing that pain than leaving it behind on shore and spending time with friends and family?
Is your association or business exploring new ways to grow boating? Respond to this blog by sharing your story.