Time to start thinking about first-time buyers

A week ago, I was on the phone with Fred Pace, managing director of Destin, Fla.-based dealership Legendary Marine, who said something that surprised me. He’s seeing a return of first-time buyers in his local market place.

Legendary Marine’s experience is not necessarily the norm in today’s market. Most dealers are having a hard enough time getting their loyal customers to feel confident enough in our economy to bite the bullet and upgrade their current boat. But it’s a good sign, and a great reminder to not forget about this important segment.

If the positive economic signs that we’re seeing today continue to gain momentum, 2011 will likely be a much better year for the vast majority of U.S. boating businesses. But how much better will depend in large part on our ability to plant seeds in the minds of first-time buyers right now.

That’s why I’m hopeful that at tomorrow’s National Marine Manufacturers Association Board Meeting, members vote in favor of restoring the marketing and advertising component of the Grow Boating Initiative. I’m sure the factors that they will be considering in making a decision are much more complicated than this, but I believe now is the right time to get the public thinking about boating again.

Of course, while the Grow Boating campaign has the potential to have a broader impact than any one boating business, your company has the potential to have a much deeper impact in your local community. I’m not suggesting you spend your entire marketing budget targeting first-time buyers. That probably isn’t going to generate the return on investment you need right now. But when you can afford to expose the non-boaters in your community to the benefits of the boating lifestyle, you should.

After all, who wouldn’t benefit from a resurgence of first-time buyers in their local market?

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