Consumers continue to embrace boating and boating-related activities, whether it’s taking to the seas on fishing excursions, enjoying an afternoon on a luxury yacht or just boating around locally. While the marine and yachting industries continue to grow, there’s still room for more awareness — and an even bigger influx of customers.
One way marine and yachting companies can grow awareness is through a strong public relations strategy. In my experience in the industry, many of these manufacturers, service providers, charters and retailers don’t always tap into the marketing and communications resources that can help propel their businesses forward for generations to come. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), unit sales of new powerboats in the U.S. reached 276,000 in 2018, some of the highest levels the industry has seen in over a decade. Marine expenditures were also at a record high in 2018 at $42 billion, up 7% from 2017.
As for yachting, in April 2019, the luxury yacht market size was valued at $5.7 billion in 2017. It’s expected to reach $10.3 billion by 2025.
With numbers as promising as these, marine and yachting companies should be thinking about how they can go after their own piece of this lucrative pie. But that’s not always the case. I find that many marine and yachting businesses are family owned and operated and have traditionally had little or no marketing budget.
While they may consider this a cost-saving initiative, they should also consider the cost of business potentially lost — business that likely goes to a competitor.
To evolve and still be relevant to audiences, it’s important to understand what the customer will look like in the future. Just like automakers, airlines and other recreational companies have done, the marine and yachting industry must adapt to the new consumer.
Today, the marine and yachting industries’ target markets are aging out of purchasing boats and yachts. That’s why companies must look to Generation X and millennials as their new top markets. These demographics experience brands much differently than their baby boomer parents, and brands must be receptive to their wants and needs and know how to successfully market to them.
Millennials seek experiences rather than prestige. The idea of themselves on a boat or a yacht, making memories with friends and family, is likely very appealing to them. However, they may not be fully convinced it’s a worthwhile investment.
An inviting website, video content and user-friendly digital platforms will appeal to millennials and may reach them in ways traditional marketing might not.
In that same vein, in my experience, Generation X wants to see action over words. I find that these individuals gather as much information as possible before making a purchase, especially a large one. They want straightforward facts and honesty, not fancy marketing pitches. They take the time to do their research, read reviews and ask for outside opinions.
So how can you win over these potential customers? Here are a few overarching tactics that have proven to be successful if executed with a strategy.
Shows are a wonderful way to display boats and yachts. They target both end users and industry professionals or brokers. I suggest making the most of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Miami Yacht Show and Palm Beach International Boat Show. Before you even set foot at the show, however, establish your key PR messaging, the appropriate communication channels and your ideal sales timeline. Another valuable reason to participate is that these shows draw a large number of media outlets, bloggers and influencers who can help share your story.
Events, if utilized selectively, can provide that exclusive, hands-on experience that consumers crave. Choose your guest list wisely. It should include existing and new customers, as well as industry brokers. Use your event as an opportunity for customers to hear your brand story, meet the company leaders, tour the vessel and leave the event with an incentive to come back for a more personalized shopping experience – perhaps a test drive.
It’s a competitive market, so having a brand story in place is absolutely necessary. Note that a purchase in the marine and yachting industry is very often driven by emotion, so tapping into a customer’s psyche will help them in the shopping process. In the powerboat industry, for example, consumer confidence is near an all-time high, and people are becoming more interested in boating as a way to spend outdoor quality time with friends and family.
As for the luxury yacht market, it’s changes in lifestyle stimulated by the increase in ultra-high net worth individuals, a rise in consumers wanting to participate in recreational and leisure activities and the bolstered popularity of yacht tourism.
It’s a new age for the marine and yachting industries, and it’s critical to keep the stories about these industries fresh and exciting to appeal to potential new customers. To keep potential customers from becoming bored with the “same old stories,” connect with them on an emotional level. Superficial pitches don’t work anymore — it’s all about experiences, honesty and straightforward education. Your PR efforts can provide the new, exciting approach that buyers want to see today.
This article first appeared on South Florida Business Journal.