A message to millennials: The sharing of ideas trumps going it alone

As boomers age, boating’s sweet spot is fading, much like the memories of many members of this much-discussed generation. For example, who was it that said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept people like me as a member.”
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As boomers age, boating’s sweet spot is fading, much like the memories of many members of this much-discussed generation. For example, who was it that said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept people like me as a member.” I always associated this quote with Woody Allen’s 1977 film “Annie Hall.” Turns out this tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating quip was popularized by none other than the great Groucho Marx at least two decades earlier.

Recently a posting from Scott Croft of BoatUS on the Boating Writers International LinkedIn site about the value of belonging to a professional association got me thinking. We, who market to the marine industry, have our very own association — Marine Marketers of America — and deciding how to “belong” to it can give you a leg up not only in terms of your current work, but your career, as well.

Croft’s posting pointed out that he picked up a number of valuable tips while attending a joint MMA/BWI panel discussion that I produced and moderated during the Miami International Boat Show, titled “How the Digital Revolution Has Changed What Editors Want From Freelancers and Marketers.”

Turns out he followed up on panelist Marilyn Mower of Boat International Media’s suggestion that marketers include suggested copy for Facebook and Twitter posts in their press releases. No sooner had he done so than one of his releases got picked up by none other than Dick DeBartolo, the famed handlebar-mustachioed Giz Wiz, Mad Magazine and ABC-TV News correspondent. Dick used to be the East Coast editor of Powerboat magazine and would for many years put in an appearance at the Miami show.

The point is it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a 17th century English poet (John Donne) to realize that no man (person) is an island. If you are a one-person shop or the only one in a company responsible for marketing, you’re only as good as what you know. As a 35-year veteran of this industry I think I’m on safe ground when I suggest that although many of the ideas behind great marketing often come from individual insights, creative execution is usually improved through “who you know” collaborative efforts.

Which brings me back to Marine Marketers, an idea conceived by industry veteran Wanda Kenton Smith nearly 10 years ago and nursed through its formative years by a small band of marketers convinced that creating an association of like-minded individuals would benefit both its members and the marine industry.

“What prompted me to organize the group were the industry’s initial Grow Boating and Discover Boating campaigns,” says MMA founder and president Kenton Smith. “I felt marine marketers were being snubbed and that the industry could benefit from some professional marketing input.

“Today MMA provides a great networking opportunity for members from all corners of the marine industry, with nearly 2,000 individuals registered on our LinkedIn site, nearly half as many as are on NMMA’s LinkedIn site,” she notes.

In addition to networking, MMA has from the beginning sought to provide members with opportunities to learn from one another, sponsoring panel discussions at the Miami and Fort Lauderdale boat shows that feature many marine industry veterans and thought leaders. Designed as interactive exchanges, these events provide an opportunity for members to learn best practices and give the best minds in the business a platform to raise their profiles, share their insights and experience or use the group as a sounding board.

Recent panel discussions have included “The Secrets Behind What YouTube Can Do For You;” “Managing and Measuring Social Media to Maximize ROI;” “Strategies to Tap the Emerging Hispanic Market;” and “The Great Debate: Where to Put Your Advertising Dollars Now.”

Another major MMA focus is its annual Neptune Awards, which recognize some of the outstanding work the industry’s marine marketers do. Now in their eighth year, the Neptune Awards are announced during the NMMA’s All-Industry Breakfast, which hundreds of leaders attend at the start of the Miami show.

With more than a dozen categories, including Best National Magazine Advertising, Best Mobile App, Best Website and Best Social Media, the Neptune Awards, managed by Bonnier’s Sally Helme and the NMMA’s Cindy Pechous, have become a much-sought-after benefit of MMA membership.

Although the panel discussions and the awards are the most tangible membership benefits, longtime board member Helme says it’s the intangible ones that are the most rewarding. “What I like most about MMA is the opportunity to network with the best and brightest marketers in our industry, to get to know them and find out how they are tackling the challenges of the marketplace. It provides me a chance to up my game through networking, professional development through panel presentations on important marketing topics and the chance to see who is doing what in the Neptune Awards.”

Kenton Smith feels the same way. “One of the greatest benefits is the professional contacts and real friendships that have resulted from my involvement. It’s fantastic to know a whole network of smart marketing folks I can call or email if I have questions, want a referral on a vendor or need some professional insight.”

A list of MMA members and contact information can be found at the group’s website, marinemarketersofamerica.org. The site also includes a roster of recent Neptune Awards winners, an hour-long video of a recent MMA roundtable discussion, “New Methods to Market Your Message,” and membership information.

As an association with no paid staff, the MMA makes things happen through the active participation of a core group of volunteers, many of whom have been at it since the beginning. That said, one other thing Kenton Smith and Helme agree on is the need for new blood. “We need more active participation from younger and bright young minds to build for the future,” Kenton Smith says.

If the literature on the subject is to be believed, millennials are much more likely to collaborate than Gen Xers, who, generally speaking, because of their latchkey upbringing tend to be more wary of groups and are less likely to be joiners. Although it’s true that most millennials may not yet be in a position to buy a boat, they may be able to help the marine industry when it comes to marketing, social media and thinking outside the box.

And because so much has changed for marketers since the digital revolution began, it’s no surprise that the MMA is throwing out the C’Mon Aboard welcome mat for millennials, offering them the opportunity to take the association where no one has gone before.

Lastly, marine marketers looking to enhance the visibility of corporate clients should not overlook the value of becoming associate or supporting members of Boating Writers International (bwi.org/join). If you want to be part of the conversation you’ve got to stand up and be recognized.

Michael Sciulla is president of Credibility & Company Communications, as well as vice president of the Marine Marketers of America and a member of the board of directors of both Boating Writers International and the Marine Marketers of America. During a 28-year career at BoatUS he built the association’s brand as membership grew from 30,000 to 650,000 and testified more than 30 times before a number of congressional committees.

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue.

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