Grow Boating Marketing Summit kicks off IBEX 2019

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The industry’s Discover Boating initiative drew a full house when 175 dealers, manufacturers and service company personnel from the United States, Great Britain and elsewhere packed yesterday’s Grow Boating Marketing Summit, a Super Session leading into a record IBEX, which opened today in Tampa, Fla.

The full-day program, “Digital Marketing: Charting Your Course for Success,” was built on expert presentations that addressed the what, why and how-to of digital marketing, which is necessary for successful boat sales.

“We must recognize today’s boating industry serves three distinct macro segments, each unique in experience and expectations,” said Info-Link’s Jack Ellis.

Ellis identified the “dedicated core” that’s been our foundation for years. They’re heavily baby boomers, have been boating for years, have significant wealth and continue to buy their “toys.” They’re loyal and almost on buying autopilot.

Next are the first-time boat buyers. This is our must-have target to grow sales. Many first-timers leave boating within five years. We must work to reduce that attrition. We need them to join the dedicated core, Ellis says.

The third segment is tomorrow’s boat buyers. In many cases, they are millennials who are in no position to buy, but they are the key to long-term growth. This group values experiences and is willing to pay for them, so we must collectively work to encourage boating participation in some form today if we expect them to embrace ownership tomorrow. How do we get there?

Marcus Sheridan tells the 175 attendees that digital has changed sales, marketing and the customer experience forever.

Marcus Sheridan tells the 175 attendees that digital has changed sales, marketing and the customer experience forever.

Marcus Sheridan, speaker, trainer and author (They Ask, You Answer), made clear that the sales, marketing and customer experience have changed forever, and today’s marine businesses must change with it. In a word, “digital” has triggered the change, and we can no longer see sales, marketing and CX as separate entities.

An amazing 70 percent of the purchasing decision is made before the customer enters a dealership, Marcus contends. They do their research online, so a sharp website is crucial. In fact, when a prospect reads 30 pages or more before the initial sales meeting, they’re likely to buy 80 percent of the time. That refutes the belief that people won’t look at many pages. Content is the greatest sales tool — the customer is selling himself.

Specifically, we underestimate the time people will spend making sure they don’t make a purchasing mistake. It points to the need for dealers to increase the content offered to prospects and customers. Marcus emphasized: “If they’re willing to consume the content, we’ve got to give it to them.”

Moreover, in providing that content, video is king. By 2020, 85 percent of content consumed online will be video. Indeed, social video already generates 1,200 percent more shares than text and images combined.

Speaker Heather Lutze, of Findability University and the author of Marketing Espionage, urged session attendees to think of their website as a book cover. Inside is content, which many dealers mistakenly think is a struggle to generate. It’s not. Boating offers a wealth of topics. Equally important, content includes keywords that lead to successful search engine optimization. SEO may seem mysterious, but it simply means if people are searching the Internet for, say, boating information, your website shows up in their search results — and preferably high on the list.

Social media platforms — Facebook and Messenger, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. — offer marketing opportunities. However, Facebook remains on top, according to Mari Smith, who is often referred to as the “Queen of Facebook.” An expert on Facebook marketing and the role of social media, she’s the author of The New Relationship Marketing and co-author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day.

In her presentation, attendees examined the need for increased video use today and shared ways to effectively produce this content. She also discussed retargeting; urged dealers to use ad money in blocks rather than all at once, and to consider using Facebook live; and examined establishing a group or groups that cultivate relationships. (There are many boating groups on Facebook.) They build a niche group with a feeling of community.

Overall, the sessions were packed with expert information and direction. If you missed it, much of the information will be made available at GrowBoating.org as part of the Discover Boating program, which incidentally reaches about 5 million people annually and sends about 50 percent of those viewers on to more of our industry websites.

The “Digital Marketing: Charting Your Course for Success” sessions were made possible by Grow Boating, IBEX, the Marine Marketers of America and the Marine Accessories and Components Division of NMMA.

IBEX runs today through Thursday at the Tampa Convention Center.

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