Our Boat-Sales Future Begins Now

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The biggest emerging opportunity for the boating industry just hit 40. That’s the leading edge of Gen Y, better known as the millennials, a generation that has overtaken baby boomers as the largest demographic in our nation.

It heralds the arrival of many years of boating growth. Born between 1981 and 1994, millennials are more than 72 million strong, and the leading edge is now entering their years of greatest income and purchasing capabilities. Moreover, there will be a steady stream of millennials cruising into and through their top earnings years for the next two-plus decades.

There are about 42 million millennials between 30 and 40 years old. And there’s another 31 million behind them between 25 and 29. It will be a good time to be in the boat business. But how do dealers start capitalizing now?

Here are some expert tips to consider.

• Study the behavior of this demographic, which will be the dominant buying power. Get to know millennials and start using marketing strategies that reach them. It will fatten your bottom line for years to come.

• Implement ways to meet them in person. Attend boat shows and similar events where you can be face to face. In so many ways, with millennials it comes down to establishing and maintaining a connection.

• Millennials say they’d rather watch than read. Their busy lives mean shorter attention spans, so compact visual content will reach them easier than hoping they’ll read some lengthy page describing the latest boat model.

• On average, millennials check their smartphones 43 times a day. They’re addicted. It’s crucial that anyone marketing to millennials recognize the importance of creating messages suitable for their omnipresent devices.

• Millennials are great at detecting B.S. Your messages and content should be genuine. It should be informative and quickly make the point. Fluff will be deleted faster than a politician asks for money.

• Ninety percent of millennials are hooked on Facebook. It’s estimated they log more than two hours a day on the social media platform. Disturbing or not, Facebook has a vast amount of personal data for every user, which enables advertisers to utilize specific targeting options to get in front of the best prospects. It’s currently one of the best options.

• Research indicates millennials respond more readily to businesses that are viewed as making a difference — those that are doing some good in the community. Identifying and supporting local organizations, such as a group recognized for clean water or a youth program, can be a plus with millennial prospects. If you don’t have a social or philanthropic commitment you can talk about, partner with an organization that makes a positive impact in your area.

• The top values most held by millennials are those surrounding family, and this couldn’t be more tailored to boating. Boating is primarily a family sport. In the past, our industry’s national Discover Boating campaign spent millions of dollars proclaiming that message. And such a message is perfectly aimed at millennials because the overwhelming majority have kids who range from college age to kindergarten. Focusing on family boating activities and benefits in any marketing efforts should pay dividends.

• Millennials' purchasing habits reportedly prioritize memorable experiences. So while boomers wanted to focus on all the latest product features, millennials want to focus on purpose. No millennial is going to buy a boat off a slick sales pitch. The sales team must learn that in dealing with a millennial, it’s all about connection with the prospect’s stated purpose. It’s what the boat will bring to their lifestyle. It’s meeting the expectations that will result in a sale. We sell purpose, not product.

• FOMO, or fear of missing out, is considered a characteristic that drives millennials. Define the great boating experiences that so many others are already enjoying. Moreover, special offers, deals, coupons and the like appeal to the trait that millennials are considered frugal.

• Finally, listen to them. Millennials have been identified as good at revealing what they do and don’t love. Gaining this knowledge can be a big advantage for a salesperson who’s a good listener. Indeed, every decision made when working with a millennial prospect should come from listening. So when millennials make the buy, they are not just happy with the boat but feel the whole deal is something special they helped to create.

Targeting millennials takes special considerations and new approaches, but developing an understanding of this huge market will be pivotal to success for years to come. 

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