While many Northern dealers were launching boats in snowflakes yesterday, spring is at hand and boaters are ready to hit the water. It’s time for dealers nationwide to push boating safety to their customers.
It may be more important than ever this year. With the excellent boat sales we’ve been experiencing since last May, we’ve put a host of new families on our waterways. And while safety protocols and good boating practices aren’t all that complicated, they need to be taught and emphasized.
First, we don’t want boating accident rates to start climbing; we’ve seen a consistent decline in recent years. But there’s an underlying business decision involved here, too.
Studies document that we could see 40 percent of those new boaters drop out of our sport within five years if we don’t do something to head it off. That also means losing 40 percent of the likely repeat buyers who could move up and do business with the dealership that introduced them to boating. And selling to existing customers is far more cost efficient than the expenditures needed to capture replacements.
So, what to do? There is a wide range of boating safety materials that every dealer can provide to customers. We all acknowledge that education is the first building block to great family boating experiences. Make sure each customer, especially first-timers, learns the basics of boat operation and that safety is also practiced before your first trip to the marina or launch ramp.
In many states, boaters are required to complete a basic boating safety or education course. Providing customers with a list of opportunities to take an online basic course should be standard dealer practice with every sale. And encouraging customers to go to the Discover Boating website will instantly put introduce them to articles and resources that dealers can also duplicate and distribute.
Nothing tops an on-water learning experience. There’s a growing trend toward more hands-on training opportunities throughout the nation. But every responsible dealer also should provide a time, preferably on the water, during which the salesperson or other dealership representative briefs the buyer on the boat’s operating systems and offers some basic safety considerations.
In addition, boating safety courses and hands-on training are offered by such organizations as the Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons (aka America’s Boating Clubs), US Sailing, the BoatUS Foundation, the American Sailing Association, and local boat clubs. Provide customers a list of opportunities.
In addition, dealers can hold in-store educational events that not only inform customers, but also serve as an important continued contact point with them. Invite a Coast Guard Auxiliarist or a Power Squadrons instructor to present a safety clinic in the showroom. Or hold a new-customer day on the water with basic safety instructions, refreshments and family activities. And send short safety videos to your newest customers for home viewing. There are many ways to establish the safety-customer connection.
Recognizing that education is the key to each customer becoming a better, more knowledgeable boater should lead to action. Each time a dealer offers an opportunity to help customers have more enjoyable outings builds that valuable customer relationship. And that can pay off big now and in the future.