Successfully selling the high-priced boat


Many knowledgeable people in our industry say we need to build less expensive boats, especially if we hope to attract the Gen Xers and the Millennials. Friends I talk to in dealerships echo a similar theme: “These days, every deal always comes down to price.” 

Truth is, our boats are high-priced items. A 16-foot bowrider for $28,000 plus tax and prep isn’t going to be an easy sell. But there are some notable suggestions worth considering that might help sell more of our high-priced products.

I’m referring to some ideas from Emmy-winning author and blogger Robert Moskowitz. Writing recently for the Intuit Small Business blog, Moskowitz offers techniques developed by marketers that could prove helpful in selling boats.

For example, Moskowitz says we need to “play with the perception of high prices.” For example, we shouldn’t show the “$” sign on signs and/or price tags. And when a price ends in “9” or “95” there’s a perception that it’s cheaper than if it’s rounded up to the next dollar.

“Repackaging” is a technique used to increase the perceived value of a product. Also called bundling, additional items or services are added to make the boat more appealing. It’s often done with added electronic packages, but it can also be done with an allowance for the buyer to select certain added items or a package of maintenance services, to name a couple.

Perhaps my favorite strategy that Moskowitz suggests is that we show the prospect a model that is even higher priced. He calls it “anchoring” and it can work because the higher-priced item changes the prospect’s perception of the value of a less expensive model. The boat now can look like a better value, albeit still high priced.

It’s called “social proof” and it can confirm for the prospect that the high price is reasonable. Social proof is presenting such things as testimonials, reprinting great product reviews and ratings and providing similar favorable data that supports a value image. It can make a case that it’s worth more than the price.

Emphasize for the prospect that your boat will beat any cheaper competition when it comes to long-term value. Moskowitz gives a simple illustration: Vehicle-battery manufacturers usually sell by specifying both the price and the length of the warranty. Accordingly, a $100 battery that lasts for 60 months ($1.66/month) is a better value than a $75 battery that lasts for 36 months ($2.08/month).

Finally, break the high price down into incremental payments, but make it seem even lower by expressing it in the context of other tangible goods your prospect knows well. We actually use this technique in the Discover Boating affordability displays at major boat shows when we boldly show the monthly payment and tell the prospects they can be boating for less than their car payment — and it’s true. So, a $28,000 boat in the affordability display can be theirs for $249 per month and that is half their car payment. This technique resonated well with many, particularly prospective new boaters.

We do need to market some less expensive boats, but it doesn’t change the fact that, if done right, we can be successful with our high-priced products.


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