Today’s ‘influencer’ is tomorrow’s boat buyer

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“Click.”
“Click.”

It’s 7:10 in the morning, and I don’t have to look up to know the source of the sound. My son is snapping shut for the sixth or seventh time the plastic buckles on the new life jacket we bought the previous evening.

Sailing camp is still two hours off, but the kid is excited and proud of his new PFD. Sharp colors, nice design, comfortable fit … substantial price tag. He says he would have been fine with the less expensive jacket he tried on, but this is the one he really wanted.

“Dad, look. See, it fits really well. No ride-up.”

Michael is a tall, freckle-faced 11-year-old who is also emerging as an influencer of the way we spend our boating dollars and recreational time. The yellow Laser I purchased last fall from a retired mechanical engineer is tangible proof of both his budding passion and his parents’ belief that time spent on the water is time well spent. I suspect (and hope) I will be reaching deeper into my pocket as time goes by and his boating horizons expand.

We all know, even if we sometimes need to be reminded, of the important role played in a boat purchase by a spouse, a significant other, a life partner — call him or her what you want. Ignoring or alienating these keepers of the purse as they quietly follow in the wake of their out-front alpha-dog skippers will put you at risk of losing a sale.

But don’t overlook the power of the kids to influence a purchase, either. It’s real, and it’s something you might miss if you’re not looking for it.

I don’t remember the first time I heard the term “influencer” in this context, but I recall Correct Craft president and CEO Bill Yeargin using it to make a point during our Trade Only roundtable at the Miami International Boat Show last winter.

“The role of kids in the buying process is often overlooked,” Yeargin told me. “There is no question that kids heavily influence purchase decisions.”

As a parent and a boater I’m in favor of healthy activities that disconnect my children from the virtual universe and thrust them back into the outdoors, into the world of salt spray, tippy little boats and knots where the rabbit goes up the hole, around the tree and back down the hole. We’re willing to pay for tow tubes and wakeboards, sailing lessons, fishing rods, fancy five-toe water shoes — even boats.

Why? This is something worth passing on. This will make their lives richer over the long haul. Sooner or later, Mother Nature and the deep blue sea will work their magic on them, as it has on us.

Young people are important to this industry not only for the influence they might hold over today’s purchase, but also for the role they will play as the primary boating constituents of tomorrow. Kids are only kids for so long.

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