My dinner dash is a fast visit to the grocery store to grab a few things for supper or replenish food staples like dark chocolate or bacon. I was doing the dash and standing in the self-checkout line when I noticed a man in front of me purchasing a bouquet of flowers.
A quiet, appreciative smile slid across my face. He wasn't buying generic flowers. They were red roses - one of my favorites. What comes to mind when you see a bouquet of red roses? Sappy as it may sound, I think beauty, romance, warmth, love and thoughtfulness. Maybe this guy was celebrating, apologizing, expressing his feelings or acting on impulse. Whatever the reason, he was buying roses.
Flowers tend to tap human emotion, and emotion can entice customers to purchase something they don't necessarily need, such as red roses. Emotion and related experiences often play a part in selling countless beneficial services and enjoyable products, including, as you already know, boats.
With plenty of economic slack still dragging through the marine marketplace, sentiment can play a strong role in encouraging buyers to make the boating purchase they've been pondering. This means it's important to manage and influence emotional factors involved in discretionary watercraft spending and, in so doing, gaining a happy feeling in your cash register.
I recently attended a boat show and noticed selected exhibits attracting bigger crowds than others because of placement, crowd flow and other trade-show factors. The dealers pulling in the crowds were also catering to families and the boating experience. With buyers focusing more on family values and staying close to home during uncertain times, deliberately managing related sentiments can help turn boating prospects from looking to booking the deal. While many things are involved in maximizing your customer's emotion equation, let's concentrate on these three: marketing, sales and customer experience.
When consumer spending is constrained, marketing is as much about price as it is about value and satisfaction. Marketing to customer emotions, value and satisfaction is also part of branding. Decide what you want your company or dealership to stand for and match it with an emotion, logo and tag line to evoke a desired feeling or brand. Cadillac does it with the crest in its logo. Target does it with the red bull's eye and "Expect more, pay less" slogan. The most recognizable brand in the world, Coca-Cola, does it with bright red cursive script and slogans such as "Coke is it!"
As you manage your marketing efforts during slow times, project your brand with a sense of quality along with warmth, togetherness and family fun. The satisfaction and value associated with these feelings should be clearly aligned with what your customer will gain from their boating investment.
Are your marketing efforts evoking these sensations? When was the last time you reviewed your brand and asked customers how it's being received? Take a look at the major marketing avenues you're using to pull customers into your business - your showroom, Web site, signage and ad formats. Manage your marketing updates to also project family values and making memories that produce customer interest and excitement. A great book to check out on this topic is "How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less," by Milo Frank.
How about the sales process and managing customer emotions? Your salespeople must continue to have superior product, safety and performance knowledge; be able to sell the value of a boating purchase; and be highly focused on relationship selling. As your sales team excels in these areas, are they also well-versed on selling the family benefits of a boating investment? Have you given them recent training to help them achieve this approach?
Now's the time to ensure sales teams know how to help customers envision warmth and good feelings they'll enjoy over and over again when using their investment. Show buyers the conveniences a boat brings to parties for family and friends - similar to what I saw at the boat show when a salesman pointed out the great features of a built-in barbecue grill on the aft deck of a small cabin boat. Show your sales crew how to put customers in the emotional moment to move them from thinking to inking the deal.
How do you manage "feeling factors" and attracting buyers relative to the customer's boating experience? You may recall the Russo Marine story in the September 2009 issue of Soundings Trade Only. It included mention of a large sign the Russos display with a picture of a little girl at the edge of a fishing boat and the words: "Take me boating ... because my wedding will be sooner than you think." The other side shows a little boy on a boat and the words: "Take me fishing ... you can think about work later."
A Boston Whaler with a fishing pole appears under the message.
This signage radiates heart-tugging sensations that speak to the boating experience. As a manager, you want customers to think and feel the pleasure of their individual boating experience when they enter your dealership, view your signage and ads, hear your radio or television spots, or cruise your Web site. The customer experience must include images and sound bites to help visualize the contentment and enjoyment boating will bring to friends and family, along with relishing the wonder years with the kids.
When my two boys were in preschool, my neighbor came home on a spring day with a shiny new boat and camper. He and his wife had an 11-year-old and 9-year-old, and all of them, grandparents included, loved to fish and go boating. They sealed their boating deal before their children were old enough to fly from the nest. Thrilled with their purchase, they were ready to maximize family fun together with their new boat and camper.
Are you actively managing the right emotions in your customer's experience every time they encounter your store, ads, Web site and signage? Not one, but all of these? If you said yes, you should be enjoying the revenue benefits it can bring to your bottom line.
As I stood in the self-checkout line at the store, I could safely guess the man in front of me buying red roses wasn't thinking about investing in a boat. He was, however, thinking about sentiments that are often the same whether buying a bouquet of flowers or buying a boat - the emotion and experience his purchase would bring to someone special.
When managing your marketing, sales and customer experience for generating revenue in the months ahead, keep the sentimental part of your customer's purchase in mind. Help your prospects visualize the family and recreational benefits they'll enjoy. You'll be encouraging customers to move from thinking to inking, from looking to booking the treasured boating experience they've been waiting for and you are eager to sell them.
Mary Elston has spent more than 20 years in management in the transportation, consulting and technology industries. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of the book, "Master Your Middle Management Universe, How to Succeed with Moga Moga Management Using 3 Easy Steps." Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue.