Yes, they are big names in our industry with lots of resources. But West Marine and MarineMax offer noteworthy examples of initiatives to increase fishing and boating participation that can be undertaken by any dealer recognizing the need to remain engaged with customers and prospects.
West Marine just announced the first grants from its new BlueFuture Fund. Twenty-nine youth boating groups across the nation will receive $1,500 each, the first allocation from the BlueFuture Funds program that West Marine created to benefit youth boating, marine conservation and healthy fish stocks.
Hundreds of organizations were reportedly nominated by West Marine suppliers and donors to the BlueFuture Fund. Non-profit groups receiving grants include: The Sea Scouts of Galveston, Texas; the Challenge the Wind youth sailing program in Detroit; Kama‘aina Kids, which offers kayaking and other water sports to youth in Kailua, Hawaii; and “Kids Can Fish Too!” that teaches fishing basics to children ages 5-12 in Port Orange, Fla., to name just a few.
While I’m not suggesting starting up a fund like BlueFuture is for every dealer, directly supporting a local non-profit group(s) that teach boating and fishing activities is clearly an example worth exploring. To see the full list, go to Westmarine.com/BlueFuture/Youth-Boating.
I’ve come to expect MarineMax to be a leader in keeping customers engaged and their list is long and good. Here are a couple of easy examples every dealer can consider:
WOW stands for the “Women on Water” classes that are designed to get women behind the helm and enjoying the boating lifestyle. The classes are offered at MarineMax locations throughout the country, and are taught by U.S. Coast Guard licensed captains who have been certified by MarineMax to conduct the lessons.
Notably, these are small group seminars for women only. The goal is to build confidence at the helm by presenting information in an active, fun and supportive environment. Each four- to five-hour class is split in two parts: a classroom session and a practical on-water session. The WOW classes cover such things as boat terminology, lines and knots, boat handling and docking, rules of the road, safety and more.
A “Kids in Boating” class” is predicated on the idea that a love for boating is often instilled at a young age. Moreover, since boating really is a family activity, getting kids comfortable with boating increases the enjoyment of time together on the water.
The kid’s classes are also a mix of classroom and hands-on sessions, including such topics as boat anatomy, basic line handling including correct cleating, docking and boat handling, rules of the road and more.
MarineMax’s “Introduction to Boating” class recognizes that, at one point or another, everyone who loves boating had to get on the water for the first time. Everyone had to start somewhere; these classes are specifically for people new to boating, albeit open to those who’ve been off the water for a while. It’s designed for beginner boaters and the clear objective is to get them confident on the water and feeling safe behind the helm. The appropriate topics include everything from boat features, parts and basic maintenance to handling, maneuvering, docking and safety.
Clearly none of these are the proverbial rocket-science ideas. Overall, they’re really basic, cost little, take a limited amount of time, make the boating experience better for customers and, so important in today’s business climate, offer a continuing relationship with customers.