The way to a boater’s heart is through their pets

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“Those guys are kicking our butts,” Ed McKnew said to me last week, citing the fact that the RV industry appears to be doing much better in its recovery than the marine industry.

While he might be ignoring our own 10 percent growth, we can make a couple of interesting observations about the reported RV success — ads and pets.

First, the successful “Go RVing” campaign appears to be going once again, including a reappearance of their TV ads on cable networks. You’ll recall “Go RVing” had been hitting the market for nearly 10 years before we developed our industry’s “Discover Boating” campaign and much of the RV industry’s success before the recession was attributed to that effective campaign. The recession forced a reduction in both industry efforts, but it appears the RV industry has cranked its back up faster.

That said, let me be clear: Our “Discover Boating” campaign is exciting, broad-based and it continued throughout the recession, albeit it without the funds for the elaborate TV and magazine campaigns. Now, it appears the RV industry has again reached funding levels that allow it to go back on TV nationally to sell the RV lifestyle.

To counter, we need to do the same and accelerate our “Discover Boating” funding by: (1) making certain all segments of the marine industry are contributing; and (2) seriously look at an increase in the formula that was, frankly, too low for an industry our size to begin with and has never been increased.

Second, I find it notable that the RV industry is putting emphasis on the estimated 60 percent of RVers that include their pets in their RV activities. For example, the Good Sam RV Navigator publication points out that finding Fido, FiFi or Mittens a pet friendly place is priority No. 1 for so many RVers these days.

And why pay attention to pet owners? Well, the pet industry caters to more than 70 million dogs and 52 million cats and racks up a healthy $53 billion in annual sales. These days, the buzz term is “pet parents” as owners think of their animals as their children. And, let’s face it, a fast way to win someone’s approval is to be good to their children.

It begs us to pause and consider whether our dealership or marina is friendly to pets. Those that are have likely already created a pet-product shelf in the store. It’s stocked with such things as pet life preservers, on-board pet beds, pet boat wear, pet safety alarm collars and similar products. Marinas can set aside a special pet area for canines to get off the boat and play. Remember, pet owners shell out $53 billion a year, indicating just how important their pets are to their lifestyle. They respond to businesses that acknowledge it as well, something the RV industry is attempting to capitalize on.

Being a pet-friendly business isn’t the cure-all. But it could be another component of a good overall business model.

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