In the past year or two, there have been so many articles about who we should—as an industry
—be reaching out to as far as target buyers go. We’ve been targeting my group, the Millennials,
as if we are going to be a huge buyer in the next couple of years. Let’s face reality—we’re not
going to be.
Unfortunately—due to the excessive debts from college, other life happenstances such as
lower/same wages vs. rising cost of living, healthcare, and such—99% of Millennials don’t and
won’t have the extra income to spend on very much, let alone a boat.
So, who do we target?
Right now, the Baby Boomers are the ones buying because they have the extra funds and the
time to go boating to enjoy their investment. Generation X is right next to them, and I believe
they should be the target over Millennials for the next few years. Generation X, as a whole, is
probably the last generation that’ll be able to splurge on large recreational purchases for a
while, considering most of them should already have set up a plan for their future—through their
work or other means—that will allow them to spend, live comfortably, and save.
So, what happens next?
If we want to talk about Millennials, they are familiar with and use Uber & Lyft (taxi alternative),
AirBnB (hotel alternative), and other companies that offer a particular service for less. As a
Millennial, I believe [my] generation relies on the renter’s market. We are renting houses or
apartments, vehicles and other objects a lot more than we are buying. While attending boat
shows, I have seen more and more boat renting companies or clubs popping up, and I’ve
overheard some say that they’d rather rent a boat for the day instead of purchasing one due to
the expense of upkeep.
If you don’t want to rent, don’t just sell the boat—sell the entire experience.
If consumers really want a boat, they will find a way to be able to afford it. But, it’s not entirely up
to them… It’s up to businesses in this industry to help, especially when they don’t even know
where to start. A good example of this would be if a customer walks in with an idea of what they
are looking for, talk to several companies about financing options and what they will get with the
boat, then find out that they can’t purchase what they originally wanted. If they’re disappointed,
they’re indirectly looking for the seller to console them and turn their situation around.
I believe that the key to succeeding in the future will be to study the past and see what worked
well. To me, face to face time, conversation, building a relationship—those are the keys to
winning customers and friends for life. Let them come to trust you, your employees, and your
Give the buyer an experience of a lifetime. Spend time with them. Take your future customers
out on the water for a sea-trial, find out something about them and connect. People yearn to
have stories to share, and boating is exactly for that. It is an experience that only a small portion
get to have. The buyer needs a reason to become a buyer.
If they truly can’t afford to purchase a boat, set up some sort of program with a boating club or
rental company so both of you could gain a customer. Not only does it help your company, but it
helps the rental company or club thrive as well. Sometimes an experience is worth a whole lot
more than owning something. Plus, you can always introduce them to be, live and support the
lifestyle by hiring them to work it.