Attracting Newcomers - It’s Not as Complicated as You Think

Jul 16, 2016 BY DIANE M. BYRNE

A mix of common sense and bigger thinking will help you bring in the customers that you, and the industry at large, want to welcome to yachting.

Walk down the docks at any given boat show, and you’ll see it. Over there, a brightly colored luxury car is parked in proximity to a yacht’s transom. Over here, an evening event is being held where people ascend the passarelle to see diamonds and jewelry on display in a yacht’s saloon. Still elsewhere, from dusk to midnight, Champagne and fine-wine purveyors are on hand to discuss their libations being served. With the amount of co-marketing going on between yachting firms and other luxury brands, you might think the industry is awash in new buyers.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Similarly, with the amount of talk devoted to the topic of attracting first-time yacht owners, you might sense the industry is facing a monumental challenge. That, too, is not the case—thankfully so. While certainly a challenge, finding and converting newcomers is not an insurmountable task. Here are a few best practices you can evaluate and put to work for your company.

1. Partner appropriately. Just because a luxury brand exists doesn’t mean it has the right wealthy clientele (or wealthy clientele, period). Drill down into the customer demographics to see if the client base is complementary to yours. Some data is available via research firms, either for free or for a fee. Research by Wealth-X, widely considered the leader in providing intelligence on ultra-high-net-worth consumers, regularly shows that art and private aviation are the only two annual expenditures that outrank yachting, for example.

Whatever brand and luxury industry you ultimately select, it’s just as vital to make sure there’s more than a customerlist exchange. The partnership should focus on image enhancement (for both of you), and the marketing styles of both teams should be similar. Furthermore, your teams should work together to outline the promotional strategies, set the budgets, and assign responsibilities.

2. Consider seemingly out-of-the-box marketing. Did you know that on any given autumn weekend across the country, several hundred private jets take ultra-wealthy people and their families to their alma maters for football games? And did you know that these numbers rival those of Art Basel? These rae the findings of Doug Gollan, a business consultant who has more than two decades’ worth of experience marketing to ultra-high-net-worth individuals. (Among other things, Gollan co-founded Elite Traveler magazine.) Consider, too, that NetJets’ own data reveals that the Kentucky Derby puts more of its planes in the air than the Monaco Grand Prix does. With figures like these, outwardly odd events aren’t so odd for staging a meet-and-greet or other campaign after all.

3. Create a strategic alliance with a private concierge. Private concierges have virtual Rolodexes filled with qualified potential customers, whether directly or via family offices. They excel at arranging intimate events where companies like yours get one-on-one access to these people. Imagine, too, the pleasure your clients will get in meeting the private concierge, who can arrange meet-and-greets with their favorite celebrity or sports star, or other tailored experiences.

4. Don’t forget your current customers. So often we overlook the simplest solution in our efforts to expand our businesses. You may have already gained new customers thanks to your current happy clients. If you’ve previously asked for referrals, ask again; if you’ve never asked, what are you waiting for?

5. Above all, understand−and clearly convey−that you’re selling an experience. Mykolas Rambus, the CEO of Wealth-X, has an excellent story related to the wealth-chasing in Silicon Valley that underscores this point: “Traditional luxury brands need to rethink their strategy in approaching the ultra wealthy who have made their fortunes in the technology sector,” he says. “You could open a boutique with high-end jewelry, bringing the best of Switzerland to Silicon Valley, but no one may care. Will tech billionaires want the latest luxury watch? Maybe if they go out and build it themselves, or if they understand the engineering and creation process, or that it’s personalized. Luxury providers have to re-envision the experience. It’s not about, ‘Here’s an expensive thing; it’s nice and shiny and complicated. Buy it.’”

So, how does this relate to yachting? Simple. You’re not selling Brand XYZ’s fastest sport yacht; you’re providing a super-fun, super-fast way for the customer to take his or her thrill-loving friends to the Bahamas for lunch. You’re not selling a charter; you’re opening the door to a weeklong vacation where the kids can knock themselves out on an inflatable slide and spot dolphins swimming alongside the yacht. Either way, just as you do with your current clients, understand the basic desires that are driving that customer, and frame the ownership experience around them.