With the way lakes, oceans, rivers, bays and other waterways are busy right now, it’s hard to imagine a time when the boats will be put away. But for many of us, there is a boating season, and then there’s winter.
And when winter comes, as a a consumer, it becomes frustrating to make those boat payments, knowing your boat is sitting, unused in your garage, alongside the house, or in storage. This is especially true for first-time boat buyers, and those who used their vacation money in 2020 to buy a boat rather than travel.
Reaching out to your customers in these moments of doubt are key touchpoints to assure that we don’t lose our customers.
So, as the season winds down (whenever that might come in 2020), it’s time to start thinking about your marketing, sales and outreach plans for the fall, winter and early spring. What can you be doing in the off-season, if you have one, to reach out to your customers and get them excited about the next boating season?
Here are nine ideas of how to contact your customers in the coming months:
1. Personal outreach to your customers: Call, text, email, or video chat with your customers. Aim for a personal outreach at least once in the off-season to check-in with each of your customers, understand how you can set them up for success for next year’s boating season, and get them more excited about the boating lifestyle.
2. Run a customer photo contest: Ask your customers to dig out their summer photos for a contest. Give away some sort of prize or prizes. This helps customers go back to their boating photos, reminisce over their awesome summer and remember how great it is to own a boat. Plus, other customers and prospective customers will see the excitement those families experienced over the summer. Certified Dealer Norfolk Marine hosted a photo contest for their customers this past spring that’s worth checking out.
3. Share boating lifestyle videos: When the chill has set in, people love thinking about the warmth. So share boating lifestyle videos with your customers via social media, email and/or text. Videos can be found for free through Discover Boating. Your manufacturers also likely have some available, as do any pro athletes associated with your brands. And your customers may have some to share as well. As Lead Certification Consultant Bob McCann reminded us recently, Video is King, so use it!
4. Host off-season events: While COVID-19 may prevent your dealership from hosting in-person, indoor events this off-season, consider hosting a few virtual events. Maybe it’s a class on winterizing, or oil changes. Or maybe it’s information about safety or a boat show preview. Get creative, host the event live, and record the event, giving you optimal use of one event.
5. Show your customers what off-season looks like at your dealership: Customers might think you just close up shop the second they put their boat in storage, so show them what kind of activity goes on within your store after the boats are out of the water. Showcase what service is up to. Remind them that the parts and accessories department is open. Take a spin through storage, asking your customers if they can spot their boat.
6. Tell your customers how you’re improving: Many dealers spend the off-season getting their operations prepped for the next season. Show your customers the work your team is putting in to improve their experience with your dealership. If you’re going to Dealer Week to learn about the customer experience, tell them. If you get Certified or are working on your Continuous Certification education, let them know you’re making those improvements for their benefit. If you’re attending a 20 Group or participating in any other type of education, share that. Make sure you take photos and video to capture your customer’s attention.
7. Host an ice-out contest: Many of you on icy bodies of water may be already doing this, but if you’re not yet, consider adding an ice-out contest. Have your customers vote for when they think the ice will break for boating season and offer a prize for the winner. This will build up the excitement right before the season begins.
8. Create a countdown: Pick a boating date to get excited about, whether it’s your area’s fishing opener, the first holiday of the season (Memorial Day or Victoria Day), or a date that customers are typically pulling their boat out of storage and create a countdown. Remind your customers how many days are left on a weekly basis.
9. Host a sale: Just because people are no longer boating doesn’t mean they aren’t still thinking about boating parts and accessories, especially around the holidays and shortly before the season starts. Put a product or a group of products on sale, and tell your customers to stop by, so you can continue to build your relationship with them, and they can get more used to coming into the showroom.
You probably have a hundred or more other ideas of how to reach out to customers when they can’t be out on their boat, and you’re probably already doing a lot of outreach. (Please share these ideas in the comments, if you have some.) The important thing to remember is to keep those dreams of the boating lifestyle alive, even when the boat is locked up for the year.
We don’t want customers to fall into new hobbies or habits in the off-season that will take them away from boating, instead we want customers to get to a point where they can’t imagine not owning a boat. And we can help get them in that mindset.