When I bought a new boat a handful of years ago, I knew which brand I wanted and had a specific model in mind. But when I went to the manufacturer’s website to research pricing, I found … nothing. No ranges, no MSRP for the model I was eyeing, nothing.

Turns out, it’s not uncommon for boat brands to overlook pricing on their websites. For the consumer, it’s a frustrating barrier to purchasing; for the manufacturer, it means potentially losing a sale.

I find this to be a head-scratcher not just as a boating enthusiast but as a marketing strategist with deep experience in the boating industry. Here at Thrive, we’ve evaluated more than 100 boat manufacturer websites, and we often see that manufacturers don’t really sell the excitement of owning a boat. They miss out on telling a unique story that separates their products from the competition. They make it hard for customers to purchase.

We steer our clients in the boating industry clear of these avoidable hazards, partnering with brands to develop an entire marketing ecosystem that hooks the right prospects, convinces them to buy and engages them over the long term. If you have a hunch that your website is falling short on any of those goals, we can help. Here’s how.

Let Customers See Themselves in Your Boat

As a boat brand, you’re not selling a product. You’re selling a way of life. Yet so often, manufacturers’ websites depict empty boats on trailers or in slips. It’s so much more powerful to paint a picture for customers that lets them imagine themselves in one of your boats.

So we’ll work with you to create customized, targeted website content that communicates all the excitement and fun of a great day out on the water and showcases the experience of using the boat. Video and lifestyle photography can demonstrate the versatility of the craft — for example, a family can go wakeboarding behind a ski boat and then pull up on a beach and have lunch.

Build Affinity & Trust

Content also gives customers confidence. A boat is a major investment for most folks, and they may be considering more than one builder. Your brand’s origin story — the people behind the boats, why they got into the business in the first place and why they’re great builders — makes people feel good about aligning themselves with your culture and spending their money with you. As we’ve surveyed the industry, we’ve been surprised how few manufacturers don’t have a detailed “About Us” or “Our Story” page on their websites. A great story can really set your brand apart from direct competitors.

The brand’s narrative is just part of the robust content strategy we develop for our clients. What can a content strategy do for you? It boosts your chances that prospects will find your site when they search online, and it gives your existing owners reasons to come back to your site. We help clients create a library of video, photos and articles that they can also share with their community via email and social media. Our content strategy can give you a competitive edge, because by and large the boating industry is way behind on this.

Make it Easy for Customers to Buy

Engaging copy and sun-dappled photos are essential components of a great boating website, sure — but we’re out to drive sales. That means building a site that attracts the right visitors, gives them the information they’re looking for (including models and pricing) and then guides them on a logical path toward conversion (like finding a dealer or submitting an online form).

Let’s start with pricing: Most consumers are familiar with the process of buying a car, and they know they can visit an automaker’s website and find the suggested retail price for a base model. They expect access to the same cost information when they buy a boat.

But about half the boating websites we’ve audited lack pricing altogether, and the rest make it really difficult to find. Prospective buyers don’t want to feel out of their league and embarrassed when they eventually speak with a sales rep and ask how much they model they’ve chosen actually costs. So we make it easy for consumers to find basic pricing information. For manufacturers that offer some degree of customization, we also recommend a build-a-boat feature that allows prospects to spec out their dream model with add-ons and finishes, then see what it’ll cost them. And it’s critical that this feature is technically sound so users have a seamless experience.

Once a prospect has researched models and costs, their next step is to locate a dealer. Most boat brands’ websites we’ve evaluated do a decent job of this, but some make it impossible to find out where to buy their boats, and it’s such a missed opportunity to close the sale. People are coming to your site to research a purchase, so it should offer a tool that lets them locate their nearest dealer by plugging in their ZIP code to find a list with full contact information and perhaps a map.

While it should be a no-brainer, fewer than half the sites we’ve reviewed have a clear email opt-in. We make it easy for folks to stay in touch with you by adding a sign-up field to your homepage and other relevant pages deeper in your site. We can also help you develop a monthly newsletter campaign that addresses prospects who’ve signed up via your website.

Our website development process, based on our experience in the boating industry and our defined best practices, helps manufacturers attract the right prospects and win repeat business. We’re boating enthusiasts ourselves, and we know how to capture the sheer enjoyment of cruising, fishing and beach-hopping. Ready for a conversation about your website? Give us a shout.


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