It’s one of the easiest sales you’ll ever make: A couple comes into the showroom and wants the same make and model that their neighbors have. They’ve been out on the water with these friends, they know how the boat handles and how much fun is.

What makes this sale so easy? Your existing owners are doing the hard work for you. They demo the boat, talk up its benefits, explain what it takes to own one. With all due respect to your internal team and dealers, your owners are your best salespeople.

Marketers call this “social proof”: When faced with a decision, people look to others for clues about what decision to make.

It’s worth taking a minute to understand the concept of social proof as a marketing tool; venture capitalist Aileen Lee wrote an easy-to-understand explanation on TechCrunch.com.

This kind of influence that steers buying decisions can happen in different ways. It can be a testimonial from a happy owner, or an Instagram post showing a family enjoying their boat. It can be a popular fishing guide talking about your brand in a YouTube video.

4 Types of Social Proof & How They Apply to Your Boating Business

Let’s look at four different types of social proof and how they apply to your business:

Endorsements from experts and celebrities can convince buyers that your brand or a particular model is right for them. In our industry, experts include professional anglers, guides and captains. Celebrities might be those folks who have a significant online following or a TV show. For example, Captain Blair Wiggins of “Addictive Fishing” owns and showcases multiple skiffs built by our client Beavertail Skiffs. Plenty of his fans want to fish the boat he fishes.

Review sites like Yelp are a way for fellow users to influence purchases in another form of social proof. For boaters, forums like The Hull Truth, the Florida Sportsman magazine forums and Microskiff.com allow owners to share advice and newbies to gather info about the type of boat they should buy.

What Lee calls wisdom of the crowd shows how group opinion can influence buyers. It tells prospects, “If lots of other people are buying and enjoying this product, you will too.” Testimonials from your most satisfied owners can be an irresistible lure to prospects.

Finally, there’s wisdom of your friends – the most powerful influence of all. Folks dreaming of owning a boat tend to align themselves with what their buddies have – they all buy the same brand and become part of the same community.

Social Proof Tactics that Drive Boat Sales

Two strategies can help you leverage social proof to attract potential buyers of your boats and products:

1) Capture and use testimonials.

Social proof tells us that people making a decision – and at a mid-level price of $40–$70K, a boat is a pretty major purchasing decision – rely on others for reassurance. Customers who’ve had a great sales experience and are in love with your products are eager to share their stories; you just need to ask for them.

I feel strongly that the sales process should be really personal; you should take great care of your customers through the sale and build and delivery. What happens after that is hugely important, too. Call that new owner after about a month and check in, ask how’s it going and if they have any questions. Say, “Hey, we’d love to add your story to the owners page on our website.” Most people are more than willing to send you a couple of paragraphs and photos.

Share those stories in a dedicated section of your website (we built this feature into the Beavertail Skiffs website, and it’s been a hit). Use quotes in social media and your printed materials. Include a New Owner Spotlight in your email campaign. Make testimonials the focus of a consumer-oriented ad campaign.

2) Keep owners engaged with your brand.

We’ve shared how to use the right language to keep people connected to your brand. Creating in-person connection is important, too. Host events for your owners like rendezvous and tournaments. When you sponsor a demo day at a marina, promote it to your base: You’ll see a lot of owners show up with their boats to join the party. Engaged owners are most likely to encourage people they know to buy your boats, too.

More and more, consumers look to people they know – and those they don’t – for honest information about the boating brands they’re considering. And the feedback they receive greatly influences their buying decisions.

Leverage the power of your biggest fans – they’ll make your sales team’s job that much easier.


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