Does your website have a tool that helps prospective owners configure their ideal boat? Does your homepage include video that shows how much fun it is to get out on the water in your latest model?
Those are just two of the must-have features for a boating brand’s website. We have evaluated more than 100 boating websites and benchmarked the best online marketing practices that attract customers and drive sales.
And we were still constantly surprised by how many boating websites lack the essential ingredients for success. So many boating brands make major marketing mistakes like:
- Pitching the product instead of selling the fun and excitement of the boating lifestyle, in both content and imagery
- Showing empty boats on trailers, rather than using video and action photos to paint a picture of how the products perform on the water
- Making it difficult for customers to figure out which model is right for them
- Overwhelming people with specs and jargon
- Overlooking key features like a pricing tool or configurator/builder
- Burying or omitting essential sales information like local dealers, so customers can’t figure out how to buy
- Neglecting an ongoing content strategy that connects with both prospects and loyal owners
Why Boating Industry Expertise Matters
When we spot these glaring problems, we can only assume that the websites were built by agencies or developers who don’t understand the boating industry. Who don’t understand why owners buy. Who aren’t boating enthusiasts themselves.
Hiring a marketing agency to support your brand is a major decision that can have lasting impact on sales. That’s why it’s smart to find a partner who “gets it.” Generalist marketing and design agencies without that boating industry expertise will struggle to build a website correctly because they haven’t spent time studying competitive sites within the category, don’t work with enough clients in the market and haven’t established a standardized process targeted to boating brands’ needs.
Building a Better Website in 4 Steps
Building an effective boating website doesn’t start with plugging images and copy into a homepage template. Rather, our process begins with thoughtful research and analysis. Here’s how we steer a website project from concept to launch:
Step 1: Discover
Step 1 is a full-blown brand audit or, at bare minimum, a website audit. We review every print and online page, every ad and every social channel to see how your brand presents itself to the world. It’s tempting to just dive into the design process — and judging by the ineffectiveness of most boating websites, most agencies bypass this analysis phase.
We compare what the brand is doing currently against our benchmarks for success, identifying where your existing site excels and where it falls short. This phase also spotlights problems that you may not see. A series of interviews with your team helps us build a deep knowledge of your business. Our baseline understanding of the boating market is especially valuable here; because we’ve done so much research, we know what we’re looking for and can move quickly to pinpoint challenges and opportunities.
Based on our shared understanding of what’s working and what isn’t, we recommend a solution and then work with your team to establish goals and metrics for the project.
Step 2: Create
With that foundation, we can shift into design and development. In this phase, lots of project components overlap: creative concepts, site architecture, content strategy, user experience considerations. We determine what existing content, both copy and imagery, can carry forward and what needs to be created from scratch. We share relevant examples of our recommended visual direction with you before digging into creating a site design. We develop live so you can see the progress in real time.
Step 3: Deploy
The process of testing, launching and quality assurance is important enough to warrant its own phase. Before the website goes live, we work with your team to test every element to make sure it works as we envision. Is it easy to find information? Is the order process seamless? Do videos load quickly? Have we overlooked anything?
We also look “under the hood” to be sure the site infrastructure, content management system and reporting tools are working properly. This step is where you and your team learn to take the wheel, so you can maintain the site’s content going forward. We’ll train you on the system so you’ll feel qualified to update blog articles, post new videos and add new product pages as your brand and your website evolve.
Step 4: Cultivate
After the site launches, it’s congratulations all around. But the work doesn’t end there. Your website is the hub of a whole marketing ecosystem that attracts new buyers and engages existing owners. It’s part of a comprehensive marketing strategy that involves adding new content to the site, building a community on social media, using print and digital advertising, and luring customers through optimized search — all of which drives traffic to your website.
Concerned that your website isn’t getting the job done? Not sure where to start? We know the boating industry, and we’re happy to share our expertise.
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