GROWTH: Attract What You Are and Who You Are

Published on June 19th, 2013

Lou Sandoval is a passionate sailor and co-founder/co-owner of Karma Yacht Sales, a successful Beneteau dealership on Lake Michigan in Chicago. He is also very active in the marine industry. Here is an excerpt from an interview where he was asked how it can be made easier for a kid sailing an Optimist dinghy today to be sailing a 34-footer 20 years from now…

I can’t begin to emphasize how important this is. People that know me well at my yacht club or in the Lake Michigan sailing community know how passionate I am about this topic. When we bought the dealership, we were in our late 30s. In our industry we were often looked at as “kids.”

As we attended boat shows, we started noticing a trend. Everyone was our parents’ age or older. We surveyed our customer base and identified the mean age of our buyers to be about 58. Doing quick math, we realized that, at this rate, in a couple of decades many of these boaters might be out of the sport with no new generation behind them.

This was a huge business problem. It might have been because of where we are in life – younger families, active lifestyles – but little by little we started to change how we locally marketed the sport in the imagery or wording for our hard-copy ads and in conversations with buyers. We started attracting a lot of younger buyers – sailors who, like us, were Generation Xers that had kids or younger families. We started to see the median age decline for our buyers.

The lesson in this is that you attract what you are and who you are. For the sport of sailing to remain pertinent, we need to continue to involve young people in the industry at all parts. We need to continue to incorporate their perspective. The “gray-haired” group can’t be the only ones making the design decisions.

Taking it to another level: A little-known fact about sailboat racers is that for every racing boat sold there are about four to five cruising boats sold. Sailboat racing is a sub-segment of a broader grouping, each important to the growth of the overall sport of sailing. Sailboat racing is undergoing its own transition and has experienced a decline in participation of its own. – Read on

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