A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Today’s ‘influencer’ is tomorrow’s boat buyer


It’s 7:10 in the morning, and I don’t have to look up to know the source of the sound. My son is snapping shut for the sixth or seventh time the plastic buckles on the new life jacket we bought the previous evening.

Sailing camp is still two hours off, but the kid is excited and proud of his new PFD. Sharp colors, nice design, comfortable fit … substantial price tag. He says he would have been fine with the less expensive jacket he tried on, but this is the one he really wanted.

“Dad, look. See, it fits really well. No ride-up.”

Michael is a tall, freckle-faced 11-year-old who is also emerging as an influencer of the way we spend our boating dollars and recreational time. The yellow Laser I purchased last fall from a retired mechanical engineer is tangible proof of both his budding passion and his parents’ belief that time spent on the water is time well spent. I suspect (and hope) I will be reaching deeper into my pocket as time goes by and his boating horizons expand.

We all know, even if we sometimes need to be reminded, of the important role played in a boat purchase by a spouse, a significant other, a life partner — call him or her what you want. Ignoring or alienating these keepers of the purse as they quietly follow in the wake of their out-front alpha-dog skippers will put you at risk of losing a sale.

But don’t overlook the power of the kids to influence a purchase, either. It’s real, and it’s something you might miss if you’re not looking for it.

I don’t remember the first time I heard the term “influencer” in this context, but I recall Correct Craft president and CEO Bill Yeargin using it to make a point during our Trade Only roundtable at the Miami International Boat Show last winter.

“The role of kids in the buying process is often overlooked,” Yeargin told me. “There is no question that kids heavily influence purchase decisions.”

As a parent and a boater I’m in favor of healthy activities that disconnect my children from the virtual universe and thrust them back into the outdoors, into the world of salt spray, tippy little boats and knots where the rabbit goes up the hole, around the tree and back down the hole. We’re willing to pay for tow tubes and wakeboards, sailing lessons, fishing rods, fancy five-toe water shoes — even boats.

Why? This is something worth passing on. This will make their lives richer over the long haul. Sooner or later, Mother Nature and the deep blue sea will work their magic on them, as it has on us.

Young people are important to this industry not only for the influence they might hold over today’s purchase, but also for the role they will play as the primary boating constituents of tomorrow. Kids are only kids for so long.


One comment on “Today’s ‘influencer’ is tomorrow’s boat buyer

  1. Wanda Kenton

    Many years ago I wrote a dedicated column in STO about the power and influence of kids on the purchase of everything from family dining to boats. It is a trillion dollar industry that is impacted by youth and children and your comments, Bill, are spot on, as usual. As an industry, we have often targeted the tiring 35-54 white male and totally missed the boat in reaching emerging and highly influential markets. We need to focus on getting kids on the water at an early age if we hope to build and expand our sport. Our kids need celebrity role models to inspire and motivate them as are found in other sports. Maybe it’s time for another column on this topic. I would like to know of any marine business out there besides those in the wakeboard and waterski segment who do a marvelous job attracting this niche of the market and who have been successful in resulting sales. I handled the Correct Craft account for 4.5 years and I personally witnessed on multiple occasions when youngsters would drag dad and mom to the boat of choice and within an hour, the deal had been done on boats in the $75k range (at that time).
    Hope your son has a blast at sailing camp! The sailing industry has a better grasp than most in the industry on this market (other than the wakeboard and waterski set) with so many great youth sailing programs. We can and should raise the awareness on this subject and figure out how to get kids on the water instead of only on the soccer, football and baseball fields.

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