There are a select group of individuals in the superyacht industry who oversee the client-facing activities of a shipyard – both marketing the brand to the wider world and securing the sale.

For some of the world’s top yards these roles have been combined under the banner ‘sales and marketing director’, a role that has transformed seemingly in tandem with the industry’s own evolution. As the breadth of the market has become global for example, so has the requirement of the sales and marketing director to pinpoint the regions with most potential, as Heesen’s Mark Cavendish told

“On the marketing side you need to understand who your clientele are, and you need to have a general understanding of the financial climate – which [markets] are going up and which are going down, and which have the highest concentration of potential buyers.”

Equally, the pressures of the downturn, which have triggered an inevitable upturn in competition, have put greater emphasis on the need for one’s brand to remain omnipresent. Even for the “well respected” businesses, says Derecktor’s James Brewer, “one is constantly having to re-establish relationships because there is a relatively speedy throughput of skippers and decision-makers on these vessels.” Target markets are liable to change and customers are prone to moving around the industry making the importance of brand visibility paramount.

As Cavendish says, this marketing process then requires a next step, which is to convert the preliminary work into a sale, something that marrying the two roles improves the efficacy of.

However, he acknowledges, “The marketing side of the role is the bigger of the two jobs.” While, external economic pressures excluded, selling has remained an age-old process. “It would be lovely to say we spend all of our time selling yachts and none of the time marketing our company, but as any business knows, it’s the opposite way round!” Cavendish jokes.

And the flipside of that, as Brewer highlights, is that a marketing director who heads sales has an innate knowledge of what the enterprise’s capacity is, and whether there is the scope to bring work in.

Whereas smaller operations are more likely to have these key roles assumed by the CEO or COO, it is a luxury that the bigger yards can afford to have someone dedicated to the role.

Having said that, Cavendish says he has often felt that the role would be better defined ‘commercial director’, which encompasses the entirety of the sales process. But regardless of semantics, he feels combining the two roles under the oversight of one individual generates the most desirable result, because the two processes are inextricably linked and require an intricate knowledge of each other.

And this is part of a broader ‘strategy’ that begins at a fundamental level, identifying what is being sold, who it is being sold to, and how it is going to be sold to that customer. “At the end of the day selling is marketing”, says ISA Yachts’ Hein Velema, who has held the position in various sectors of the industry. “[Salespeople] are not only trying to sell a product, they’re shaping the image of the brand.”

Velema adds that this is precisely the reason why the two disciplines are best centrally managed, although he emphasises that this only works if both divisions are working from a fundamental strategy. “Sales and marketing need to be in tune with each other, and this can only be achieved by someone who has an important role to play in [strategy formulation].”

In a competitive market, a good sales and marketing director will quickly establish how to make one's brand stand out from the crowd.

Profile links

Derecktor Shipyards Florida

Heesen Yachts

ISA - International Shipyards Ancona

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