Just weeks after the masses descended on Amsterdam to talk ‘shop’ at The Superyacht Forum, a smaller, more targeted audience congregated in the somewhat more salubrious setting of London’s Curtain hotel for The Superyacht Marketing Forum.
I must say, after three days of intense industry interlocution just a few weeks ago, I found it incredibly refreshing to welcome a series of speakers from outside our curious little world to impart their wisdom, or at the very, least offer a different perspective on how we collectively expand our horizons.
Indeed, it was perspective that comprised the focus of opener, acclaimed cinematographer, Sir Franz Pagot’s address. It is always inspiring to engage with a Knight of the Realm, and Sir Franz’s message about the means of unleashing one’s creativity certainly resonated with me. “The thing with creativity is that people are afraid - afraid of unleashing their inner child”, he said. While that may not sound like much in the way of actionable advice, it’s something I agree with strongly, and feel many of us probably struggle with: rules, regulations, customs, and societal norms all serve to hinder our ability to think outside the box as we get older, and it could certainly go some way to explaining why it is easier to fall into staid processes that have served the test of time, instead of trying to instigate something radical or innovative.
And that’s where my favourite speaker of the day comes in. Callum Gill, Head of Client Insight and Innovation at creative communications agency DRP Group, was nothing short of inspirational, balancing a mixture of actionable advice with future thinking.
While we’re all in the trenches, trying to scrap our way to a more lucrative market, and a build a path to utopia based on abstract ideas, it’s a welcome change to hear from someone new, who can present a new way of thinking.
I get the feeling Gill wasn’t to all tastes, but there are a few truisms he highlighted that our industry is certainly guilty of. ‘Companies are scared of alienating Generation X because they’ve been receiving their business for decades and this hinders innovation’. True of our industry? Of course! ‘This same generation suffers from an outdated paranoia surrounding personal information and data’. Sound familiar? Of course it does!
This may not seem revelatory, but the key takeaway is that the battleground for clients’ attention is not just evolving, but undergoing a complete transfiguration. The likes of AR and voice recognition tools are not commercial space of tomorrow, but today. And those who aren’t alert to this seismic transformation will cease to compete. When it comes to the new generation of clients, “The validators are the most important people in marketing. If they don’t validate the early adopters, there is little chance of [the product or innovation in question] being successful.”
The final piece of the puzzle came in the form of Prof. Dr. Phil Klaus, Professor of Customer Experience and Marketing Strategy at the International University of Monaco. While Klaus repeatedly implored the audience not to “kill the messenger”, it was a fairly blunt appraisal of the industry’s client engagement abilities. Klaus has undertaken an empirical study of the industry’s CX (customer experience) returns, and although he delivered the figures with wit and panache, they will make for bleak reading for anyone who has been tasked with CX for their particular company. “CX is irrefutably a CEO’s number one priority, [and it comes in] three stages: pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase. You guys mostly focus on pre-purchase. But post-purchase has by far the biggest impact on [client advocacy]”, Klaus explained. He compared it to “Using cannonballs to shoot squirrels.”
In what was a fairly barbed, but well-meaning exchange of words with the industry marketeers present, Klaus said his survey of owner sentiment had concluded that yachting was comparable to the Nine Gates of Hell from Dante’s Inferno.
It is worth noting at this stage, that this sample only comprised 13 owners, and cannot be said to be exhaustive. Indeed, I would proffer that a similar survey undertaken by The Superyacht Agency’s Intelligence division would garner more conclusive results, but he was still able to offer some sage advice to those present. “Only what gets measured, gets managed… And remember, you’re competing FOR owners, not against others.”
And with that, day one concluded. And I for one was left feeling edified, and with a small sense that our industry is slowly finding its feet in the ‘real world’.
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