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A new wave in search of yachting’s Dr Spock

Examining the surge of new clients to yachting and some of their first-time impressions…

Mark Duncan, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Fraser Yachts and author of best-selling Smart Yacht Marketing 101, examines the surge of new clients to yachting and shares some of their first-time impressions.

This article first appeared in The Superyacht Owner Report. To gain access to The Superyacht Group’s full suite of content, publications, events and services, click here to join The Superyacht Group Community and become one of our members.

It won’t have gone unnoticed that the year in which many yachting companies reduced their marketing spend and travel, networking was sorely restricted and yacht shows simply didn’t happen was the year when our industry witnessed one of the greatest surges in demand for yachts and yachting in more than 13 years.

It took a pandemic to finally position boating and yachting on the radar for a whole new wave of would-be owners and charterers. Our industry has only ever succeeded in converting less than 10 per cent of all those with the means to sample what yachting has to offer; now more of the remaining 90 per cent are motivated to give it a try.

The current demand has not been driven by any desire to buy or charter a yacht. It’s the result of a greater, more existential need – a focused desire to be with those we care for in a free and safe environment. A timely reminder that, as humans, we don’t buy products just because they exist – we buy them because of the benefits we perceive they bring us.

“It doesn’t matter how big your home is,” one new owner told me. “Houses don’t move. When you can’t move either, and family aren’t with you, it is only a matter of time before your home starts feeling like a gilded cage.”

Mark Duncan, director of marketing, Fraser Yachts

Over the past 18 months, for many of those with the ability and desire to escape those gilded cages and be together in a more fulfilling environment, one solution has been to purchase property in more ‘back to nature’ locations. Since July last year, the luxury property market worldwide has reportedly grown between 60 and 90 per cent on previous years. Boating and yachting have offered a second solution, and that’s where the greatest growth is taking place. As one first-time buyer somewhat surprisingly revealed, “It only dawned on me recently that a yacht can be more than just something to travel on.”

As of early August, data from our own in-house Fraser Central Intelligence Department (CID) shows worldwide sales of yachts above 24m pacing at a staggering 230 per cent above the average for the first seven months of any year since records began in 2009. Every size sector is witnessing growth. The lion’s share, however, lies in the 24-60m sector with sales of 24-40m yachts, the entry point to our market, more than double the average of the past two years and accounting for more than 80 per cent of all sales. Perhaps, not surprisingly, this is the sector with the greatest number of first-time buyers – almost 40 per cent according to our own analysis (a number also mirrored within our charter business).

So with so many fresh new eyes surveying our market for the first time, what key first impressions has this new wave of clientele been left with from an industry so keen to impress? “You are all THE #1,” joked one buyer, among many. “At least six of you are #1 at the same thing – selling the most yachts. How can that be?” Is anyone else reading this now and recalling that wonderful line popularised by Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics”?

For the increasing number approaching our market without a recommended broker or shared insight from a friend, the greatest first impression seems to be the difficulty in getting to know ‘who is who’ in our sector. “I was going in blind,” said one potential buyer. “In other industries, I can find a Forbes ranking or an IBD [Investors Business Daily] ‘Most Trusted’ list to help give me a steer on companies worth considering. If that exists in yachting, I certainly didn’t find it. I ended up having to reach out to four companies before I could confidently think of moving forward. Very time-consuming and a bit confusing … you all say the same things!”

For many, industry website offerings vary from being ‘professional’, ‘informative’ and ‘helpful’ to ‘difficult to understand’ or ‘useless on the phone’. One of the most common frustrations is probably best summed up by an American billionaire: “Guys, the days of websites being just shop windows are gone. Look at travel concierges. Where’s my own dashboard to save my chosen yachts, and compare features, prices, and locations? I want live feeds with the latest offers. I didn’t see much evidence of that anywhere. Make things easier!”

Of course, some originally queried why more of the buying process couldn’t be conducted online, but once they started exchanging with brokers about what they wanted, how to find it and then secure it, most realised Click & Collect was not the way to go. In fact, most appreciated the mine of information and insight their broker brought to the table in guiding them through their purchase.

And therein lies a refreshing takeaway. Aside from our need to continue focusing on smoothing out those touch points at the beginning of every new client’s journey of discovery, it’s the confirmation that despite those headlines over recent years predicting the ‘fall of the broker’ as online tech democratised access to information, the reality today is that it’s not just information new clients crave and benefit from. It’s insight – the personalised added value that holds the key to enjoying the best from yachting, something exclusively held and shared by the world’s most experienced brokers and the teams that work alongside them.

One owner recently told me, “Owning a boat is like having kids – they cost you lots of money, cause you never-ending problems, result in countless arguments with your spouse, keep you awake at night and yet when all is said and done, you wouldn’t change it for the world.”

For those clients looking for the yachting equivalent of Dr Spock or Heidi Murkoff, the answer is a quality broker … once you know how to find one!

 

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