An industry unto its own
Anyone who has dealt with the superyacht will know that it is unlike any traditional industry. Apart from its exclusivity niche characteristics, the superyacht industry is a movable feast with a revolving door of personnel and crew. I am concentrating here on the psycho-dynamics of dealing with a yacht crew who are consuming services, from the captain down to the engineers, electricians, interiors, pursers, and stewardesses who generally fit into the youth bracket. Just how do you establish a rapport with these guys when they are constantly on the move.
A moveable feast
Relationships in the superyacht industry are portable as crew move between yachts. You might get a good thing going with one set of crew only to find a change of incoming personnel changes everything. But you also may find that an incoming crew member will import their relationship with you into the current business practices of their new yacht. Or a new engineer may have an established network of suppliers and you just don’t fit there. This is pretty much par for the course in most industries but with yachts the turnover of crew is much higher. You have just about got a relationship going and they skedaddle off to another boat.
There are also pyscho-dynamics of the yacht to consider. One crew member may be a dominant decision influencer, subtly steering certain supply chain decisions. Not to forget that interpersonal relationships between crew in a confined environment can lead to a pressure environment in which crew use suppliers who they feel comfortable with rather than considering efficiency or price. It is a basic tenet in all sales activity there has to be engagement on the psychological and emotional level. In yachting, you have to be an actor and develop different levels for different yachts . But if your act is unconvincing you may come across as unctuous and insincere. It can all be a bit of drama sometimes.
You had me at hello
I first started in the marine industry as a ship chandler in the Italian port of Livorno, when the tramp vessels would berth, offload, pick up new cargo and sail off. When a vessel berthed there would be a host of chandlers waiting to compete on the quay, all trying to get the attention of the crew. I noticed that the guy who was most successful was the most economical in his sales approach; he merely waited for the right moment to establish contact – an exchange of eye movement followed by a quick approach. He was the crafty king of chandlers, the Don Miguel of the dockside. My hero.
Ride the wave
This is pretty much how it works in the superyacht industry. You have to wait for the yacht to need what you have to offer and then ride that wave. No amount of shouting out will cut it. Forget email marketing, That is so old hat.
The serious players establish bases in the main areas of yacht predominance. It is quantum marketing – based on the observation that quantum particles travelling ina continual flow tend to congregate in a few areas. These are Antibes and Ft Lauderdale. The Monaco Yacht Show and the Ft Lauderdale Show are the two big events but cost a fortune, and unless you have a stall there, forget it. Everyone is selling there, not buying. The Yachting apps are good for exposure.
Who you going to call?
One important aspect of selling to yachts is that a lot of the crew have little commercial experience. They know yachts, are educated and bright but have limited experience in business. Part of your approach is to hold their hand and talk them through the process. They will remember this and will pass your name along. Superyacht Cargo who deal with logistics, moving stores and parts, say they do no advertising – all their new business comes from crew moving on. Reliability is paramount.
Once you have that relationship established hold onto it for dear life. Xmas cards, birthday wishes, not over the top, but be there in their list of contacts. So when they need something, who they going to call?