Ahoy, Ahoy! Charter Boats Are Already “On-Board” With Social Media

“In this day and age the most successful (boat) charter companies are the ones that embrace new technologies and connect themselves directly with their target audiences,” explains Jonathan Bowker, founder of Maritime Media.

This comes across as good advice from a very knowledgeable authority in one niche industry confronted by the new marketing realities of today. Jon Bowker knows that the Social Media Marketing “ship set sail” awhile ago and that his own charter boat clients were on it due to his sound consultation.

Frankly, Bowker’s above quote applies to just about every other type of business, whether niche or mainstream. Reliable statistics show that very few industries have not already begun integrating Social Media Marketing strategies into their traditional marketing plans. Any savvy marketer knows that he/she must be wherever their audiences are. It’s a sure bet that their audiences are already engaging others, including their closest competitors, on Social Media.

Charters are On-Board with Social Media Marketing

Boat and yacht charters really lend themselves well to Social Media, because they depict pleasant visual experiences that engage readers through multimedia content shared via Google News and Social Media apps like Facebook, Twitter, Linked and more. It’s all about creating an attainable daydream for consumers. Successful bookings can result if they are emotionally inspired to envision themselves setting sail against a backdrop of periwinkle blue skies, medium blue waters and with a clear ocean spray caressing their faces. Within their vivid imaginations, they watch as their daily stresses shrink behind their charter boat as it approaches the setting sun.

Charter boat companies sell pleasurable experiences. They represent the anti-dote for stressful living and serve as a welcome alternative to the repetitive “everyday.” When effectively harnessed and shared with others through a variety of Social Media outlets, the power of traveler experiences can be an awesome sales tool for charter boat companies.

Customer reviews are the most effective social tactic for driving charter boat sales. They are followed in strength by question-and-answer features and also by having a well-done Facebook fan page where they regularly post customer-oriented information. This is all per an Etailing survey of 117 companies taken back in September of 2009. A related survey also found that 90% of online consumers strongly trusted the recommendations of people they knew. The 90% is in contrast to the 70% of online consumers, who said that they trusted opinions of unknown users (Econsultancy, July 2009).

In another related study, 84% of consumers said they were more likely to check online for reviews prior to making a purchase in 2009. This is compared to the previous twelve months of 2008 in which only 72% made a similar claim. These results were according to a survey by Brand Reputation in its Retail Bulletin publication, October 2009 edition.

The following is an actual customer comment posted online after he completed a charter cruise that apparently inspired him to provide a great review for others to read.

“As an avid charter sailor I congratulate you! Your new social media strategy has helped me learn more about your company at the time I was actively searching for information. Your past customers have corroborated the great service and clean yachts you advertise…Hooray! Your transparency has boosted my comfort level because you aren’t afraid to let me see ratings and reviews from your customers… and you’ve even used a 3rd party site which greatly increases my confidence that the reviews are real and not cherry picked! I’m ready to book!

And then, when my charter was finished, another remarkable thing happened; you invited me to Rate My Experience! And of course I’m happy to oblige because the experiences of others lead me to your business and I want to pay it forward too. In fact, I’m flattered because I know you sincerely want my opinion. By the way, the next time someone asks if I have any recommendations, I’ll just point them to your branded space on Yacht Charter Advisor!!!”

It would seem that this particular charter cruise customer was equally impressed with the charter boat company’s use of social media for customer service as he was with cruise. This is a real Social Media Marketing success story. It is one that most marketers can only dream about calling their own.

In addition to sharing positive customer reviews online there are many other ways Social Media can increase business for charter boat companies.

Smart Use of Social Media Can Lead to Significant ROI

Shannon Webster owns a Florida-based charter company that offers cruises to New England among other places along the East Coast. Some time ago, Shannon posted the following late offer on her company’s Facebook page:

“New England is booking very quickly as the summer is coming to a close. There are very few available larger motor yachts that have an open calendar. Many owners are using their boats at the end of August, causing further lack of inventory. Northern Lights, the 132′ Westship, and Sovereign, the 120′ Broward, still have open time on their charter books. Inquire today before they are gone!”

In less than a week, Shannon was able to claim a 10-day booking. This was a direct result of her Facebook post. Regarding this happenstance Shannon shared the following wrap-up: “It pays to use Social Media. Just booked Northern Lights yesterday for 9 nights, only 4 days after posting her availability in New England on my Facebook wall.”

Is anyone wondering what the ROI on Shannon Webster’s single Facebook post was? Well, her yacht Northern Lights has a top weekly base rate of $90,000. The cost of posting an offer like hers on her Facebook pages is zero dollars. Need anything more be said of her ROI in this case?

Being a Creative Marketer Can Often Yield Great Results

And, there are other ways Social Media Marketing has been used to produce great business results for charter boat companies and their strategic partners.

FourSquare is a check-in platform that keeps everyone posted as to one’s current whereabouts. “Checking-in” at various business locations also often qualifies consumers for special gifts and discounts. So, what happens when you are on a boat? Just ask Milwaukee Wisconsin restaurateur, Joe Sorge, who used Foursquare to get a flash mob of 150+ people into his alongside-the-dock restaurant, AJ Bombers. Joe’s lure was a charter boat experience. Here’s how Joe pulled this one off (please watch the video).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iw69XdYYkKk&feature=player_embedded#at=18

Joe Sorge’s

FourSquare event is further proof that charter boat companies and other related businesses are only limited by their imaginations as they consider how to use Social Media platforms to market their goods and services. In fact, Joe took his event one step further and posted the photos showing his customers enjoying themselves aboard the charter on Flickr. Thus, the fun lives on in Social Media – every day – and should excite future customers looking forward to Sorge’s upcoming FourSquare charter events.

Raise Your Website to Set “Sales”

It’s a no brainer that all of this Social Media Marketing revolves around a charter boat company having an effective website with effective landing pages that trigger successful call-to-actions. An effective website forms the basis for everything else expected to take place online from consumer research to charter bookings to praiseworthy testimonials. There can be no “full package” without first having a professional looking website, which offers all the sights and sounds of the wonderful experiences that previous charter boat guests have enjoyed. Your customers must first embark on your website before they can plan to set sail on your charter boat or yacht.