Grow Revenue and Community: The Benefits of Boat Clubs
Saying there’s one type of boat club is like lumping a lion with antelope gristle in its jaws in with the kitten toying with its reflection in your living room window. Yeah, they’re all the same family, but it’s a wide spectrum.
It’s the same with boat clubs. The underlying theme is that no matter what shape it takes at your marina, all boat clubs share a couple of things:
They foster a home for boaters who want to spend money at your marina, and they offer a sense of real community.
Taking every corner of the spectrum into consideration, from the lions to the kittens, here are a few types of boat club arrangements and how they can attract boaters to your marina.
Franchise Partnership with a National Boat Club Network
Mercury Marine stated that Freedom Boat Club birthed the concept of the standard boat club in 1989. This version of the boat club provides an immense level of convenience, as the club provides the boats, the insurance, and the maintenance, and the only thing the boater worries about is having a good time as they pay membership dues to access the fleet of vessels.
Across the country, you often see them with a membership table at trade shows and boating events: organizations like Freedom Boat Club and Nautical Boat Club. As a marina owner, there are a couple of ways to grow revenue with a formal boat club partnership: become a boat club franchise host, or lease your marina to an entrepreneur who is looking for a marina to host their franchise.
photo: Freedom Boat Club
Both of these paths require that you have a wide foundation of amenities and a chunk of available slips to reserve for boat club members. Marina Dock Age published a deep exploration of boat club benefits for marinas in 2021. In one scenario, a franchisee approached a family-run marina in Little Elm, Texas and asked to lease eight slips to start a Nautical Boat Club franchise, which then grew from eight boats to 25. In another scenario, a marina owner in Portland, Maine began hosting his own Freedom Boat Club franchises with the goal of 30 members, which then grew to 235 members across five locations.
Here are a couple of tangible benefits of a partnership with an established boat club:
- Boaters are incentivized by their membership fees to spend time at your marina, and by extension, spend money on your fuel, bait, food, and ice.
- The agreement allows a marina manager to count on a consistent, bankable stream of income.
- Your marina’s brand is elevated as a destination rather than a service
Encourage Membership with Your Local Yacht or Boston Whaler Club
This type of club isn’t offering members access to a fleet of boats, but rather a community of like-minded boaters. This is the “fraternity boat club.”
We’ll use the Cruising Club of America for example, as they have a straightforward and succinct mission statement:
Members volunteer to achieve the CCA’s goals by sharing experiences, organizing events on and off the water, promoting seamanship and best practices, and recognizing outstanding accomplishments by fellow members and the amateur sailing community. The Club’s initiatives put particular emphasis on safety at sea education and training, exemplary offshore yacht design and construction, and environmental stewardship.
The Boston Whaler Owners Club fosters a similar mindset. Members share information and attend events around the Boston Whaler community. A marina owner who builds a reputation as a community connector within these cultures may become:
- A host for boating community events
- A known authority on boater networks
- Endeared as an anchor in the boating community, and run a marina that is more likely to attract new boaters because of its ability to offer access and knowledge
Host Your Own Boat Club
Maybe your marina is a 42-slip marina 90 miles from the nearest place you could call a town. You don’t have an Annapolis Yacht Club or Chicago Yacht Club. What you do have is a tight-knit array of boater personalities who love to spend time at your marina. Well, there’s no downside in encouraging more of it.
The Lauderdale Small Boat Club is a successful example of this. They are a private boat club in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that has served as a boater community staple for over 70 years. From the Lauderdale Small Boat Club: “Our members are treated to a variety of social events which vary from Weekly Happy Hours to Fishing and Holiday events for members and their families.”
Building a boat club requires you to put the word out, but the return is that boaters are incentivized to gather at your marina in a greater capacity. They grow from acquaintances to friends. Your marina becomes a place where children grow up together and boaters make memories akin to spending an hour after work at their neighborhood pub. Heck, you might be their neighborhood pub.
At its core, this is what any variation of the boat club shares. A boat club fosters a space for boaters to share their enthusiasm with others, and in return, your marina becomes the gathering place for an entire community. Now you don’t just have tenants – you have a growing family.
Article by Hammer and Nail Marketing
WHAT IS HAMMER & NAIL?
Hammer and Nail Marketing is a boutique marketing firm that helps small to mid-sized marinas get noticed by boaters. If you’d like to focus on operating your marina without the additional responsibility of marketing, get in touch with us.
We’re boaters ourselves from a background of operating a family-run marina. From a group of experts who know the water, let Hammer and Nail Marketing help you be the waterfront your local boaters see every time they cast off.
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