Saturday, April 18, 2015

Understanding Your Consumer

I am in the process of buying another sailboat. As I look at sailboats and ponder this decision, I realize how complicated it is to know what I want and why.

How much do I want to spend? Can I afford a new boat? Will I pay cash for it or finance it? Do I want a boat that has been kept in salt water? How much will it cost to haul the boat from the place we buy it to the place we will sail it? Do I want a maintenance free boat? (There is no such thing.) How important are classic lines and the aesthetic appeal of the boat? (A lot.) How important is it to have the best looking boat in the harbor? Will I be racing the boat? Do I want it to have a specific PHRF rating? How well does it point up into the wind? Does it sail well in light air and in heavy winds? How big of a boat do I want? Does it need to be rigged so that I can single hand it? (Yes.) Do I want a ship’s wheel or a tiller? (A tiller.) What equipment comes with the boat? What electronics does the boat have? What sail inventory comes with the boat? Where will I be sailing the boat, on Lake Ontario (a Great Lake), Canandaigua Lake (a Finger Lake), the Maine Coast or somewhere else? One yacht broker suggested that I buy a larger boat and then charter it through a boat chartering company in the Caribbean. When I decide on what body of water I will sail the boat, then I need to decide in which bay, harbor or port I will keep it. This includes deciding on the marina (or yacht club). It also includes deciding on a slip or a mooring.

Will my wife be joining me on the boat? How often? How big does the cockpit need to be? Does it need to seat eight people comfortably? Does it have a dodger to keep us out of the sun? Does it have a cabin? Does it have a head? Does it have a galley? How many people does it sleep? Will we be inviting other couples out with us? Overnight? How much teak and mahogany does it have below deck? How will the boat affect my relationship with my wife? How will it affect our social life?

What will the resale value of the boat be when I want to sell it? (A fraction of what I paid if it is a new boat but perhaps something very close to what I paid for it if it is an older boat and I maintain it well.) How often will I use the boat? Will it distract my wife and I from our social calendar, our other hobbies and our travels? Or do we want it to become a significant part of our lifestyle? Will we anchor the boat in coves and sleep on it at night? Will we swim off the boat or is the water too cold or too polluted? Are we mostly going to do day sails or will we sail it for longer periods of time? If we sail it on Lake Ontario, will we just sail it locally or will we sail it to Toronto, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Sackets Harbor, the Thousand Islands, Montreal, Quebec City and the Gulf of St. Lawrence? If we sail it that far, will we sail it into the other Great Lakes, down the Eastern Seaboard and across the Atlantic Ocean? What additional equipment will we need if we do that? How important is brand? I am partial to Hinckley, CW Hood, Baltic, Nautor’s Swan, and Leonardo, but they tend to be too expensive for me. I have also found that I like Frers, Colgate, Schock Harbor, Tripp and Hylas. But I might be convinced to buy another brand. Would I ever consider mass production brands such as Catalina, Hunter, Beneteau or Jeanneau? Should we just charter other people’s boats in cool places instead? Or should I just volunteer to crew on someone else’s boat at one of the local yacht clubs? Or maybe I should just get a Sailfish or a Hobie Cat.

This is the type of detail a company must consider when developing, branding and selling its products. This is the nuance of a person’s purchase decision.

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