Greg Hoffman



Maximizing your Marketing Dollars

Boating Industry
Thursday January 30, 2003

If you own or operate a small to mid-sized company in the marine industry, are you getting the most out of your marketing budget? Do you have a communications plan that tells you how and where to spend your money in the most cost-effective way? Are you targeting the best audience for your product or service?

These questions came to mind after reviewing the statistics gathered from a recently completed survey in the marine industry through Anchor Life, the online networking group for marine professionals.

The study showed that despite the national economic worries, many companies are committed to increasing their marketing investment for 2003.

But what was just as interesting to us was the fact that two-thirds of those polled plan to only spend at or below US$10,000. This is obviously a drop in the bucket for some of the large manufacturers in the industry, but a budget between US$5,000 and US$10,000 can go a long way for start-ups and small to mid-sized companies, if planned properly.

Cost-effective tools

Let's start with your website. Are you doing it yourself? Does it look like it? I decided long ago not to attempt to develop and code my own site. I partnered with an Internet marketing firm that does this full-time. Properly coding your meta-tags and internal mechanics greatly affect how search engines view your site. If you want to be found, make sure you do it right.

A good-looking, high traffic site doesn't have to cost an entire year's budget. Sure, flash animation and dynamic graphics catch the eye of the guests, but it's content and user-friendliness that will keep them interested. The best web designers now offer low-cost development, between US$1,000 and US$2,000 for an entire site and affordable monthly or quarterly maintenance programs to cover any changes or additions to your sites over the course of a year.

Don't forget one thing about websites – capture your audience. Give them the opportunity to request more information and then provide them with that information in a timely manner, such as a newsletter. Finding your target audience and reminding them who you are and what you can offer them is the best way to build a solid customer base.

Trade shows

Do you have a product that consumers need to touch and see before they buy? Some products are like this. Television and print advertisements sometimes don't help sell product but a regional trade show can empty your inventory in one day.

If this is the case, find the best way to attract the attention of the people walking by the booth. There are hundreds of gimmicks and tools to use for trade shows. Find them and try them. Use whatever works.

But again, capture your audience. Collect business cards in fish bowl, then add them to your database and keep them informed in the future.

Collateral materials

The best brochure is a printed, high-gloss, easy to read graphic representation of what your product offers the end-user. But the printing can kill a modest budget, can't it?

It might be time to turn to business card or regular-sized CD's with all your pertinent documents and graphics. Brochures, white papers, press clippings, anything that shows the performance and benefits of your products and services can fit onto a CD. They can be as low as a quarter each and you don't have to burn 5,000 of them to get the best price.


For smaller budgets, ads are very effective tools when combined with other marketing efforts. Companies on a diet budget certainly don't need to buy full-page, four-color spreads. Half-page and quarter-page color or black and white print ads are cost-effective ways to guarantee readers see your message. With the right frequency of placement, a positive return on the investment is very likely.

Be sure to check out specials, such as Boating Industry magazine's Literature Showcase. These 1/8 ads page ads include a full color photo of your literature and 70 words of copy. The price is right and the e-mail blast that comes as an option is well worth the added cost.

Public relations

In my opinion, there is no more cost-effective way to increase sales and awareness than public relations efforts. Published reports about your product or service always add validity to your brand.

When working with a limited marketing budget, executives tend to want to do things on their own. This is the time when they truly need objective resources to turn to for help. I must admit, I practice what I preach. Being on a limited budget myself, I still turn to corporate partners for guidance. For instance, I don't send out my own press releases. I'm too close to the situation and my partner almost always finds a different perspective to highlight.

Turn to your peers for advice

The basic reason the online networking group Anchor Life was created was to bring together professionals in the marine industry so they can interact and learn new ways of doing business, based on the experience of others. The final results of this survey show me that the current members are aggressive in their marketing strategy, despite the size of their budget. I encourage more of you to join and share your experiences with your colleagues.

Professionals from the marine industry can join Anchor Life by sending an e-mail to

Greg Hoffman
The Tarpon Agency


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