When it comes to marketing your charter yacht, a good brochure is crucial, but you can’t ignore the Internet. Whether they’re purchasing a new fridge or a luxury yacht vacation, most people do their research online – often late at night, in their pajamas, with a glass of wine in hand.
Most charter yachts have online brochures posted on www.charterindex.com or other multiple listing services, as well as their central charter agent’s website. But a growing number of yachts also are choosing to mount their own website as an additional marketing tool.
“I think it’s important to have a boat website, whether you use it to get charters or to keep previous charter guests informed,” says Capt. Alvin Burkett of the 118-foot M/Y Savannah. He and his crew initially created their site at www.chartersavannah.com as a place to post photos of clients’ charter vacations. “It had a private login,” he says. “We stopped doing that because we started giving them DVDs.” Over time, the site has evolved into a colorful and attractive public marketing tool for the yacht.
Here are some tips from the experts on how to build a better charter yacht website:
1. “One of the most important things is to have good professional photography – by a yacht photographer,” says Louise Dutton, CEO of Yacht Productions Inc., which offers website design as one of its services. Photos of the yacht taken by a crewmember in the tender can never hope to compete with a professional shoot, not only in quality, but also in showing the yacht off appropriately to the clientele you hope to attract.
“Photography, photography, photography,” agrees Rupert Connor, president of Luxury Yacht Group, a charter agency and management company. “It’s like location, location, location for real estate.” He says his biggest challenge as a central charter agent is gaining access to the yacht in an “owner-ready” condition for photography. “It’s coordination and timing,” he says. The best window is a couple of days prior to an owner trip on board.
While it’s possible to shoot the boat in a marina or even at the shipyard and “Photoshop” in a new background, it takes more time and there is no substitute for the real thing: the yacht positioned against the sort of tropical island or historic European port setting a prospective client might dream of visiting on charter.
“We’re dealing in magical vacations. For magic, you need a bit of sizzle,” Connor says.
2. Don’t misrepresent the yacht and its amenities in the photos. For example, if you have a tow-behind Intrepid that you charge an extra fee to bring along, it’s okay to show it – but make sure to let viewers know there’s a separate charge, and it may not be available in some locations. The same goes for photos of clients scuba diving. “If it’s rendezvous diving only, say it on the site,” Dutton recommends.
3. Contrary to what you might expect, there should be no contact information on your website, according to Dutton. “It should say, ‘Please contact your favorite charter broker’,” she says. If one charter agent is singled out on the site, it will upset the others, she reports. “If the central agent has their contact information there, none of the other brokers will send anyone to the site.”
“We’ve taken the contact information out. I don’t want to put off any charter brokers,” says Capt. Alvin, who wants to encourage brokers to send clients to his yacht’s website to see the photography posted there.
4. When it comes to the website’s overall look and content, “Everything that the yacht would put in a brochure needs to be on the website,” says Dutton. “It’s branding – it should mirror the brochure.”
5. Include information on destinations where the yacht is available for charter. If possible, post sample itineraries and photos of the different scenes along the way.
If you have images of people, be sure to get formal written permission from everyone who appears in each photo. Connor advocates taking a “soft focus” approach to showing people in charter images, so prospective clients can imagine themselves in the setting. The classic shot, he says, is “an aft-deck table at sunset, with a blurred couple in the background, sipping a glass of Champagne.”
6. Many yacht sites include crew profiles, but this is a tricky area if you have continual crew turnover, as the site will need to be updated each time someone leaves. “It’s high maintenance,” says Dutton. “If they have a steady crew, then yes.” In fact, the longevity of popular crewmembers can be an asset for a charter yacht – repeat clients like to see familiar faces on the website.
Connor recommends showing a photo of a crewmember doing his or her job, like getting dive tanks ready, rather than posting a long bio as “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” He also recommends adding a write up giving the captain’s perspective on the yacht. “Make it personal,” he says.
7. Testimonials are okay to add, “If they’re anonymous,” Connor says. Most clients closely guard their privacy and don’t want the world at large to know they’ve chartered a yacht. On the other hand, Savannah’s site has a “Guest Book” with raves by previous clients – who have included their names. “They knew it was public,” Capt. Alvin says.
8. Specifications for the yacht are a must on the site. Make sure you include the number of staterooms, the number of guests the yacht accommodates and her cruising speed and range – all Charter Marketing 101.
9. You also can post sample menus from the chef, along with mouth-watering pictures of his or her handiwork. But be ready to change this page if the chef leaves the boat.
10. Make sure that you or your website administrator registers your URL with the various search engines such as Google and Ask.com, using keywords. There’s no point in spending money on a marketing tool if no one sees it amid the vast ether of the Internet.
When it comes to charter yacht websites, “The industry’s got a massive way to go on this,” Connor says. If you have a professionally produced site for your yacht, you’ll be ahead of the curve.
Do you think it’s a good marketing tool for a charter yacht to have its own website? Let us know in the comments below!
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