This summer I enjoyed a week aboard a superyacht travelling the coastline of Croatia. It was beyond spoiling and I feel incredibly lucky to have been invited by very good friends to share their 40th wedding anniversary celebrations.
During the cruise, I took time to go below decks: to the engine room, galley, laundry and other service areas, to find out how the crew deliver a 7* service, (which is even better than the very best hotels). What I learned might well provide some answers on how to successfully compete with the cheaper models or with those traditional agents who are cutting fees to the bone and beyond.
Let’s get one thing on the table straight away. $50million+ yachts are not in everyone’s price bracket. It’s a tiny percentage of people who can afford to charter, never mind own one – but this is perhaps the most crucial superyacht lesson of all:
1. They know their market. It’s defined principally by luxury and price. Yours might have traditionally been by geography, price, property type or all three, but I suggest these are no longer the determinators you should exclusively apply. Instead, segment by client profile – for traditional agents that means people who are prepared to pay for a higher level of service than standard. These people are often time-poor, like to delegate, don’t do DIY, want guidance and above all to be treated as individuals.
There are many more lessons and here’s another four, (lots more to follow in future four-i’s).
2. Superyacht brokers know their competition and there are two types – the first is other brokers. But they also compete with non-related products and services for a share of wallet. These might include artworks, cars and jewellery. You have other agents to compete with for those people coming to the market to let or sell a property, but you also have other prospects, including people who are currently thinking about different investment options than property. An even larger prospecting pool are those thinking about different property choices than moving. For example, homeowners who think they should stay put and extend and those who decide just to stay and compromise. Each requires a different pitch, a different presentation of the facts and alternatives available. Superyacht brokers pitch the experience over the tangible. “Sure that piece of jewellery/artwork/car would be nice to have, but do any of them begin to compare to the memories you and your family will have of the holiday of a lifetime?”
3. Different markets, different approaches. In the boom years the yachts typically sell themselves – indeed, they often command a premium for chartering during high season. When markets toughen, even billionaires tighten the belt (probably a crocodile Hermes though!) and the brokers have to work harder. Interestingly, my friend last chartered a superyacht four years ago to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. And yet despite this gap he’s received at least 30 contacts from the broker – by mail, email, post and telephone. Continuous client contact is key to a yacht broker’s success – and it is for yours too.
4. Never mind “location, location, location” – you should adopt the superyacht mantra of “systems, systems, systems”. The boat is run by systems, processes and check lists for everything. The recipe for the truffle dip, (one tube of truffle paste to one carton of Philadelphia cheese, three turns of pepper, two of salt), never changes (and it’s awesome!) Likewise the procedure if the ship runs aground, (it never has but there’s a checklist just in case). Nothing is left to chance, everything has a system – that way the service level can be guaranteed.
5. Make it personal. Prior to boarding, each guest was asked to complete a 30 page list of questions and preferences – they knew more about me than I did about myself! The individual requests are all noted and acted upon, over and above the standard systems and processes – so although I said I preferred poached eggs for breakfast, I was asked each morning, “poached eggs Peter or would you prefer a change of fried, scrambled or boiled today?” My habit of a cup of tea at 3pm was delivered on the button every day, without my having to ask for it. Each of the 12 guests were treated individually, but please note this personal attention was over and above the delivery of the (very high) standard operations.
You can compete on price or service. Some agents are attempting to do both, but it’s not sustainable. Make a choice of one or the other and if it’s service then redesign it to the highest level possible and have rigid systems to ensure consistent delivery on top of which you can then make it personal. And then charge accordingly.
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