Making waves with marketing

  • Neil has been to the Southampton Boatshow this week where he caught up with old colleagues from Lombard. Here are his thoughts:

    Despite the credit crunch, it was good to see a good number of people at the show and to find former colleagues in fine form. The Marine business was always one of my favourite businesses to market.

    From a very early stage, we agreed that our goal should be to make Lombard the best recognised and best understood brand in the marine finance market place. This, we believed, was the only way to make sure that Lombard had first choice of every piece of business that was going.

    A goal of this nature was no soft target. At the time, the market for Marine Finance was dominated by Bank of Scotland. Bank of Scotland had superior relationships with the boat dealers and heavily outspent Lombard on promotional activity. Barclays was also active.

    Lombard didn't have the budget to match Bank of Scotland on spending, so we had to be more strategic in our approach. Over a period of 3 years, we integrated PR with advertising, ensured a commanding presence at the London and Southampton boatshows, developed a leading website and devised some creative sponsorships, including working with round-the-world yachtsman, Sir Robin Knox Johnston.

    The marketing effort supported the sales team, which worked hard to nurture the dealer relationships and also to get more introduced business from parent bank, The Royal Bank of Scotland. The product set and the brand were extended to support an entry into the Superyachts market and better products were developed for the Offshore opportunities.

    The strategy has clearly paid off. At this weeks show, Bank of Scotland had reduced its presence to a shared space on one of its remaining dealer's stands and Barclays looked very corporate with what appeared to be an adapted general purpose show set-up. Of course, Bank of Scotland has its own particular problems at this time, but Lombard had it on the run in the marine market long before the current difficulties set in.

    So, what do we learn out of this?

    Be number one in your chosen market: If you are going to be successful in a B2C business, be number one in your chosen market. This doesn't mean you have to have a massive above-the-line budget, the trick is to define your market as tightly as possible. The Marine market, as opposed to the finance market in general, is a clearly identifiable niche. The customers cluster around the two main boat shows and a small number of publications making reaching them relatively easy and cost effective.

    Cover all routes to market: We recognised that the market not only had a direct component, but a valuable and influential intermediary network in the dealerships. Equal attention was paid to both segments and distinct strategies were devised for each. We also covered the off-line and on-line channels to provide customers with a choice of how they dealt with us.

    Segment the customer base & talk to the customer appropriately: We established through research that there were a number of customer types - from the passionate sailor who spent his life and every last penny afloat, to the successful entrepreneur who saw the boat as a symbol of achievement. We started to talk to each segment differently, acknowledging their different needs and motivations.

    Ensure a strong and differentiated brand identity: We developed a brand identity that stood out from the crowd using visuals and copy that empathised with the target audience. We didn't allow the brand to stand still and kept challenging ourselves to evolve it.

    Be a specialist: The Marine market likes to deal with people that it sees as 'one of them'. We showed that we were specialist in the market and had real expertise by employing people with a passion for boats. We produced publications on buying and owning a boat and provided expert commentary through PR.

    Align marketing and sales: Too often, Marketing and Sales retreat into silos, neither acknowledging or understanding the other. At Lombard we were able to solve this. The sales team was buoyed by a marketing effort that it saw to be working: marketing thrived on the support of a sales team that turned its campaigns into results. The strategy was jointly owned and jointly delivered.

    All in all this is a marketing success story that proves that theory combined with creativity and commercial acumen gives rise to competitive advantage and tangible results.

    Good luck guys, may you go from strength to strength: it was a pleasure working with you.

    Neil

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