Ask Andrew: Customers and Boat Yards – Finding the Right Match

Dec 7, 2023

I hear stories about boaters’ experiences with contractors and boat yards. I also hear lots of stories from contractors and boat yards on their experiences with customers. In a perfect world, the stories would align, and everyone would receive a 5-star review. In the real world this is rarely the case, and more often than not, when comparing the same interaction, the customer and contractor viewpoint is much different.

Let’s start with the customer’s search for the right facility.  At the same time, will include some notes for service providers who can use this information to make themselves prominent in that search.

Where to find a contractor (and where to find a customer)

Ranging from your luck with finding a contractor or boat yard in the past to your budget and comfort with technology, how you search for a facility is determined by many factors,

One of the biggest problems that I see today is the disparity between how contractors and boat yards advertise, and how their potential customers search – and they aren’t well aligned.

Here are a few ways to search for a contractor or yard:

A Google search:

This can range from simple to specific: ‘boat repair near me’ or ‘Yamnar Diesel – no start mechanic Vancouver Island’

No matter how you phrase it the results will depend on the information in your search. Google is limited by the way that it searches for information does not necessarily make a connection between your concern and the services offered, since the language is often quite specialized. Ideally every contractor, boat yard and dealership would have a website, along with a google page, populated with every relevant key-word, search engine optimized, and updated regularly. The reality falls somewhat short of this. So keep in mind that as you search for someone to take on your repair, a Google search may not identify every option for you.

For the service provider, a website is an investment, site maintenance costs money. Frequently the website is treated as a simple digital billboard, rather than a live sales and booking tool. Updating a website, adding keywords, and adding SEO tools, digital booking and email forwarding can greatly increase customer interaction – when a customer searches only the matches show up.

Social Media and Buy/Sell sites:

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Kijii, Varagesale, Marketplace, etc – The options abound. The great news – it’s easy and free to post. Contractors who are starting out, or who don’t want to make an investment in a website or other type of costly advertising can find this as a great way to connect. From the customer point of view, the ‘social media’ aspect also allows rating, comments and discussion along with many of these ads – meaning that you can not only search, but also get a sense of quality and what to expect when reaching out.

Contractor/Customer connection apps.

In my opinion, these are still in their infancy and haven’t taken off widely in the marine world yet – though some are beginning to emerge. The premise is a great one: You download an app to your phone, and any time a marine issue arises (where to dock, where to fuel, who to hire as a mechanic, where to go for fiberglass repair, where to buy that hard-to-find part, etc), you enter your request into the app, and it connects you with the right outfit to meet your needs.


Chandlery post boards

Most marine chandlery and supply stores keep an old-fashioned bulletin board on site with posters and business-cards pinned to the wall for the taking. Many marinas and yacht clubs will offer similar boards so that contractors working on-site can identify that they’re there regularly. A great way to find someone local, and a great way for contractors to identify where they want business.

Referrals on the dock

One of the most widely used but underrated marketing tools: asking your neighbours and dock-mates who they’ve hired (or heard about) in the past. Contractors and yards can find great value in walking the docks and chatting with people. Put up an a-frame sign, and identify your vehicle with signage, or hand out business cards.

Next time, we will look at the booking and relationship between boat and boat yard and follow up.

Andrew McDonald is the owner of Lakeside Marine Services – a boat repair/maintenance firm based in Toronto. Andrew has worked in the marine industry for 12 years and is a graduate of the Georgian College ‘Mechanical Techniques – Marine Engine Mechanic’ program.
Questions or comments for Andrew? Email him directly via: 

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