Investments in people, processes and systems, plus a new digital marketing agency, are all part of Ahoy Club’s aggressive plans to scale the luxury brand and business, its chief marketing officer said. .
Ahoy Club is a four-year-old Australian company set up by the Malouf family to disrupt the luxury yacht charter space. The family created the world’s first digital marketplace for superyacht chartering, investing in bespoke technology as well as a world-class customer service team to realize their ambitions.
Since then, it has built an international footprint and branched out into two main products: term charters and daily charters. In all, over 4,000 ships are available, ranging from $2,000 per day to $2 million per week. Additionally, Ahoy Club has recently expanded its yachting services to include transformative renovations and yacht sales.
Ahoy Club CEO Ellie Malouf said CMO that while the industry is very glamorous, it has been largely untouched by technology. Plus, the extra service wasn’t as high-end as the chartered product, she said, with a highly manual search, booking and payment process taking weeks or months.
In response, Ahoy Club designed two platforms: Its website, which acts as a research and information tool, providing customers with content to research, save searches and plan trips at a high level. Once a charter yacht request is made, a second custom software platform allows Ahoy’s in-house team to send proposals within minutes, accept contacts, accept payments and create custom routes. Ahoy manages all listings in-house and has an in-house client-side focused data team.
“Our strategy is centered on how technology and service can alleviate widespread pain points in the industry,” Malouf said.
“Our main focus today is on the client/charter side. We continue to iterate the site so that it is easy to use, searchable by location, and at different price points. Last year we also launched a personalized daily charter system to make it easy to click a button and check availability, pay a deposit online and have it done in minutes. Whereas for a term charter, the conversion takes a few weeks while people look at the selection, recommendations and build itineraries.
Today, the focus is on creating demand for both. From a B2B perspective, Ahoy’s strategy is centered around travel agents, and the company has joined luxury consortia such as Virtuoso and Traveler Made.
“On the B2C side, digital marketing is key, and we use a mix of SEO, email marketing, search, and paid marketing to attract the right customers,” Malouf said.
To help you, Ahoy has appointed Next & Co as their digital marketing agency, responsible for full-service digital media and B2B marketing.
“Next & Co has an excellent balance sheet and real intelligence that we didn’t have internally. It’s a great extension of our team so far on the paid and SEO side,” Malouf said. “We’ve tried to do things in-house, but with the goals we want to achieve and where we want to grow, an agency is our fast track there.”
As the world emerges from Covid, Malouf said the opportunity to aggressively grow the Ahoy business is significant.
“Increasing lead generation will be the central tenet of these aspirations. We have invested in the people, processes and systems to achieve this, including new business development staff in North America, the UK and Europe, improving our sales and marketing tools and appointment of performance-driven digital agencies,” she said.
KPIs to measure success include number of leads, month-over-month site ranking goals, and improving user experience to incorporate more recommendations based on what users like.
“Next & Co will help us with that when we talk about our website iteration,” added Malouf.
Marketing a luxury brand
While Ahoy’s marketing spend is currently shifting more towards paid media, Malouf’s longer-term goal is to get as much organic traffic as possible. She admits it’s harder to ask for a younger brand.
Knowing the customer’s sweet spot is essential in this equation. Term charter is for very wealthy people who want to charter a yacht with friends and family who often spend upwards of $50,000 per week.
“Ninety-five percent of super yachts are in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, so we focus on those routes the most. We also like to promote Australian charter destinations as much as possible, and the Whitsundays are very popular throughout the winter,” explained Malouf.
In contrast, day charterers are often companies looking to rent boats for parties and entertainment. Thanks to Covid, Ahoy has been very focused on this business locally and has put together an events team to support it.
But while day and term charters require separate approaches and marketing teams, content is a consistent theme across both.
“We’re trying to sell the experience, and you want to show that as much. We create movies for each charter client after each trip; every season we send videographers to capture content in destinations and around restaurants because we are passionate about trying and testing destinations,” said Malouf. “With the world of reels and TikTok, we are focused on creating different fun transitions.
“Social media works well for day charters, and we created an ‘Ahoy Day’ Instagram series 18 months ago, which has been great for us. This is primarily an Australian audience, so we used slang, featured boats, pricing and promotion messages. It’s more about booking now, as people are more inclined to book a day charter online. The term charter is more ambitious, so it’s all about getting to know the brand and leading to an investigation.
Besides content, experiential events globally on yachts are essential for both retaining and acquiring customers. It’s about showcasing the experience that is essential to becoming a successful luxury brand for Malouf. To help, Ahoy trains its team in customer education, and all staff spend time on their family yachts to understand the experience firsthand.
“You have to try to give people the feeling when they get on a yacht. It’s not a need, it’s a want and it’s our job to make them want it,” Malouf said. “The best marketing is through our content, which is why we invest heavily in it. Organizing events, however, has been second to none for us to give customers that first-hand experience, especially if they are charterers. for the first time.
Partnerships and bringing together like-minded brands helps Ahoy gain an extra level of trust, “especially when it comes to a luxury brand,” added Malouf.
Although the fundamentals of Ahoy’s business have not changed amid the pandemic, Malouf cited an increasing number of people looking to rent, especially those who have never rented or who may have already rented a villa or a cruise liner.
“It’s because a charter is such a private experience, you can avoid crowds and airports, waking up in a new destination every day. It’s brought in new customers who might not have considered it if Covid hadn’t happened,” she said. This makes education and content even more critical.
Another trend that Ahoy is responding to is the growing number of people looking to book at the last minute. It prioritizes the need for a fast digital platform, Malouf said.
“Being digitally driven has always been part of our brand history,” she said. “But our customer service is equal to that. These are the two key messages for the business, with our competitive pricing model as a bonus.
“When we started we were probably harder on pricing, which is a big factor because everyone wants a deal, no matter how wealthy you are. But that comes second; it’s something we learned. We have changed the key messages so that service comes first, and it has always been at the forefront when dealing with customers. »
For other marketers overseeing luxury brands, Malouf stressed that experience is more critical than ever.
“You want people to imagine the lifestyle you’re trying to showcase. Providing a tailored experience is important, whether through an event, product views, or additional benefits. This added value has helped our business a lot,” she said. Ahoy also achieves this through goods and greetings upon arrival.
“And we have a lot of data to help with that,” Malouf said. “When customers charter, they fill out a lot of information about what they want to eat, drink and do. We capture all of this and can strategically remarket them to activities they enjoy, such as sporting events versus relaxation, and show related content.
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