Southern Exposure’s Q&A: Carl Blackwell, President of Grow Boating, Inc.

Southern Exposure’s Q&A: Carl Blackwell, President of Grow Boating, Inc.

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The President of Grow Boating discusses their successful mission to introduce customers to the marine industry.

SB: Please give a brief background of Discover Boating and what sets it apart from other competitors in the field? How do you feel it has accomplished this and how will it continue to do so?
CB: Discover Boating kicked off in December 2003, and the first marketing campaign launched in Spring 2005 to help new cruisers get on the water and improve the boating experience for current boat owners. Similar to other all-industry campaigns such as “Got Milk?” and “Go RVing”, all corners of the boating industry pull together contributions to help introduce more people to life on the water and ultimately buy more boats.

SB: How has Discover Boating developed and changed since its formation?
CB: There have been adjustments to the changing economy and marketing landscape but since the campaign’s inception, our mission has stayed largely the same: share the boating lifestyle and improve the boating experience to help more people get on the water and become lifelong cruisers.

SB: Can you tell me a few things that specifically ignite passion and excitement about your job at Discover Boating?
CB: Boating is a lifestyle that people love and are passionate about—including me. I have a pretty great job because I introduce people to the fun of being on a boat. Whether that’s helping people connect with their friends and family, or disconnecting from their phones and computers to recharge their “batteries” and unwind on a boat. It is fulfilling to know we are helping people experience this special side of life spent on a boat and having fun with the people who matter most.

SB: What are you most proud of accomplishing at Discover Boating?
CB: I’m most proud of the number of people we’ve introduced to boating and ignited to become boat owners and as a result, helped them make memories that will last a lifetime. I’m also proud of the momentum we’ve helped create in the industry. The recreational boating industry is made up of about 95% small businesses. These are businesses that support jobs and local communities but they also create boats that bring families and friends together and provide a way for people to experience our country’s waterways.

SB: How has Discover Boating made the biggest difference in the marine industry? I would love to hear specific examples of how you believe your company has enriched mariners experience on the water.
CB: What’s unique about Discover Boating is that it encompasses all areas of boating. We aren’t selling a certain type of boat or accessory—discoverboating.com is an unbiased, not-for-profit resource for new and experienced boat owners alike to find the information they need to have the best time on the water. From how to buy/shop, finance, insure, maintain, and trailer to where to go and have some fun, our website covers it all.

We’ve also created a social networking community where we engage with cruisers, and potential cruisers, each day. We share inspiring boating stories and images, special insights on finding the right boat, and answer questions to help people navigate their boating or boat buying experiences. We’re providing real-time solutions for people and we’re able to provide these solutions with the support, knowledge and credibility of the entire boating industry, which doesn’t exist anywhere else.

SB: What should we expect to see from Discover Boating in this upcoming year?
CB: In 2014, we launched our Stories of Discovery video documentary series profiling real cruisers and their love for the water. Those four stories/videos were a thrill to create—searching for the stars, learning their stories and shooting the footage—and offer a special look into the role boating plays in people’s lives. The response has blown away our expectations. With these videos as a cornerstone of our campaign—we helped bring 1.8 million people to manufacturer websites to shop for boats. Based on this success, we’re continuing Stories of Discovery in 2015 with two new storytellers sharing their personal boating experiences.

In addition, you can expect Discover Boating to have a heavy online presence on your favorite news outlet websites and your go-to social networks. You’ll also see us at boat shows and other national events to support our Hands-On Skills Training program. We believe that education is one of the best ways to encourage people to try boating for the first time and also give cruisers—both veterans and newbies—a way to check their skills and be more confident on the water.

SB: Are you involved in any outside marine organizations?
CB: I’m currently on the Recreational Boating & Fishing Board of Directors and involved with the Recreational Boating Leadership Council. Formerly on the Sail America Board of Directors and the National Safe Boating Council.

SB: How involved in the boating and marine community are you? Do you own a boat yourself? What do you love most about being a mariner?
CB: Every weekend in the summer you can find me on my boat in Chicago cruising Lake Michigan with my friends. There’s no place I’d rather be than on my boat to unwind and have fun. Boating provides such an incredible social experience that also makes me feel like I’m miles away from home on vacation. I’m able to bring a lot of my personal experiences as a cruiser to my work and put myself in the shoes of a potential cruiser to think about what would make it most compelling and what’s going to really attract someone to the boating lifestyle.

SB: What else would you like our readers to know?
CB: Discover Boating can help you find your next boating destination or access point, connect you with a local certified dealer for your next upgrade, or provide tips for semi-annual maintenance and more. We’re here to help you make the most of your time on the water. I also encourage anyone interested in the latest boating trends and information to connect with us on our social media outlets.

By Christine Carpenter, Southern Exposure