I'm a little surprised by this thread. I've been building companies and products and selling services for my entire career. The moment you step onto your boat and cut the lines, the opportunity to "touch" vast numbers of customers reduces - if you need to physically be in contact with them. So businesses onboard and cruising (as contrasted from fixed location liveaboards) need to find a way to generate a lot of money from the single
few prospects or they need to find a way to not have to "touch" the customer. The internet provides the latter solution.
Now I'm not saying that having a service
business while cruising is bad. It can easily generate money. But it sure will take a lot of effort because you'll need to make contact with a lot of people to get a few sales. And since the point of cruising is to go out and explore, you're constantly in an environment
of explaining what you do individually to other boats you happen to come into contact with. That's really tough.
If you have a business that is internet-based, you have as much access to the millions of people you'd like to reach as easily as anyone in an office in Manhattan. You'll need internet access and that will limit some cruising areas - it's hard to do a 19 day crossing and run an internet business for example.
Here's the easiest model for creating an internet business while cruising:
1. Find something you know a lot about. It's especially appropriate if it's something that cruisers would want - watermakers, chartplotters, anchors, inverters, LED lighting
, holding tank
vents, hose materials, sealants...it doesn't matter what the subject is.
2. Pick your mountain top and be THE expert in it. Create a web site that is the be-all information source on that one subject. Part of the subject selection process is looking around to make sure you can be THE site.
3. Don't write articles at first for others - write them for your own site. Write lots of them on every aspect of your subject area.
4. Have a place on the web site where you sell the products you talk about. One mistake people make here is to change the articles and information presented on the site based on the products they actually sell. That's a sure way to slit your throat in the short term. Be honest about the products you sell and be 100% truthful about the articles you write - even if it makes a product you sell look less than perfect.
5. Set up relationships with distributors who can drop ship their products directly to the customer. No inventory, no stocking, no return handling, etc. This will reduce your possible profit but a lot of this economic engine is just going to run without you having to touch it. This won't be without hassles. Every business has hassles.
A couple of major, odd things about this that are different from almost every other business and model - something the internet tends to produce:
- Your customer is the person who comes to your site to read your material. That customer might never buy anything from you. It is his needs you have to serve though. If you concentrate only on the people who buy from you, you'll lose the real marketing
advantage of attracting large numbers of people. This is a very backwards way of looking at a "store". Most stores hate tire kickers. You have to love them.
- You pretty much have to know web site technologies to make this happen. If you have to pay someone every time you need to make a small change, you're going to eat up all of your profits. Learning
html, css, shopping
carts, etc. might seem like a lot. There are vast resources and to be honest, it's really not that hard if you have an open mind about it. Think about all of the thousands of web sites you've run across - the people running them aren't all experienced software
- It takes time. It's not going to be like that UPS ad from a few years ago where the website goes public and the counter starts flying with the number of customers served. Any business worth anything doesn't happen overnight. It takes investment and continuous effort. For most internet businesses like I've described, the investment is your time. Every business requires time or money.
We are full-time cruisers. We've been operating under this model for a few years. We decided that the world was going to change from paper guidebooks
(that we used and understood very well) to electronic guidebooks
. I'm a software
developer so our model is slightly different than I described above but it is very similar. Our primary mountain top is that guidebook type of cruising and planning information and the integration and capabilities it can provide. We have a secondary mountain top about mobile phones. See our 18-part article series about using mobile phones on boats - four hundred thousand people have read them. The series was the first ever recipient of a web-based Boat Writers International award
. Today magazines come to us looking for information about electronic cruising guides
and mobile phones on boats. My picture was in the November issue of Passagemaker and the April 2010 issue of Yachting along with articles about mobile phones and the iPad
. We've been talked about in every major boating
magazine - recipient of SAIL's Pittman Innovation Award
for 2009, Power & Motoryacht
- multiple articles, Soundings, Panbo.com (every month or so), OceanLines.com (multiple articles), and on and on. My point isn't to blow our horn - it's to prove that this marketing
technique works with zero budget
: (1) be THE expert, and (2) stick with it. Do that and the media (and customers) will come running to you, even if you're on a boat. Heck, especially if you're on a boat - it makes for a better story.