We talk to Jobe Sports’ International Sales Manager, Hans Hurenkamp, on inspiring and retaining a welcome new generation of active but brand disloyal participants.
What attracted you to working in the marine industry?
I grew up in a boating family and the quality time we shared afloat was priceless – it shaped the rest of my life.
My father was a boat and outboard engine dealer. He would always encourage his four children to bring friends, nieces, and cousins along and we took many new people out on a boat to explore everything we could do on the water. Dad would bring us a canoe, a sailboat, or faster motorboat which we could water ski behind. There weren't many accessories and toys on the market 35 years ago, so we would use tractor tyres or snow sleds and tow them behind the boat, which was a lot of fun.
When Jobe's former owner, Jos Broekmeulen, started to import Jobe equipment and accessories, he encouraged my father to sell them in his boat dealership. I enjoyed helping in dad’s shop and when I finalised school I started working for Jos as well, to learn all the tricks of the trade. I was supposed to do that for two years or so, but I never left.
Since starting at what became Jobe’s global headquarters in Heerewaarden, Netherlands, I have spent time in most roles, from packing shipments to CEO and back. But the job I like most is my current one as international sales manager, where I work with our distributors worldwide to help them get new people on the water and generate more traffic to their shops.
Tell us about your business?
Jos and I had the same background – our fathers both had a boat dealership. We soon learned that adding safety equipment, boating accessories and toys generated more visits to their shops. Customers were not replacing boats and outboards every year, but we could draw them back to buy kit than enhanced boating lifestyle as a complete experience. We were both also taught to get as many new people as possible on the water and soon started promoting that approach to other boat dealers, helping them to generate more interest in their businesses.
This is what Jobe’s purpose was in the beginning and our mission statement has evolved from that. We want to get as many people on the water as possible, by creating the best water sports experience for friends and families around the globe.
To meet this mission statement, we produce safety equipment such as fashionable life jackets, wetsuits, electric underwater swim scooters, boating accessories, tow boards, paddle boards, water skis, wake boards and nowadays yachting platforms. This wide range of products has one purpose – to get more people on the water.
What interesting trends are you seeing in the industry?
We’ve seen a lot of very active new customers enter boating and watersports in the past two years. They are adventurous, like to explore more and want to use comfortable, high-quality products. They also want to mix and match their equipment as a package. Colours, designs, and materials are all part of that total picture for them. Technical, lightweight, sustainable materials are essential for this group. It’s a trend that continues to evolve fast.
This is an exciting group of newcomers, but they are not very loyal to brands or activities and switch much faster than they would in the past. You must do your very best to nurture them and keep informing them about everything you do because if you miss out, they're gone, and off to the next brand, or experience.
This group also likes gadgets. Examples include electric surf boards and scooters for snorkelling and scuba, or anything you can connect with Bluetooth. To appeal, equipment must be very modern and innovative.
The marine industry needs to work together to retain this new generation, to ensure their first experiences are excellent and something they want to repeat. That requires not only great products but also excellent service from dealers, backed by good warranty procedures in case any issues arise.
We will lose these customers just as fast as we got them if we do not do the right things now. The industry has made some mistakes in the past, but we have learned those lessons. We can also do a better job now, because we have more tools available to keep this new generation attracted.
What is the importance of METSTRADE to your business?
METSTRADE is an important show for Jobe. We participate in larger exhibitions, like the sports focused ISPO Munich, as well as events that are more activity based, but METSTRADE is a business show that draws in many boat and accessory dealers and distributors worldwide. They can find all the brands they represent in one place and meet them all in three days. That is very efficient for those businesses, which makes it very efficient for me as I get to meet key people from all around the globe without travelling to them.
How do you plan a typical METSTRADE visit?
We sit together as a team and decide which small selection of products we want to showcase from among our 850 SKUs. We usually feature safety devices like life jackets, products from our leisure range such as wetsuits, lifestyle afloat fashion like shoes, and boating accessories.
Early into the preparation we start sending out personal video invitations, in which I or my colleagues explain why the people we are contacting should visit METSTRADE. This helps us nurture existing customers and generate new leads.
To find new business we research for new dealers around the world in countries where we do not currently have good representation, explaining in our communications to them that METSTRADE is not just a place to meet us, but also a good opportunity to see a lot of other marine businesses.
Which METSTRADE areas and activities do you most look forward to?
Over the 25 years I have attended METSTRADE, I always visit the areas where new materials are showcased. I am looking for composites, foam, sustainable alternatives and other materials that we can use in our products, but we haven't thought of before. I then send that information through to our product managers.
When you sit behind your desk, it's hard to find fresh ideas but at METSTRADE it's easy to discover innovative new products and concepts for our next developments.
Read more from Humans of METSTRADE
Suzanne Blaustone (Barton Marine Equipment)
Lexi Ossinger (RxBoat)
Jean-Michel Gaigné (InXs Marinas)
Alexandra Foineau Oakley(Lumishore)
David Barrow (Barrow International)
Lesley Robinson (Britisch Marine)
Gianni de Bonis (TecnoRib)
Toni Salom (Nautipaints)
Marianne Hendriks (Moonen Yachts)
Torsten Conradi (Judel/Vrolijk & co)