I love visiting the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, because it is the biggest show in the world and it brings together a large number of KVH customers in one venue. Talking to customers gives me a feel for how well we’re doing as a company in keeping them happy with our products and services, and listening to their questions, comments, and desires provides a terrific basis for our future product line plans and points we need to cover in our manuals and marketing materials.
Every year, while visiting the show, I do a little market research project to help us estimate our market share relative to our competition. I literally walk every dock in the show, and count the domes on every boat in the show.
There are hundreds of boats from all over the world, so it seems to me to be a fairly random sample. Our dome design, the familiar white dome with the grey baseplate, is actually a registered trademark of KVH, so they are easy to spot! Of course, we also provide “all white” domes for customers like Viking Yachts and our customers occasional paint our domes (not recommended), but they are still distinguishable from our competition.
For the past dozen years, the market share of our TracVision and TracPhone products under 1 meter in diameter (the cutoff point for the KVH product line before this year’s introduction of the TracVision HD11) has grown consistently, and this year it reached the highest level ever. Over 80% of the domes I counted at this year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show under 1m in diameter where KVH TracVision and TracPhone products!
Of course, KVH’s dominant market share is nice from a company point of view, indicating that we are successfully competing in the maritime market for television and communications customers, but more importantly, it is an indication that we’re doing our collective job in keeping people happy with our company for the life of their products. As a company, we work hard to take every reasonable action to make sure that all of our customers are satisfied both with what they buy from us and with how we support them if they ever have a question or issue with their product. I was actually stopped by a man and his son on my way to the show Friday morning who saw my KVH shirt and said, “I just want to tell you that your technical support people are fantastic! I had a problem with my TracVision product last week and they helped me fix it immediately, with just one phone call!” At KVH, we all understand that yacht owners are among the world’s most affluent and demanding customers. They talk amongst themselves about boats and equipment, so keeping them happy is a huge company priority!
One of our competitors is a major sponsor of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which means their company logo and pictures of their products are posted on every entrance, shuttle bus, show advertisement, and food pavilion. Even though they’ve been a sponsor for more than 3 years, I counted only 12 of their domes on boats in the entire show, versus over 325 of KVH’s TracVision and TracPhone domes. To me, this is a sign that the marine market is still one where customers do their research and value well designed, high quality products and outstanding customer support, as opposed to making decisions based solely on advertising. KVH focuses on taking care of our customers, who in turn help us maintain our lead in the maritime markets.
I often invite our prospective customers to visit any harbor, anywhere they are likely to travel, and do their own survey of the number of vessels equipped with KVH’s familiar white domes with their grey baseplates. Then I suggest they talk to one of the owners and ask about their satisfaction with KVH products. In my experience, the overwhelming majority will give a resoundingly positive endorsement! With a customer base of discerning yacht owners, that’s better advertising than we could ever purchase.