There's no denying it. We're really, truly different.
Time for a true confession.
I've been taking an on-line course to improve Arkadaslik Yachting's marketing material. The course is dorky, but I like the step-by-step approach. It's forcing me to look at things with fresh eyes.
"In order to be remembered in a crowded marketplace, it helps if your business has a trait that is worth remembering."
So, I started listing the reasons we're different than the hundreds of other gulet companies offering cruises in Turkey and Greece. And I found myself with a 3-page list of complete and utter, airy-fairy, fluffy, crap. Back to the drawing board!
Four days later, it dawned on me that we're exactly the same as the other companies - with one major exception. None are owned by me. I am the unique selling proposition!
Time for much-needed introspection.
This insight forced me to answer a new question: What makes ME different than all the other yachting company owners?
- I am Canadian. A few yachting companies are foreign owned, or have foreign partners. But, as far as I know, Arkadaslik Yachting is the only private charter business operating along the Turquoise Coast that is wholly owned by a Canadian.
- I am female. While many women own and manage their own businesses in Turkey, few (if any) have successfully infiltrated the yachting industry.
- I am old. Not only is the yachting industry dominated by men, it is dominated by YOUNG men. I haven't conducted a scientific study, but my estimate is that most sailors in Fethiye harbour are in their early 20s, and most captains are in their early 30s. Without getting into the specifics, let's just say that I'm "above average".
- I am blind. I have detached retinas in both eyes, further complicated by keratoconus, and most recently, cataracts. My vision is bad. Really bad. Not "I need glasses to drive a car" bad. R-E-A-L-L-Y bad. [Note: Please be assured that I don't drive the boat. Captain Oktay is always in charge, and he has fabulous eye sight!]
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- I live on the boat. It is my home.
Okay, so I'm different. Which means Arkadaslik Yachting is different. But why in the world should anyone care? Cruising the Mediterranean with an old, blind Canadian woman who lives on a boat doesn't actually sound like a dream vacation. Or does it?
Time for some analysis.
I am Canadian. Being Canadian means I'm hard-wired for politeness, an abiding love of duct tape, and the ability to speak Canadian-English. Interestingly enough, these traits appear to be contagious!
- Politeness - They may make fun at the way I apologize to furniture when I trip (see Point #4, about blindness), but the crew follow my example and treat me, our guests, and each other with courtesy and respect. We are a friendly, cheerful lot. No brooding, no sullenness, no angst. This makes for a genuinely pleasant atmosphere on the boat.
- Duct Tape - What can I say? It's our immediate, go-to solution when things break. We handle the inevitable emergencies that crop up on a daily basis with ease and aplomb - and duct tape. Problem solved!
- Speaking Canadian - I'm fluent in Canadian English and most other English dialects, but am occasionally bamboozled by British accents. Our Turkish crew have adopted my accent and odd Canadian sayings, and I hear them say "okey dokie" and pronounce "wodder" just like I do. Guests enjoy the best of both cultures!
I am female. Visitors ALWAYS compliment the boat's cleanliness, niceties and level of service that aren't typically seen in yachts of our size and class. Sometimes, they even use the (blatantly sexist) term a woman's touch. Rather than take offence at the implication that the business is girly, I appreciate the recognition for our exceptional standards of quality and comfort.
I am old. (Technically, I'm not really old. Just older than most people you see working on gulets.)
- With age, comes wisdom. (Stop laughing! I haven't survived the challenges life has thrown at me thus far without some degree of wisdom.) I've learned to solve problems with my brain, rather than my brawn. Which is fortunate, because I don't actually have much brawn. I've learned the power of planning, and the importance of thinking through the consequences before acting. And I've learned that the best results come from good teams, so I surround myself with the best crew possible.
- With age, also comes the ability to converse with anyone - young or old. While we occasionally host young families, the majority of our guests are 50+. Being older allows me to connect with our guests on a personal level, which isn't always possible for a younger person.
I am blind. To be perfectly honest, it's hard to find anything positive to say about my eyesight. Luckily, I'm able to manage quite well, but have a hard time recognizing people. Casual acquaintances may think I'm a snob when I ignore their wave of greeting. Trust me, I'm not being rude (see Point #1, about politeness), I just can't see them.
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On the plus side, my bad vision forces us to keep the boat tidy - partly so I don't trip (necessitating an apology to whatever (or whomever) I stumbled over, see Point #1, about politeness) and partly so I can find things without help. And, it gives me insight into the frailties of others, empathy for people facing their own life challenges, and appreciation for simplicity, clarity, and accessibility. All in all, only good came come from that!
So, the next step in the course is distilling this message into something I can incorporate into our marketing materials. In the meantime, do you think Ive accomplished it? Have I defined traits worth remembering about Arkadaslik Yachting?