In The Press: Starlite Recently Named by Inc. Magazine as a
"Best of the Web Company"


Water Views 
[Awarded 3rd Place: Marketing]

Company: Starlite Houseboats Inc. 
Web address: www.starlitehouseboats.com
Why it won: The site's interactive tool allows users to design and price the houseboat of their dreams. 
Company revenues: $2 million 
Site-launch cost: $7,500 
Judge's view: "While a drawback is that someone is not likely to order a $150,000 boat based on surfing a single site, it does serve as a solid marketing tool to engage prospective customers who may order off the site or otherwise continue to connect with the seller." --Jed Emerson 

Houseboats have come a long way. Tubby eyesores of old, they are now more likely to boast king-size beds, jumbo jacuzzis, elegant flying bridges, and high-octane engines. Two things haven't changed though: they're still found mostly on fresh water (they're not equipped to handle open ocean), and they're mostly used as alternate living spaces. However, a new twist is that their builders are increasingly likely to be trolling for business in cyberspace. 

That's just what Roger Aldis decided to do. Last year he launched a Web site for his Dallas-based company, Starlite Houseboats Inc., which had been in business since 1994. A houseboat is a complicated purchase, and CEO Aldis wanted to give potential customers an easy way to do research on it -- much like shopping for a car on the Web. Today visitors can use an interactive tool to "design" their dreamboat by selecting from a menu of seven floor plans that have an average base price of $139,000. They can also select optional equipment (like home-theater systems and swim platforms), hit the Send button, and receive a quote in minutes. 

Our judges thought Starlite was a standout, even though it didn't reach the exalted heights of its competitor, General Excellence winner Sumerset Custom Houseboats Inc., which judge Evan Schwartz called the "Dell Computer" of the houseboat industry. (See "Web Awards 2000: General Excellence.") 

Before the advent of the Web, would-be houseboaters had little choice but to trudge to boat shows and far-flung dealers' showrooms in search of information. And they had to subject themselves to high-pressure sales tactics in order to get an actual quote. Aldis wanted to let people get a real-world price quote in a matter of minutes -- no salesperson needed. That feature got high marks from our judges. "[The online configurator] is a powerful marketing tool in that it instantly connects the user's preferences with the end product," said Don Peppers. 

But Aldis doesn't cut out the dealers altogether; Starlite has one in Atlanta and one in North Carolina. In addition, the company still hauls its boats to the big shows. But Aldis believes that his site's online configurator puts his customers at ease and makes them more likely to buy from Starlite over the long run. "They decide when they're ready to buy or if they want to talk to someone," he says. 

Proof that the approach is working: people have configured more than 600 boats online since the site's inception, in October 1999, and the company has received online orders for 29 boats since then.
[ article from Inc. Magazine January 2, 2001 p.64 - 65 ]

As Seen In


Starlite Houseboats, Inc.
Toll Free: 1-877-880-1919


Copyright ©2000.   Starlite Houseboats, Inc.
All rights reserved. Web design by NP Ventures, Inc.