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Do your leads bear fruit after a show is over?

It’s been a while since we’ve seen so many boat shows see a surge in attendance, but it’s happening. And, while we’re talking shows, research by Discover Boating identifies some key mistakes dealers can make during and after the show.

First, here’s the good news from recent shows: Cincinnati up 30 percent; New York up 21 percent; St. Louis up 19 percent; Cleveland up 16 percent; Houston up 9 percent; Chicago fishing show up 8.5 percent; Baltimore up 7 percent; Louisville up 6 percent; and, while not yet reported in as of Monday night, it’s expected that both Jacksonville and Charleston will see gains.

And, with more big shows ahead in Detroit, New Jersey and Miami, I’m confident of more good news to come. As I’ve said before, this is a good year for dealers to be at their local boat show.

But success at the show and back at the dealership can be illusive, according to research by the industry’s Discover Boating team. Discover Boating commissioned a landmark study to see why first-time boaters shopped and either did or didn’t buy with an emphasis on the latter. Looking just at demographics really hasn’t provided answers. But looking at the motivations of prospects was much more revealing. And, that’s a big subject for a blog at another time.

Right now, since we’re in the show season, the Discover Boating study also revealed practical considerations every dealer and sales team should recognize. Simply put, properly addressing them can boost sales.

It’s now known, for example, that tomorrow’s boat owners will likely take six months to lead up to the purchase. Knowing that, a dealer’s sales team must recognize that their show exhibit is as much as lead generator, an investment in their future success, as an immediate sales outlet. Too often, a show is measured solely by the number of sales contracts written on the floor. Names of prospects are taken, but then disappear into some black hole. That’s shortsighted.

The study revealed the sales process can be expected to average six months. But, within six months, most respondents didn’t know where to buy. Moreover, only 1 in 3 knew for certain what type of boat they wanted. Indeed, an overwhelming 70 percent of prospects indicated they didn’t have someone to rely on to help with their decision.

What those results indicate is that sales teams are failing to have the necessary long view, i.e., following the show by having a concerted effort to build a relationship and position themselves as the go-to source for expert advice. Check this: 66 percent of people said they stopped shopping because they didn’t get enough information from the dealer. Ouch!

There’s more. As expected, 64 percent of shoppers go online to do some research. As an industry, we want that. But the prospects also indicated they could feel overwhelmed by all the information. That’s not surprising. And it makes it even more important for the sales team members to be the adviser that’s just a phone call away for the shopper. Clearly, if the sales team hasn’t invested time to seed that ground, there’ll be no harvest.

Finally, a significant 42 percent revealed hidden costs that were not appropriately addressed early in the process stopped them from buying. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t have handled these costs, but were angered or lost trust in the salesperson. Transparency was very important to them.

Enough already! With just this information, you don’t need to be a graduate of the Wharton business program to figure out it makes zero sense to get a lead generation list from the boat show and fail to consistently and effectively work with it. In the end, the care and feeding of such a list can prove far more profitable to your sales team than the deals they inked at the show.


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