Make your boat show exhibit fun


Last week I reported on the success of the industry’s first major fall in-water show at Michigan City, Ind., and, in particular, the sales increase reported by B&E Marine’s Rod Bensz. Here’s some more on how Bensz generated excitement in his exhibit that paid off in sales.

“Our dealership theme is ‘Experience The Fun’ so we purposed to make our exhibit look like fun and, in fact, be fun for visitors,” Bensz says. “For example, at last year’s MRAA convention in Orlando, we discovered a product called Go-Float Electric Boats. They’re imaginative, look like fun and they really are. So we put two models on display right in the middle of our exhibit and they were great attention grabbers. We delivered two on Monday morning.”

“In June, we saw the Maui Mat on display at the Chicago show,” he added. “It’s a 20-foot by 6-foot foam pad people float on, party on, kids play on — a simple fun product. When I told the staff we took on the Maui Mat, they laughed at me and said ‘Who’s going to buy a $600 piece of foam?’ So far, we’ve sold over 80 at our special $550 price,” he says.

“The rolled pad is only two feet in diameter — they take it on the boat, to the beach, people love it because it’s just fun.”

Bensz says their goal at B&E is to keep things interesting, to mix things up and, sometimes, do something unexpected whether in the showroom and at the boat show. This year B&E also added a 22-foot demo boat and 33-foot joystick demo boat to their show exhibit for visitors to “Experience The Fun.” The result, if you missed last week’s blog, was an increase from four boats sold at the 2012 show to 13 boats up to 54 fee closed this year.

As we’re about to dive into the heaviest part of the fall show season with the Tampa Boat Show opening Thursday followed by major events from Newport Beach (Calif.) to Newport (R.I.), on the Great Lakes and down the East Coast, boat shows remain the single most effective way for dealers to get face-to-face access to large numbers of qualified prospects in just three or four days. But like anything else, successful exhibits reflect serious efforts and some creative planning.

Is it all worth it? Well, studies done exclusively with more than 3,000 new-boat buyers confirm that 61 percent say they got the information they needed at a boat show to make the buying decision. Nearly six in 10 new-boat buyers reported attending at least one show in the 12 months before they bought their boat. Moreover, 64 percent of people going to a show say they are planning to visit the display of the brand they want to buy, although it’s very significant that 36 percent say they just “came across” the brand they ultimately bought.

We also know, on average, the majority of show attendees travel about one hour to get to a boat show. They pay for parking and show admission tickets. Talk about qualified customers. Who would do that if they weren’t interested in boats? Perhaps that’s why we also know from studies that buyers spent an average of 49 minutes in the display of the brand of boat they ultimately purchase.

No matter how we look at our boat shows, the studies confirm boat shows play a powerful roll in moving prospects from looking for a new boat to closing the sale.


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