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Seattle Show Sets Mark for Virtual Success

The Northwest Marine Trade Association’s Seattle Boat Show ended Sunday, but this year’s “Connected” edition was unlike any previous version. It was one of the most ambitious virtual events yet produced in the marine industry.

By every measure, Seattle Boat Show Connected succeeded in drawing wide range of consumers, good media coverage and business for many exhibitors, all by employing the latest in digital techniques. Here is one of six videos that explain the virtual show to prospective attendees.

“While we contend nothing will replace the power and success of the in-person show, our success with this show has met or exceeded all our hopes for it, given today’s circumstances,” NMTA president George Harris says. “Our entire team is deservedly pleased by what we accomplished for our members and the boating public.”

The road to show began last June when NMTA had its initial foray into the virtual realm with the Anacortes Boat and Yacht Show. “Compared to what we just produced, Anacortes was small, with limited success,” Harris says. “But that success gave us the encouragement and momentum to dive much deeper into our Seattle show. The results speak for themselves.”

The numbers for the four-day show are impressive. More than 5,000 visitors bought tickets in four levels ranging from $5 to $89, each offering a bigger package of features. Tracking revealed that the overwhelming majority attended every day, and, unexpectedly, attendees came from 52 states and Canadian provinces. Overall, they racked up more than 300,000 page views. And if you like numbers, here are more.

The show was open for 34 hours during the four-day run, plus an additional seven days for attendees to rewatch seminars. There were 218 businesses that displayed 578 boats and 364 products by uploading 7,500-plus images, videos, and 3-D Matterport scans. Exhibitors featured boats and products that included everything from insurance and services to wakeboards and accessories. And the attraction didn’t end there.

The show included 83 prerecorded boating, fishing and “Boat Show University” seminars covering topics from cruising to crabbing. Another big attraction was 34 hours of live Boat Show TV, which is available for online viewing through Feb. 7.

For exhibitors, there were four levels of participation. NMTA members received a free basic listing. Additional levels up to $15,000 provided more show “space” for products and other promotional benefits. Like the traditional in-person show, this event was promoted with a $250,000 ad budget of traditional and digital media, and garnered its share of press coverage.

Click here for a report by KOMO News.

“One added benefit for our dealers in the show has been learning how to create better videos for greater impact,” Harris says. “For example, using a 3-D platform like Matterport enables viewers to enjoy 360-degree scans of boats and a dealership,” as Zillow does for house sales. “Exhibitors generated scans on boats in the show up to 112 feet.”

The final test of success was leads and sales. Here are some exhibitor takeaways from the show.

Nick Buck-Niehaus, Sundance Yachts and Marinas: “While I'm hopeful and excited to have an in-person show in January 2022, I'm impressed and pleased with the results of Seattle Boat Show Connected. We received good, qualified leads that resulted virtual connections and in-person visits to our locations, and a steady flow of sales every day of the show. Looking forward to the next NMTA show — hopefully in person, but if it's virtual we'll be there, too.”

James Baker, Seattle Boat Co.: “We had a steady stream of digital traffic throughout all four days of the show and a steady stream of in-person appointments. Our team is still following up on leads, but I’m projecting that our sales will be on track with 2018 and 2019 numbers. Hats off to the NMTA crew. Their effort has been incredible and drove our success.”

Tim Klontz, 3 Rivers Marine: “We were very happy. We had people who contacted us through all the new features of the virtual show — Calendly, instant message, chat — and scheduled virtual and in-person appointments that have resulted in sales. We also had a number of new customers that we wouldn’t have seen without these marketing efforts of the NMTA.”

Finally, a good example of a video created for the show comes from 3 Rivers Marine. Indeed,

Seattle Boat Show Connected also motivated exhibitors to expand their thinking and use of video. Check out “My First Boat,” which 3 Rivers Marine produced.

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