Boat show blogs draw interesting comments


I usually don’t comment on your comments to Dealer Outlook. My goal in doing the blog is to be only a catalyst for an open exchange of ideas. It's happening and I thank you. But, based on your most recent comments about boat shows, I want to inject a few more thoughts.

It’s obvious that inherent in recent comments like those from Todd, Pete Peterson and Gordon McKelvey, for example, there’s a frustration with boat shows. I agree with you – shows have become frustrating. If you’ve been in the business for very long you, well, remember the days when boating was on a roll and we didn’t “sell” at shows. We just took lots of orders. How sweet it was!

Now, we’re frustrated that we can’t seem to get back to those days. Shows aren’t fun right now because, as every good show manager knows, a boat show cannot create a market that doesn’t exist; it can only reflect the state of the market in which it’s held. That’s why, for example, the continuing strong economy in Seattle has those shows doing very well while shows in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois must fight serious economic negatives. You might assume, then, that shows in Seattle are more important than in Detroit. But you’d be wrong.

Boat shows remains the single most powerful selling medium available to our industry. And, whether you’re in Toledo or Tacoma, each show does exactly the same thing – it draws to itself whatever the area market is at that time. In other words, the boat show will attract the largest number of qualified prospects for face-to-face, smell-the-glass interaction with dealers that’s available in the market area. No other promotional medium can do that – not TV, not newspaper ads, not even the internet. Moreover, it’s impossible for a dealer to attract anywhere near the number of prospects to his store than he would have a shot at in a boat show. 

There’s more.

Surveys, including the J.D. Power studies, still indicate boat shows remain the top source of information for prospective buyers. That’s substantially more than the internet. In addition, most show visitors are pre-qualified as to their interest in boating. After all, only people who like boats that will pay for the parking and admission, etc.

I suppose the ultimate confirmation that shows remain truly important to the retail sale of boats and accessories is that so many dealers still succeed in selling well at and/or as a result of shows. And until we find a better medium, shows will remain important.

Finally, I know from 34 years of collaborating with show managers from virtually every marine trade association in our industry (NMMA included, Gordon) that every show manager recognizes his success comes only when the dealers succeed. The truth is, trying to find ways to get dealers more qualified prospects is considered job #1 by every good manager.

And that’s the way I see it.


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