A quick survey of major fall in-water boat shows indicates deposits for exhibit space are running behind last years pace. No surprise there, given the state of business and concerns for cash flow. But with the first of the major fall shows (Michigan City, Ind.) now just six weeks away, its time to revisit the importance of these shows, now more important than ever before.
If that statement surprises you, lets look at some critical information. Todays marketplace is fragmented as never before. While advertisers in the 1970s knew precisely where their target audience would be every evening at 6 p.m. and p.m., in todays world of always-on total communication everyone is living somewhere in cyberspace. The problem is that retailers now struggle to find ways to reach prospects and drive them into the store.
Quite the contrary is true of boat shows. Dealers can be certain theyll reach prospects there. Thats because when people come to a show, theyre effectively declaring they have an interested in boats. Lets face it; people who dont care about boats go to the movies! So, show attendees place themselves smack in the middle of a well-planned selling environment.
When it comes to the promotional budget for most dealers, boat show expenses likely top the list. That also makes them targets for cuts or delayed commitments in tough times like these. But the truth is, dropping out of the boat show would be a major marketing blunder. Even in the worst years, dealers still report sales at the shows or as a result of the shows. The percentage of total annual sales attributable to exhibiting in boat shows still ranks high for most dealers. Moreover, that significant percentage probably couldnt be made up by changing the marketing mix. Plus, while sales made at the show can be easily measured, there are important longer range benefits to exhibiting. Prospects see your products displayed in an exciting context. The impression is positive and seed future sales.
Its no secret show attendance and sales have been off for some time, reflecting the overall market for boats. After all, a show cant create a market that doesnt exist. But you can count on a show to draw the active prospects to one place at one time. In todays quandary of how to reach prospects, the boat shows shine over every other possible medium. In fact, it been that way for as long as anyone can remember and until there is some new way to put large numbers of prospects face-to-face with our products in a definite time and place, boat shows will remain the single most effective means our industry has to take our products to market.
You can be sure of one thing: boats will be sold at upcoming fall shows. Perhaps still not as many as in good times, but dealers in the shows will have the best chance of selling while those who arent will not. If you havent, yet, signed up for your areas fall show, now is the time to get on it.