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Boat shows to see shakeup next year

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The National Marine Trades Council (NMTC) wrapped up its annual meeting in Chicago yesterday and many labeled it the best conference ever. The NMTC is made up of leaders from the national and regional marine trade associations that began meeting annually 35 years ago. This year, 41 attendees from 23 associations gathered to talk about boat shows and association programs for their members.

Unlike previous meetings, this year’s NMTC took on a completely new format that produced some unexpected results, which are likely to shakeup many of the industry’s boat shows by next winter.

NMTC Chairman Michael Campbell (Northwest Marine Trades – Seattle) changed the normal meeting format and utilized a trained facilitator for the first time. For two days, Thomas Grossmann, VP Risk for GE Capitol Solutions, conducted the meetings aimed at developing new and innovative ideas for the associations, particularly for their boat shows.

“These are times when we need to uncover new approaches to making our boat shows deliver more results,” Campbell noted. “We wanted an outside facilitator who would literally lead all attendees to new discoveries. GE’s Grossmann responded,” he added.

Based on the premise that boat shows, despite recent declines in attendance and sales, still remain the single most powerful selling medium available to our industry, Grossmann pushed the group into bluntly examining subjects, ranging from driving increased traffic to improving the return on investment for exhibitors. In the end, more than 28 specific best practice areas, changes and programs will be investigated and developed for possible implementation next fall and winter.

Each specific practice or program development is under a leader and the assortment of programs is broad. For example, one is the development of an Exhibitors Best Practices Guide. Another deals with concepts for sales incentives by manufacturers for shows only. Sill another addresses a major increase in the use of the ever-growing Discover Boating data base for direct show promotions.

Then, there are best practices for promoting through the corporate human relations' departments. How about practices to change from boat shows to boating shows that focus on the lifestyle benefits. Or, creating unique first-time buyer incentives. These are just samples of the practices and plans to be developed and disseminated to the associations in the next few months.

Finally, there are related subjects that will go under a microscope in the weeks ahead, ranging from viral marketing techniques to video and internet testimonials – even developing new style sales events so some shows in certain markets could be replaced! Yes, the latter is a sure indication that what happened at the NMTC this week was not just your same old meeting! And, I submit there will be a lot of changes, for the better, for our boat shows.

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