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Creativity can draw them to the showroom

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On Tuesday I accused the media of relentlessly playing on people’s fears, and I tried to be convincing that we’ve got to resist being dragged down to low expectations and complacency. Nyla Deputy commented, asking the pointed question: “…if there is no traffic coming in the door, isn’t it a little hard to sell a boat?”

Your right, Nyla. These are trying times, especially for a salesperson on commission. But, I hope you (and everyone else, please) have gone back to Tuesday’s (4/8) Dealer Outlook and read every comment -- they’re filed with encouragement and wisdom. Singling out one point today, John Wisse, John Ulrich and Terry Wood all urged becoming “creative.” I agree, so let’s define it.

Sam Watson, the creator of the action figure GI Joe, may have put it best when he said “truly groundbreaking ideas are rare, but you don’t necessarily need one. Creativity is the logical combination of two or more existing elements that result in a new concept.” So, we’re not talking about reinventing the wheel, we’re calling for doing something we’re not now doing that could build showroom traffic and sales.

One good idea is creating specific events to draw prospects in. In these times, our best prospects, and ones most apt to respond, are in our existing customer base. They’re already committed to boating. Somewhere in that group there will be sales! Recognizing this, some manufacturers, for example Tiara and Pursuit, are already requiring and/or supporting dealer plans to hold “customer events” this year to draw new sales from that base. Here are a few random ideas to get your creativity going:

• Create a series of evening or weekend seminars/programs in the showroom. Subject possibilities are many, ranging from electronics how-to clinics to fishing or skiing instructions with local experts. B&E Marine in Indiana, for example, invites customers to attend regular Coast Guard seminars in the showroom on boat operation and safety. How about a program(s) called “Exciting 1-Tank Cruises" customers could take this summer. Ditto for programs on “Ways You Can Boat More with Less Gas” – that’ll draw!

• Create an “All-Family Discover Boating Day” event centered on free demo rides along with sno-cones, popcorn, balloon artist, etc. Rent a couple of giant inflatable bouncers and the kids will push the parents to attend! For example, the Marine Industries Association of Central Florida just held a “Discover Boating Days” demo promotion. (Contact: Joe Lewis, Mt. Dora Boating Center, Mt. Dora, Fla.)

• Create a “Family Tubing Clinic” complete with on-water demos or inside the showroom presenting all the tubing possibilities and tips. Ditto for wake boarding or water skiing clinics. How about special programs for women?

• Create a “Work From Your Boat Day” promotion and give away Free 1-year Air Cards with a purchase. Heck, throw in the laptop, too!

• Marine Center in Indianapolis created a successful drive thru winterization service promotion. Create a “Drive-Thru Spring Tune-Up” or “Spring Boat & Trailer Checkup.” The customer drives up, enjoys a beverage in the showroom while the service team performs.

So get your entire team together brainstorm creative ideas to attract prospects and existing customers. Tough times can be good times when they stretch us to expand our thinking. As author John Maxwell so correctly observes in his book, Thinking for a Change, “The status quo and creativity are incompatible.”

And if you have had some winning in-store events in the past, I encourage you to share them here.



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