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Good marketing should include events

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The use of special boating events by dealers and/or local marine associations appears to be gaining more traction these days. Some events aim at the general boating public, similar to boat shows but not portrayed as such. Others are aimed squarely at existing customers. Either way, they can be strong components in a dealer’s marketing plan. Here are some examples worth contemplating:

In a Detroit suburb today, the Boating and Outdoor Festival will kick off for four days, featuring a myriad of outdoor products and, of course, lots of boats. Produced by the Michigan Boating Industries Association (MBIA) and now in its second year, the festival also includes exhibits of waterfront living, fine art, vacation destinations, fishing and outdoor recreation products such as ATV’s, motorcycles, paddle sports, among others.

Because MBIA packages it as a festival rather than a boat show, it’s also rich in entertainment drawing cards. Some highlights include: shows featuring Duma the Water Skiing Dog; a large Kids Zone boasting bounce houses, stilt walkers, face painters and featuring appearances by Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer; the “Ultimate Playground,” a demo riding experience being hosted by BRP using Sea-Doos, ATVs, SSVs and Roadsters; and, of course, beer gardens, live music and more.

Farther south, if it’s anything nautical, it will likely be found at the Nautical Marketplace at St. Johns Yacht Harbor (Charleston) set for this Saturday and produced by the South Carolina Marine Association (SCMA). This single day event will new and pre-owned boats, accessories and equipment displays, nautical antiques and “newtiques,” arts and crafts, among other displays. The event is free to the public. In addition, it will be followed by a BBQ and party for SCMA members including a silent auction with a portion of the proceeds going to the Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund.

Special events take on a different slant for MarineMax (Clearwater, FL). These are aimed squarely at its customer base. In fact, MarineMax cleverly utilizes some large community events to create special customer gatherings. For example, the upcoming Red Bull Flugtag will “land” on the downtown Tampa waterfront Oct. 7-9. MarineMax will gather owners to view this entertaining event that has teams with homemade, human-powered flying machines piloting them off a 30-foot high deck in hopes of achieving flight. They all ultimately splash into the harbor below but it’s a great show!

Similarly, MarineMax will take advantage of two more events. (1) “Guavaween” is an annual Tampa Halloween celebration drawing more than 100,000 people, featuring a parade, costume contests and concerts with national and local talent. MarineMax calls it their Guavaween Getaways for customers and it’s for all ages. (2) In November, MarineMax customers will head for the big RibFest 2011 on the St. Petersburg waterfront. It’s a family event featuring national touring bands, entertainment and, o course, the sweet small of BBQ fills downtown St. Pete.

In these and other similar events, MarineMax uses the occasions to cultivate their customer relationships. And, it demonstrates that if a dealer just looks around at what’s happening in the area, he doesn’t have to create the events to have effective customer events.

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