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Bringing people into the dealership

I’ve been spending my evenings in fishing school -- eight evenings and a Saturday morning of angling lectures and demonstrations. 

The school is being conducted by Capt. Sergio Atanes, a veteran guide who has also hosted his own TV fishing show and a radio program. Over the years, he has appeared at boat and sports shows from Chicago to Miami.

We’re meeting at Tampa Fishing Outfitters, a large and very well-stocked store. They’ve set up a comfortable “classroom” area for each evening’s two-hour session. But this isn’t meant to be a fish school story. Rather, it’s a story about how to go fishing – for customers! Here are the considerations in this example:

• I met Capt. Sergio at the 2009 Tampa Boat Show where he was doing seminars. But it’s a year later that I’m seated in his school, which illustrates the fact that being in boat shows will produce results but the payoffs can be in the future.

• I’ve shopped in at least five or six good tackle stores in the Tampa Bay area since moving here three years ago. But until I arrived for the first night’s fishing class, I didn’t even know Tampa Fishing Outfitters existed! Because it’s the host site, I discovered Tampa Outfitters is the most complete store I’ve found to date. No question I’ll become a new customer. In fact, I already have.

• Tonight I’ll attend the final evening class. I have already spent more than $160 on a new rod, tackle, line, lures and other gear. I asked the rest of the class, by show of hands, two questions: (1) How many had never been in Tampa Fishing Outfitters before the first class? Answer: Half of the 22 students. That’s 11 new customers for Tampa Outfitters! (2) How many had made any purchases since the class started. All 22 raised their hands! Bottom line: For simply hosting the school, Tampa Outfitters has gained some new customers and we’re already spending in the store.

• It’s notable that many of the students are experienced anglers, as opposed to novices. This is important because it documents that the right subjects for in-store seminars, events and educational classes will be attractive to all levels of skill, including existing customers. And keeping existing customers close is job No. 1 for every dealer these days.

The advantages of manufacturing reasons for customers and prospects to come into our dealerships have never been more important. As in this example, it can be done by teaming up and providing a venue for others to offer a variety of events or programs.

The announcement in yesterday’s TradeOnlyToday that Brunswick and the United States Power Squadrons are teaming up on boating safety classes in dealerships is another good example. What are you doing to consistently draw store traffic?

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