The industrys fall boat show circuit will officially kick off this week when the 31st Michigan City In-Water Boat Show opens on Thursday near Chicago. After that, major fall shows will take place in locations like Detroit, Cedar Point, Newport, Norwalk, Atlantic City, Annapolis, Ft. Lauderdale, to name just a few.
But dealers arent buying exhibit space in these or any other boats shows! Thats because were not selling space, NMMAs president Thom Dammrich recently told his show staffs. And space is not what dealers are buying from us! Dealers dont need or want some docks in a marina or a piece of concrete in a convention center.
The reality is, when dealers participate in shows, theyre buying access . . . access to a highly qualified, hard to reach audience. Theyre also buying important visibility and promotion. What they want are qualified potential customers in a particular market and demographic, and we deliver that in spades, he said, referring specifically to NMMAs stable of shows.
But what Dammrich points out so well is also true for all of our industrys major boat shows. When we pause to examine why boat shows have been the single most effective vehicles for industry boat sales for well over a half century, Dammrichs observations are spot on. Access is exactly what its all about!
Regardless of the attendance numbers coming through the show gate, the price of a ticket serves as the No. 1 qualifier. Simply, people dont pay to see what they have no interest in! Moreover, shows are also the only platforms that will draw large numbers of prospects to one location at a specific time, thus giving a sales team face-to-face access to those qualified prospects. Whether the economy is good or bad does not change that basic fact.
And, while on the subject of attendance, we can expect the fall shows to do well. Thats because we predicted the recession would cause last winters boat shows to suffer a big hit at the gate. It didnt happen! Virtually all the major market shows did significantly better than their projections, reconfirming boaters and wannabes want the shows and will attend even when the economy is in the tank.
We already know for the 2010 round of fall boat shows, new product will be in short supply. Inventories are low and most dealers have fewer boats to display. Used and brokerage boats (where permitted) will make up more of the show fleet than might be the case in a normal year. But, all dealers committed to future success should be buying their access to their market areas qualified prospects that will, as in the past, turn up at boat show gates. If you havent bought your access to the prospects at your local fall show, you should he doing so now.