Increasing attendance at winter boat shows

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There isn’t a boat show manager alive who isn’t searching for ways to increase attendance at this winter’s critical round of shows. Enter Phil Dyskow, president of Yamaha’s marine group, who may have laid out a good roadmap worth studying. Dyskow, with more than 40 journalists in attendance last week, unveiled the largest outboard product introduction in Yamaha’s history -- nine new engines from 4 hp to 300 hp. Yamaha has re-engineered its entire four-stroke V6 line while adding a new mid-range F70 engine, F4 and F6 portables and 3 new VMAX four-stroke models.

If you’re a boat show manager, this comes as great news! In the current recession, it’s not hard to figure that boaters will have low expectations for seeing new products at the winter shows. The fear is this may keep them at home -- unless, that is, the industry gives them a reason to come out.

Said Dyskow: "We've got to give customers a reason to buy and a reason to go to boat shows and to visit their dealer.” A big Amen to that! Its apparent Dyskow recognizes the need for manufacturers to counter low consumer expectations with publicity about new products hitting the boating market. In the same manner, show managers must acknowledge job No. 1 for them will be to make sure the public is informed that there are new products at the upcoming show.

Here’s where show managers and manufacturers and dealers must come together now. Show managers must change the emphasis of their show advertising and, especially, their PR campaigns from highlighting skiing squirrels and pirate shows to acquiring media coverage of new products and innovations. Manufacturers and dealers must partner in this effort by being certain information gets to show managers that can be used to promote new products at the show. If there was ever a need to diligently promote “new,” it’s now. And, if it’s done well, the boaters will show up!

That said, however, the big boost to many industry boat shows around the country that Yamaha could provide is diminished by their plan not to debut the V6s and F70 until mid-February at the Miami International Boat Show. Yes, some inshore models and the portables will hit the market in January. And, yes, the Miami Show is the industry’s top winter event and, therefore, a great place for new product intros. But the truth is there are very important industry shows like, say, New York, Houston, Cleveland, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, to name just a few, that all precede Miami.

Would unveiling the new V6s at any of the major market shows that run before Miami lessen the impact for Yamaha at Miami? No. After all, Yamaha has already let the media run the engines. The resulting PR is imminent. But Yamaha could have a host of other ad and PR people promoting its new engines at dozens of good shows running ahead of Miami. It would be a win-win, and who doesn’t need a win-win these days.

Bottom line: Any manufacturer and dealer who has a genuinely new product(s) headed for the winter boat shows needs to be sure industry show managers know about it. Show managers need to hone the “new” message in their respective markets as never before if they hope to move reluctant people off the couch and onto the show floor.

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