A quick survey of major fall in-water boat shows indicates deposits for exhibit space are running behind last yearís pace. No surprise there, given the state of business and concerns for cash flow. But with the first of the major fall shows (Michigan City, Ind.) now just†six weeks away, itís time to revisit the importance of these shows, now more important than ever before.
If that statement surprises you, letís look at some critical information. Todayís marketplace is fragmented as never before. While advertisers in the 1970s knew precisely where their target audience would be every evening at 6 p.m.†and p.m., in todayís world of always-on total communication everyone is living somewhere in cyberspace. The problem is that retailers now struggle to find ways to reach prospects and drive them into the store.
Quite the contrary is true of boat shows. Dealers can be certain theyíll reach prospects there. Thatís because when people come to a show, theyíre effectively declaring they have an interested in boats. Letís face it; people who donít care about boats go to the movies!† So, show attendees place themselves smack in the middle of a well-planned selling environment.
When it comes to the promotional budget for most dealers, boat show expenses likely top the list. That also makes them targets for cuts or delayed commitments in tough times like these. But the truth is, dropping out of the boat show would be a major marketing blunder. Even in the worst years, dealers still report sales at the shows or as a result of the shows. The percentage of total annual sales attributable to exhibiting in boat shows still ranks high for most dealers. Moreover, that significant percentage probably couldnít be made up by changing the marketing mix. Plus, while sales made at the show can be easily measured, there are important longer range benefits to exhibiting. Prospects see your products displayed in an exciting context. The impression is positive and seed future sales.
Itís no secret show attendance and sales have been off for some time, reflecting the overall market for boats. After all, a show canít create a market that doesnít exist. But you can count on a show to draw the active prospects to one place at one time. In todayís quandary of how to reach prospects, the boat shows shine over every other possible medium. In fact, it been that way for as long as anyone can remember and until there is some new way to put large numbers of prospects face-to-face with our products in a definite time and place, boat shows will remain the single most effective means our industry has to take our products to market.
You can be sure of one thing: boats will be sold at upcoming fall shows. Perhaps still not as many as in ďgoodĒ times, but dealers in the shows will have the best chance of selling while those who arenít will not. If you havenít, yet, signed up for your areaís fall show, now is the time to get on it.