Dealer Outlook

Trade Only Dealer Outlook Blog

Where did all the boat show leads go?

We’ve had enough reports from our January boat shows to know they’ve been better than expected. Great news! Even better, reports from virtually all shows indicate a definite improvement in prospect quality over last year when show visitors wouldn’t even talk to us!

The heightened interest at shows this year signals two good things: (1) A building pent-up demand for boats; and (2) a greater number of quality leads acquired at the shows. In turn, it also begs the question – where are those leads now?

Leads are as critical to the sales team as wrenches are to service. The leads we got at the show today are our buyers tomorrow. We can’t forget this sales basic: Prospects buy when they are ready to buy – not when we are ready to sell! The time between the two is where effectively managing our leads is in play. 

Every sales team should have a working lead system. The days of the old 3” X 5” index cards or wrinkled slips of paper are history. The days of 1 follow-up phone call or postcard are also gone. With a laptop and a database, good lead management is faster, easier and better than ever. For example, say you just finished a show last Sunday (three days ago.) By now, all your leads could (should) be in your database, ready for follow-up targeted marketing.

According to the Center for Exhibit Industry Research, studies show less than 50 percent of exhibitors in trade shows do any follow-up! Hopefully, the rate is higher for consumer shows like ours. However, it is possible we fall short, too. Sure, we’re tired after a show and we usually take a well-deserved day or two off. But, with good lead management programs operating in our stores, the computer can be target marketing the leads with special email follow-ups, thank you notes, invitations to the showroom, suggested dates for a demo ride and always giving the prospects reasons why they should buy . . . all while you’re taking that day off! And, the good system will continue to be used to communicate, educate and maintain a relationship with the prospects.

From a different point of view: What’s the cost of lost, discarded or leads not followed up? Answer: spend more money to seek more leads! In addition, your sales team is most likely not the only one trying to sell to your prospects. This is the age of information technology. If we want to meet the competition where they are, we’ve got to have a working lead follow-up system. There are inexpensive off-the-shelf lead management programs, custom designed programs and even lead generation/management service firms.

It’s a fact that a lead is worth nothing until it actually generates a sale. In most cases, we simply don’t know when a prospect will decide to buy. Unfortunately, he’s on his schedule, not ours. Our goal with a good lead management system is to be in front of him, top-of-mind, when he makes that decision.

I recently read somewhere that a salesman, who maintains a large lead management system, likes to think of his prospect database as a list of customers. He says: “The way I see it, I have hundreds of customers — some are just not buying right now.”


3 comments on “Where did all the boat show leads go?

  1. cptkman


    Shows have deffinately changed from what they were as recently as 5 to 7 years ago. We used to write 1/3 or more of our sales at shows. Now that has come down to what you can count on both hands. So, following up, making contacts, and staying in touch with the consumer has become a high priority, and it has payed off. Shows today are about letting the boating public know who you are, where you are, and what products and services you provide. Show promoters need to realize this change in the boat buying public. When the public comes to the show, thinking about boating or a previous boater, they must go away WANTING to boat. Sell the sizzle, sell the fun, sell the time with family. Just pushing price, price price, no matter how many “free” covers or extended warranties you give away, doesn’t push today’s public’s buttons.


  2. Dan Hamilton


    The article you read about the salesman that views his prospect database as a customer list, is absolutely right on target. Staying in touch with prospects and delivering targeted pertinant messages that are triggered by time, action or events are how you can succesfully convert those prospects into customers. At ThreeClix we call it nurture marketing. As long as your messaging is targeted to each individual prospects interests and needs it can help convert your leads into sales. It’s one of the building blocks we deliver to our customers with excellent results.

    Check us out at

    Dan Hamilton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments Policy.