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Dealers arenít buying boat show space!

The industryís 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 arenít buying exhibit space in these or any other boats shows! ďThatís because weíre not selling space,Ē NMMAís president Thom Dammrich recently told his show staffs. ďAnd space is not what dealers are buying from us! Dealers donít need or want some docks in a marina or a piece of concrete in a convention center.

ďThe reality is, when dealers participate in shows, theyíre buying access . . . access to a highly qualified, hard to reach audience. Theyíre 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,Ē he said, referring specifically to NMMAís stable of shows.

But what Dammrich points out so well is also true for all of our industryís 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, Dammrichís observations are spot on. Access is exactly what itís 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 donít 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. Thatís because we predicted the recession would cause last winterís boat shows to suffer a big ďhitĒ at the gate. It didnít 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 ďnormalĒ year. But, all dealers committed to future success should be buying their access to their market areaís qualified prospects that will, as in the past, turn up at boat show gates. If you havenít bought your access to the prospects at your local fall show, you should he doing so now.


4 comments on “Dealers arenít buying boat show space!

  1. Bentley Collins

    I agree that shows are a very important part of the marketing mix and dealers should indeed be interested in being a part of them.
    I for one feel very strongly that used boats should not become part of the daily fare that we see at our shows. Once used boats get their foot in the door, the quality of these shows deteriorates quickly and dealers are less and less inclined to buy and bring new boats to shows. Can you imagine a car show with used cars? A home show with old carpets and worn out lighting displays. Let’s not trick ourselvses into filling up our shows with used boats unless it is specifically a used boat show.
    We should always be putting our best foot forward and showing the public the positive new and innovative side of our business

  2. Full Sail

    Unfortunately, I can’t agree with you on your premise that “the boat shows have been the single most effective vehicles for industry boat sales for well over a half century”. Furthermore, your statement that “the price of a ticket serves as the No. 1 qualifier. Simply, people donít pay to see what they have no interest in!” is proof that people do not see the world as it is; they see it as they are – or as they have been conditioned to be. I think that you, Norm, are in this paradigm because of your experience. But don’t worry, thats not your fault but it should cause you to consider a third alternative where the sum is grater than the parts.

    First, the internet ecliplsed boat shows as the #1 vehicle many years ago. The vast majority of qualified buyers will reasearch the boat that they have interest and then compare it to similar models most often before they visit a dealership. When they do visit the dealership, more often than not, they are very informed about the product and know more about the product than the salesperson. Off-site boat shows provide little opportunity for the dealership to create the value of buying from their dealership. There is no opportunity to walk the customer through the service and accessory department and in addition see all the other models that are available. Putting the customer on the “right” boat is critical. In addition, boat shows lend themselves to other competitors that are often just across the aisle. If a dealer wants to truly capture a customer’s attention and loyalty then “on-site” boat shows are a much wiser strategy. There, the customer has the ability to meet and see the service and finance department staff and think about what accessories and financing might go well with their purchase. It further allows the accelartaion of the sales process by providing inspection of trade-in boats.

    As far as the ticket price… how many dealers experience the frustration of kids running through their booth, jumping on boats, spilling drinks, turning the wheel, and overall a distraction for both the salesperson and the potential customer. “Off-site” boat shows should be free to adults and children should be charged $25 each. Now that might encourage more qualified buyers. But why not spend the money for floor space at a boat show on providing hot dogs, kid friendly activities, advertising, and other strategies that provide a real ROI. Not only that, you are the only dealer at your own “on-site” boat show.

    There is a better alternative than “off-site” boat shows.

  3. C. Moore

    Fewer dealers, fewer manufacturers, plenty of inventory of smaller boats, lotsa space at shows- this is the new reality.
    Dealers are buying more inventory but it is not selling at the same or close to the retail registration rates. I have heard motor manufactures are very concerned over the lack of retail registrations… It looks like groundhog day to them from where they sit.
    Used boats at a new boat show is a killer & major mistake. Leftovers were bad enough Used boats is a non starter. Antique wood boats is an atraction used fiberglass not so much!!!

  4. dave

    as a past new boat buyer in 1999, a current boat owner, and a past used boat owner of several over 34 foot boats, as well as being qualified to buy again (Great FICO, adequate down payment, and means to pay the loan back)….I have yet to be contacted by any of the manufacturers of previously owned boats or their dealers about a boat show, or new boats for sale nearby…even several web sites I visited and sent requests for more information, were never responded to.

    If all this computerization gets in the way of them contacting me, then you would think that they would drop back to the old standby of phone or email..

    Who better to prospect than a previous owner of your boat…or someone who has owned boats for 30 years? Why then do they ask for all this contact info, only to do nothing…with it? Perhaps they make fore money with less effort selling it to others…

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