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Boat shows to see shakeup next year

The National Marine Trades Council (NMTC) wrapped up its annual meeting in Chicago yesterday and many labeled it the best conference ever. The NMTC is made up of leaders from the national and regional marine trade associations that began meeting annually 35 years ago. This year, 41 attendees from 23 associations gathered to talk about boat shows and association programs for their members.

Unlike previous meetings, this year’s NMTC took on a completely new format that produced some unexpected results, which are likely to shakeup many of the industry’s boat shows by next winter.

NMTC Chairman Michael Campbell (Northwest Marine Trades – Seattle) changed the normal meeting format and utilized a trained facilitator for the first time. For two days, Thomas Grossmann, VP Risk for GE Capitol Solutions, conducted the meetings aimed at developing new and innovative ideas for the associations, particularly for their boat shows.

“These are times when we need to uncover new approaches to making our boat shows deliver more results,” Campbell noted. “We wanted an outside facilitator who would literally lead all attendees to new discoveries. GE’s Grossmann responded,” he added.

Based on the premise that boat shows, despite recent declines in attendance and sales, still remain the single most powerful selling medium available to our industry, Grossmann pushed the group into bluntly examining subjects, ranging from driving increased traffic to improving the return on investment for exhibitors. In the end, more than 28 specific best practice areas, changes and programs will be investigated and developed for possible implementation next fall and winter.

Each specific practice or program development is under a leader and the assortment of programs is broad. For example, one is the development of an Exhibitors Best Practices Guide. Another deals with concepts for sales incentives by manufacturers for shows only. Sill another addresses a major increase in the use of the ever-growing Discover Boating data base for direct show promotions.

Then, there are best practices for promoting through the corporate human relations’ departments. How about practices to change from boat shows to boating shows that focus on the lifestyle benefits. Or, creating unique first-time buyer incentives. These are just samples of the practices and plans to be developed and disseminated to the associations in the next few months.

Finally, there are related subjects that will go under a microscope in the weeks ahead, ranging from viral marketing techniques to video and internet testimonials – even developing new style sales events so some shows in certain markets could be replaced! Yes, the latter is a sure indication that what happened at the NMTC this week was not just your same old meeting! And, I submit there will be a lot of changes, for the better, for our boat shows.

Comments

11 comments on “Boat shows to see shakeup next year

  1. DOUG SMITH

    IT’S GREAT TO GET TOGETHER AND SEE HOW TO MAKE SHOW MORE EFFECTIVE, BUT I THINK THE NEXT SEASON WILL MAKE OR BREAK MANY SHOWS.
    THE DEALERS WON’T HAVE THE DOLLARS TO PAY FOR SHOWS THAT ARE HIGH PRICED IN LARGE METRO CITIES. THEY WANT THEIR SUPPLIERS TO CO-OP MORE AND MORE OF THE COSTS. WITH SALES SLOWER AND SPACE AND LABOR RELATED SHOW COST RISING I WILL BE SUPPRISED IF SHOW SELL ALL THEIR SPACE.
    SINCE NMNA AS INDUSTRY LEADER CONTROLS MANY OF THE MAJOR SHOWS, THEY NEED TO TAKE THE LEAD AND REDUCE THE COST OF SPACE AND BE MORE CREATIVE. PARKING AND FOOD NEED TO BE UPGRADED, OFFER INCENTIVES THAT DON’T COME OUT OF THE DEALERS POCKET.
    THIS LIST CAN GO ON AND ON BUT I THINK YOU GET THE POINT.

  2. Dan

    Articles like this that mention “viral marketing techniques to video and internet testimonials” as better ways to sell more boats at boat shows is proof that you’ve overlooked the basics of salesmenship and are simply trying too hard. In my opinion your efforts would yield far greater returns if you actually trained boat salesmen how to sell a boat correctly !! Requiring your salesmen to reallyt know the product they are selling, how its contructed, its pluses and minuses as it compares to its competition, how to handle customer objections over price , emphasizing factory and dealer service to the customer, and NOT disrespecting other brands are much more important to interested boat buyers than video and internet razzle dazzle.

    I have been to a couple dozen boat shows over the years and have grown so incredibly tired of boat salesmen that don’t know much about the very boat they’re selling and have that “one dimentional” mindset. They are the expert and what they are selling is the best and they freely knock the competition every chance they get. I always think if you don’t know much about what you’re selling I bet you know even less about your competitors boats – so how can what you are telling me be true ?

    Forget the high tech approach and for goodness sakes start training your salesmen to be professionals and not hired liers. People who have enough money to buy a boat didn’t get it by being stupid, so stop treating them that way.

  3. Dick Chandler

    Here, in the Northeast, there are too many shows. There is no impelling reason, why a prospect should attend any particular show. The same boats and accesories are at every show. Only the dealers change. In order to sell space, show management sells space to outside industries. Some related to boating and some competeing. The cost of doing shows is ‘out of hand’. Space, travel, hotels, etc. Not to mention the fact that the customer expects extra discounts. Overhead is higher, and profit is lower. Most fall shows are a ‘dud’. The only decent show in the Northeast in the fall ,is Annapolis. By fall the boat owner only wants to put his boat away. We wonder why attendance is slipping, Same old thing. There must be 15+ shows , from Annapolis to Boston. A strech of approx 400 miles. One day trip, for anybody that lives in New York.
    That said, let’s start the season all over again in Sept., show after show, after show, after show.

  4. Robert NorVelle

    It is still critical that boat owners especially new boat owners be shown best practices for USING their boats: Where, When, How to get the most enjoyment out of boating so that they will become repeat customers of their local boat dealer. You can not AFFORD to advertise every boat customer into your store!

    Be pro-active in making the boating experience FUN and SAFE for your customers by helping them learn how to operate their boats easily and properly. It is a scandel how many used boats find their way onto dealers lots with VERY FEW HOURS on them! Most of these boats represent failure to learn to enjoy boating, and a large measure of the blame must fall on the shoulders of the BOAT DEALER who didn’t take the time to help the new boater learn the ropes.

    There are still lots of folks out there who dream of owning a boat and enjoying hours on the water, but without some help and training by the boat dealer and perhaps the U.S. Power Squadrons or the U.S. Coast Guard Aux. there is a very good chance that the new boater may NEVER develope the skills necessary to fully enjoy boating— and may NEVER buy another boat! DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN!!!

  5. Rose Terriere

    The cost of participating in a boat show is getting prohibitive. With smaller crowds, it is hard to break even, much less make a profit. We should only have to prove that we have liability insurance, no have to add everybody and their brother to our insurance. You people need to provide your own insurance. At the Pomona Ca show we even have to add the concessionaire to our policy. Many of us are participating in a lot fewer shows.

  6. Tim Barney

    NMMA and NMTA (Seattle) listen up. Your boat shows are way too expensive for small boatbuilders to exhibit. I was in the Miami Boat Show 4 years ago and it cost about $8,000 by the time I paid for hotels, meals, airfare, freight, insurance, etc. I had to sell 8 boats, which did not happen, just to break even. The Seattle Boat Show would run between $6,000 and $7,000, which means selling 7 boats to break even. Until the show costs are in line with the show value to the builder, we small builders will not be able to exhibit.

    Organize the exhibits in a customercentric manner. Group similar products together, such as small boats and yacht tenders, together. Currently, if a buyer is looking for a yacht tender, those products are scattered all over the show. Group them together and make it easy on the customer.

  7. Chad

    With so many boat shows, the only way that boat and equipment manufacturers can be sure that they are seen is to pair down the size of their presence at each show, which is disappointing and not at all helpful to attendees who are serious boaters, likely to buy not just once, but multiple times. The first Atlantic City Sail Expo was fantastic, with a large showing from many builders and equipment manufacturers, with excellent company resources present. But the show quickly became just like the rest – three big builders maintaining a big presence, and just a boat here and there from other builders. Equipment manufacturer booths were replaced by retail dealers, who don’t show the range of equipment from a manufacturer, and lack the manufacturer’s expertise. And of course, all the space that used to be filled by the builders and manufacturers of what real boaters want to see has been replaced with booths selling t-shirts, shorts, and cookware that the real boating public couldn’t give a darn about.

    Serious boaters used to look forward to speaking to the engineers from manufacturers to get the real scoop before investing big bucks in boats and equipment. Today, that boater is more likely to hear marketing spin. When I hear that, I just walk away, checkbook still intact.

    Lastly, the cost of being an exhibitor hurts the small innovative company whose new product is just the thing that may help spark growth in the industry. Having run a few trade shows for a prior employer, I was stunned to see what it costs just to have a small booth.

    With all due respect to the marketing guys, they brought us today’s cookie-cutter, unproductive boat shows. Let’s try getting back to what the buyers want for a change (gee, what a concept): a boat show full of boats and their builders, and equipment and their manufacturers.

  8. John Ulrich

    Doug, Dan, Dick & Robert all have valid points. There are too many shows. We all look at the RV industry as a successful model of promoting their past time. Not that many shows. As a rep, I am always amazed at the number of salesman who fail to do the basics, like meet and greet, smile, and listen! We’re not order takers, we are sales professionals, look and act the part! New boaters are vital to the survival of our industry and I wonder when manufactures will wake up and start building smaller more user friendly boats for that first time buyer. Cars are smaller, still a shortage of dockage, fuel is expensive (and yes I know all the arguments for economy and builder’s economy of scale) but we need some innovative new products to get and keep people excited about boating. I agree about selling the life style. I live it, love it and wouldn’t change even if I could. I think we need to concentrate on some basics. Better selling skills, new or innovative products, less shows that would allow for more impact at the remaining ones, grass root promotions at the dealer level to promote the lifestyle. Look at what Harley Davidson has done with their Harley Owners Group (HOG), lots of events promoting their sport, raising money for different charities and education. Innovation leads to success and survival of our industry.

  9. Scott MacFarland

    I think it’s time the marine industry and the boat show organizers figure out a way to make it a more effective selling environment. I like the ideas of developing incentives for the manufacturers and dealers. I also feel that the industry MUST get with the program and create sales & marketing initiatives leveraging Social Networking and Web 2.0 tactics. My thoughts don’t just come from the agency world as a self-serving idea. I worked for a luxury Yacht manufacturer and served many other marine industry constituents. We are well behind the 8-ball so-to-speak and in need of toolsets that stimulate sales growth and create more lead generation value.

    The lifestyle element of the industry is very popular, however, it can by taken to an entirely new level if a campaign is fully measured and monetized as well as channeled through the right media. (Imagine that!) I am glad that the powers at be are thinking about the future of boat shows. Having participated in many of them for years as an exhibitor and a customer I see the need for a different strategy.

    I do agree that there are probably too many boat shows. However, if we all agree that this is the most effective marketing tool to sell, then, dare I say… why not have more? – okay, forget I said that.

    There are other trade shows serving other industries that do an incredible job of CRM before, during and after the show. NAB is a prime example. This show is the largest show of its kind and everyone wants to be there! The exhibitors love it because following up with registered guests is easy because of the e-process. Boat shows are too antiquated in their approach to serving the customer from pre-show to post-show communicating. Exhibitors are on their own to come up with ways to invest in lead generation modules for show. That’s a great idea, however, everyone that I know doesn’t have any cash left after spending a boat load of money just to show up. (That’s another issue)

    If the shows and the exhibitors became more up-to-date with today’s means of communicating, tracking, measuring and virally disseminating a message… wow, who knows where we would be. The good news is, there’s change coming, and that usually means there will be good things around the corner.

  10. Phil LeBlanc

    After countless years of attending and displaying in various boat shows, it seems the same customer comments seem to be creeping up more and more; “Isn’t this the exact same show we paid to see last year”, “Why do we keep coming here, the only thing that’s changed is the colors”, “Why are there so many booths here that have nothing to do with boats”, “It’s just getting too expensive to take the family here for the afternoon”

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