The marine industry has two seasons- boating season(summer) and boat show season (fall, winter, and spring).
The second and most important season in sustaining business is during the boat show season- capitalizing on the impact that is made is very important for your business, employees, customers, and the industry as a whole.
With boat show season quickly approaching I decided to give to you the best ways to increase your chances of having a successful show. There is a lot of work that goes into developing a show, running your own booth or dock space, and working with prospects to convert them into customers. This post is long and only touches on a small portion of what needs and can be done.
Red Right Returning
Let’s start with the basics of a boat show, how it is broken down and what the customer is actually thinking about. Knowing your demographic is important to understand what they are thinking while walking the show and how they will act and interact with you and your salespeople.
The show is usually 4-7 days long (hopefully there are no more 10 day shows) and your customer planned one day to shop, look at the different brands, pick up some accessories, and talk with other boaters/fisherman/enthusiasts. They pick that one day because that is when the family or their friends decided to take time out of their schedule to travel, attend, and make a day of it.
The customers are trying to squeeze the whole show into one day and they want to see everything they can. Knowing this will help you determine your strategy and how you will dominate your shows from here on out.
Prime Real Estate
Picking the right location at the show is one of the most important keys to a successful strategy. If you are in the back booth where no one travels or passes, you might as well just say home or back at the office making cold-calls. Spending time, money, and energy to participate in the show, you should have an ideal spot at the show where people can actually see you and learn about your company.
Having customers walk by your booth many times will increase your chance of exposure. Grab a layout of the show floor, docks, and full layout in advance- and look for ways to increase your exposure based on location.
Things to consider when planning location:
- entrance and exits
- food and drink courts
- view from land (if you are on docks)
- general area (fishing gear shouldn’t be in electronics area)
- location of competitors
Here is the location maps for some major shows: Download them below:
– Atlantic City
– Annapolis Power
– Annapolis Sail
– Ft. Lauderdale
– New York
Making Most Of Every Square Inch
Now that you have your location pinpointed, its time to set up your display.
What will it look like, who will be attending, and what will you have on display?
Getting the most out of your space is important for you to maximize your real estate. Boats take up a lot of space, and knowing where they go along with everything else will help tremendously.
Make sure you have a front reception area for customers to be greeted- and it would help if you had someone there to greet them. Determine where you will have storage area- for brochures, briefcases, promotional material, and anything else you may want to hide out of sight.
There should be signage and banners for the boats and inventory that you do not have on display. Make sure they are not crappy pieces from 2 years ago, pull them out in advance and see if they need a facelift.
Know how many people you will have working the show, who will be on what boats, and where will others stand. If you have some sales people working multiple manufactures- make sure they alternate shifts. Nothing worse than having an un-manned display.
Some other things to consider when setting up the display. Look down(carpet) yes you will need some. If you have a front receptionist(give them one of those fatigue mats to help and a chair to sit on every once in awhile). Look up-do you want a banner to be hung from the ceiling? go for it.
One of the most overlooked parts of the display is the actual boats themselves. If you have a larger cruising boat, make sure you have things to decorate the boat. bedding, plants and flowers, throw rugs, pillows are all important to making the boat stand out.
To make sure you don’t forget anything- Grab “The Boat Show Checklist” to make sure your display is on point.
Get Customers Excited
Now that you have everything coordinated for the space and the show- it’s time to let people know about it. Let your customers know well in advance the show dates. Give them the first notice at least a month in advance to give them time to prepare and plan their trip. Don’t let that be the only time you tell them. Tell them a few more times and you can get them excited about it.
There are several ways you can tell them about the show. Effective direct mail works well with existing customers- let them know it’s a great time to trade in and move up. Know what boats they have now, and what models they are looking to move into, or what boats you think they will enjoy seeing. Sometimes it is good to have them RSVP- and schedule a time to sit down with you or your team.
If you are selling smaller products, send your email to the customer base letting them know you will be there and will answer any questions they will have. Invite them to stop by the booth for show specials- and to see the new gear for the upcoming season.
Open For Business
Now that the show has started there are a few things that you and your team can do to get the most out of it.
Your team: make sure your sales and personnel are strategically placed around the display. To get the most out of it, have your team stay in one area for the duration of the show. Keeping one or two people on a select few boats will help increase their knowledge of those boats as each person asks them questions on them. The more they demonstrate the same boat- the more they will learn them and feel more confident in the product.
If a salesman/woman moves from boat to boat, they lose the deeper understanding of the boat and the confidence that comes with it. Having confidence to answer any question that is asked will increase your chances of a win.
Your reception area is key- having a way to capture the attendance information at the show is vital. I like to run my shows by capturing EVERY person that comes into the display- having them register and give us their contact information up front before entering. It doesn’t have to be all take, give them a brochure or give-away in return and they will be happy to give you their contact information. This allows you to stay in touch with that person after the show has ended.
If you are using paper forms- make sure someone from your staff is writing the information- as people who fill out their own info tend to write sloppy which causes problems for later transfer into your CRM.
I recommend using a digital form capture. This will help streamline the data transfer process and you can input your leads into your CRM. Having the form on an tablet or smartphone will help easily support your efforts at the show- Letting you quickly capture customer’s information and what they are interested in.
One simple and effective way to integrate a lead capture is through a Google doc.
Feel free to copy this doc for your next boat show:
Boat Show Lead Capture Form
If it were a perfect world, everyone would be walking around with a bar code on their wristband that they got at registration and all you would have to do is scan someone’s bar code to get their information as they came to your display.
The Show Ended, But Sales Didn’t
Remember when you captured everyone’s information that attended the show and came to your booth?
Reach out to the customer who is still excited from the show and still doing their homework. Customers hardly buy at the shows anymore and like to do some research afterward. They take in all the information they just received and learn more on their own or one on one with the dealer.
Let them know that you have a location where they can view these boats and products again- for a longer period of time, and sit down to talk to a sales consultant.
Reaching out to the customers is very important and vital to let them know the boat show specials have been extended past the show. The longer a customer waits to buy- the further they are from becoming a customer.
Time To Implement
Now that you know how to launch, run, and finish strong on a show I’d like for you to implement everything you just learned.
If you have some other tips and suggestions- feel free to comment below. Also, share this with others who will benefit from it.