Boating Industry

July 2016

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Page 26 of 43 July 2016 | Boating Industry | 27 "We team with them on [their] second Satur- day event every year and they bring in a band to the amphitheater," said Commander, "and they do a lot of advertising and publicizing that event for us and building the event for us. They bring in a lot of vendors and it's really a team effort with the city of Montgomery that has made it such a successful event." 4. CREATE HYPE The only way to get customers excited about your event is to give them a reason to be ex- cited. If the promotion of the event is bland, the audience will be indifferent. Almieda has hosted a "Floatapalooza" event at her marina in the past, which has attracted 1,000 attendees, and she posted a countdown photo on a Facebook page every 10 days to remind cus- tomers of the event and generate excitement. "The key is we created a lot of hype," said Almieda. "Really cool photographs and all of that made [the marketing successful]. Everyone was sharing." If you create enough hype, you don't have to market as aggressively the following year – the word-of-mouth from past attendees will bring new blood. "If we have a successful event, we'll have it the next year. So it's a lot of word-of-mouth [promoting the event] and it just grows," said Commander. Almieda's Boater Skip Day encourages cus- tomers to skip work on the Friday before the city's poker run weekend to raft up to Freedom Boat Club's sandbar, which has generated a lot of buzz. "It has become literally [something people plan around]. In January, [people] were texting, emailing, Facebooking me 'When's Boater Skip Day? I've gotta schedule a day off!' It's defi nitely become a thing. That was all done through so- cial media, word-of-mouth and associated with the poker run," said Almieda. "We're known in Jacksonville as the company that does boating events. It gets us branding and awareness." 5. DIGITAL MARKETING DRIVES ATTENDANCE While marine businesses have seen success using traditional marketing like TV, radio, print and direct mail to promote events, the best methods they found for bringing people to their facilities were through digital marketing. Using search engine optimization, search engine marketing, email marketing, Facebook boosted posts and other social media channels helped marine businesses bring in new and ex- isting customers. "You almost work just as hard getting the people there as you do for the event. It's not just about doing the event – you've got to market it," said Almieda. 6. TREAT YOUR CUSTOMERS LIKE VIPS Many marine businesses have seen some of their biggest event successes with holding VIP customer events, which are aggressively marketed to the existing customer base through email marketing, direct mail, phone outreach and social media. Russell Marine hosts an annual in-water boat show at its marina every year, which includes boats on the water and on land for customers to demo or preview, along with paddleboard and wakeboard demos, PWC courses and more. The night before the main event, Russell invites its VIP customers for a preview party, giving the dealership's customers a taste of the event be- fore anyone else. This helps Russell Marine sell boats to hot prospects. Spend-a-Day Marina's VIP event has netted the dealership boat sales, part sales, accesso- ries sales and more. The dealership has a loyalty rewards program and if a customer brings a friend to the VIP event, drawing new prospects for the business, the customer earns extra points for the program. 7. RECORD THE EVENT TO PROMOTE NEXT YEAR In the age of social media, we all like to show off the best parts of our selves. That should ab- solutely be true of businesses. So if you spend all of this time and money making an event suc- cessful, why wouldn't you document it? Be sure you are taking photos at the event, whether they are on a smartphone, you hire a photographer or you ask an existing employee with photography skills to be the on-duty pho- tographer of the day. Once the event is over, meet with the plan- ning team to talk about what did or didn't work so you can determine if the event is worth repeating and what can be done to make it even more successful. If you repeat an event, use photos of excited customer's from last year's event to draw in new prospects. BY BRIANNA LIESTMAN

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