Boating Industry

November 2016

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November 2016 | Boating Industry | 27 [ 17 BOAT SHOW TIPS z 2017 ] manufacturers. "It's expensive, but it really helps keep the perceived quality of the brand uniform. If the manufacturer is doing a great [job], usually that's what you have to follow." CREATE AN INVITING SPACE Your booth should invite the customer in and be easy to enter. Make sure your boats are spaced well apart and are easily visible from the aisles to attract attention. "If they can see it from the aisle, they're going to come in and look at it," said Jack White, sales manager at 3A Marine. INVITE YOUR CUSTOMERS AND TRACK WHO SHOWS UP Some dealers might be afraid to invite potential or existing customers to the boat show, but "I wholeheartedly disagree with that," said Schmitt. "Bring them to the show, let them see what's out there and try to put your best foot forward." Candlewood East Marina allows customers to request tickets to the boat show and creates a master list of those customers. The dealership writes down the unique UPC or identifying num- ber on their ticket and, after the show, goes to will call to see which tickets weren't picked up and determines who came to the show. TAKE CARE OF YOUR VIPS While boat shows are a great opportunity to at- tract potential customers, you can't forget about your existing loyal base. For some, this means hosting VIP previews of the show. South Coast Yachts hosts an event for its customers the Friday or Saturday before the show, serving wine and cheese and offering a variety of entertainment at different shows. "It helps people to come and see the boats, to understand the specials and pricing, and people who are really excited and may not want to wait until the show, that gets them primed up for the show," said Banfield. For others, a VIP event is not so easy. 3A Ma- rine participates in a nine-day boat show and it can be difficult to find time for its customers to all be available. So the dealership treats its cus- tomers through one-on-one care. "It was just easier to take care of our VIPs on an individual basis," said White. HAVE FUN WITH DEMOS Bringing in customers to your booth is more than just making your boats look good – you have to give them a reason to stop. Creating fun demos and new model reveals drive excitement. Candlewood East Marina got really creative and displayed an inflatable surf wave behind one of its Nautique Boats, then hired a photographer to photograph customers. Anyone who took a photo got a free 4x6 print with a branded frame. The goal was to demo wakesurfing in a fun, en- gaging way. "We feel like when people are in that mindset of living the dream of wakesurfing being behind one of those boats, they're going to enjoy it and they're going to be that much more engaged to either make a move to buy a boat or maybe set up an actual test drive when the time is right," said Chris Perry, sales/marketing at Candlewood East Marina. "On top of that, we felt like a lot of people didn't really know what wakesurfing was, so it was a sport we really needed to bring to people so they could experience it firsthand and almost do it in a way where they're guaranteed success." DETERMINE YOUR BOAT SHOW MARKETING "HOOK" Whether it's demos, new model reveals, give- aways or price incentives, your marketing needs "to find some sort of hook, if you will, to get peo- ple excited to come to the show, and then find- ing the right avenues to publicize it," said Perry. Once you have your hook, it's easy to create direct mail pieces, email blasts and have a reason to call your existing customers and say "Here's why you should visit the show." You should also imbue your marketing with social media, like boat show hashtags and contests for customers who share social content. TAKE THE WHOLE TEAM Because the boat show is such a great opportu- nity to show the face of your business to poten- tial customers, you should bring all your faces. Some dealerships close down shop during the show and place signs on the door asking cus- tomers to meet them at the show. It is especially helpful to have technicians available on hand to answer questions. "They can approach the customer as not a salesperson, so they're less threatening. They can talk to the customer and relate to the customer as the guy that's going to be taking care of [the boat]. They can explain a lot of different things, as far as the inner workings of the boat, that cus- tomers really like to hear about," said White. KEEP YOUR STAFF COMFORTABLE As great as the matching polyester polo with the company logo looks from the perspective of uniformity, what is more important is hav- ing a staff that is dressed clean, comfortably and BY BRIANNA LIESTMAN

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