It’s Showtime – Trade Only Today

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The Music City kicks off the industry’s loaded January show schedule with the opening of the Nashville Boat Show this Thursday, and expectations will be running high that sales will be playing a sweet tune.

Nashville is the first of eight major-market shows opening around the country in the next 17 days, which in total should give us a solid basis for projecting retail sales in the new year. These shows include:

• Nashville, Jan. 5-8

• Chicago, Jan. 11-15

• Atlanta, January. 12-15

• Cleveland, Jan. 12-15

• Detroit, Jan. 14-22

• Minneapolis, By. 19-22

• St. Petersburg, Jan. 19-23

• Hartford (Mohegan Sun), Jan. 20-23

I’ve seen lots of boat shows in my career — produced 136 in four states and manned the Discover Boating centers inside Miami, Tampa, Cleveland and Orlando. I’ve visited many shows from New York to L. A., Seattle to Houston. Every show was energizing, and I attended one I didn’t like.

It is all allowed me to see many good, and some not so good, things that exhibitors do in order to succeed. With our critical show season firing up, here are some observations that might help dealers get ready for what is their biggest winter sales promotions.

There was a time when exhibiting simply meant packing the display with a selection of models plus ushering customers into the closing booth. Oh, to be able to return to those easy times! Today, that transactional marketing style is gone. The mindset for dealers now must be experiential marketing. Successful dealers must sell the particular experience of boating by creating exhibits that highlight boating’s desirable moments. Just after creating such an atmosphere can serious product conversations begin.

So it’s important to deck out typically the boats, something too few dealers do well. Whether it is fishing or skiing or cruising, the exhibit should beam such images through pictures, graphics, videos in addition to signage. Equally important, lots of trappings — such as poles in rod holders, wine and glasses on a table, a new kid’s toys on some sort of seat — are essential to helping visitors envision themselves having a great experience. Even a small area with a video from a manufacturer or even Discover Boating can help visitors see themselves enjoying life afloat.

In other words, successful exhibits draw in prospects by this “dream” they project long before any examination or perhaps conversation turns to item. In the restaurant business, it’s all about often the food presentations. With boat shows, it should be all about lifestyle staging.

Of course, it means visitors must have good access and feel at ease entering your space. If they don’t come in, your sales team loses. Many exhibits have one entrance. Either your boats have been jammed in to the space, leaving little access, or there’s a good belief that registering site visitors before giving access is smart business. Both are questionable. Tight access shuts out many visitors, and even registering potential customers can make people uneasy, so they just walk on by.

And keep in mind that the people who are best-suited for you to talk about the boating lifestyle may not be your sales team. The most qualified people to talk about the boating experience are often the boat owners who live it. So consider inviting some of your best, most enthusiastic customers to be part associated with your exhibit. These ambassadors can share first-hand experiences, discuss how their family goes boating, places they like to go or points they enjoy doing. Plus of course they can answer typical questions as one boater to another, which can be helpful to potential first-time buyers.

There’s no question that storytelling is a great way to connect with people. Witness the video craze. At shows, and every day in the showroom, the exact way to help prospective buyers understand the benefits of the boating lifestyle is by sharing stories of how boating has improved existence for so many regarding your customers, which will hopefully lead to a discussion about the boats that have been an integral part of that story together with an order on the books.

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