The new kind of dealer show

matt_new-mug3I spent the earlier part of this week attending the Nautic Global Group dealer meeting. The event was great. There was plenty of time for viewing and testing product, for meeting with NGG team members, for networking with fellow dealers, for a valuable business meeting, a series of awards, great meals, great music and just an all-around good time. This list of events within the event are what you could consider typical for your traditional dealer meeting, but there was one major difference between this year’s event and past events.

The 2010 dealer meeting cost the company substantially less than some of those past events cost. And as it turns out, in a time when everyone is cutting costs, this dealer meeting could be held up as an example of what boat builders should be doing — this year and every year.

It’s no secret that when times are good, we slip into some bad habits. We spend too much money going the extra yard to do “just a little bit more.” Over the years of using such a strategy, our efforts to put on a simple event can spiral our costs out of control. That’s exactly what happened to many companies over the past few years.

I saw the same thing happen in the personal watercraft industry back when I was editor for Watercraft World magazine. That industry skyrocketed in popularity and sales, and as those sales rose, so did the extravagance of the press introductions of new models. Even while the industry was in the midst of a steep decline, we continued to attend all-expense paid events at overseas locations, in the Bahamas, at a resort in Mexico (for EIGHT days!) and so forth. When the industry was beginning to hit bottom, the manufacturers did what they should have been doing all along — they began bringing the media in, introducing them to the new product, and giving them some time to ride it before sending them home, all in a day or two. Gone were the days of frivolous pampering and unnecessary expenditures.

The bottom line is that an event like NGG’s, which could have been cancelled like so many other dealer meetings this year, served as a perfect example of how to host such an event. Low cost, minimal flare, and all business. It allows the dealers to come in, do their business, and get back into their own businesses. It’s productive and efficient, and most importantly, it allows the boat builder to connect with their dealers, sell some boats and move forward without breaking the bank. It was an event worth learning from.

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