Waste not, want not

Humans are the only animals who can imagine the future.
So argues Daniel Gilbert in his book “Stumbling on Happiness”. Boat dealers, however, haven’t been doing a very good job of using their imagination.
Boat shows are typically their single biggest marketing expense, and yet about 90 percent of them are throwing away one of the most significant opportunities it offers — collection of boat sales leads.
Instead of thinking of how they’ll sell a boat next week or next month, they’re living in the moment, focused on sales today. Now, no one is going to tell a dealer not to sell a boat at a show, but equally as important is collecting contact information from the prospects who visit your booth, says Bob McCann, director of customer service for Channel Blade Technologies, developer of the Footsteps lead management program.
Think of it this way, he suggests. Add up every cent you spend on your biggest boat show of the year. Then, divide it by every person who visits your booth. Each time you fail to collect that person’s contact information, you’re throwing away the money you spent to attract them, whether that’s in the form of advertising, booth space, boat stands, banners or even new shirts for your staff.
“The day is gone when you can set up shop and start taking orders,” McCann explains. “You have to work for every deal you can get.”
It all starts with show preparation, he says. Dealerships have to make generating leads an important goal and plan accordingly. That means having salespeople e-mail their prospects information about the show, linking them back to the dealership Web site for more details, offering pre-show traffic builders like free or discounted show tickets or parking passes and even creating incentives for show attendance, like free t-shirt or koozie giveaways.
At the show itself, salespeople need to make collecting prospects’ contact info a priority. McCann says salespeople often start out well. They’ll have a meaningful conversation with a prospect, but they won’t go the extra distance to get a phone number, a mailing address and an e-mail address. Without any follow-up, prospects are less likely to remember your dealership in the sea of others they visited during the show. In addition, three months later, the dealership will be putting together a mailing and instead of being able to reap the return on investment they made during the show season in the form of boat show leads, they’ll find themselves purchasing a mailing list, an expensive initiative.
Instead of throwing away that investment, managers can motivate their salespeople to collect leads with contests and incentives. One day, the salesperson who collects the most e-mail addresses might win a prize. The next day, it might be the person who collects the most phone numbers – two per prospect are better than one, adds McCann. In the best case scenario, a dealership might dedicate a show staffer to entering leads into the dealership’s customer database during the show.
“Salespeople are often tired at the end of the day, and they may lose focus,” he says. “The last thing you want to do is data entry.”
An e-mail can be sent to the prospect from the salesperson from the show floor, thanking them for stopping by, offering the salesperson’s contact info for further assistance, providing an opportunity to send in a small, fully refundable deposit to save them a trip back to the show and a link to the dealership Web site for more information on the dealership, inventory and events.
Post-boat show follow-up can take many forms. Salespeople can e-mail prospects, thanking them again, mentioning the boat of interest that was discussed during the show, inviting them to future dealer events such as an open house and again linking them back to the dealer Web site. Those pre-show prospects who didn’t attend the show should receive an e-mail suggesting the salesperson missed them at the show, inviting them to an open house offering boat show prices and perhaps even asking them to schedule an appointment during the event, followed up by a link to the dealer’s site. And all strong prospects should receive a follow-up phone call.
Good boat show lead management is not about selling more customers now, explains McCann. The majority of boat show sales come from prospects dealers have been talking to for a while. Instead, the leads you collect at the boat show today are a potential source of sales at the next boat show and the one after that.
It all boils down to making the most of all available opportunities, something even the most successful dealers can’t afford to forget.
“Whenever you engage a customer, you want to ensure them a perfect experience,” McCann concludes. “If you do that, you’ll close more boat deals. You’ll have a better year. If a prospect is turned off at the show, you might never see them again.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *