The Boating Industry Top 100 dealers represent the best boat dealers in North America – and in this new regular feature in the magazine we’ll be sharing some of their best practices.
It’s a chance for everyone in the industry to learn from the best-of-the-best, with tested, actionable ideas that these top dealers have used to succeed in their businesses. This month, we take a look at some of the best tips for a successful boat show. By starting to work on some of these ideas right away, you can find ways to improve your boat show performance in 2016 and beyond.
Action Water Sports, Hudsonville, Mich.
Action Water Sports’s approach to boat shows has evolved over the last several years as the company has focused on the “fall push” to move boats.
A lot of leads are off the table, with the sales team getting them to close in the fall before the end of the year. For those that haven’t made a decision yet, the dealership emphasizes the importance of making a timely move in order to get their boat the way they want it, when they want it.
“Boat show is now not just an event, but a signal that a new season on the buying calendar has begun,” said general manager Jerry Brouwer.
“Buyers at the show are told that if they want to purchase a boat and have it ordered to their specifications they need to purchase at the show as remaining production slots start selling out at this time.”
During and after the show the sales team focuses on follow-up to stay front-of-mind for those prospects that have seen many other dealers during the event.
Every day during the show, the sales team hand writes letters thanking each lead for coming to the show, which are mailed out the next day. After the show is over, they also quickly send a postcard or letter out to the previous leads as well as the new boat show leads and offer a “last chance” boat show deal.
Gordon Bay Marine, Mactier, Ontario
With customers being more informed than ever, Gordon Bay Marine knows it’s important to plan and prepare for boat shows.
“Our strategy for going into our boat shows is to start the planning and preparation early, give ourselves deadlines for each task, create a checklist and make sure we position ourselves in high traffic areas at the shows,” said marketing director Jeff Dixon.
That process starts with a mental rehearsal of past shows to identify past successes and areas for improvement. The team talks about the set up process, all the needed materials, booth space, layout plans and more.
“Once we know this, we gather up our show team – those who will best represent our company and the product,” Dixon said. “We do not only look for the right individuals to sell at the show, we take along technicians to answer more in-depth questions.”
Once the team is in place, it meets to get everyone in the right mindset and to go over what kind of inquires they might get, how leads will be managed, what their
completion will be and go over objections they might come across. This preparation includes refresher training in the models and incentives that are available, as well as points of differentiation.
“We brainstorm on marketing ideas as to what unique things, displays, giveaways, promotions, brochures that we can come up with that will help them remember us,” Dixon said. “We pick out the best ones and start the process of implementing them.”
Lake Union Sea Ray, Seattle
Lake Union Sea Ray goes all-in on the Seattle Boat Show, the largest on the West Coast. All of the company’s 20+ salespeople and managers are on hand for the 10-day show, along with staff from the service and parts departments.
Planning for the 27,000-square-foot display begins months in advance.
“We meet with our vendors to learn what is planned nationally and explore trends in displays and sales,” said vice president Mark Helgen. “Based upon our intelligence, market share data, competitive shopping, available space and sales person strength, we then develop our model mix, display, order needs, placement of personnel, pricing strategies, traffic flow design, and contests and sales incentives.”
Lake Union has two fully functional F&I offices at the show along with a complete company admin office.
“We take the deposit and deal as far as it can go right there at the show and much of the time, we get boats paid-in-full on the spot,” Helgen said. “We offer ‘extra’ in the finance office to get it paid for now, i.e. discounted warranties, club cards, gift packs, boating accessories, etc. We have learned that a fully paid-for boat is not very likely to unwind and improves our delivery stats and success for the show.”
The display also includes a concierge desk with people to help sign-up for different brand Rendezvous/Get Aways, Women in Boating classes, answer service questions and to assist the sales people with CRM input of prospects and customers, and with thank you emails and letters for all guests at the show.