2018 Best in Class: Best New Idea

Futrell Marine

Hot Springs, Ark.

Boat shows have been considered a key point on many dealership’s marketing plans for years, and for many that remains true. However, most dealerships realize that boat show attendance is not what it once was. Futrell Marine of Hot Springs, Ark. took that realization and moved to try something new to keep the boat show alive, fresh, and new.

“In understanding that buyers are seeking online marketplace alternatives, coupled with an industry-wide gradual decline in boat show attendance, Futrell Marine created a Virtual Boat Show in 2017,” owner Rick Kesterson says.

Understanding potential five-figure costs and prohibitive turn-around in website creation, Futrell Marine’s marketing director immersed himself in an online course covering website creation using Adobe’s Muse program.

“The website was configured to instill a boat show environment,” Kesterson says.

Everything from a promotional video featuring Kesterson welcoming guests to the online boat show to a “savings end” countdown clock was used to maintain a boat show feel in an online environment.

Kesterson says that the countdown clock maintained the sense of urgency in deals, similar to those used at a boat show with limited time constraints.

One of the biggest factors of the somewhat recent increase in online shopping for consumers is ease of access and convenience to shop on their time at any location. Futrell was sure to keep this factor in mind when creating the new virtual boat show.

“The website was fully responsive, accommodating multiple breakpoints, making it fully accessible from desktop, tablet, and all mobile devices,” Kesterson says.

In an effort to make the virtual boat show focused on the dealership and create a one-on-one relationship with potential customers, the homepage of the website included a “Why Futrell Marine” link. The link lead customers to an explanation of the dealership’s long-standing history, tradition, and experience that accompanies all purchases made from Futrell Marine.

Futrell included a drop-down menu bar at the top of the site listing all manufacturers with sub-menus listing featured models for all brands, leading to easier access for customers if they already had a particular brand or boat in mind.

Each individual boat model page provided a detailed description of the boat, paired with multiple high-quality photos. Kesterson says that Futrell Marine’s vast video catalog was fully leveraged with the inclusion of featured walk-around videos, along with manufacturer model-model specific videos.

“The website effectively created an online show environment, where the product information, photos and video walk-arounds were so comprehensive that the need for live inspection was eliminated,” Kesterson adds.

To complete sales or collect leads, each product page included “Buy It Now” and “Contact Us” buttons, which linked to an online form. Once completed, the form was emailed to the management team to either take a deposit or answer any further questions a customer may have.

Futrell’s new site went live one week prior to the Jonesboro and Hot Springs boat shows and two weeks prior to the Little Rock show. Once each individual online boat show completed, a temporary home page replaced the live show page to effectively end the show, as well as build enthusiasm for the next event.

On the financial side, Kesterson says that the site’s promotional budge was comparable to a traditional brick-and-motar boat show, with expenditures going to various digital campaigns.

With an average of 162 hits per day on the website, an average of 3.2 pages per session, a rough average of 2.31-minute session durations, and a 55 percent bounce rate, Kesterson says the virtual show effectively took buyers off of the sideline, who for various reasons might not make it to a brick-and-mortar show, and got them shopping.

All of Futrell’s efforts toward the new innovation resulted in approximately $1.5 million in sales for the dealership.   


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