MINNEAPOLIS – Building on the success of the 2008 event, the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo is set for growth in 2009. With a move to Orlando, Fla., and plans to provide twice the educational content of last year, the MDCE expects growth in attendance and industry support as a result of the efforts of Boating Industry magazine and the Marine Retailers Association of America
As part of a five-year licensing agreement, Boating Industry magazine will be responsible for the overall creation and development of the annual dealer convention, working closely with the MRAA convention committee to deliver unsurpassed educational content, while also assuming all sponsorship sales and marketing efforts.
“This partnership will culminate in a must-attend event that — at long last — will bring the seemingly disparate segments of our industry together at just the right time,” says Tammy Galvin, vice president, Affinity Media. “Let’s face it: All segments of our industry have seen an incredible amount of attrition that is likely to continue. It’s abundantly clear to us and the MRAA that the survivors will be those arming themselves with every conceivable best practice available, and that’s precisely what we will deliver.”
Excitement for the 2009 MDCE is growing. While still in the early planning stages, a number of boat builders have expressed an interest in incentivizing their dealers to attend the event, and others are looking to hold downsized dealer meetings there. Likewise, industry 20 Groups are planning to hold their regular meetings on the front and back ends of its educational content.
Growth, Profitability and Solutions on tap for 2009
Slated for Nov. 16-18, 2009, the newly named Marine Dealer Conference & Expo will be held at the Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Fla., a move that numerous dealers suggested in a survey last year. The more convenient location is expected to generate greater participation from the dealer body.
Exhibitors maxed out the available space at the 2008 MDCE in Las Vegas, and this year, with the move to the Coronado, companies seeking to display their products and services in front of an even bigger crowd of dealers will find a much larger and more convenient exhibit hall. The Coronado features more than 86,000 square feet of exhibit space, of which the MDCE has more than 58,000 square feet already reserved, a welcome necessity with growing exhibitor interest. In fact, numerous boat builders and other companies are already signing up to showcase their products.
“We’re months away from the event, and we already have many companies who want to take advantage of the large number of dealers expected to turn out this year,” says Matt Gruhn, associate publisher of Boating Industry. “Many builders and suppliers are seizing the opportunity found in the educational content that we’ll be providing by bringing their dealers and products, while reducing the exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses they would typically spend on their own dealer meeting.”
The theme for the 2009 MDCE is “GPS: Growth, Profitability and Solutions for Navigating Today’s Market.” Under this overarching theme, dealers will have access to nearly twice the amount of content of last year, as the educational components will be offered in two main tracks, under which there will be many specific topics.
“We’ve recognized that, perhaps now more than ever before, the marine dealer body is seeking the answers they need, not just to thrive, but in many cases simply to survive,” Gruhn says. “With this new format, we’re fortunate to be able to drill down into the actionable details of all three broad topics in a single event.”
The educational line-up is being built after months of dealer interviews and research. Immediately following last year’s convention, organizers conducted a satisfaction survey through Customer Service Intelligence, Inc., and since that time, many follow-up discussions have been conducted. Most recently, a survey of dealerships across the country provided advice and direction for crafting this year’s agenda.
“We’ve heard from hundreds of dealership personnel,” says Ed Lofgren, MRAA chairman and owner of 3A Marine Service. “They told us very specifically what topics would appeal to them the most, and we will deliver on their requests to the fullest extent possible.”
In 2008, Boating Industry provided marketing and content-creation services to the MRAA, renaming the annual dealer convention and developing a theme appropriate to current industry trends. The result of the collaboration doubled every measurable dealer attendance category — total dealer personnel, total dealerships represented and total Top 100 Dealers in attendance — while also nearly doubling the amount of content provided, when compared to prior years’ events.
“The content at the 2008 MDCE was without a doubt of a higher quality than past conventions,” says John Vallely, Jr., of Vallely Sport & Marine and chairman of the MDCE convention committee. “We saw that first-hand through attending the show, but we also heard it echoed through follow-up surveys with both dealers and exhibitors. We will build on that success for 2009.”