Boat show best practices: It’s all about leads

For many consumers, attending a boat show kicks off the buying cycle for their new watercraft. In fact, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, 40 percent of buyers make their ultimate purchase from a salesperson they met at the show, but the decision to buy that boat doesn’t happen quickly. According to the NMMA, on average, buyers attend three shows before buying – and even then, the average customer waits three months after the show to make the final purchase.

Since boat shows are so critical to your success, I addressed the topic in the first session of the Digital Marketing Masters Series. A joint education effort between ARI and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, this educational series is designed to give retailers the knowledge they need to get the most out of technology and master digital marketing best practices.

If you’re an MRAA member, the full session is archived in the member’s only section of the MRAA’s website, but I’ll share a few of my secrets with you here, so you can kick-start your boat show marketing plans.

Make the connection before the show

Get ahead of the game with a pre-show email campaign to your customer and prospect list. Make it short and sweet, and be sure to include a call to action which encourages prospects to come into your dealership before the show. Try offering discounted show tickets or free parking passes. This gives customers a reason to enter your showroom and meet your staff before they start mingling with your competition at the show.

Make it count: Collect leads!

Sure, traffic at your booth is nice, but unless you’re collecting hard leads, how can you possibly measure your boat show success?

Go into each show, and set a goal for the number of leads you will set out to attain. Just remember, not all leads are created equal. If you’re offering a drawing for a free prize at your display, don’t just leave entry forms on a table where people can sneak into your booth. Instead, position your salespeople out front to meet new customers, and designate a support system person to enter customer contact information into a tablet or database system. With all of the lead information already submitted electronically, following up with those customers will be a breeze.

Follow up – right away

Remember how I said 40 percent of buyers ultimately buy from a salesperson they met at a show? I hope that didn’t make you relax, because at the same time, according to the NMMA, 81 percent of boat show attendees claim they don’t remember the name of salespeople they spoke to.

So what drives that 40 percent to buy? Proper follow-up! A somewhat shocking 91 percent of show attendees say they never hear from a dealer after the show. Be the dealer they hear from right away.

When you meet a serious buyer, there’s no reason to wait until after the show to reach out to them, particularly when you know they’ve left your display to shop around. A simple “thank you” email sent immediately from the show, with a link to the boat they’re interested in, can go a long way.

Don’t stop there. After the show, follow-up again with an email that speaks directly to the buyer’s interests. Let them know you are there to help them make the best decision – offer to answer any questions they might have and let them know you are there for guidance.

Implementing these practices will lead to a more profitable boat show experience, generating more leads that will ultimately help you sell more boats!

Bob McCann is ARI’s director of education and is responsible for the development of proven eBusiness sales processes that support the company’s large list of dealer and manufacturer clients in the marine, powersports and RV industries. McCann has more than 20 years of experience in sales education and is the creator of the nationally recognized eBusiness sales method, TIPS (Traffic, Interactive Website, Process, Sales). 

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