Are Boat Shows Still Relevant?
We just got back from the 2011 Chicago Boat Show and there has been a lot of discussion over the past few years on the importance and relevancy of this show and shows like it. Many dealers have scaled back their booth space (as we did) and some have pulled out all together opting for their own “in house” show at their dealership. With the growing cost of having a booth at the show and the increase in people using the internet to get the info they need about products they are interested in the question arrises “is it worth it?” I’m here to say, that for now, it is worth it. Yes the costs are exorbitant (we paid $1000 just to have a sign hung up) and the time and effort to haul boats, desks, tvs, flowers, signs, etc is exhausting and costly, but how else are you (dealer) going to get thousands of people to come see your new years product in the middle of January in the northern climate? Yeh the attendance isn’t quite what it used to be and yeh many of the people who come to the show are just looking for a fun day with their kids but so what.
I’d rather be showing off the quality product Cobalt has to offer to somebody that most likely won’t buy today then sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. That person will learn about your product, experience how you as a dealer treat customers, and you never know what that might do for you and your product down the line. That person might end up buying a boat years down the line, they might refer a friend that is in the market, they might like you so much that they just want to do business with you in other ways – come rent a boat, go to your restaurant, store their current boat with you, etc. Most dealers measure their success at a show based on how many boat deals they close. It’s true, you have to measure that, but you also have to keep in mind that which is hard to measure – the excitement that you give a non-boater to maybe one day get into boating, or inspire a young kid to one day want to own a boat. These are things that are good for everyone – good for the industry, good for the manufacturer, and yes even good for the dealers. The other argument against shows is that more and more shoppers are getting their information about the products off the internet so why would they come to a show. I agree this is happening and is effecting some from coming to a show but buying a boat is not like buying a book, most people want to touch and feel the boat. They want to see the hull lines, they want to sit in the driver seat, they want to touch the steering wheel. You can’t do that on the internet. If anything the internet helps answer most of the detail questions people have prior to the show so when they arrive in your booth they just need time to “feel” the boat. Last but not least is that the boat show still remains the best time of the year to buy a boat. For both the best price, because of strong manufacturers rebates, and availability to have your boat for the start of the summer, the show still remains the best time to buy and most customers know that. For these reasons, I still believe that boat shows are relevant. In these challenging economic times it’s understandable that dealers will look to control costs and question (as we have) whether to spend the time and money to go to a boat show but at the end of the day, I do believe it’s worth it.