The Theatrical Art of Boat Shows

For my BoatShowGirl readers, there’s one thing that you should know: my life is split into two–the marine industry and all of the arts. Tonight I helped out at the front desk with auditions for our next upcoming play, and upon leaving those auditions, something donned on me. Boat Shows are purely an art form set up in theatre mode. It’s not that I didn’t already know, but I just didn’t know how to put it into words until tonight. Then, it all made sense.

I mean seriously though, think about it.

What do you need in a play?
{writing} Time. Location. Character Description. Plot.
{acting} Talent. Practice. Stage design. Props.
{performances} Audience.

The time and location is when the boat show event is going on.

The web presence online or in paper form explains your character description prior to the boat show.

The plot is selling boats or our merchandise, making new connections, and having new experiences.

We–the industry employees–are the talent.

Doing your job every day at your normal job site is the practice you need to prepare for the show.

The stage design is how you set up your booth visually.

The props are what you’d bring to sell (boats/merch), marketing material and freebies.

And, your customers are what would be the audience.

When a customer walks into your booth they are instantly reading your story. When you interact with that customer you will learn their story. It is pure dialogue–an exchange of words–and the entire experience can be written into an art form of some sorts. And, when it’s all over, there’s the last celebratory dinner before going home (the cast party) not to mention to mentally prepare for the next boat show (when you go to auditions once again)

Gearing up for the 2017 Boat Show Season

It’s 2017—a brand new year—and for most areas it is winter, which means the phone isn’t ringing so much. Right now is the perfect time to adjust your business strategies: study what worked and didn’t work from the previous year, and come up with new plans.

Other than gaining sales in your general atmosphere, where else would be the next most important sales environment? Boat Shows.

As the industry news rolls out you know that the Boat Show season is starting up again. That means that your future customers are doing research to find that perfect boat. And soon, those same customers will have some tax refund money to spend.

Have you thought about how you’re planning on targeting your customers at the boat shows this year? 

Here are three categories you should really focus on: inventory, leads and show strategy.



  • Your floor plan is key. Take a look at your oldest boats and make a deal to sell them to make room for new inventory (and avoid paying extra fees on the longevity of the boat age). Have current 2017 models in stock for each boat line. If for some reason you don’t have the current models, have the boat literature and make the ordering process as painless as possible.
  • Show off your inventory. List the boats you have available to sell online in as many places as you can (company website, social media, online boating marketplaces, etc).
  • Year start promotions. Almost all engine/boat manufacturers start their promos for the first half the year, use that to your advantage. Customers will love the fact that their engine/boat will be covered an extra few years under warranty, and they will be up for spending the money if there’s something in it for them.


  • Start a boat show lead campaign. This should be your pre-boat show lead generator. Use a phrase or something with your company name and get it out there. Come up with a questionnaire for future customers and place it on your website, social media and send in a newsletter. The questions should pertain to if they are looking to purchase a boat this boat show—and that is who you need to focus on. Make appointments and schedule seatrials in advance.
  • Reach out to existing customers. Send out a general newsletter to all existing customers telling them about the upcoming boat show and to contact you using the boat show lead campaign email address. Use social media to let everyone know you’re going to be at the show, and what you plan on bringing.
  • Current leads. Even though you need to generate sales to keep money flowing in, provide some sort of incentive for current walk-ins to join you at the boat show. Free tickets to the show, free swag to wear during the show, something to help you out.


  • Visual merchandising is key. Be unique. Design your booth with the customer in mind—have a seating area where they will be comfortable enough to sit down and wait for their turn, or just relax by looking at your boat literature. Bring something personable to your area—show off awards or photos of staff members.
  • Offer free swag or company merchandise for sale. Give customers an extra reason to remember you. Exchange leads for free swag, or offer a percentage off (boat show promo) for company merchandise. If an item is cool enough, people will see it and come search for it. Plus, anything with your name on it is great marketing.
  • Bring personality into your brand. Make time to get to know your customers and their stories. Make a friend first, then make them into a customer. If they don’t make a purchase with you today, find a way for them to remember you enough to come back, and keep in contact with them. And, don’t forget to always check up on your previous customers—their value is the most important—especially when they tell others about the positive experience with your company, of which, may then lead to more sales.