Boat shows have long been one of the best occasions to connect with marine businesses and discover the latest marine innovations and designs. Whether you’re a seasoned visitor, or attending a boat show for the first time, one of the big draws is the chance to make new contacts with both fellow industry professionals and the visiting general public. Typically most of these connections are made within the confines of the resident beer tent!
Presence at one of the shows as an exhibitor can offer a unique platform for brand exposure and a valuable opportunity to meet potential new clients and customers. However, even without an exhibitor stand, which can require a considerable investment, as a visitor, businesses have the chance to connect with any number of the hundreds of brands in attendance.
The show’s social element encourages businesses to connect with the end users of their products and services directly. With such a targeted audience in one venue, companies can increase awareness of their brand, conduct market research and collect immediate feedback on new concepts and ideas.
In addition, the boat shows can also be a unique time to learn about evolving issues affecting the industry from leading industry experts. Previous years have seen impressive line-ups of some of the most acclaimed faces in sailing. America’s Cup commentator Tucker Thompson, world-class Olympic sailor Sir Ben Ainslie, British Yachtsman Mike Golding OBE, Volvo Ocean Race winner Ian Walker, and record-breaking female sailor Dee Caffari MBE have all given presentations in previous boat shows.
Whilst the London Boat Show was once the flagship event of the British marine industry, it has been in steady decline since their move from Earls Court to London Docklands, and it was recently announced that the London boat show is ‘on hold’ with no plans to reschedule.
This leaves the more popular Southampton Boat Show, held each September, as the industry’s flagship event in the UK. The 10-day event is a longstanding fixture of the international marine calendar and 2018 marks its 50th year.
With over 600 brands attending and 330 yachts packing into the marine, it draws crowds of over 100,000, offering you plenty of scope to meet new customers and build your contact list.
If it’s all the leading industry professionals you’d like to see, then this is the show to visit, but come prepared with comfortable shoes, there’s over 2km of pontoons covering over 50,000 sqm…
Smaller events across the UK include the Northern Boat Show, Poole Harbour Boat Show and Western Boat Show.
If you’re thinking of attending one of the boat shows, here are our top tips for making boat shows work for your business:
- Ensure you take a good supply of business cards and take them everywhere. You never know where you’ll meet someone interesting. The after-show events offer a good opportunity for meeting with potential customers or business partners in a more relaxed setting.
- Make notes following conversations you’ve had. You meet many people over a boat show and by the end your memory will struggle to place names and businesses. A couple of sentences on your exchange will make it easier for you to follow-up.
- Fill your schedule. Look through the exhibitor list well in advance and pinpoint which businesses would be most beneficial to connect with. Prioritise these first as it’s likely you’ll run out of time. By having a clear direction of what you wish to achieve across the event, it reduces the possibility you’ll have post-show regrets of people you’ve missed.
- If you are exhibiting, then ensure your stand is engaging. Banner stands play a vital role in drawing people to your stand in a sea of competition. Exhibiting is an investment, so give yourself the best chance by putting effort into the design. Whilst promotional print material is expected, make sure you have conversations so you can explain your service in a more personal way.
- Offering a simple tea or coffee to attendees will be a much appreciated and a surprisingly effective way of keeping the conversation flowing on your stand.
- Go armed with a social media marketing plan for the show. There are a number of clever ways to make social media a useful tool in engaging with attendees and connecting with potential customers. Techniques vary pre-event, whilst there and once you return. Having a strong social strategy will also help stretch your boat show marketing efforts for a longer time period instead of just a few days.
- Follow-up all leads. Don’t delay too long after the show. Send an email within a couple of days of the show and don’t miss any connections.
For more advice on how to make the most of your visit to a boat show, either as a visitor or an exhibitor, why not give us a call? Fastnet Marketing can help you design eye-catching business cards, print materials and banner stands, develop a social media strategy, and help you create a more long-term marketing strategy for your business.
Speak to us on 01326 250879 or email email@example.com
Dates for your diary
Northern Boat Show: 25 – 28 May 2018 (Mersey River Festival & Tall Ships Liverpool)
Poole Harbour Boat Show: 8 – 10 June 2018 (Poole Quay Boat Haven)
Western Boat Show: 20 – 22 July 2018 (Bristol Harbour Festival)