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Keith H.Nov 26, 20186 min read

10 Things NOT TO DO At A Boat Show

What Attending Dozens Of Boat Shows Taught Us…

Boat shows are one of the best opportunities to meet with new customers but there are some things you want to avoid at all costs. It could be the difference of winning or losing customers.

Every time we attend a show, one thing is inevitable--No, not the presence of boats--There will be one vendor, who, clearly isn't the owner, shows up looking like they had too much fun last night and simply doesn't see the value in this opportunity. More often than not, they are from a town no one has heard of where their business won’t see as many people in one year as they will at this show. Having a good show can be the difference between a great or bad year. And. guess what, when it’s all over, when the owner asks said employee, “How was the show?” What do you think their answer is going to be? Here is a hint...Not...Good.

When in reality, it was a smash!

Don’t be that guy (or gal). Whether you are the owner or not, these shows are expensive and you will want to get the most out of them.

So, with that and with boat show season upon us, we wanted to offer you our:

10 Things NOT TO DO At A Boat Show


1) DON’T Show Up Late

It looks unprofessional. You may appear like you don’t care. And don’t think people notice. Vendors, and especially those putting on the show take note of this sort of thing--You know, an empty booth. Matter of fact, show up early. You have an opportunity to walk around and meet other vendors; this is a great way to collaborate, get some ideas and potentially gain an early edge by learning what the competition is doing. And whatever you do, don’t you dare do that during the show! They are there for the same reason you are, to meet new people and get more business.

2) DON’T Bring Your “B-Game”

Bring your A-Game. If you have a staff, bring your best of the best. The ones who are as passionate about what you do like you! And if you don’t have a staff, bring you, and bring THAT passion. Ask yourself, would you put a junior salesperson in front of hundreds of prospects looking to spend $50+k on a purchase.

3) DON’T Be On The Phone

Above all else, this is the #1 DON'T DO that most people do.

We hate to say this, but for the love of everything pure and holy, PUT. DOWN. THE. PHONE! If your spouse is calling you to say their mother is sick, of course, answer it. Otherwise, stay focused and it starts by ignoring the distractions.

Here’s a show secret- some, maybe most of your competitors will be on their phone and inadvertently miss out on new customers. 

4) DON’T Just Sit There

Repeat after me: “I will not sit behind my table. I will not sit behind my table. I WILL NOT sit behind my table.” Get up, be engaging. Shake hands, kiss babies. Your energy needs to be controlled, yet palpable. If YOU look like YOU don’t care. THEY won’t care. And THEY are what YOU are there for.

5) DON’T Rely On The “Show” Marketing

Yes, most shows set aside a portion of your entry fee for marketing and media buys. However, you need to let people know that YOU are going to be there. Whether it’s on your social media pages, emails, or paid ads--You want to separate yourself other than one of the “Over 50 dealers will be at the show”. Moreover, with a good advertising plan, you can take advantage of everyone’s communal investment to get more out of your mini-campaign. This one is a trade secret but if you contact SIX, we will give you some inside tips that we share with our boating clients.

6) DON’T Go Unprepared

Where is the show? What type of market is it? Who goes there? Look at past shows. Look at the vendor list. Do research. You have Google, use it.

Another great trick is to have a plan of attack. Say you are in the boating B2B business. Research who you want to meet, find out where their booth is, check out their LinkedIn profile(s) and have a plan on when and where is the best time to meet them. Remember Tip #1, it’s often a great time to meet them before the show starts.

7) DON’T Assume All Shows Are The Same

This piggybacks off of #6. The people who attend a Boat Show in Queensbury, NY aren’t the same who attended in New York City. And definitely aren’t the same of those attending in Miami. Again, do your homework. A couple hours of research could be paramount to whether you look like a pro or the rest of the masses.


8) DON’T Clutter

Provide (compelling) brochures and collateral, but don’t use them as a table skirt. Have giveaways, but remember, this is a boat show, not Halloween. 

9) DON’T Mislead

Many of you will and should have a prize to give away. Whether it be an Amazon Gift Card, Store Credit or $10,000 toward a new boat (one of our clients’ staples). These are effective mechanisms to create a database. However, it’s not just imperative, it’s common decency for you to provide a clear box indicating an “Opt-Out” of any solicitation. Simply put, if one of these prospects walks away feeling enlightened by you and your business and then somehow, someway gets an email from you--It could be game over before you even have a chance to play.

Secret #2- no one offers an opt-out up front. Our clients have found show goers appreciate and even comment how much they like the fact we respect their inbox. Check out one of our amazing clients, SlipSure, that put this front and center; they value building a relationship with their customers and prove it by letting them know up front. 



10) Look Good

What did you want us to write, don’t look good? We left it like this because this is paramount. Imagine a stranger from a part of the world who has absolutely zero clue as to who you are, what you do, and why they should care. The very first impression is what they instantly see. Make it memorable. For all the RIGHT reasons. 

Are there more than ten DON'Ts? Sure. But these are the ones you have ultimate control over.

Essentially, be prepared like a damn Eagle Scout, look like a superstar, and think one thing the whole time:

Game on! This may be the most people your business will ever see throughout the year.

At SIX, we look at boat shows as a rugby game. Where everyone is in a scrum for the interest of new customers. But, when it’s all over, we can sit down and have a beer together. Enjoying the fact that everyone worked together to help turn more people into boaters…

Which, at the end of the day, is what it’s all about.

Good luck at your shows and if you ever have any questions, reach out to our SIX team anytime.



If you are a boating professional, and want to know more, you may want to read this article: Everything You Didn't See In Boating Industry's 2018 Digital Marketing Guide. 

 Digital Marketing For The Boating Industry








Keith H.

Social Media Strategist | SIX Marketing