February is more than just the second month of the year in the diving industry and the beginning of a new season. It’s the month that separates the successful dive businesses from the also-rans. Let me explain.
In years past, the first quarter was a sleeper for most of the diving industry. We used to celebrate the Christmas Holiday by getting ready for Dema Show in January, and just about this time we would be placing our orders with the major OEM’s for sales we made at the show. The Retailers would go back to their stores and wait for Spring to come, which signaled the launch the new season. For some, the second quarter would also be a sleeper combined with a little house keeping to wait for the arrival of the real beginning of the new season – Memorial Day. So five months were lost, waiting for the scuba season to begin. Those days are gone forever. Time waits for no one and the successful 21st Century Entrepreneurs are taking advantage of opportunities their competitors are not.
There have been major changes in the buying cycle of the diving industry. The Dema Show is now held in November and that gives the industry time to sell off the current inventory during the Christmas buying season and stock the shelves with new merchandise either for Christmas or the New Year. The first quarter is still the pre-season marketing push for the trade at the local dive and adventure travel shows. The consuming diving public is lining up to see what is new for the year and they want to buy new diving gear and go diving. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers and retailers are exhibiting at these shows and taking advantage of this market. The ones who do, literally have the market to themselves.
But creating a local marketplace that is the focal point of significant buying and selling activity is a cooperative effort for every dive business in the industry. The Trade Show Organizers are willing to take a financial risk to put on a successful show that the diving community will attend. The Manufacturers have to have a complete inventory, ready to ship and be able to work with their Dealer Base in the local regions. Exhibiting at the shows and conducting seminars and workshops are two ways to increase promotion of their brand. Dive Retailers need to promote the shows to their customer base. In some areas, the local dive show may be the major event of the year. It is unthinkable that every store doesn’t promote their local show. Your customers are going to find out about the show with or without your help and if you’re not there to meet them, they’ll meet with your competitors. There are two ways of getting a booth at a local show. 1) Exhibit yourself. 2) Volunteer to work the booth of one of your major manufacturers or travel wholesaler.
Here is what we’ve learned in the many years of exhibiting at dive shows. The first thing we realized is that local dive shows are the major event of the year in many geographical locations. There is a lot of planning that goes into these shows. You have to get many people involved for facilities, seminars, workshops, exhibiting, and advertising. You have to get speakers, exhibitors, volunteers, advertisers, and sponsors. The more people you get involved in the process, the more the event will grow in size and complexity. At the same time you have to get the dive trade involved and the diving community committed.
The most important lesson we’ve learned over the years is that making a commitment to a trade or consumer show requires time, money and manpower. We plan for it early and the execution steps of that plan are put in our Daily Playbook. Maybe that’s why we are having such a good year this year? Our Marketing Plan was completed by the end of last year. In the past three months we have been focusing on our planned outcomes with our members and the local diving communities. We’ve documented what is important to our organization and we’ve identified tactics that will help us accomplish our goals and objectives. We follow through with our efforts and we analyze our successes and shortcomings every step of the way. The great thing about strategic planning is that every event is a learning experience and each event that follows benefits from the successes and failures of past events.
We hope to be using that learning experience in the promotion of the new DIVE LOCAL campaign. Join the discussion with us at the North Central Summit Meeting on Friday, February 25, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, in conjunction with the 45th Annual Our World-Underwater Show. We will be in the Lamert Room from 12:00 noon – 3 p.m. meeting with the local diving community. Join us, but please RSVP with firstname.lastname@example.org