Promoting Diving In The Big Tent
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional
With the exception of the Scuba Show in Long Beach next month, the pre-season marketing push for the year has concluded. Diving re-sellers have the rest of this month and next month to get their inventory levels to the high point and be ready for peak season diving activity. We observed a number of things in the past four months that could help make this a great season for you.
At all the dive shows we exhibited at this year, we kept hearing that the exhibitors were “pleasantly surprised” with the better that expected attendance. In other words, the dive industry professionals began the year thinking the shows were not going to be good. I’m glad the “industry professionals” were proven wrong. That kind of stinken thinken is what has been holding our industry back for a number of years now. The second thing we learned is that when the exhibitors pitched in and helped advertise the shows, the attendees showed up. That means people want to learn to dive, buy gear, and go diving. All they need is an excuse to dive and an invitation.
The problem this year wasn’t lack of attendees. It was lack of participation and promotion on the part of dive manufacturers, training agencies and dive centers. With that said, I have to first share with you what we learned from countless discussions with our Industry Leaders.
The Dive Manufacturers were in a state of flux this year. The industry has seen a number of serious personnel changes in this sector. A number of major manufacturers were sold and the new owners are still feeling their way around the market. Unless we see some concrete positive public announcements in the very near future, our industry professionals will have no choice but to resort to rumor and speculation. Not good for the industry and definitely not good for the Brands. Not exhibiting at the Regional Dive Shows this year must have cost the manufacturing companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales, loss of market share and a deterioration of their brand capital.
The Training Agencies had their own challenges this year. Some of the Brands were severely weakened by a declining customer base, loss of market share, loss of visibility and ultimately, lost sales. One major agency was sold and a few others are in search of a new image. While the traditional scuba diving market is loosing popularity with the general public, Tech Diving, Freediving and Spearfishing have broken away and further isolated their small niche markets. At the Blue Wild Show this weekend, one Freediving Industry Leader commented that there is very little, if any cross-over between the various diving niche markets. While there seems to be a strong bond between Freedivers and Yoga practitioners and between the Spearfishing and Fishing markets, why can’t the traditional sport diving market cooperate more with Tech Diving, Freediving, and Spearfishing?
The Dive Centers who realize they are the Local Ambassadors of the Diving Industry and the Local Retail Champions to their customers become the undisputed Leaders of our Industry. At least from a financial standpoint. The ones who fail to realize this continually struggle to teach enough classes and sell enough diving equipment to a declining number of scuba diving enthusiasts. Customers buy scuba diving equipment and scuba diving lessons because they have to. They buy diving vacations and life style apparel because they want to. Recruiting people to participate in diving & adventure travel and dressing the part will lead them to buy vacation trips, apparel, scuba diving lessons, and diver training. If done properly, it will also lead to underwater photography sales and everything that goes along with that. You have to give your customers a reason to buy stuff. The more they do, the more stuff they need.
This year, the Local Dive Retailers did not participate in their local dive shows as exhibitors and many didn’t even participate as attendees. What a shame. Maybe they felt there was no reason to because their major lines didn’t exhibit nor did their training agency. Some didn’t even promote their local show because they didn’t want their customers to attend and see their competitors there. Silly, huh? The truth is, the attendees came, and they had a good time, and they bought stuff. But they didn’t buy from the people who weren’t there.
Retail Dive Centers need to reduce their dependency on equipment vendors and training agencies. They are what we call entry level or core vendors. The perfect business model is to sell each new scuba student their own equipment at the beginning of training and then teach them how to use it in their course. Once the student is certified and has all of their equipment, attendance at Regional Dive Shows is more meaningful. Newly certified divers are looking to advance in their hobby and go diving more frequently. Training Agencies promote continuing education at the show. Local Boat Charters promote local diving. Resort Destinations promote diving vacations away from home. Equipment Manufacturers showcase the latest and great diving equipment new in the industry. Seminars and workshops give attendees an opportunity to see the scope of the entire recreation, filled with countless new diving adventures that await them. The exhibit hall now is filled with Retailers who sell apparel, jewelry and art at the show instead of just basic diving equipment. I guarantee, this advanced show model would triple the size of current shows in just a few years.
Regional Dive Shows are all about Divers and want-to-be Divers coming to a Dive & Travel Show to see Diving Equipment, Photography Equipment, Resort Destinations, Training Products, Books, Art, and Apparel. They come to learn about their hobby. They are interested in and spend money on advanced equipment, continuing education, and adventure travel. They go to workshops and seminars to learn more about diving, the environment and travel. The Industry Professionals come to see their friends and colleagues. They come to sharpen their professional and trade skills. They come looking for new business and new opportunities. They all come to socialize. You’ll never meet so many people and see so many things in one weekend as you would at your local dive show.
Participate in your Regional Dive Show. Exhibit, Attend, Volunteer, Participate, Promote and Enjoy your Regional Dive Show.
I can’t speak for all Regional Dive Shows, but if you want to participate in the Lone Star State Dive Show (Dallas), Our World Underwater (Chicago) or the Scuba & H2O Adventure Show (Tacoma) next year. PLEASE call or email Gene Muchanski Phone: 321-914-3778. eMail: firstname.lastname@example.org