Does The Industry Really Need To Come Together? –
by Gene Muchanski
Editor, The Dive Industry Professional
The month of October is when the industry gets ready for the annual DEMA Show. The retail season is coming to a close and it’s time to regroup for next year before the Holidays are here. So are we closing out the old year and getting ready for a new one or are we just taking a break from this year and gearing up for the Holidays ? Are we going to see any new dive gear, training programs and travel destinations at the show or will it be the same old stuff in a different package? How about the exhibitors and attendees? Will they be the same as last year, two years ago (for the every-other year attendees) or a whole new group of people?
If the diving industry wasn’t as fragmented as it is, with an unlimited array of information sources, we might have the answers to all of these questions. So why doesn’t the industry come together and create a central information source that all Industry Professionals can go to for their information? The answer is simple – There’s no money in it. Think about it. Most companies we know only focus on stuff they can sell. And they usually focus on selling to their limited, current customer base. They don’t invest in market research because, to them, there is no immediate return on investment. Because of limited budgets, caused by declining sales, from a declining market, these companies do their own sales campaigns from a declining list of current customers. Dive Industry Association has a solution to their problem.
For the past 20 years, Dive Industry Association and its non-profit organization, Dive Industry Foundation, have been analyzing the recreational diving and adventure travel market. Through our Members, Sponsors and Donors, we have compiled an industry database of buyers and sellers in our market. Compiling and maintaining an active database is a daily, long term project. It needs continual funding and/or support. Up until now, only companies that sell a sufficient number of products to a sufficient number of customers have been able to compile an extensive contact list that includes their current customers. Because of poor marketing follow-up, these same positive cash-flow companies have dropped the ball on their Former Customer contacts. Because of the high cost of finding new customers, most all of these companies don’t invest in customer acquisition research that would help them identify Future Customers.
To begin with, the diving industry has a finite number of participants. Collectively, we should be able to identify all buyers and sellers of diving equipment, training and travel. We have been very successful in identifying the sellers and wholesale buyers in the market. Through constant maintenance of our trade database, we have a pretty good idea as to the size of the supply side of the market. Reaching the demand side of the market is more complicated, because people are so mobile these days and very few, if any sellers are sharing their customer database with anyone. So, unfortunately, we have to go around them and collect that information directly. That costs money, lots of it. But all is not lost if we split the cost with over 9,000 Industry Professionals in the trade. That’s where the Dive Industry Association comes in.
The main focus of a Trade Association should be bringing Buyers and Sellers together and growing the market. Our first step is to identify the market. The second step is to identify the programs, products and services that are sold in the market. The third step is to create a message, or call to action, that can be communicated with the demand side of the market. The fourth step is to deliver that message using a variety of marketing vehicles to stimulate sales and growth. Lastly, we need to analyze the process and the results so we can learn from it, do it again, and then grow.
Dive Industry Association has a plan to bring Buyers & Sellers together. The plan is multi-focused and is scale-able. Our strategy is to focus on the sale of diving equipment, training and adventure travel products. Our focal point is our Members. Our message to the general public is learn to dive, buy your gear, go diving and stay active. Our primary beneficiary is of course, our Members. They are the ones who are shouldering some of the cost with us. If you want fire, you have to throw some wood in. Does the industry need to come together to accomplish this? Not any more. Only the ones who want more business.
Our recent realizations that we have been blogging about on our website for the last year have convinced us that we may never get 100% cooperation from 100% of the Diving Industry Professionals. We can only work with like-minded individuals who see the economic potential of participating in a much larger industry network that works together to facilitate increased sales and industry growth. As our network grows, so does our sales and marketing reach and frequency. More Members, Bigger Budget, Better Results.
There are a number of ways we can accomplish our planned outcomes. We have to increase our Membership of Dive Industry Professionals in order to increase our sales and marketing budget. We then have to ask for cash donations to fund our promotional campaigns. We then will be able to create our own marketing vehicles that reach our targeted customer bases. Our Trade Association needs to be Member Focused and Member Funded. With a little “skin in the game” every dive industry professional should be able to increase exposure, increase sales and gain market share.
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