Defining Our Own Industry Identity
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional
Welcome to our December Editorial. Here we are – end of month, end of quarter and end of year. I hope this editorial finds you in good health, good spirits, back to diving and still in business. I get to speak with a lot of Dive Industry Professionals in my job as the Executive Director of a very progressive and customer-focused Trade Association. It has helped our association become a trusted confidant to many of the successful dive businesses in the industry because we listen and we learn. We’ve defined who we are and what we do for our Members and the Global Diving Community. Our Mission and the work we perform to accomplish our mission is one in the same. After twenty years of bringing buyers and sellers together, we’ve influenced many dive businesses and are humbled to say that we have learned a few things along the way. How do we do that? First of all, we define who we are and what we do. Secondly, we ask our members and the industry what it is they need a marketing and trade association to do for them. Thirdly, we train and prepare for successful outcomes that directly benefit our members and the industry. Our primary research has allowed us recognize, define, and pass on to our members, the dive industry’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. We use our findings to create ways (new or existing) to help our members become more professional, productive, and profitable. We are known for laying out or suggesting agendas that works for different segments of the industry, such as dive equipment, training, travel, service providers, lifestyle products, and non-profits. In a Dale Carnegie sort of way, we do this without criticizing, condemning or complaining.
Bringing buyers and sellers together means that we cannot afford to have an agenda that does not include the entire Global Diving Business Network. Your agenda is our agenda. We understand diving and we understand business. We make it our point to know the market (both buyers and sellers) and know the pluses and minuses of the various marketplaces. If we favor one marketplace over another at some point, it is because the particular venue is doing something right or something wrong for that market at that point in time. And trust me when I tell you that all marketplaces and venues in the diving world have gone through and may still be going through changes. Sometimes it’s on a monthly basis, sometimes on a yearly base, and sometimes over a long period of time.
One of our jobs as a Marketing and Trade Association is to follow sales, marketing and advertising opportunities in the print media, on-line community, social media, and face-to-face events. With over 40 years of history following the diving market, I gladly share my research, findings and recommendations with our Members. We are also available for direct marketing consultation. But the reason I want to share 40 years of history with you first is that our economic forecast for the future is going to be totally different then what we would have been recommending in the past ten years. ALARM ALERT !
For the past 20 years, up until 2019, the diving industry had either been flat or declining. The industry was playing by the same paradigms and business models. For the most part, things were going nowhere and most of the industry was doing the same thing with the same people and going downhill. To be honest with you though, that’s when I started to see paradigm shifts, new blood, new thinking, and new technology creep into our beloved recreation. For the most part, these new ways of doing business were popping up but mostly kept under wraps by those implementing these changes, to the delight of their owners and customers.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic halt to business as usual, the supply side shortages, the travel restrictions, the lost of business and revenue, some equipment manufacturing consolidation, and believe it not, a new trend in Dive Store consolidation. Now people were actively looking for new ways to conduct business and it was obvious who was doing something different and who was not.
We could tell that the industry sectors of diving equipment, training, travel and lifestyle products were cooperating less with each other in the industry and looking for new alliances. Some stakeholder groups were breaking away from DEMA and looking at the Surf Expos, Adventure & Travel Shows, the Outdoor Shows, Boating Shows and what was left of the Regional Dive Shows. I think what we found out was that the non-diving shows each gave us a little of what we were looking for but did not fit our overall needs. A little advanced strategic planning would have helped these stakeholders realize that the diving industry has its own unique identity and its own unique needs. There may be some cross-over benefits and similarities to the other markets, but the diving industry is not the outdoor industry or the boating industry, or the travel industry – it is the diving industry.
I believe we should all work on defining and refining our own unique industry image. It has to center around diving and focus on all of the programs, products and services bought and sold by our Global Diving Business Network. Our market is made up of sellers of diving equipment, dive training, dive travel and lifestyle products. It is also made up of the buyers of these goods, both consumer and trade.
For a market to grow and sustain, it must be big enough to exist but small enough to navigate. I think we all learned that recently at a smaller venue that brought the right mix of serious buyers together with a smaller number of vendors. We also have to bring buyers and sellers together but we need to separate consumers and trade professionals. They have different needs and our sales approach needs to be different. We need to focus on conducting a trade expo for trade buying and a trade show for consumer purchasing. We should have a seperate professional development conference for training purposes, and focus only on training.
And I’ll leave you with one last comment about a trend we are starting to see in the industry. Some of the major equipment manufacturers have broken away from a traditional annual trade event and are conducting their own sales events for their select Dealers. While this may seem to be cost effective and an answer to another problem, it is a tactics that has been tried in other industry and is having a negative consequence. In isolation, if your Dealers sell only your products, this sales technique may work well. However, if your major Dealers also carry 2-6 other major lines, how can they take 6 weeks off from their store to buy products? They can’t and they won’t. We’ve been talking to other water sports industry manufacturers and retailers and this idea is starting to lose its appeal and effectiveness. That is why the dive equipment manufacturers must once again meet collectively with each other to discuss long term solutions to this ongoing problem. As for the Retailers, they must start working together to develop more workable solutions. A strong Manufacturing group and a strong, independent, Retail group is the best thing for an industry that wants to regrow itself.
It’s all about defining your industry image, strategically plan your future, and telling the world about what you do for a living.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. See you next year on a Dive Boat in Saint Somewhere.