By RBFF President & CEO Frank Peterson - January 21, 2020
I just returned from The Lake Erie Marine Trades Association (LEMTA) Annual Meeting which is held in conjunction with the Cleveland Boat Show & Fishing Expo at the IX Center in Cleveland, Ohio. While Cleveland in January may not be the best time to boat and fish, it is a great time to look ahead to warmer weather and experience all the great activities we can do outside with fishing and boating foremost among them.
First, let me give a shout out to the LEMTA Board and its current President Michelle Burke who has led the effort to reimagine the boat show to be more responsive to today’s consumer. Looking to attract a younger more diverse crowd, Michelle and her team started by making better use of social media to promote the show. Looking to create a real experience for families and potential boat owners, Michelle and her team built an exciting show entrance featuring product, so as people mill around the lobby prior to show opening, they can get a sneak peak at some of the cool items in the show.
Once inside the show, the LEMTA team added a lawn area (actual turf) where kids and adults can play corn hole, take selfies with a giant fish or just relax on park benches while sampling local food and libations. They also created an outdoor living space where customers can experience outdoor furniture, hammocks, swings and even hot tubs.
On the fishing side, the show brought back for the first time in a while the Fishing Expo, with casting ponds, a kid’s zone, and plenty of gear. As 70% of boats are used for fishing, this is a wise move.
Last, the traditional boat aisles were not only filled with fantastic looking boats but also kayaks, personal watercraft and a whole array of non-traditional products making for a unique customer experience.
If we as an industry are to attract new consumers to the fishing and boating lifestyle, we must first invite them to come experience what we have to offer and further, we must provide them with an overall experience that exceeds their expectations. Using new media techniques to invite, new displays to excite, and new experiences to surprise them are great first steps.
Michelle, great job, I am sure the roughly 50,000 people that experienced the show along with your exhibitors and sponsors had a great time. It surely set the stage for a successful year on the water.
To find upcoming boat shows, head to NMMA's BoatShows.com.