Ideas That Work: Show Boatin’

May 8, 2015

One of the world’s largest pontoon manufacturers sharpens its image with an attention-grabbing dealer sales toolkit

By Laurie Hileman

Well before the band Little Big Town scored Country Music Association’s 2012 song of the year with its smash hit “Pontoon,” Avalon and Tahoe Manufacturing—makers of luxury and affordable pontoons—understood the universal appeal of floating and boating on these unique pleasure crafts.

And, just as Little Big Town hit the big time with its smash single, Avalon and Tahoe Manufacturing are hitting the big time thanks to a combination of quality product offerings, superior customer service, and visionary leadership. Recently, the company wanted a way to clearly and consistently carry its brand message to its dealers around the world.


Located in Alma, Mich., the company offers a diverse selection of pontoons, ranging from basic fishing styles to luxury pleasure craft. Selling under the brands Avalon and Tahoe, it ranks as one of the world’s five largest pontoon manufacturers.

Due in part to being one of the only vertically integrated manufacturers in the industry—meaning nearly all components of the boats are made and assembled locally at the company’s Alma manufacturing facility—the Avalon and Tahoe brands have experienced a consistent upward swing in sales in recent years.

The company now has nearly 175 dealers located throughout the United States and Canada, and as far away as China, South Africa, and parts of Europe.


“We wanted our image to match our size,” says Greg Knight, marketing consultant for Avalon and Tahoe Manufacturing.

Dealers spend a great deal of time at boat shows presenting various models of the two brands. While the boats offer a wonderful sensory and visual experience for prospective buyers, the underlying quality and desirable details that set them apart from other manufacturers were not floating to the surface.

“The brand itself was not getting the exposure it needed,” Knight explains. “The product was there [at boat shows], but there were not sales-type items there, if you will, that could draw attention to the product. The dealers would just do their own thing, rather than us providing them with a consistent plan or consistent presentation.”

Knight needed a way to help dealers near and far stay on the same page when representing all of the exciting features and benefits the two brands have to offer.


Knight worked with The F.P. Horak Company to develop a series of sales tools to help dealers highlight the beauty, performance, and versatility of Avalon and Tahoe pontoons.

The series includes hinged, three-panel, self-standing swatch boards that display samples of wall, carpet, furniture vinyl, and floor vinyl options. The boards lift options out of catalogs and into the hands of buyers, giving them the chance to feel and see subtle differences in texture and color.

Also, boat specification boards—25-by-26-inch boards with grommets along the top and a wing easel back for two different displaying options—offer detailed features and benefits of selected models. Two clear pockets are attached to each board: one for a company-designed spec sheet highlighting features and benefits, and the other for dealer pricing information.

For an arresting visual hook, X stands (31.5-by-72-inch tall banners held up by an x-shaped frame) highlight three separate benefit areas, including the company’s warranty plans, high performance package, and the Top 10 Reasons to Choose Avalon (or Tahoe) list. Three-sided tower stands rising 5 feet tall and 20 inches wide offer stunning visual displays viewable from all angles.

Finally, they developed a series of static clings that can be applied directly to boats on the showroom floor, drawing attention to notable features such as aluminum seat frames, power steering, electric wine racks, and interior mood lights.


Today, Knight feels the dealers are able to present “a better image, a larger image, a consistent image, and that customers are getting information that they may not have gotten otherwise.” The collection of sales tools delivers a well-organized, common message wherever Avalon and Tahoe boats are displayed.

“The message didn’t jump out at the customer as it does now,” says Knight. And with the company poised for another record year, that’s certainly something to sing about.