Rebuilding The Diving Industry –
by Gene Muchanski
Editor, The Dive Industry Professional
In May of 2020 I wrote a blog post about the necessity of rebuilding local diving communities. Local diving communities suffered a loss of activity and growth in the past twenty years for a number of reasons; aging population, more recreational options available to consumers, decline of outdoor sports, pollution of our marine environment and a lack of media celebrities promoting the joy of underwater exploration. Small business has also changed in the past twenty years. As modern marketing tools were developed to target and reach countless more potential customers, diving companies abandoned their relationships with their local customers and began to centralize their business models. Companies even attempted to sell their products and services directly to customers in hopes of saving profits and commissions to members of their supply chain. Some companies who historically have always been a dollar short and a day late are still letting some of their local staff go and replacing them with nameless, faceless figures that operate from their national headquarters. All I can say is that you are making your own bed, and you’re going to have to sleep in it.
In the mean time, we are rediscovery that diving is a social sport and Local Diving is a social activity. We also know the value of face-to-face contact and the power of a local referral, whether it be for diving equipment, training or travel. We know that “Social Media” is not very social and maybe we should be looking for a new way to communicate, like “Local Media.” We know that we can only run our businesses for now on a small scale because of covid restrictions. Heck, I would be happy to teach a class of six if all my students bought their own diving equipment. I would also be delighted taking a dive trip with ten people. And Dive Resorts would be very happy with that too.
Well, it’s time to get back in the ball game. Enough with the pretty fish pictures and the boring online seminars about what it would be like to dive again. It’s time to rebuild the diving industry to reflect the recent changes in our recreation.
Well, I’m pleased to announce that the rebuilding of the diving industry has started and the Dive Industry Association is doing it. We didn’t ask for permission from anyone, especially from old rusty companies that may not be in business two years from now. We are laying out our plan to bring Buyers and Sellers together for mutual benefit. We are focusing on the sales of diving equipment, training and travel. We are rallying notable opinion leaders to volunteer their time, money and manpower to help non-profit organizations in our industry to do the work that needs to be done to clean up our environment, organize our business channels of distribution and ensure that our recreation is servicing the millions of divers in the world while supporting our local merchants. Our message to the world is to “Learn to Dive, Buy Your Gear, Go Diving and Stay Active.” Our message to the Dive Industry Professional Community is “Get Onboard and Join Us.” Let’s look at what we’ve done so far.
Step One: Retail Dive Centers as the Foundation of Local Dive Territories
As part of our initial marketing campaign that started in 2016, we created a concept called DIVE LOCAL. As outlined in our white paper of September 2016, we drew up local diving communities according to geographical territories. In the drawing to the left, we started by identifying all the dive stores in the United States by state. We verified their addresses by conducting a first class post card mailing. According to our research, there are 1525 dive stores in the U.S. The exact number isn’t important. Numbers change. What’s important is that we started a process that will continue in the future.
We then looked at the concentration of dive stores and grouped them together into workable Territories. We now have territories in the Northeast, North Central, Northwest, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Florida, South Central, Southwest, South Pacific, and the Caribbean. Exact Territories are not important either. They are not cast in concreate and can change according to the numbers. What is important is that Dive Stores are the foundation of our rebuilding. They are licensed businesses that are a physical part of the states and territories they are in. Most stores sell diving equipment, training and travel. Having a local business address is our key ingredient to promoting their location to the general public who can visit and learn all about diving in their own community.
Keeping track of 1,525 dive stores in our country is a big job. And an expensive one too. Breaking it down into territories makes it more workable. Organizing it by state is even more so. The Dive Industry Association is looing for a retail volunteer from each state to be their state’s spokesperson. We are looking for each territory to appoint a Territory Advisor to represent the states in their territory and work with us during the year. This first step will revolutionize the 21st Century Diving Industry. I guarantee it.
Step Two: Adding Dive Equipment Sales Reps to the Local Diving Territories
Step two in rebuilding our Local Diving Communities is to bring the Dive Equipment Regional Reps into the plan. Dive Equipment Sales Reps have long been a crucial element of the industry and yet they are the most unappreciated group in the community. Have you ever seen a Rep get elected to an Association’s Board of Directors or receive an award for their industry service? How many Reps do you know that have been inducted into a Divers Hall of Fame? Do you ever see them at an industry “Black Tie” event? I didn’t think so.
Well, Dive Equipment Reps, or Sales Agents as they are called, are one of the most important elements in the industry’s channel of distribution. They are the direct link between Buyers and Sellers in the diving business community. According to an industry-wide survey in 2002, Reps typically represent 5 companies, to 163 accounts in a 7 state territory. On average, we found out they spent 183 days a year on the road and spent over $33,000 of their own money traveling to their Dealers. Sales Reps are the eyes and ears of our Supply Chain. With the demise of national trade shows, Regional Sales Reps are once again coming into prominence and importance in this post-covid economy. I personally feel that Regional Sales Agents can once again become the lynch-pin of our global business network – on a regional territorial basis, of course.
DIVE LOCAL has mapped out the 144 Dive Equipment Sales Reps in the United States, based on a first-class post card mailing conducted by the Dive Industry Foundation (non-profit 501c3) this year. We organized the Reps according to their home addresses due to the fact that travel has become compromised because of the virus. We honestly feel that Sales Reps who are traveling locally are more effective in sales than Reps who are not traveling.
Dive Industry Association is working with a number of Sales Reps to help them identify the State of the Retail Industry in diving. Together we are keeping track of the successes and challenges the Retailers are facing. Participating Sales Reps can benefit from our persistent marketing efforts while they focus on their local travel and sales. There are opportunities at Dive Industry Association and Dive Industry Foundation for Sales Reps to participating in volunteer activities and commissioned sales work. Building a Global Business Network always has benefits that go along with working together.
Step Three: Adding Dive Equipment Companies to the Local Diving Territories
Diving Equipment Manufacturers have the most to gain by being a part of the Regional Diving Communities we are building. Having an organized group of Professional Retail Dive Centers, serviced by Professional Sales Agents leads to continuity of marketing communications and the abundant flow of goods and services. Many of the antiquated sales methods we have used and are still using in the industry are being replaced by 21st Century sales and marketing techniques that will improve the way we do business on behalf of the recreational diving consumers. We invite all Diving Equipment Manufacturers to become a part of what we are doing and benefit from it.
For more information on DIVE LOCAL, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director of Dive Industry Association, at firstname.lastname@example.org