This past month I had the opportunity to attend my second Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) Conference and Expo in Las Vegas – a gathering of RV industry business owners and executives from across Canada and the U.S. (Think RV dealerships, RV rental outfits, RV and camping Associations)
Part conference full of information sessions and workshops, part exposition featuring industry vendors and suppliers, part meeting opportunity simply because everyone is in town. The 5-day event is a must-attend.
Why I go
For the past 16 years I’ve immersed myself in the RVing/Camping industry. I broke into the biz as a lonely lot boy at one of Calgary’s top RV dealership – Bucars RV Centre – organizing RVs for the Service Technicians, working with the sales team on keeping their Sales lot and Showroom in pristine shape, and meeting the occasional customer as they picked up their RV after a service appointment.
Today – my company works with multiple RV-industry clients ranging from RV dealerships to Camping and RVing Associations and Manufacturers. We’ve made a name for ourselves in this exciting, ever evolving industry and it’s so exciting seeing where it was 16 years ago compared to where it is today.
What can I say – I love the outdoors. I’ve camped since I was a fetus. My Dad was in the RV business. It’s in me. It’s in all of us. It’s what we know.
What I learned
Social media a hot topic among industry leaders
When it comes to selling RVs and the RV-lifestyle, there’s no question social media and content marketing is a huge part of the overall marketing mix. Camping is a wonderful activity to spend with friends and family. RVing takes you wherever you want to go, to see whatever you want to see. Those two things (doing and seeing) provide huge opportunity to create content and share.
Snapchat on everone’s minds
One thing was certain, everyone and their dog are racking their brain on how they’re going to leverage the massive rise of Snapchat. Dealers and RV rental companies are scrambling to figure out if Snapchat is something they should be using and if so, how? We think Instagram is still the way to go given Snapchat’s demographic. Time will tell.
Facebook still the king
I had the opportunity to chat with numerous RV dealership owners and RV accessory suppliers and one thing was certain – Facebook is still king.
Video, video, video
This is recycled from last year but something that is still super relevant today. Video is a must. And let me also add that “quality video” is a must. There are way too many great tools and devices out there to help make great video. Just search YouTube for “how to make a great video” and you’ll have nearly endless amount of info for creating good videos for your RV business. Seriously – it’s all there for the taking.
Huge gap in the market – some are killing it, others not getting it at all
A clear observation of my time in Las Vegas meeting with industry heads and visiting many social media Pages is that some are executing their social media marketing programs really, really well, while others are still lost in the dark ages. I attribute this to a few things. 1) There is a large gap in the market separating the big players from the Ma and Pop shops, meaning the big guys can afford to hire teams of people to take care of their marketing. 2) Market size differential enables dealership groups with large market share to justify spending time and energy on their social media – they simply have a larger target audience. 3) Old school thinking is very much at play here. The Recreational Vehicle industry is still largely run by some who still don’t see value or understand how social media marketing can help their business.
While I love attending conferences and am eager to learn new things and meet new people this experience really made it clear that to present something you are a thought leader on requires a keen ability to be clear in your message, highlight trends and innovative techniques, and finally, to not simply TELL eager learners what they need to be doing but SHOW them how to do it.
I don’t know how many times I sat in on some of the marketing sessions thinking “hey that’s a great idea,” only to see puzzled looks on every attendees face screaming “but HOW do we do this?” It’s clear to me that a well-balanced presentation is integral to really bringing quality and value to the audience. Kill ‘em with ideas, bring ‘em back to life with deployment tactics – the HOW.
In all it was another great year seeing business acquaintances, friends and colleagues. RVDA 2017 is already bookmarked in the calendar so I’ll see you there!