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June '17

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DEALER TRENDS: 50 • RV PRO • June 2017 rv-pro.com D E A L E R S By Marley Jeranko Whether it involves organizing camp-outs, hosting rallies or merely letting RVers hold customer-driven events at the dealership, dealers say sponsoring camping clubs can be a useful tool – and a fun one at that. Dealers who spoke with RV PRO for this article say hosting events can help customers get the most out of their RV, helping ensure they bond to the RV lifestyle; build customer loyalty for the dealership; and in some circumstances offer additional selling opportunities for parts and service. "It's a time to get to know people and it's been a good way for us to build camraderie with the camping community," says Tracey Patterson, co-owner of Southern RV in Richmond, Va. "Most owners don't even see their customers, but this way, we get to know them and they can see that we live the lifestyle (we're selling)." Patterson challenges dealerships to go beyond their day-to-day interactions and connect with their customers on a deeper level. She adds, "All you have to do is start out (small) and just see how it goes." Rick Horsey, owner Parkview RV Center, Smyrna, Del. "Each year we have our own company rally. This is our 24th year. "When we started handling the Airstream franchise back in the early '80s, we noticed that the Airstream customers went to a lot of rallies for their units. We thought, what a better way to get an understanding of how they're using it and how we're doing as a company and satisfying their needs, than to have our own rally. "We rent out the Delaware State Fairground in Harrington, Del., for a weekend and invite all our customers and guest to the campground for three days of camping and social activities. "We do seminars, we have entertainment at night, we feed them and we listen to them – that's the purpose of it. There is no criteria for joining, but it is first come, first serve, because it is limited to 200 people. "This year's theme is the '50s and we'll have a band on Friday and Saturday night, cornhole tournaments and lots of vendors. "When we set up a rally, we'll have our own store with vendors and suppliers there, as well as a service desk and technicians, so people can have things adjusted or repaired. All of those things add to the whole experience of the rally. "Each year, we pick a charity and we'll have a 50/50 drawing. Customers really like that because someone's going to win 50 percent. Usually we'll get some- where between $700 and $1,000, so customers could walk out with a $350 or $500 bonus. "Every year it's like a big family reunion. We've had some people that have attended 10 or 15 of the rallies and being able to see them in a different setting is beneficial for us, but also, you start to learn about their families and some of the activities that they're doing when they're traveling (with the RV). Every year, you see people coming back to the rally that you know. You get to know them from a different standpoint. "It's about the relationships. It's just seems to us that RVs, automobiles – everything seems to be a commodity – and until you do something to that, it adds no value for the customer to buy it from you. So, we see this as an opportunity Dealers Sponsoring Camping Clubs

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