June '17

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rv-pro.com June 2017 • RV PRO • 51 to add value in the relationship between us and the customer. One of the things we have found that they really enjoy is this rally where we camp with them, feed them, educate them and entertain them in a weekend setting. "(My advice to other dealers wanting to do this is) start small and build on it from there. Our first rally, we had somewhere between 15 and 20 units, which is usually around 50 people. You need to have an understanding of what your capabilities are." Jeff Engelbart, vice president Lasso E RV, Anamosa, Iowa "We sponsor the Coachmen Caravan's Club, which is called Pete's Fleas, Chapter 152. "We'll have the camper club out to our service center for a Christmas party and supply the breakfast for state rallies. "The club has between 20 and 30 active members. It used to be that you had to have a Coachmen product, but they've opened that up for anyone to join. "The club will try to hold one event each month and scatter campouts around the area. Campouts are hosted by whomever is closest to that campground and they'll plan certain activities for when they're there. For example, they've toured John Deere's tractor facility and wineries. "In the past, we've also supplied shirts or jackets for the clubs (we sponsor) and pay their membership for the first year. "We also do a customer loyalty program where if they pur- chase a unit, they can walk into our accessory store and get a discount; they don't have to wait until we have an open house. That's something we've always had for our clubs." Tracey Patterson, co-owner Southern RV, Richmond, Va. "We started 'Camp with the Pattersons' about five years ago. We noticed that people would buy from us and (later) say, 'Well, we don't know where to camp' or 'We just don't use it that much.' At that time, we didn't camp much, either, because when we bought the business back in 2003 we didn't have much time to go and had just moved to Virginia, so we didn't know the campgrounds ourselves. My husband finally said, 'we're going once a month next year.' Then later, he came to me and said, 'what if we invited our customers, too?' So, from there, we started the monthly meet-ups, which usually run from April to October. "Anyone who is on our email list receives the schedule roughly in February, so they have time to plan for vacations or take time off work. We have gone out of state before, but usually we stick to the campgrounds in Virginia. "We call ahead to reserve 10 to 15 spots for everybody. On Saturday night, we do a covered dish dinner and we'll sit around the fire together. This year we have about 18 families going with us. We usually have between eight to 25 unit rigs, with two or more people in each. We have about four to five regulars, but we get a lot of new people in. They didn't have to buy their RV from us and a lot of people will bring friends, so it's really branched out. "Along with the monthlies, we wanted people to get a feel for what it would be like to (RV) full-time because that's a dream that me and my husband, John, would like to do in a few years. The 10-day caravan is also now in its fifth year. This year we're going for 17 days. "We typically do that in the summer to make it easier for families with children to attend. We've done things like tour the Biltmore House, (take a) zip line ride, visit Grandfather Mountain, the Virginia Creeper bike trail and Niagara Falls. "So, we've done adventurous things, but we let people do as much or as little as they want. People don't necessarily like to (do these things) on their own. Some people have found the campground that they really like this way. "Another thing that's happened is that a lot the campers now have formed their own friendships and groups. In fact, we had a group that went to a state park a few weeks ago and we brought a dish even though we couldn't camp with them. It was just so good to see our customers doing things like that on their own. "For some people, it's just something to feel like someone else is there if something happens, if they need us. We have a couple that likes to come, but they don't participate in the activities, they just like to know that we're on the campground with them. "Another thing we do is an appreciation rally for anyone who's bought a camper from us and still owns that camper. This year is our 13th year doing that. We pick a campground, customers pay for their site fee, and we do a covered dish dinner on Friday night, a catered meal on Saturday with some sort of entertainment, and a continental breakfast on Sunday. It's a fun way to show our appreciation." The husband-and- wife owners of Southern RV started hosting "Camp with the Pattersons" camping events about five years ago as a way to encourage their customers to embrace the RV lifestyle. Club members are pictured here enjoying a dinner.

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