By Norm Rosen
With online and social media communications firmly established as part of the overall marketing mix, where can the modern RV dealer turn to maximize response and achieve the greatest results per promotional dollar?
Billions of people worldwide are tuned-in to social media and online sources for information. How can the modern RV dealer compete for the attention of potential customers?
It’s almost a case where there are so many media options that it has become impossible to attract the attention of the most important niche in the online audience – the serious RV shopper.
Gone are the days when you could place an ad on a local radio station and expect most of the audience to tune in on their daily commute. The viewership for local TV has also diminished substantially over the past decade, to the point where you virtually have to saturate the airwaves to attract the same amount of attention that a single regular spot on an evening newscast used to deliver.
Newspapers have been hit just as hard, with readership down and advertising lineage in a steady decline.
So where can the modern RV dealer turn to stay “top of mind” with current customers, and generate new business from the tech-savvy millennials?
The Search Engine Optimization experts would have you believe that only through their magical logarithms will you be able to reach a substantial audience… and they may be partially correct – but the mystery of reaching the ideal audience for your products and services is not locked behind a secret door – it is simply a matter of common sense.
You see, the computer programs that power the search engines seek key terms and phrases that correspond to the searches requested by millions of online participants. If your webpage content includes terms like “affordable RV”, cheap vacation”, “best travel trailer”, or “RV service near (your town)”, you are already well on your way to increased website traffic. If you schedule updates to your website content on a regular basis, and make sure that the key words and phrases are included in the title line and first few sentences of your website stories, you will gain extra points in the search engine game.
Posting expert content, or linking to sites where expert content abounds, will further expand your opportunities to attract new customers to your site, but once they have arrived, it is up to you to offer an informative, entertaining, and perhaps even inspirational website experience.
If your site is filled with interesting, topical, and useful information, visitors will share the link with their friends and family, and that’s when your numbers of views will really start to increase.
How do you expand your website audience? Try sharing links to your expert content with friends and customers through Facebook groups. If one or more of your Facebook posts “goes viral” you could see an uptick of 10, 20, or 100 times your normal website traffic. Ask your regional tourism committees how their Facebook campaigns are working… they will tell you that for the cost of “boosting” a post to draw attention to expert content at their website they can reach tens or even hundreds of thousands of viewers… then ask them how many of the viewers actually spend money to visit the region or purchase a product from the website. The answer may be eye-opening.
“Posting expert content, or linking to sites where expert content abounds,
will further expand your opportunities to attract new customers to your site”
Look beyond the website…
With so many “influencers” posting videos to YouTube, it is mystifying how few RV dealers post videos featuring their products. Indeed, with so many RV manufacturers posting videos, it is surprising how few dealers post links from their websites to these videos.
Just as website viewers seek expert content, the YouTube audience is searching for informative and expert content… if you can add a bit of entertainment, that’s all the better. The most successful RV videos online today are created by Leisure Travel Vans, with host Dean Corrigal attracting audiences that can be measured in hundreds of thousands of people over a six-month time frame. Obviously, Leisure Travel Vans loves this response, and they continue to produce very high-quality video content. The percentage of viewers who become buyers is very small, although it is certainly enough to make the video project viable. Check out one of our favourite LTV videos at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHsSvevvrGI and imagine what you would be able to do with almost 100,000 views in less than three weeks!
For RV dealers who are interested in linking to expert content to enhance their websites and Facebook posts, RV Lifestyle Magazine offers a range of digital edition articles, website archives, and YouTube videos, which they encourage RV dealers to link to. When you add the third-party credibility of a magazine that has served the RV enthusiasts in Canada for almost 50 years, the benefit to your website is obvious. Just remember to acknowledge the source of the content and return the courtesy by sharing a link to the magazine’s website.
With everyone scrambling to reach the largest possible audience, it seems only natural that exchanging links on a mutually beneficial basis would be an excellent concept. There are, however, some limitations; you want to share links with businesses that share your ethics and overall philosophy, but do not pose a competitive threat. You also want to keep an eye on the geographical considerations – if you sell products that are not easily or affordably shipped across the continent, or if you are bound by contractual factors to market your products within a designated area, it may be pointless to produce online content that exceeds your geographic trading area.
Keep an eye on traditional media
While we may all be fascinated with the market potential of the “new media”, it is essential to keep your base solidly rooted in traditional marketing approaches. In recent demographic surveys, the Magazine Publishers Association found that many readers, across all demographic and social categories, continue to prefer print publications for key aspects of their research into substantial new purchases. This has been reflected in research conducted by RV Lifestyle Magazine – it was found that roughly one-third of the readers prefer print over electronic media; one-third are flexible when it comes to receiving their content via printed or digital editions of the magazine, and one-third either live in, or RV in areas where internet connectivity is weak or non-existent. That is a significant portion of the established RV audience that prefers or strongly prefers to read their special interest content in print.
Your “digital only” marketing campaigns may reach very impressive numbers of viewers, but what is the conversion factor? Compare this to the conversion factor when you run an ad in a local or regional magazine or newspaper, and then compute the cost per unit sold.
Don’t miss the established audience…
When we contact RV Lifestyle Magazine subscribers to give them FREE access to their digital editions of the magazine, we have a very high “open rate”, and a high “click through” rate, compared to the average for the publishing industry. This is primarily due to the long-established relationship that we enjoy with so many of our subscribers, and partly due to the quality of our content. This established audience of RV enthusiast families are very influential among their peers, making an average of 7.2 major purchase recommendations per year to friends and family, who perceive these active RV enthusiasts as “trustworthy experts” on the subjects of RVs, travel destinations, and related products and services.
An interesting side note to the analysis of online marketing and promotion efforts comes from the click-through activity within the RV Lifestyle Magazine subscriber audience – while the various articles and video links in the promotional e-mail messages garner a click-through rate that is better than three-times the average for the publishing industry (thanks again to the long-established relationship with the magazine and the overall credibility of the content), the click rate on the social media links in the message is very small – suggesting that the RV Lifestyle Magazine audience is not overly active on social media sites. The conclusion you may draw is that the social media audience does not overlap the traditional media audience – but presents an opportunity to expand the base of potential customers.
The logical conclusion
The ideal marketing approach would therefore seem to be a combination of new and traditional media, with each promotional effort incorporating a method of measuring results. Use a distinct contact code for each promotion – for example, you could create a landing page for each campaign on your website – something like EasternRV@website.ca/RVL for an ad in RV Lifestyle Magazine. The page would open with an invitation to sign up to receive news about dealership sales and special events – anything that will help you capture a contact name, email address, and geographical information on the visitor. You could tag your electronic media campaigns with a special telephone extension, or a phrase like “mention coupon code RV Radio 1 for a special discount on your purchase”.
The multi-media approach to modern RV marketing is a fascinating adventure in corporate communications – don’t let the techno-jargon keep you from exploring the opportunities – use your instincts to reach out to new and established audiences to generate more business!