Friday, April 29, 2011

A somber week for many RVers . . . . .



I struggled with an appropriate topic for our RV readers this week in light of everything going on around us. In a few hours we will head up to Maine and Wild Duck Campground to open the 2011 camping season in New England. While we are looking forward to this much anticipated trip, it is difficult to celebrate our freedom to RV where and when we want to as millions of people have had their worlds turned upside down by the tornadoes that ripped through our country all week.

RV's, homes, buildings, campgrounds and entire towns disappeared before our eyes. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to try and comprehend the devastation, damage and loss of life that was left in the wake of Mother Nature's fury.

What could I write that would have any meaning this morning? What could I write that would relate, in some small way, to RV's and the enjoyment they bring to many of us, when so many have lost theirs and the places they expected to enjoy them this summer?

I've decided to take this opportunity to introduce you to a very unique person, a writer himself, and a much better one than I will ever be - his name is Don Barone. Don lives in Connecticut. Don is one of those incredible writers that makes words jump off the page/screen - words that tug at your heart strings - words that turn on a faucet of tears as he draws you into the middle of the stories he writes and introduces you to the people he writes about.

Don is an unconventional RVer, drawn into our lifestyle by his frustration with dirty hotels, lousy restaurants, and the pain associated with air travel as he traveled the country writing about fishing and the pro anglers of the Bassmaster Elite Series and other competitive fishing events.

Don bought his RV without ever having seen it or knowing what to do with it - he just knew there was a better way to travel and work than what he had been accustomed to.

Why is this important this week? Don was just one of many RVers affected by the tornadic activity ripping through our country. He was in Table Rock, MO covering a fishing tournament. He was in a campground during the storms. He was scared, very scared.

He sought safety, but could not find it. He sought comfort, but it had disappeared days before. He wanted to be back in Connecticut with his wife and kids, but he couldn't get there. He couldn't sleep so he got up, sat down at the dinette, and started pounding the keyboard of his computer to document what was going on in this corner of the world in case he never made it home again.

Don wrote what millions of people must have been feeling this week. I want to share two articles he wrote this week with you as a tribute to all who lost their lives in these storms this week, to all who had to live through the terror and fear around them, and to all who lost everything - including their RV's and their dreams and expectations of what their lives were supposed to be like until everything was taken from them.

You can read how Don described it here: http://bit.ly/iPvD70 - he titled the article, Comfort, In the Storm.

Somehow, through is words, he puts everything in perspective.

Next you will want to read about the fear these storms instill in human beings as he talks about his family and what he is feeling in the middle of the storm, read this one at: http://es.pn/dTjf3t

Don is hitching a ride with one of the pro anglers to the next event in Georgia. He is taking his RV to a family that lost everything so that they can live in his RV while they try to sort out their lives in the aftermath of a living hell. This is just the kind of guy DB is, bringing comfort to others through his thoughts, words and deeds, and never seeking any recognition - just doing what is right.

We can write about happier things in happier times, but for now, please keep everyone affected by the devastation of the storms this week in your thoughts and prayers, and like Don, do what you can to help somebody as the country recovers from the fury of Mother Nature.



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

America's Best Vacations! Where are the RV's?









As I read the Boston Sunday Globe this past weekend I noticed an insert titled; America's Best Vacations. Perhaps you also received this publication in your Sunday newspaper.

This insert is published by Collinson Media of Norcross, GA and according to their web site www.collinsonmedia.com, they print four regional editions of this insert and it is distributed to a circulation of more than 2.8 million top-tier newspapers across the nation. They also provide a direct mail component to an additional 1.3 million households.

What amazed me about the publication in our region was that there was not a single advertisement relating to the RV industry. There were no Go RVing ads that could have reached over four million people who might be interested in taking a vacation this summer. None of these people saw anything even remotely related to our industry and the wonderful vacation experiences we can offer to these people.

I sent an email inquiry through the publishers web site asking a few questions to help me provide back-up information for this blog post. I had asked them if their advertising department had reached out to the Go RVing campaign to get some of the $11 million dollars the RV industry is going to spend on promoting the benefits of RVing this year on the Internet, print publications and radio and television.

I also asked them if their advertising department reached out to any regional RV dealers that provide RV rentals for vacations or if they had reached out to the national RV rental companies such as Cruise America, El Monte RV, or Bates International.

I simply wanted to know why the company didn't think RV's should be in their vacation publications that would be read by over four million people!

I was absolutely stunned at the response that I received from this media company. In a terse response to my simple request they said:

Hi Bob,

Thank you for reaching out. We are glad you enjoyed America's Best Vacations, but we are going to pass on commenting for your article.

Have a great day.

Thank you,
Collinson Media

Seems rather cold to me and almost makes one think this company doesn't consider our industry and our consumers worthy of any attention whatsoever and they did not want to be part of this discussion.

I have not reached out to the Go RVing committee or the agency handling their media buys but hope they may also respond here to see if this publication was considered as a possible investment to reach four million people that might not know a lot about RV's, RV vacations, RV rentals and the pleasure they bring to RVers - millions of them!

The industry must attract new people to the lifestyle and they must get outside their comfort zone to reach the unknowing masses that would probably enjoy RVing if we would just tell them what it's all about.

Perhaps next year this media company will open their eyes to the many potential advertisers that could be buying space in their publications!

Were you among the four million readers that saw this publication?


Did you pick up on the fact that there were no RVs mentioned?


Do you think they should have been presented as an alternative to the other types of vacation destinations presented in America's Best Vacations?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Would you buy your next motorhome direct from the manufacturer?




After every recession decimates a portion of the RV industry we see new companies rise from the ashes of those who came before them that did not survive the economic casualties that such downturns leave in their wake.


This recession is no different.


Several new manufacturers have emerged this year to show the entrepreneurial spirit that is found in so many adventurous souls who like to make exciting products that allow consumers to enjoy a unique lifestyle outdoors and in concert with nature.


One of the "new guys on the block" is Nexus RV (http://www.nexusrv.com/) founded by Claude Donati and Dave Middleton, veteran RV manufacturers who previously worked under the traditional model of manufacturer selling to the dealer and the dealer selling to the consumer.


They studied the new buying habits of consumers and the way they use the Internet to do their research prior to visiting a dealership. They coupled that knowledge with a desire to "break the mold" and establish a brand new company with a factory-direct sales model from their new facility near the RV/MN Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana.


The intent of this posting is not to "hype" the new company, but to ask our readers if this is something they would consider the next time they purchase a new motorhome. Nexus proclaims significant price reductions by eliminating the middleman in the sales process. They also promote the ability of the buyer to sit down with the owners and work out all the details of the sale including some customization to the motorhome.


On a company video posted on YouTube, Dave Middleton notes that Nexus will be the first company to start out life as a factory-direct operation. There are certainly other motorhome manufacturers that sell factory-direct; two that come to mind are Born Free and Lazy Daze, both exceptional products with a loyal customer base.


Does the idea of buying factory-direct get your attention? Would you prefer to buy factory-direct or purchase from the local dealer where you can establish a closer relationship?


Nexus is well prepared for the question that will inevitably come up during their sales presentations: what about service? The company has signed up approximately 250 independent service companies to service the Nexus motorhomes on the road.

How would service affect your decision to buy factory-direct from any of the three companies mentioned here versus through a dealer and manufacturer's service organization? Is the market really changing? Is Nexus RV ahead of the curve or will consumers be slow to buy factory-direct from a start-up company?


We know many are comfortable buying from Born Free and Lazy Daze who are well established in the industry with a loyal following.



What are some of the important things that you would want to know before you would consider buying a motorhome factory-direct versus a dealer? Let us know how you feel on this topic. I'm sure Claude and Dave would appreciate your views. I've had the pleasure or working with these guys when they worked for other RV companies and they were always very cordial and open with the media. I wish them well in this new venture and look forward to seeing their products soon.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Woodall's - Stupid Part Two !!!




Do you ever sit back and wonder what senior management does in large corporations when they are making decisions that impact their customers? Let's face it; we all do.


It was just a few weeks ago when I blogged about the relationship of Woodall's and The Bad Sam Club with their efforts to entice campground owners to sign up for special one-sided program and you can bet the campgrounds were not on the winning side of that idea.


So now just a few weeks later the incredibly lame marketing folks over at Woodall's, who now come under Marcus Lemonis, CEO of The Affinity Group, have posted a new contest at www.woodalls.com.


The headline for this contest says; "Woodall's is Searching for North America's Favorite Campground - Tell Us Your Favorite and You Could Win a 7-Day Hawaiian Cruise for 2!" You can see the graphic they have created to entice you to enter their contest. We are campers, RVers, and we love the RV industry - if we want to go on a cruise we can make that decision on our own.


To have an RV company award a cruise instead on an RV related prize just shows how out of touch they are with their customers!


So why would this corporation, that claims to be a camper's best friend, give away a prize that competes against every campground owner in this country? I don't know about you, but I don't want to go on a cruise; I want to go camping! If you are really trying to find out which campground gets rated the highest by your customers, then why don't you give them a seven day stay at THAT CAMPGROUND? Not in the middle of the ocean on a cruise ship!


To make matters worse, they further insult you by making you fill out a form before you can enter the contest. You can bet all this information is going to go into the master Bad Sam Club/AGI database so they can then promote THEIR affiliated campgrounds and send them the Camping World catalogs to take even more business away from your supply store at YOUR campground?


I wonder who was at the table when the marketing geniuses presented this idea to Marcus and his minions? Who raised their hand and said this was a great idea? Who was it that thinks sending people off on a cruise (a competing industry to the RV industry) is a fantastic promotion? Did anybody in the room suggest they change the prize? These guys own RV dealerships. Why not move one of the Camping World trailers, park models or motorhomes to the campground that is voted to be the best by knowledgeable campers and then give them seven days in THAT campground.


Instead, they decide to put the winners on a cruise ship?


Am I the only RVer in America that thinks this is really a stupid idea? If you were in the Boardroom with Marcus and the senior management team would you have agreed to this promotion?