RV Dealers Must Embrace Online Marketing to Thrive

"It's not the fastest or the strongest ... that survives; it's the ones that are most adaptable to change. I think it's true for business," Zappos founder Tony Hsieh says in his 2010 book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. By going online and being nimble to strategically respond to market conditions Zappos has established themselves as a leader in their industry. In business, you have to be flexible to remain competitive. BlackBerry's plight is a case in point. Such a must-have status symbol of the corporate elite that it was called the 'CrackBerry,'' the original smartphone has disappeared, buried by in its competitors' innovation. Once heralded as a game changer, BlackBerry toppled into oblivion when its designers failed to update their product to compete with Apple's innovative iPhone. As they say, the rest is history!

Business owners who fail to keep pace with the times and innovate will, like BlackBerry's parent company Research in Motion, choke on the dust of their competitors and possibly fail altogether. For today's RV dealership owners, online media marketing is the game-changing play that will separate the winners from the losers. The world is online and so is your customer. Buyers no longer rely on traditional media for their research and shopping. In fact over 80% of RV shoppers go online in their search before making a purchase. Also, nearly 50% of Americans have a Facebook account and they're not all kids. Adults age 36 to 63, the RV industry's target demographic, comprise the largest Facebook user group. For the first time in history, online sales beat brick-and-mortar sales during the 2011 holiday shopping season. Online advertising expenditures are predicted to top print ad spending for the first time before the end of the year.

To gain customers, RV dealers must embrace online media and shift marketing resources to this powerful channel. Even having a dealership website simply isn't enough any more (though it is foundational). Dealers need to maximize their use of Google AdWords, place online display ads on websites that their customers visit - especially the ones they visit when thinking about purchasing an RV, and they need to have a presence on Facebook and any other social network where their customers may be 'hanging out.'

For most RV dealers, the problem is not whether or not to be on Facebook, it's knowing what to do when they get there. Having a Facebook or Twitter presence is not enough. To reap social media's rewards, you have to post quality content to your accounts regularly, and join the conversation. Customers on social networks see right through your sales pitch, therefore content needs to be customer focused, and relevant to their needs - or at least entertaining. Also, they expect an instant response when they engage your dealership through social media - as 'social' implies a two-way conversation. Fail to respond and they move on, and will assume you're more concerned about your profits than them. These are a few ways that your dealership can adapt to the new online world, and become a recognized voice in your marketplace. For further reading, here are a few titles that can greatly enhance your existing online efforts, and help prepare you for the future:

Six Pixels of Separation - By Mitch Joel
The Ultimate Guide to Google Adwords - By Perry Marshall
Unmarketing - by Scott Stratten
The Facebook Effect - David Kirkpatrick

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