Despite the headwinds of 2009, RVBusiness is turning the corner on the second annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards after having gone to manufacturers earlier this year for nominations of their best dealers in terms of consumer care, civic involvement and general professionalism.
A number of applications are in hand and a host of nominated retailers, as has been the case for so many business people this year, are currently scrambling to submit theirs. “I can report at this point that things are going well,” says RVBusiness Publisher Sherman Goldenberg, who is overseeing the second annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards program on behalf of the industry’s flagship trade journal. “And we’ll continue to flex with the times and bend that deadline to get as many of those last-minute applications as we can before turning them over later this month for review by our panel of experts.”
The Top 50, like last year, will be not be ranked in any sort of order, says Goldenberg, but will be presented as a group in alphabetical order at a reception and dinner at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 7, during the annual RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, sponsored by the Fairfax, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA). But five of the Top 50 will receive special recognition as Blue Ribbon dealers and one above the rest receives the Dave Altman Award, which goes to an exceptional corporate citizen.
Appearing as keynote speaker at this year’s dinner is former – and possibly future – Republican presidential candidate and Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee, who will more than likely have a few things to say about the current economic and political landscape.
“All in all, we can’t imagine that anyone attending the RVDA Con/Expo wouldn’t want to take the opportunity to mix with Mr. Huckabee and their industry peers at the cocktail party prior to our dinner and to hear Mr. Huckabee speak on the hot topics of the day at the dinner itself, regardless of their political persuasion,” said Goldenberg. “And, of course, we’ll honor our dealers, one by one, at the dinner as well, giving everyone a chance to reflect on the professionalism for which we’re trying to help raise the bar in this industry.”
The bottom line of the Top 50 program, he maintained, is to continue to remind individual dealers – and the industry at large – of the intent and specific recommendations of the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence.
“I don’t think there is ever a bad time to be talking about excellence and customer service and treating people right, especially customers,” said BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates, the Mishawaka, Ind., agency that is again working with RVBusiness on the Top 50. “So, whether it’s a good economy or a bad economy, this is a good program and helpful to the industry.”
Underwriting this year’s program are RVB’s “Leadership Alliance” sponsors for 2009, including “Platinum” co-sponsors ADP Lightspeed, Salt Lake City, Utah; Blue Ox, Pender, Neb.; Coach-Net, Lake Havasu, Ariz.; Cummins Onan, Minneapolis, Minn.; Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaffney, S.C., RV Trader and RVTraderOnline.com, Norfolk, Va., and Ultra-Fab Products, Elkhart, Ind., while Protective Asset Protection Division, Chesterfield, Mo., is a “Gold” sponsor.
Tickets for the $120-a-plate dinner ($99 for RVDA members and Con/Expo exhibitors) are available through RVBUSINESS.com’s registration link (http://www.rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-registration-form/).
Online versions of the applications can be downloaded by linking directly to http://www.rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-top-50-dealer-application/
Building on last year’s format, which appears to have worked rather well for those involved, RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Award honorees will be promoted in the national press, in dealers’ hometown newspapers and in the pages – and on the websites — of Affinity’s trade and consumer magazines, RVBusiness, Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.
However, publicity is only part of the incentive for participating in this bar-raising national promotion, says Thompson. “In talking with different size dealers last year, whether they be small, medium or large-size dealers,” said Thompson, “we did get some distinctly different responses. The smaller dealers were surprised that they were genuinely in the running to be recognized for their attention to customer satisfaction. They appreciated having the opportunity to be recognized for their hard work and their investment in customer service.
“The medium and larger dealers seemed to have their own unique set of issues in assuring good customer service and excellence in their operations,” added Thompson, who will be joined in hosting the event by Jim Sheldon, a Monaco RV LLC executive and current chairman of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “Because they were larger, they weren’t able to have that one-on-one experience as principals because of their size. It was a unique challenge to them to drive down their values to the people in their dealer operations who were working with customers, whether it was sales or service or otherwise. It would take a lot of work and investment on their part to have that personalized service on a larger scale. So, to be recognized for actually accomplishing excellence on a larger scale for them was also satisfying.”
Leveling the playing field again this year is the fact that larger multi-store retailers, regardless of how many locations they have, can have only one store recognized in the RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Award program.
“It was satisfying for those of us who were involved in the development of the program to see that most dealers were genuinely appreciative of having the spotlight put on them,” added Thompson, current chairman of RVIA’s Public Relations Committee. “I think it’s always a good thing to put a spotlight on people who are doing things right and doing them well. Recognizing outstanding achievement in customer service and dealer operations not only lifts the dealership, but when they are spotlighted and shown off to the world, it lifts up the entire industry.”
RVTraderOnline.com, the website of RV Trader magazine and a division of Dominion Enterprises, now offers dealer advertisers the option to directly publish their online classified listings in participating RV Trader magazines throughout the country, according to a news release.
RV dealers simply log on to their RV Trader Inventory Management Tool, provided free of charge to all RVTraderOnline.com dealer advertisers, and click on the Add Magazines tab. After selecting which RVs from their online inventory they wish to publish in RV Trader magazine, they select the magazines they wish to publish in by market. Dealers also have options to advertise all their inventory in print or advertise in all RV Trader magazines with just one click.
“We are giving dealers a turnkey option to increase their reach and market penetration with media other than the Internet,” explained Tim Custer, RV Trader general manager. “Our research shows that print advertising is a great way to supplement online advertising. On average, dealers who advertise in our print magazines and on RVTraderOnline.com receive 57% more leads than dealers who advertise online only.”
RVTraderOnline.com contains the largest database of recreational vehicles for sale online. Headquartered in Norfolk, Va., it is part of the TraderOnline.com family of online vehicle classified advertising sites that includes BoatTrader.com, CycleTrader.com, AeroTrader.com, EquipmentTraderOnline.com and CommercialTruckTrader.com.
RVTraderOnline.com, the website of RV Trader magazine and a division of Dominion Enterprises, has launched Lead Manager for its dealer advertisers.
Included as an additional feature in the inventory management tool provided to all dealer advertisers, Lead Manager offers dealers a central location to manage their online leads, according to a news release. The new feature automatically collects and reports all inbound e-mails and telephone calls from any source, including the dealer’s website and any third party Web sites where the dealer’s inventory may be displayed. Lead Manager also reports on all unanswered online leads to help dealers better manage their response time.
To increase direct communication between buyer and dealer, Lead Manager generates customizable templates for dealers to quickly send personalized or targeted e-mails to groups of prospects from an easy-to-use dealer database.
“According to AMR Research, 70% of all online leads go unanswered,” said Tim Custer, RV Trader general manager. “In 2008, RVTraderOnline.com provided over 56,000 online leads-which means that more than 39,000 potential RV purchases were not made, with millions of dollars in sales potentially missed. We work hard to assist dealers in all areas of their business.
With Lead Manager we will help them with the timely but very important task of managing leads. We are excited to help our partners optimize all revenue opportunities.”
AMR Research Inc. estimates that the 70% of unanswered online leads represents between 14% and 22% of annual revenue. Statistics such as these and input from current dealer advertisers were key influences in the development of Lead Manager.
RVTraderOnline.com contains the largest database of recreational vehicles for sale online. Headquartered in Norfolk,Va., it is part of the TraderOnline.com family of online vehicle classified advertising sites.