Advice: Top 10 Retail Marketing Rules to Remember in 2021

A picture of Ron Wheeler

Let us get right to the bottom line. You are lying awake, wondering what everyone is thinking about 2021. What should concern you? What should you plan for?

You are feeling anxious and uncertain. You do not want to be the dealer who goes backward. You want to build on the success of 2020.

Some dealers say 2021 is a path we never have taken…or is it?

If you feel uncertain, you might believe no action is action, and thus miss perhaps one of the biggest years in your store’s history.

Whatever concerns you, recognize the challenge and guard against complacency and no action.

Here are 10 things to remember in 2021 to have your best year yet:

  1. Competition

Really, 2020 was a year we never have seen. Your competition switched overnight from other dealerships to the factories manufacturing RVs. Not that the factory was against you, but all your focus was on inventory and when vehicles would arrive.

Inventory levels dictated everything in 2020. This year, recognize that your competition will revert to being other dealerships, ones that want to steal market share and your product lines. For many dealers, the competition will have greater resources, more buying power and bigger inventories. If you have not changed your thinking, you must. The first four months will dictate your business’ 2021 potential. Do not fall asleep. Plan for a strong year and budget accordingly.


  1. Follow-up

Among the biggest issues in 2021 will be following up on leads, calls, texts and emails. Why? Because many dealers became complacent in 2020. They did not have to fight others for buyers; they only had to battle over inventory shortages.

When the game changes, as it did in 2020, difficult processes are the first to grow weak and fail. You might not have noticed or even believe this happens, but it is true.

Dealers need to get back on track as quickly as possible. Do a deep dive on follow-up materials and sales processes. Make sure you are ready to compete. Do not lose ground because of poor preparation and follow-through. Get back to strong follow-up.


  1. Retail

We created more than 200 lifestyle video spots in 2020. For the first time, lifestyle spots outpaced retail spots by a large margin. With growing first-time buyer demographics, dealers needed lifestyle spots and the right strategy in 2020. However, this year will require you to return to robust retail messaging. Start by including price and item, with strong calls to action.

Make sure to include urgency where you can. Remember, urgency creates action. I am not advocating entirely abandoning lifestyle messaging, but lifestyle messaging will not be enough by itself to take market share due to increased dealer competition. A good 2021 motto for marketing is retail first and lifestyle messaging second.


  1. Continuity

Rule No. 1 to increase return on investment is to ensure all your marketing messages convey the same messaging look and focus. Make sure messages have continuity in all your marketing venues. Increase the frequency of your dealership’s messages as well.

As you ramp up marketing in 2021, do not forget how important this is. Ensure every day builds on every week, and weeks build on every month. Missing this process will be easy as the year unfolds and your dealership gets busy. Make sure you allocate enough time to effectively manage the process.


  1. Customer Base

Remember how important your customer base was during the past 10 years? Those customers should be a top priority as the next four months unfold. Your mindset should be to connect, serve and protect.

Be sure customers know how much you care. Talk to them. Have sales staff call and check that they are well. Tell customers you are there to help in 2021.

Add programs and events as your local market opens. Add free gifts, VIP status programs and priority service check-in programs to encourage early 2021 camping. Send out emails and personal letters.

Make it happen. Own this precious group of consumers and do not let the competition take customers you have worked so hard to acquire. Forgetting them in 2020 was easy considering how business was booming but make an extra effort to help consumers feel special in 2021.


  1. Conquest Plan

Once again, current technology allows you to build the best conquest marketing program in RV industry history. Ask yourself if your competition will sit still or go after new buyers in the marketplace. They most certainly will do the latter. So, do not miss the opportunity to fish when the fishing is great.

A good conquest budget, roughly $4,000 a month, will serve you well. Between digital and social marketing, you can compete with anyone in your market, but only if you recognize the need and thwart complacency.


  1. Website

This might be the last place you think to look, but now is the time to examine the same basic three items on your website. First, how many clicks are needed to get to a vehicle detail page (VDP) from the home page? Next, how easily can users navigate drop-down screens? Third, how many images do you have of each unit, and are they good quality photos?

Remember, more and more shopping happens online. Ask whether each picture sells the coach or just wastes space. Be sure you are starting to price units as the retail world begins to heat up. Requiring a call for a price may have been okay in 2020, but consumers will grow weary with this, especially if they can find a price from your competitors’ websites.


  1. RV Shows

Go big and go as fast as you can. You must make this strategic call yourself. When you feel you are ready to join shows from a safety perspective, go big.

Shows will be huge, particularly once COVID-19 is under control. Consumers want to get out. They want to look at RVs, and they want to buy. Remember, these once-a-year events always have been successful. Get as much space as you can. Overbuy if you can. Take space from dealers second-guessing themselves. The real estate you gain can pay off for years to come.


  1. TV Works

Do not be fooled by 2020 TV trends. We saw advertising buys drop by 70 percent, and not because television advertising was a failure. Lower TV ad buys were a result of businesses not needing those ads.

Recent studies showed the largest growth to organic traffic from a retail business is TV. Just watch the biggest advertisers outside the auto sector, and you most likely will see it is an online business.

This year is a great opportunity to get more for less. With elections over and many retail business segments procrastinating, television ad buying opportunities are wonderful. TV still works and works well. The question is always price versus value.

This is the year to consider TV. Like comets in the sky, opportunities like this are infrequent.


  1. Ready Pivot

You will have to be alert in 2021. Be ready to think and act strategically. This means having a good grasp of key business indicators. Again, remember that the VDP views your marketing generates is the best indicator of your marketing efforts.

Viewing a VDP is nearly the only habit all buyers have in common. Track which media sources in your marketing plan generate the greatest VDP views. Doing so will help you stay ahead of budgeting needs and consumer interest with your different products. Tracking VDP also can show you systems’ weaknesses, like pricing, images, navigation and follow-up.

Pivot fast and effectively with good relevant data.

This can be among your best years, but do not forget to act. Remember, action is the No. 1 cause of success. We might feel as if we are navigating uncharted territory, but we are really just finding our way down a familiar path—albeit a remarkably interesting path.


Ron Wheeler is founder and principal at Wheeler Advertising. Ron has been a speaker at RVDA for more than 30 years and at NADA for more than 18 years. He has spoken on topics ranging from dealership branding to RV effectiveness, social media and digital marketing. He began his RV advertising career more than 30 years ago. Ron was RVDA Convention and Expo chairman for six years and also sat on the RV Hall of Fame board. His company works with RV dealers in more than 30 states and into Canada.


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