Earlier this July, RV Care, the Canadian network of more than 70 dealerships all committed to servicing the organization’s traveling customers, implemented a Loyalty Rewards Program that incentivizes consumers who purchase specially promoted products from the group’s member dealers.

The program is just the latest action by a dealer network that has recently stepped up its game in an effort to provide value to its membership and more tangible benefits to consumer customers.

Earl Manning, the longtime RV Care executive who’s now the vice president of administration and finance, said the marketing efforts are a credit to Derek Paterson, RV Care’s former business development manager who was promoted in January to the group’s vice president of sales and marketing.

“The big push is on to do more marketing and to do more promotion and drive more sales for our dealers, so it’s all about doing the marketing,” Manning told RVBUSINESS.com.

Related to that, RV Care announced in May a new partnership with Xprss Communications, a marketing agency based in Montreal, Quebec, that is focused on developing strategic brand recognition and consumer loyalty initiatives.

“Over the last five years, RV Care has experienced tremendous growth across all programs and services. We’re now sitting at 74 top-quality RV dealerships across Canada,” Paterson stated at the time. “With another 124 locations across the U.S. through our alliance with Priority RV Network, and our recently announced new partnership with Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), the timing couldn’t be better for us to partner with Xprss to assist in our industry and consumer messaging.”

Picking up on that sentiment, Manning noted that the partnership adds value to its member dealers who are simply too busy to develop this type of sophisticated marketing programs.

“Our dealers are independents and they just don’t have the time to do it themselves,” Manning said. “So we put together a big campaign at a national level and we promote it through a variety of platforms that we use. We provide the dealers with a lot of materials to use in the store and on their websites. It creates awareness, it drives traffic, and helps to grow sales for our dealers.”

Recently, Manning took time to answer a few questions from RVBUSINESS.com about the new marketing initiatives as well as a number of other topics.

RVB: We’re assuming RV Care’s partnership with KOA, which was announced in March earlier this year, also ties into the recent spate of marketing initiatives?

Manning: Yes, definitely the KOA partnership ties in with what we’re doing. We have some opportunities to promote RV Care and our member dealers through the KOA membership. Our special offers and promotions are being shared with KOA campers. There are about 40,000 KOA members up here in Canada, so this basically is just helping to get the word out.

Again, our industry doesn’t do a lot — especially independent dealers — in the way of marketing and advertising, so what we’re trying to do is find ways that we can get the word to the campers about where they can go for products and pricing that will help them to enjoy their RV.

And we’re working with the KOA campgrounds, as well. You hear stories of campground owners going to the local Walmart, or wherever, to buy supplies that they then turn around and put on a shelf and sell to the people in their campground. Well, we’re trying to help the KOA stores here in Canada to be able to do more within their stores in terms of accessing and selling parts and accessories that their guests need. When you’re all set up camping, the last thing you want to do is have to drive 20 to 30 miles to get a new hose or something if your hose isn’t working. We’re simply trying to help the end customer to have the best possible experience they can when they’re out in their RV.

RVB: This might be a good time, then, to ask about RV Traveler’s Choice, RV Care’s proprietary brand of camping products and RV supplies. We assume that line is doing well for you?

Manning: It’s doing well, all right. It’s building in volume and building awareness. Customers are coming to know about the brand and they like the products. Our dealers are certainly seeing the results of all that, too.

It’s tied in with the loyalty aspect; the people are coming to know what our exclusive brand is, and appreciating the product and the quality and the pricing that we’re able to get. As a group, we can get it at good, solid pricing for the dealers so that the customer ends up getting a good product, at a good price, and they know it’s backed by the network across the country. So if they do have a problem — and we certainly haven’t heard much about warranty issues — but if they ever do have a problem, then we stand behind it throughout our entire network across the country.

RVB: How has business been this year for your member dealers? We’re hearing it might be a bit of a rough patch at the moment.

Manning: I hate to say, but there’s no getting around it. It has been a tough year. Our analysis is that it was the perfect storm this year. Last fall, our dealers took a lot of inventory at the Open House. Everybody was full before Christmas, and then January hit, and the weather across Canada here was really bad and shows suffered. Dealers basically put away their order books because they didn’t need to order anything for the longest time.

But I will say that they’ve been busy since the end of April and into May. Our first big holiday here across the country is the May long weekend. The doors opened in May before the long weekend and things got going, but they certainly haven’t made up for how much they were down through the first four months of the year.

But anybody in the industry long enough knows we’ve all been through it. We know it’s going to happen, and we know it’ll end and we’ll move back to better times.