Following a full day of presentations on March 1 at the RVIA Annual Membership Meeting in Tucson, RVIA President Frank Hugelmeyer sat down with RV PRO to give an update on how the Association continues to evolve to serve its members, particularly as it relates to the National RV Trade Show. His answers below have been edited for space.
RV PRO: For those who didn’t attend the Annual Meeting, can you share what topics have been discussed?
Hugelmeyer: A big part of the conversation at this meeting is: What do we have coming at us in the future? And how do we prepare for that?
How do we create a strong foundation as an association, as a collective community, and (for) our national show? How do we get smarter, faster – because we have some huge trends coming our way that we need to address.
RV PRO: You also talked a lot in your presentation about RVIA and core values, mission statements and the like. Will there be a way for you to take things like that and turn them into practical, applicable things that you can actually take action on?
Hugelmeyer: Something tangible? Absolutely. Once you understand the value then you turn those into creating results. An association’s value and relevance is all about helping members keep pace with changing times. And that means delivering value.
And the trade show is a good example of that. Modernizing the trade show is going to show true value. It will be, not conceptual change, but real change. And we’ll see that at the next show – the investment that we made here.
(Editor’s note: RVIA’s Board of Directors voted to approve up to $500,000 to reinvigorate the National RV Trade Show at the membership meeting in Tucson.)
RV PRO: Speaking of the RVIA show, what would you be spending that $500,000 on, exactly? What would the money allow you to do?
Hugelmeyer: Well, some of it is: How are we marketing and recruiting? We’ve not actively marketed the show to the members as effectively as we could to the different audiences and the buyers especially.
You’ll see us do a much more robust marketing campaign. Not only inviting them to be a part of it, but also (explaining) the value of attending. That would include expanded education content for the dealers on sales and marketing and how to optimize their business operations. And how to train your techs and maintain high quality in your service department. Those are specific to the dealer.
Other things include: What are the best new products out there, highlighting them at the show. Making it easier to navigate at the show and buy at the show. …
Most of all, the (show) should promote the fun excitement of the lifestyle we promote. Making that more self-evident.
Also, working to create a younger viewpoint of the show. Think of this: We have, in Louisville, this great university. We’ve never gone to the university and tapped the business students there and invited them to attend the show. They could tell us so much about what next-generation consumers are interested in. … Wouldn’t that be great information for us to know?
These are just ideas I’m throwing out. What it will look like will be created over the next several months, and we’ll have the funds to do it.
RV PRO: You came to RVIA from the Outdoor Industry Association. Are there lessons learned from that association that can be applied to RVIA, maybe specific to shows?
Hugelmeyer: I think the outdoor space might be a quicker, earlier adopter, and that’s because they scan outside of the industry more than we’ve done in the past. But I think we’re heading that way.
It’s a good example, particularly with RVIA, why the trade show has not evolved for so long. We weren’t looking at other trade shows to see what was happening.
Well, now we are. There is a lot we can do that other trade shows have done; we can simply take those best practices and it’s going to create a lot of value.
RV PRO: Any thoughts at this point regarding changing the show time, the venue, or maybe partnering with other organizations like RVDA?
Hugelmeyer: Everything is on the table. There’s nothing that we won’t look at as an opportunity. If we have a partner that comes to us and says, ‘Hey, we can help you build value,’ we’re going to listen and we’re going to work with them.
RV PRO: Anything else you would want to mention?
Hugelmeyer: I think it’s important to mention, on the trade show front: We are not in competition with the Open House. The National RV Trade Show is in complement to the Open House. The Open House is now the dominant early show and we should celebrate it and ensure its long-term success because it’s doing great things for the industry.
Equally important is that we need to make sure we’ve got an incredibly strong platform to celebrate its entire lifestyle and diversity – and that’s the National Show. So, all of the RV community and all of our partners are welcome under that tent to make that happen.