Opinion: Businesses still drop the ball on video

By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report

They say if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is an encyclopedia of information. More and more RV dealerships, suppliers, and campgrounds are embracing video as a way to promote their companies, products and services. That’s great to see.

However, it is still baffling why most RV manufacturers are not producing a professional quality video for every RV they make, and allowing dealers to use the videos on their websites. As a result, some ambitious RV dealers have taken it upon themselves to fire up a camera and produce walk around videos depicting the features and benefits of units on their sales lots.

What’s puzzling to me is why many of the videos don’t say anything.

In some instances, the “videos” are nothing more than a rapidly transitioning slide show of photographs with music laid over the images, like this one from Floyd’s RV in Oklahoma.

I’m going to give Floyd’s credit for using music that everyone can appreciate. A bunch of dealers employ millennials to produce their videos by overlaying heart-stopping heavy rock music, which is ultra-disruptive and, I suspect, forces people to shut it down right away.

Really, who wants to be viewing videos during a quick break at work and have something like this draw the attention of co-workers three rows away?

But, I guess any music is better than the silent videos, like this one from RV Wholesale Superstore.

Riley’s RV World in Kentucky and McClains RV in Texas must be buying videos in bulk because they are all exactly one minute and one second long. And the computer voice does little to describe the actual RV or the dealership.  I’m not picking on those two dealerships, because the same one minute and one second videos appear all over YouTube from nearly a hundred different dealerships.

Most RV dealerships produce videos much like this one from Southaven RV and Marine in Mississippi. They look professional, but its nothing more than two minutes and 17 seconds of watching a camera scroll around a room and zoom into particular items.

What’s the point of focusing on a control panel, if there isn’t anybody explaining what the panel does and how it impacts the RV experience? The same with the instrument cluster in a motorhome.

And why doesn’t anyone show the refrigerator open so that people can see how big it is?

One dealership that is doing it right, in my opinion, is American RV in Grand Rapids, Mich. The company posts multiple videos to YouTube every week that average seven to 10 minutes in length. Each video starts with an image of the model’s floorplan and a few still photos of the interior or exterior.

That’s where most RV dealers finish, but American RV takes it to another level. After establishing a foundation for what vehicle will be described, a product specialist appears to offer a personal tour of the RV by pointing out the specific features and benefits, and often talking about the quality items that may not be apparent when looking at photographs.

Often, the product specialist will sneak in information as to why it is a good idea to buy the unit from THAT dealership or from THAT manufacturer.

This is what video is supposed to do.  Check out a few of American RV’s videos at the dealership’s YouTube channel.

Motor Home Specialist is another dealership that does an exceptional job in producing RV-related videos, although not nearly as frequently as American RV. Check out the Motor Home Specialist YouTube channel.

There have to be dozens of RV dealerships posting the same series of videos on their dealership’s YouTube pages. They all appear to be produced by the same company, such as this one about biking with dogs and this one about visiting farmer’s markets. There appears to be two dozen different videos in that series being shared by dealerships all over the nation.

Kudos to the dealerships for posting content to their websites, but when its the same video being posted by dozens of other dealerships across the country, I don’t know if it’s effective. That’s especially true because Google, which owns YouTube, frowns upon and penalizes websites for displaying the same content. Google likes original content and promotes it much more favorably than the 30th rendition of the same video.

At the end of the day, video is absolutely the wave of the future, even though it is still almost impossible to get an internet connection at campgrounds strong enough to display a one minute, one second video without requiring 17 minutes of starting and stopping to allow the buffering process to work.

So, let’s keep producing videos because that’s what people like to view. But, let’s do it in a way that conveys information essential to educating RV buyers about the features and benefits of the units their investigating without leaving it to their imaginations to figure it out themselves.

Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber

A journalist who has covered the recreation vehicle industry since January 2000, Greg Gerber founded RV Daily Report on April Fool's Day in 2009. He also serves as the editor of the publication and website. As an Eagle Scout, he has enjoyed camping for decades and has visited every state except Hawaii. A DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three young women, he has two grandchildren as well. He currently splits his time between Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona. Greg can be reached at editor@rvdailyreport.com.

Leave a Comment

  • Robert Friendly says:

    Timely and appropriate article Greg.

    If only for Liability and Warranty sake, there should be an instructional and troubleshooting Video for every unit sold.
    So many of the Nuisance service visits could be avoided with an instructional visit or Skype session with a Tech!… Gridlock in Service not solved but improved.
    New and Seasoned RV Owners have 100 things to learn with every unit.
    It would also save time if the RV Manufacturers and Dealerships could do Video Visits to approve Warranty and Repair issues.

  • Andy Pargh says:

    Just imagine the time that would be saved at dealer level if the manufacturers would produce detailed operational videos of each model. Not only would the buyer have the ability to watch it multiple times prior to delivery, it could serve as an excellent refresher video to see demonstrations of how to use various features and operational tasks.

    And yes, when the unit is sold, it will allow the second owner to view it online to learn the ins and outs of their new coach.

    Add to that wish list videos that show how to perform basic maintenance tasks and possibly that could relive some of the backups at the service department.

  • Mike Martinkus says:

    I think we here at Motorhomes Of Texas were one of the first to start producing movie grade video’s of individual coaches. The purpose of these video’s is to create the feeling of actually being inside the unit to kind of “feel” what it’s like, inside and out. The first one we produced was a “talkie” but we felt that to do it right and have it turn out with the quality that we were striving for, it would take a lot longer to produce. We would need a script and the editing along with the background music would be much more time consuming than what it takes to produce the high quality music only video’s. We also felt that customers only wanted to watch for a maximum of 6 to 8 minutes so that also dictated the content. Doing talkies would also substantially increase the cost of the video with little to no return on that investment. We have seen a pretty dramatic increase in sales since we started the video program, so we don’t think it’s “broke”
    The sole reason for the video’s we produce is to sell motorhomes. Period. We are not trying to make a “how to” or a walk-around delivery video. We are not trying to impress any magazine publications or Hollywood critics. We have received no complaints from our customers about what we offer. That is the proof in the pudding for us.

    • Andy Pargh says:

      I agree that MOT does an excellent job with its videos. I think it’s important to note that MOT is a pre-owned specialty dealership and the videos MOT produces do an excellent job of providing a video overview of a specific pre-owned coach. My take on Greg’s Editorial was having the manufacturers produce videos on new coaches.

  • Mark (www.CampgroundViews.com) says:

    We kind of agree with you Greg 😉

  • David (socialsesame.com) says:

    Great article Greg. Thanks for sharing!
    Video is SO key in today’s marketing… whether you’re a manufacturer, dealer or component company.
    Video’s are super simple to make. Yet, like Greg says, many are making videos poorly. This actually makes your dealership look worse! Simply do a YouTube or Google search for “how to make a great product video” and voila! You have an arsenal of great info even the most novice video producer can use. Heck, through trial and error, anyone can make a decent video. Another option is to hire some local video production students who are dying for the opportunity to create and get experience. (Plus they’re amazing and super creative!)
    Quick tips:
    – Get to the point early – no one likes long intros
    – Walk through the entire unit, showcasing highlights and features
    – Talk like you would to your mom – explaining everything and being conversational
    – Use music – but keep it low in the background (test some without music to see which perform better)
    – Use subtitles or captions
    Let’s be honest – if someone had the opportunity to watch a video over reading a bunch of text – they’d watch the video! Facebook has new features that let you add captions to any natively uploaded video, which is indicative of the trend that people often watch video without sound (something to think about!). Instagram now allows 60 sec videos. Same with Twitter. Have fun!

  • Bill says:

    Great article Greg, thanks for sharing. One question, does anyone actually read the manuals that come with your coach? I have had both new and used coaches and have found the manuals pretty good, for the most part. Personnaly, I like the manuals because they don’t required batteries to use and I can make notes on them. I have found some good internet instructional videos for the maintenance I have needed help with. When my wife and I were looking for our new coach, we watched a hundred or more “sales” and other “walk through” videos and then went to look at the coaches afterward. We found out pretty quick that a lot of these videos were deceiving. They looked great on video, but were less impressive up close, not to mention I didn’t need the “video production costs” passed on to me, the consumer.

  • Ace Claymore says:

    I think I can speak to your questions. I’m the marketing manager at a dealer and the camera man on walk thru videos that we post to Youtube. We have over 1000 subscribers now with half a million views, and some of them report to us that they watch our videos for entertainment. We try to keep them light-hearted but informative and still making the case for our dealership being the best one to purchase from. People like it, and it seems to work. The problem is, that’s not all I do. I have a long list of responsibilities, and I’m sure that’s true of any dealership’s personelle. We can’t always get an open bay to shoot and video editing is very time consuming. I’d hate to produce bad content, but I have to echo the above comments by Motor Homes of Texas: we don’t sell videos, our product is RVs. Would I love to have top quality equipment, professional actors, a studio and all the time I need? Well, sure, but this is working, don’t fix it, says I.
    Those “Stills and Music” videos are produced automatically by some services. We tried it to get more content, and a flood of customers made clear their sore displeasure with pitch forks and torches. They wanted the conversational videos back! So, I axed that, but what’s worse is the robot voice videos. It’s a mask and hood away from a message from Anonymous! The VR Rive Nord music makes sense, it’s a toyhauler and the motor sports market has an “extreme” vibe to it.
    My 2 cents.
    I don’t know of a book on this, we’re all making this up as we go.

  • Mark Hixson says:

    Greg as the owner of Southaven RV and Marine, I appreciate the mentioning of our dealership, but I disagree with your concept of the videos. The research we did showed the average customers time of watching a video is roughly 2-3 minutes long. I am not sure if you have tried to do a through walk around lately, but the amount of time exceeds the time of attention that is available.

    Have you ever tried to upload a 10-20 minute video to YouTube. Probably not because it takes hours. We have hired a professional cameraman to shoot the videos and edit them to an amount of 2-3 minute range. Like others have stated, we are not in the video business but it has certainly helped our sales.

    I guess some of us are in the business of selling rv’s and others are in the business of writing about those of us selling them.

    • Andy Pargh says:

      I believe it was the RVIA that conducted a study last year that revealed more than 90% of shoppers started their search online and video was a key component that triggered more than 70% of buyers to make a decision. While there’s some merit to keeping the content focused and brief, if you place yourself in the shopper’s position, having detailed, even longer videos is something a potential buyer can spend countless hours watching prior to selecting a model as well as a dealership.

      It’s also important to note that while the motorhome forums are popular and it’s a place where newbies (potential customers) go for information. It’s also apparent that’s where quite a few users go to discuss problems with specific motorhomes or features. Since the manufacturers rarely if ever address growing concerns online and do little to keep a situation from spiraling out of control, utilizing video to send a clear message on features, functions and operation is simply good marketing and establishes a bond with the customer.

      If you look back just a few short years ago, the full color, slickly produced product brochure was the form of media used by the manufacturers to send a positive brand image and message to the consumer. However, as printing costs increased, it quickly became too expensive to produce and distribute timely and top notch sales brochures. Now, translate that overhead to video and it’s most likely more economical to produce a series of well thought out videos that reaches thousands of potential customers than it is to print brochures and mail them to the same audience.

      Is producing video time consuming? Yes. But when it’s done properly, it’s acting as a “silent salesperson” that’s open 24/7and generating excitement that results in sales.

      But here’s a question for the dealers and manufacturers: If someone on the manufacturing side would produce operational and maintenance tips, will that reduce the number of calls to a dealer’s service department? I think the answer is yes.

      Until just a few years ago, I created, owned and operated a sizable social network that catered to a specific niche of the motorcycle industry. Over the years I became friends with a major parts supplier. Due to his interactions on the forum his business was booming. However, he had a problem…he was spending too much time with customers going through installation instructions. The more he sold, the more time he spent on the phone. While he prided himself on providing a high level of customer service, his business had hit a critical mass as he simply didn’t have the time to do everything. I suggested that he produce individual videos on each product and demonstrate, in real time, the installation process. He balked and said he doesn’t have the skills or expertise and I suggested he take a class in video editing. Yes, I provided some basic tips to get him started, but he did the rest on his own.

      I’ll fast forward to today. He took my advice and while his initial videos were captured on a phone, the concept worked. He now has a few hundred product specific videos online and his sales have skyrocketed. When he gets that call asking for installation assistance, he simply points the customer to a link and asks they watch it first and if they have any problems, to give him a call. The problem calls are at an all time low and that frees him up to spend more time designing new products. His work flow now starts with a video that’s produced before the product goes on his website and it makes people feel comfortable with a making purchase as they can see, in real time, the installation process and has the video to refer to if he/she runs into problems.

      So, why hasn’t the motorhome industry done the same thing? I truly don’t have that answer and am hoping someone will chime in to tell me the pitfalls of taking this tact.

      The bottom line is that sales are strong now and these tasks get pushed to the wayside and won’t be addressed until the next recession where strong marketing will determine survival.

      In summary I honestly feel that in many cases, the motorhome manufacturers and dealers have forgotten what it’s like to be a customer. Yes, in a competitive environment, it’s “innovate or die.”

      Sorry for the long post!

  • Al Moser says:

    Have to congratulate Lichtsinn RV for producing informative RV videos for years. They even have special videos on various topics such as sealeants or how to use the convection microwave. They do a great service to the community.

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