Editor’s Note: The following “A Marketing Message to Campground Owners Everywhere” comes from Brian Schaeffer, president of TexasAdvertising.net, the agency that represents the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO). It was written for campground owners and operators but it also contains some practical application for the RV industry in general.
Have you ever said, ” I really want to take our business to the next level.” We hear this all the time. So, here’s my question for you – “Is growing your business a burning ambition or is it just an inflammation of the wishbone?”
Is it possible YOU are holding your business back? The most common response we receive when we ask parks, “How’s business?” is – “We are holding our own” or some version that really means – we are doing what we always did and getting about the same results we always got.
Big news flash – Doing what you’ve always done MIGHT get you what you always got, but it will never solve a burning ambition to increase your top line. When was the last time you stopped everything you were doing and thought about creative ways to market your park. Better still, when was the last time you spent an hour visiting with folks who had creative ideas to market your park?
Times are changing, demographics of our customers are changing. How your customers (and potential customers) want to be reached is changing. Here are a few questions – Do you know what a QR code is? Do you have a “.mobi” site? How’s the monthly blog on your website working out? Have you partnered up with fellow RV parks or dealers on any ad campaigns lately? How often do you study your website analytics or the stats on your last park e-newsletter blast? Have you searched the major search engines using key terms that RVers use to see where you come up – or if you come up at all?
I can hear the responses now – they all boil down to some version of “Who has time for all of this.” I remember a KOA seminar given at a TACO convention where the speaker was talking about taking the time to work “on” your business not just “in” your business. If you ever plan to have more than an inflammation of the wishbone, you are going to have to take a moment to stop and smell the marketing roses.
No one is advocating an abandonment of certain staple items of marketing your campground. Contrary to some thoughts – print advertising isn’t dead, getting your park brochures/rack cards into the hands of potential customers is still important. And, having an informative, well optimized website is critical. But creative thinking and diversification is more important than ever. When industry partners bring new ideas to you, take the time to listen and try some new things.
Here are two interesting examples:
- Several years ago a very successful park (and marketing client) was experiencing 89% year-round occupancy and on weekends the park was running 102% occupied due to very nice overflow site hook-ups. The owner decided to cut his marketing budget by 1/3 (against my recommendation). Within two years the year-round occupancy fell to 70% – still good, but a far cry from 89%. What happened? New parks came into the area and they ramped up their marketing (while my client decreased his presence) and local jobs that provided monthly guests ended. It took three years to get the park back to 80% occupancy and during that time the owner agreed to NO creative marketing.
- We recently had a marketing client who agreed to let us set up a Groupon (never heard of them – go to www.Groupon.com) offer involving Kayak rentals. It was a three-day, online offer for either two-hour kayak rentals or all-day rentals. We were hoping to get him 100-200 new customers and visitors to his website and campground. We achieved this goal in the first TWO HOURS of the offer. The client ended up with 1,700 new customers to his park and his website and an extra $10,000 in his pocket from one weekend’s online offer.
So, what is the bottom line? Please don’t expect your business to blossom if you aren’t willing to get a vision for a different approach. It doesn’t have to be knee jerk, but you have to be open to new ideas. Not all new ideas cost money – there are many fantastic FREE things available in the web world and there are creative money-saving co-op programs available through your association and industry partners. If you have been putting all your marketing eggs on one basket, consider diversifying – then verifying – then be ready for the happy problem of expanding your FLEET OF KAYAKS!
Marketing representatives from your state association, national directories and other industry partners will be contacting you and sharing their programs – some old, some new, some borrowed, some that will make you blue – but some will turn your business green and I don’t mean from an ecological standpoint. Ask lots of questions and if you need to bounce your thinking off of someone, give me a call or shoot me an e-mail. I want to fan the flames of that burning ambition!
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) Sunday (Oct. 19) held its annual Fall Parks on Tour at Rustic Creek Ranch in Burleson, Texas.
Approximately 65 people attended, spending a few hours looking over every aspect of the magnificent property, according to a report to members by Executive Director Brian Schaeffer.
The recent addition of dozens of RV sites, beautifully appointed cottages and fabulous meeting halls were the highlights.
Just prior to the park tour, guests were treated to an outstanding collection of vintage Corvettes, Camaros and muscle cars at a nearby collector.
The association unveiled the look and feel of a significant rebuild of its consumer website – www.texascampgrounds.com. The new site will be very visually appealing, extremely content rich with very robust search capability. Changes to member park information can be made immediately on the new site which goes live at the end of the year. The new site, featuring 400-plus private campgrounds, will continue to garner more visitors than any other state camping site, Schaeffer predicted.
During a CPO-approved marketing round table discussion 60% of owners indicated that their business had grown steadily over the last three years. Approximately 30% indicated they were flat over the same period, while 10% have seen a slight down turn in the last two years.
Most owners indicated they employed a well-rounded marketing approach of print media, online advertising various word-of-mouth programs to promote business.
Approximately two-thirds of the group said they had expanded their facilities or upgraded amenities over the previous year and half of the parks have expansion plans for this year. All attendees confirmed significant increases in operating expenses. Leading the way were property tax increase ranging from 20% to 200% over the last two years.
An award was presented to the host park – Rustic Creek Ranch. Also, board service awards were presented to Carolyn Brown of Boone RV Park, Lampasas, Texas; and Terry Cagle of Little Creel RV Park, Chama, N.M., for six years of TACO board service. A slate of directors was presented and approved for the 2009 – 2010 TACO board.
Officers are President Doug Shearer, Parkview Riverside RV Park, Rio Frio; 1st Vice President Rober Kennedy, Lubbock RV Park, Lubbock; 2nd Vice President Don Temple, Guadalupe River RV Resort, Kerrville; Treasurer Allan Hughes, Grand Prairie; and Secretary Mac McLaughlin, Hatch RV Park, Corpus Christi.