Over the past several months’, I have spoken to a variety of campgrounds and RV resorts from all over the country. My first question to them is, “How’s business?” Almost every single answer I received was that business was fantastic. Then I did the follow-up question, “Why do you think that is?” In almost every instance the answer was that they weren’t entirely sure where all this business was coming from.
Is it possible that it came from the closing of a competitor’s business? Perhaps you hired a new customer service person that is handling calls more efficiently. Is it possible your new website brought in more customers because of how professional it looks? Could it be because you changed your marketing message or became a franchise?
In my previous days as a financial advisor, I had a smart colleague of mine say, “What gets measured gets attended to. What’s attended to gets fixed.” Think about it. If you have two customer service people answering your phones, and one was converting at twice the level as the other, wouldn’t you want to know why the underachiever was underachieving and possibly how you could duplicate the success of the top performer?
Let me start off with what I do before I measure anything. I find a baseline. Historical data is a good place to start. If I specifically wanted to improve my sales during my shoulder season, I would look at what the revenues were for that part of the season last year and this would be the starting point.
After that, I would re-create the business environment of that period with financials or any data from that time of the previous year. I’ll look to find items like my advertising placements for both print and digital, and how each converted. I would pull reservation data and look at items regarding the response to the discount clubs I belong to. I would want to know items like the average duration of stay, products or services purchased during that specific timeframe, and average daily revenue.
Where advertising is concerned, let’s say you spent $1,000.00 one month on Google AdWords and had a respectable conversion rate of 4%, which yielded 100% return on investment. At that point, you may consider investing more money with AdWords while trying to increase your conversion rate an additional 2%. Word of caution, if you are going to make any changes, especially when it comes to digital, make one at a time and track the results. If something changed produces poor results, you can quickly identify it. Conversely, if you realize that you broke even or lost money, you could dig deeper into your AdWords account to see if you could fine tune your targeting. Provide ads during peak hours of the day that the best results, or target certain areas that yield better conversions. You may even decide to try advertising on Bing or redeploy your funds to Facebook. Whatever the case maybe, if what you are doing currently isn’t working, you must change or continue to waste resources.
Consider your spending on your affiliations through discount RV club memberships. If you haven’t already. You might want to learn how meaningful that relationship is. What revenues were generated that you wouldn’t have otherwise received had it not been for that relationship? Is it valuable enough to keep? Should you invest more in it and perhaps look for others like it? These questions are difficult to answer if you have no mechanism to measure the response you’re receiving.
Arnold Toynbee, a great British historian in 1889, said famously, “History is a Greek word which means, literally, just Investigation.” Investigating your results, should not be an annual occurrence. Certain activities such as digital advertising might require even more regular scrutiny. Some companies check their results almost daily. Remember, what gets measured gets attended to. What’s attended to gets fixed.
If you cannot find this information, or it’s simply unavailable, you need to begin measuring now through benchmarking. There are four types of benchmarking and each will be appropriate for you to consider. The four types consist of Internal Benchmarking, Competitive Benchmarking, Functional Benchmarking, and Generic Benchmarking.
Internal benchmarking is the comparison of a business process to a similar process inside the business. Take my previous example of the customer service people. If you have a customer service person that is converting 5 calls into 5 bookings on average, and another representative that is converting 5 calls into 0 bookings on average, then your mission should be to uncover and fix the low performer to meet or exceed the productivity of the top performer. The top performer should be the immediate standard.
Competitive Benchmarking is a direct competitor-to-competitor comparison of a product, service, process, or method. This is a highly useful strategy where you learn more about your strengths and weaknesses versus the market surrounding your business. When brought to light, you can consider increase investments to eliminate your weaknesses or choose to market more aggressively towards your strengths.
Functional Benchmarking is a comparison to similar or identical practices within the same or similar functions outside of your immediate industry. For example, it is considered a best practice to answer phone calls by the second ring in the hotel industry, you could use that best practice as your benchmark for your RV Resort. By using a similar, more advanced industry’s best practice you could take advantage of the investment made by the other industry in market research and adopt what their consumers prefer.
Then there is Generic Benchmarking which uses a broad comparison of processes that can be transferred from one industry to another. It’s primarily used for innovation. For example, using drones to deliver camping supplies to guests like Amazon uses for purchases from their online store. You could transfer knowledge from one industry to the other, like what kind of drone do you use, safety precautions or pricing strategy.
My point is, if you haven’t any historical data then you need to benchmark now, install mechanisms to track progress and be certain to catalog the results. You will have an excellent roadmap for the following year on what’s working and what’s not. Benchmarking should always be present somewhere within your ongoing business strategy.
Luckily, we have technology where we can search Google to find best practices, industry standards, etc. We have software like QuickBooks and other financial software that can allow us to see our sales history. For marketing, we have AdWords, Google Analytics, Google Search Console and SEMRUSH that can show us growth or the lack thereof over time.
If I can leave you with anything, I would like to leave you with this: Measure everything and take nothing for granted because whatever you’re doing now can be improved upon.