In my four short years working for Southeast Publications I have had the privilege in working with some of the finest, most dedicated RV Park owners and management teams in North America. These professionals can tell you anything about their business from current outdoor recreation legislation to occupancy rates and current industry trends. I continue to learn so much about the campground industry in each and every interaction I have with these folks.
While these are all bright and successful people, I worry about their focus. Don’t get me wrong it’s critical to know things like the occupancy rates, new RV Park legislation and its potential impact, but these areas of business will only help you identify revenue swings or potential hazards.
Okay Brian, what’s the deal!
Trust me there is one, and it is the most forgotten piece of marketing strategy out there. Before I get into that, I want to ask you to think about a store, restaurant, amusement park, RV Park or a campground where you have fond memories. These could be recent or back when you were a child.
Now, let me ask you two questions:
- Did you go back to that place again?
- Did you talk about that place to someone else in conversation?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you just made that business money and saved them marketing expenses. Let’s start with the “Did you go back to that place again”, question. According to Alan E. Webber, in his article,”B2B Customer Experience Priorities in an Economic Downturn: Key Customer Usability Initiatives In A Soft Economy,” Forrester Research, February 19, 2008, it costs 500% more to acquire a new customer than satisfying current customers. WOW!
You’re probably saying, “Brian, that research was done in 2008 and it’s probably outdated.” Well what about what Douglas Karr, CMO of CircuPress and CEO of DK New Media’s said in 2013 about retention? He said, on average loyal customers are worth up to 10X as much as their first purchase. It really isn’t a new concept, in fact, that’s why loyalty programs and membership programs exist today. KOA has it figured out with the Value Kard and so does Thousand Trails with their membership.
Now Brian, these are multi-location, multi-million dollar companies. They can afford these loyalty programs and have a large enough net of locations to appeal to a larger base of customers. I say, your focusing on the wrong thing and to some extent, these corporations need not, lean too heavily on these programs either, because that can distract from what their core focus should be, the customer.
Let me give you an example.
I am campground franchise. I fall under a corporate umbrella of impeccable marketing, legions of consumers engaging with my franchise’s RV Park brand and times are going really well. Here you come, Johnnie Consumer, a result of said marketing and brand loyalty, there to visit the RV Park franchise because family just moved to the area. The campground staff is overwhelmed with all of the new business and you, Johnnie Consumer, ends up being treated like more of a number than a person, making for a discouraging visit. If other options are present, would you go back?
I wouldn’t and guess what, you have just lost a potentially loyal customer that frequents the area to visit because either your staff wasn’t trained properly or you left them understaffed and overwhelmed. According to a 2014 Gartner Research Study, on average businesses spent 10.2% of their annual 2014 revenue on overall marketing. Did you know that enhancing your customer experience is an essential part of marketing? Would it have made sense to take some of that 10.2% budget to hire another person, either full-time or part-time, or perhaps implementing a training program that can help deliver great service to potentially loyal customers? Who will your business rely on if Outdoor Recreation experiences a market contraction? Guess what, it’s usually your loyal customers and the more you create, the better your RV Park is positioned.
I don’t care if your business is right off of 95 near some major attraction under a highly recognizable brand name. Even McDonalds goes through market contractions and it’s the franchises that don’t let their customers rot 40 minutes in their drive through lane that have a better opportunity to draw back their loyal customers and avoid substantial revenue losses. People remember experiences both good and bad and even though you are McDonalds, so to speak, if my money is tight and you give me poor service, I’ll save my money and go somewhere cheaper with the potential of having better service.
So let’s go back to the Johnnie Consumer story but perhaps change it up so I can make it more appropriate for question number 2. Johnnie Consumer has the same experience at my campground, BUT, he has no family there and he is simply passing through. No loss right? Probably won’t be back anyways. Well according to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, that in the United States alone, there are approximately 2.4 billion brand-related conversations every day. Boston Consulting Group also adds that consumers rely on word-of-mouth 2 to 10X more than paid media. I don’t know about you, but most of the RV Travelers I meet are highly social people, at other parks and on social media. Uh-oh…
Conversely, think about the best case scenario, Johnnie consumer arrives at your campground or RV Park. You give him superior service and he winds up staying at your resort every time he visits his family. He is so pleased, he refers your campground or RV park to his fellow rally members and they choose your venue for their next convention. The rally arrives, everyone receives excellent service and become repeat customers too, referring more people to you. Markets hit rough times, your campground still full with loyal customers.
What did that cost you? Nothing. Now loyal customers drive your core business and you can think about putting in those new sites or buying another RV Park or doing a whole new build. Right?
Well it goes beyond customers inside your campground and creating great experiences. What about creating customers in your local area? Brian, are you saying I need to be putting and advertisement in the newspaper? Nope. That would cost you money and that is not what I am talking about. Do you know that in many areas of the United States the RV Park contributes to the prosperity of the local economy?
How are you building relationships with local businesses? Are you part of the Chamber of Commerce? Do you invite other business owners to display their products and services at your resort, more importantly do you use Southeast Publications? (Had to throw a plug somewhere)
Local Businesses that are allowed to reach your visitors to enhance their bottom line, begin to better understand and appreciate what your RV Park does for their personal economy. Soon you will find, your interests become theirs and a perfect symbiotic relationship takes form where you are exchanging referrals through either respect, or in kind value. If you are an independent campground with too much to do, you need a company like Southeast Publications to explain your value to the local economy so they can start talking about your RV Park for you.
THE BEST option for your RV Park would be to use a guest guide service, join your local chamber, create a referral program for your business colleagues and most importantly, invite them to visit your RV Park.
So you want to talk about a solid foundation? Loyal customers referring loyal customers. Local business referring customers to you, visiting your campground and maybe even becoming a customer themselves.
The wrap up is this. Knowing your business is great. Knowing and respecting your customers is better. Knowing, respecting, your customers and building local relationships is the best way to grow and safeguard your RV Park.