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Mark Pinson

Mark Pinson

Editor’s note: Mark Pinson is the CEO and co-founder of Entangle Media, the developer of brands: Medical Chronology.com, Event Hut, and AICamping APP. Entangle Media helped Association Island KOA update all of the island’s business processes with newer technologies so that Dr. John Shim could manage the park remotely.

Campground owners should be cautious about adopting new technology.

I can certainly empathize with being cautious about technological improvements.  It is expensive to implement, and it takes time that no one has to learn.  Often, you only know a limited function of what the software can do.  You find that it does not meet all your needs, so you keep getting more software: marketing, websites, reservation, communication, etc.  Soon you have all these pieces of hardware and software sitting around that no one understands how to operate, are quickly outdated and need to be purchased all over again.

Then you take a look back and say, “We did it for pen and paper for 50 years”, and the old way still works better.

Technology solutions can be challenging for many campgrounds, especially family businesses with older employees who are not technologically savvy. Our company developed software used for large events like festivals.  Retirees and older volunteers run a lot of these events. We are used to all the excuses of why technology will not work. We have heard all the usual knee-jerk responses: “some of our people still have flip phones, some don’t have internet, some travel, some hate technology…etc.”  have found a lot of ‘you can’t do that because….” people in the world.  As an owner of a tech company, I want to know if that is true and why, and objectively test.

Luckily, if we develop solutions correctly, the same people saying they will not adopt a technological solution are almost always the first to embrace it. We all want to stay relevant and useful.  We all don’t like the concept of change because we are inherently less competent going through a transition.

Technology can solve a lot of problems, so where do you start?

The Initial Audit is a critical place to start. I think we have developed a creative way to approach it that works. Every business transition will happen in stages. You are changing processes, culture, personnel, and technology on limited budgets, so taking the time to get a comprehensive game plan that you can execute is worth it.

A good exercise is to start with the question, “Could I manage my campground remotely?”

Our first colossal hurdle for Association Island was how Dr. Shim, taking over as CEO, could remotely manage the campground.  Camping is a people and relationship business. The business’s rewarding part is all the meaningful relationships and connections that you build at every level. It is challenging when you are 1,300 miles away.

However, even if you do not have to manage remotely, it is crucial to evaluate if possible. It forces you to think differently about running a business, and it prepared us for the COVID virus that was two years away at that time.

Dr. Shim already mentioned in previous articles the broadband Issues and the importance of VOIP telephones.

Our team had the luxury of exploring multiple ways to help market and operate a campground. We built a website, a web-based app, and a stand-alone mobile APP. All three have different uses, but the mobile APP was the clear winner.

There are already a lot of camping related apps on the app store. The benefit of choosing these APPs is lower initial costs, and it is quicker to get started. However, all these third party applications have potential downsides. After a full evaluation of options, we decided to build our stand-alone APP, ultimately, on a few key considerations.

We want to build the client’s brand

When you run your business through someone else’s brand, you are effectively paying to build their brand. You may get a so-called “Branded Page” with your logo and camp attributes. However, they get your money, payments for advertising, and payments for selling your data.  They should be paying you to use their APP!

Protect our data

You should know how these online platforms and apps are using your data. Are they your data for internal research? Are they selling your data? What happens if the App platform gives more visibility to your competition? Even worse, your competitor buys the platform your app is on. Now they have access to all your information.

Customization

It always seems the generic apps do some of the things you need and not others, resulting in having to use multiple apps.

This season, Association Island needed their APP to manage emails, texts, restaurants, bike rentals, boat rentals, laundry room bookings, hotel bookings, marina slots, the help desk, the camp store, and site deliveries.

With COVID concerns, it was crucial managing everything under one app that was easy to learn and easy to use. It was the only way to keep employees from going back to their old ways: cash and paper transactions and close space communication.

We could not find anything on the market that could meet all of our needs. The result was a genuinely organic APP based on actual needs to survive and thrive COVID without unneeded features. We could train the staff to use the app in 15 minutes. Association Island guests could find the APP on Google Play and the Apple Store by searching for the island’s brand, “Association Island Camping.” The island can protect its employee and guest data.

The ultimate reward was keeping everyone safe this season. The island was able to do much more business with less staff. Finally, we consistently heard very positive feedback and compliments about the APP in the best to worst reviews.

If your piecemeal technological approach does not work, don’t be afraid of trying a new direction. If technology is not solving your problems, you just have the wrong technology.