Editor’s Note: Michael Moore is the general manager of AGS Guest Guides, a division of Texas Advertising, as well as the Supplier Council representative on the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’ Board of Directors. You can email him with any questions or concerns at email@example.com or visit www.AGSPub.com.
Do you know what your strategy is?
It seems to be a simple enough question when it comes to operating your campground and business, but have you really thought about it? And, before you say, “Operate the best campground in town”, remember that isn’t a strategy. Your bank wouldn’t approve a loan with that strategy. That’s a generic term that tells us nothing about your business. It’s fluff.
So how do we state an actual strategy? For starters, you need to identify a specific goal that you want to accomplish. It could be to generate a certain benchmark in revenue or to hit certain occupancy targets. Whatever it is, it needs to be something that you measure and track in order to determine if that goal was met. I would also argue that just turning a profit isn’t enough of a goal either. That creates a moving target that can be altered too much, instead of identifying a target number on both the revenue and expenses side.
So now that you have your goal in mind, how do we develop a strategy? According to Richard Rumelt’s book, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, a “good” strategy is one that identifies and addresses obstacles to progress. In a campground operator’s case, there can be a lot of potential obstacles to reaching goals, financial or otherwise. Two common obstacles in our industry are marketing and pricing. Do obstacles exist in your marketing, especially if you’re not one of the campgrounds that are seeing record numbers this year? When the boom stops (it always does), how are you going to get people to come back?
Develop a specific strategy to attract new customers (identify a unique aspect to staying in your park and promote the hell out of it), or to pull in more of the repeats and referrals that make up most of anyone’s business (email blasts, referral coupons, amazing customer service, etc.).
Determine whether obstacles exist in your pricing model. Are you 100% full, but not hitting your revenue or profit targets? In this scenario, getting people to your park isn’t the issue — it’s how much your customers are paying for it. Staying at a campground has always been a good value, but due to the increase in demand for a site, the supply of RV sites is lower than it ever has been. That means your campground now has increased value, and probably has more than you’re charging. Targeting an increase and subsequently using dynamic pricing (or at least tiered pricing) is a specific action to take. You can then track what that action does to both your occupancy and your revenue.
So, now that we’ve addressed two of the first obstacles to reaching your financial goals, what are some other obstacles you’ll face? How about creating a stress-free experience while your guest is at your park? Of course, a lot of that happens before your guest arrives; you provide a clean, spacious site, a pedestal and a sewer hook-up that works. But what about the things you don’t, or can’t provide? Most parks can’t provide meals or RV/auto repair work on-site. Identify trusted vendors that would cater to your clientele, whether they’re in town or in the park.
If you’re able to fix a problem — no matter how small — this will increase the likelihood your customer will leave with a positive impression of your park. That customer is much more likely to remember it and book again or relay their experience to a friend or family member.
Lastly, what will you do about the obstacle of making sure your customer doesn’t forget you after they leave? Specifically, do you have branded giveaway items (promos)? Do you survey your customers or send out email blasts soliciting reviews or posts on your Facebook page? What about discounts on a return visit? Your current clientele is your most important customer!
To recap, you must have specific targets in mind; warm and fuzzy slogans won’t work. You are busy enough just running your business. Set your goals for a sound strategy with benchmarks to achieve those goals.