Michael Moore

Editor’s Note: Michael Moore is general manager of AGS Guest Guides, a division of Texas Advertising. You can email him with any questions or concerns at [email protected] or visit www.AGSPub.com.

In marketing seminars I give at various campground association conferences, I always like to lead off with the question ‘Do you know what your No. 1 source of business is?’

I get various answers like Google or some national directory. In fact, and this is true whether you own a campground or not, the No. 1 source of any business is repeat customers and referrals. The percentage of which varies, but if you’re a tenured business, which most campgrounds are, the top reason people are there is that they’ve been there before. The numbers back it up.

Chick-Fil-A, the preeminent (depending on what part of the country you’re reading this) chicken sandwich maker shared that increasing their repeat business just 5% grew their profit by 25%. Which makes sense when you consider that you just have to capture that customer once, while trying to get them to come back multiple times and give you their camping dollars.

Using a campground as an example, one of our more frequented guest guide clients had 30,000 check-ins last year and an astounding 82% were repeat customers!

With that in mind, what are you doing to market to those folks and insure they come back again and again?

Let’s say you’ve already captured them through your advertising and they have booked their first ever reservation with you. The first thing I recommend to campground owners is to provide the customer a good, amazing if possible, experience. It’s really that simple. Things like escorting them and their rig to the site, brushing off the picnic table or pedestal…etc. Little things like that are often the first interaction customers will have with the staff and their site. From there, it’s all about making the guest feel good about where they’re staying.

In my last article, which you can read by clicking here, I offered a guest guide as one way to provide relevant information to your guest. This can cover information about the park (phone numbers, rules), the area (where to eat, who to call for a flat tire)…etc., to provide your guest (most) everything they could need. This can also be supplemented by additional methods of delivery whether it’s in app form, information posted around the campground and more.

From there, each guest is a little different, right? Some are low maintenance and you’ll never hear from them while others like to visit the front office every day just to chat. Make sure your staff is trained to handle each kind. This doesn’t mean you need a superstar maintenance worker, but at least someone that can answer basic questions about the park and, if they can’t, having them assure the guest they will find someone that can answer that question and get back to them. Remember, we’re in the hospitality business and everyone at your business – EVERYONE – should be hospitable.

Lets talk a bit about ‘investing’ in your best source of business. I’m talking about premium incentives or giveaway items. These are branded with your logo/marketing slogan and are little helpful/useful things that simply say, “Thanks for choosing us.”

Why is it important to have some marketing budget allocated for this? Because your competitors are spending money like crazy to get your customers away from you. You should spend a little to keep them, right?

So, the guests stay has concluded and they had a great time. What now? If you’re able, it’s always helpful to ask if there’s anything else you can do for them on the way out. Take some mail, recommend a park at their next stop…etc. But it also gives you, the park operator, an opportunity to ask if there’s anything else you could have done differently. It’s a question I have my staff ask each and every one of our guest guide customers and this should be applied to any type of business. If you’re running a good operation, 99% of the time the customers will say no and move on down the road. That’s great! But there might be that 1% of folks who had an issue with their site or didn’t get a certain notification…etc.

No one, or business, is perfect and it helps to know what didn’t go right so that you can correct it in the future. More importantly, the customer feels like they were heard and that you took steps to avoid the same outcome on their next visit. For those that had an issue or complication, why would they come back if they weren’t assured it wouldn’t happen again?

Whether you checked in with your guest on the way out or not, it’s also important to reach out after their stay. The most common, and beneficial way, is a survey via email. Make sure it’s brief and easy to understand. For some customers, it’s much easier to explain their concerns this way and this allows you to learn aspects of your business that you may not have known. After all, no campground operator can be everywhere 24/7.

If you don’t have access to a proprietary survey program, even sending a link to sites like CampgroundReviews.com, along with a thank you email can go a long way. Not only are you touching base with them but building up good reviews at the same time.

Remember, not only are repeats a top source of business but referrals are too, which is what these review sites are doing.