The following Modern Marketing column by Evanne Schmarder appears in January’s Woodall’s Campground Management.

Evanne SchmarderAs the calendar turned to the New Year many of us were reviewing our business practices, making adjustments and tweaks. We look to see where we’re strong and where we have an opportunity to grow.

Are we reaching our customers and motivating them to make purchasing decisions? Are we being as efficient with our time as possible? What images of our business are we presenting to the world? How do our efforts stack up against industry standards and measurements?

While there is never a one-size-fits-all approach to digital marketing, there are some basic, tried and true tactics that park owners and operators should be using to build their online success. In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, here are six smart business moves this digital marketing consultant would like you to commit to in 2016:

  1. Respond and reply to prospects and customers that make the effort to contact you.
    Whether you are asked a question on your Facebook page, sent an email inquiry about your rates, or receive a voicemail message asking about availability, it’s not only good business to reply in a timely manner, it’s also courteous. Set goals regarding the length of time to respond and work with your staff to assure prospects and customers are being communicated with and treated as the valuable business assets that they truly are.
  2. Develop a recognizable brand across your digital landscape.

If one were to visit you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even your website, would they be able to tie each of the digital platforms together to recognize them as a whole representing your business? This digital branding tactic is simple to do and once set up takes very little maintenance. Get cracking by using your recognizable logo, color scheme, profile picture, profile description, and voice to represent your park across the Internet. Work to assure it visually matches what your customer sees and experiences while at your property.

  1. Maintain a consistent posting/publishing schedule.

Chances are good that if you are spending time and money on digital marketing you are aiming for top-of-mind awareness. To achieve this goal you must be consistently present on your social networks, in your blog and/or e-newsletter publishing, or anywhere else you are trying to make digital inroads. Take advantage of any number of productivity tools that help you do just that in an effective, timely manner. Because the thing is, no one will call you out for haphazard posting/publishing, they’ll just forget about you.

  1. Show and tell using realistic images.

Words can’t describe your park or your product like a photograph or short video can. In fact, our special brand of outdoor hospitality begs to be shared in images. Learn how to take great pictures. Learn how to shoot and edit video. Teach and task a staff member to be your park image-maker. And remember you’re not just selling your facilities, you’re selling a lifestyle, so show people enjoying your park. Show the online world what they could be experiencing at your property. But remember, be realistic. Images set expectations and expectations must be met.

  1. Post/publish content that matters to your prospect/customer.

Take the time to identify your ideal customer. Who are they? How old are they? What are their hobbies, likes, dislikes? Do they want quick info-snippets or long-form stories? Is this a family affair or a boomer adventure? Only then will you be able to deliver posts, stories, links, contests, even images that capture their attention and spur them to action.

The above five digital marketing objectives can have a noticeable effect on your park’s online success. They may not all be quick and easy. They may not render immediate results. But they are part of the foundation of your successful digital marketing program. Number six is a little different. Not only can it provide you with valuable insight for understanding your own program but can help our industry as a whole by setting benchmarks, expectations, and providing the answer to the age old question “how do I stack up?”

  1. Understand what success looks like by measuring your results against industry benchmarks.

Is your digital marketing program successful? Compared to what, may I ask? This is one of the biggest benefits of attending state and national confabs, peer-to-peer networking, discussing ideas and actions that are or are not working. Understanding your program’s performance as it relates to others in the industry can help you focus your marketing strategies, skirt costly mistakes, and spark ideas that can help you stand apart from the crowd.

But not everyone can engage in in-person networking. To that end, broadening the opportunity for industry program measurement, the Digital Marketing Benchmark Survey for Outdoor Hospitality 2015-16 is open and actively seeking participants. Building upon the 2014 study, participants will again be asked about popular platforms such as Facebook and email marketing but will also benefit from new sections on outsourcing, website and reservation functionality, online advertising, and more.

It’s important and that’s why I’m asking all park owners, operators, and marketers that utilize online marketing channels — regardless of the extent of your program — to visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DMBenchmarkStudy2015-16 and complete the survey as well as pass along the link, encouraging peers and colleagues to participate.

Lend your voice to our industry’s strength and future. The short survey will take less than 15 minutes to complete and all responses are anonymous. Participants will receive an advanced copy of the study report when it becomes available in the spring.

You don’t have to call these six simple — yet critical — points “resolutions.” Instead, call them goals. Call them action items. Call them steps to build a profitable business. But make no mistake, call on them to help make your digital marketing efforts a success.

Set aside some time, take action, take the survey and prepare to put a number of best practices into play for a successful 2016.