Editor’s note: Evanne Schmarder, longtime WCM Modern Marketing columnist and principal at Roadabode Productions, will soon be releasing the second book in her Marketing Your RV Park/Campground Online series. Details to follow at roadabode.com.
Love him or hate him, Jeff Bezos (and the business he started in his garage) is a monster success. So it’s no wonder that he’s often asked questions about it and business in general. In a 2012 AWS Live “Fireside Chat” he said this: “I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’”
To Amazon’s founder and former CEO, that’s the more important of the two, a business’ bread and butter, the foundation that allows an owner to build and grow. By recognizing your customer’s core needs and wants — those that are unlikely to fluctuate based on fads, ebbs, and flows — you’ll be able to consistently fulfill their expectations, now and in the future. This is not to say that how you present these fundamental ways of doing business can’t be improved upon; they most certainly can and will change with the times. But the heart of the matter will always remain, the bedrock of our business, customer satisfaction.
An Unbreakable Horizon
Lots of things do change. Amenities and facilities follow trends. New concepts, products and attractions are unveiled every year at state and national trade shows. But conveying a feeling of welcome, fostering good choices and providing value are the underpinnings of long-term success.
Even Jeff Bezos, to whom money is no object, wants a fair exchange for his dollar. Every single customer that crosses your registration desk wants the same: good value for their hard-earned cash. That will never change. So what does “good value” look like? In a nutshell, when the product/service you offer is considered worth the cost, it’s a good value. People are willing, even eager to pay your site fees, providing they feel what they receive in return is of equal or greater value.
There are intangibles that your customer sees as valuable. It might be something that requires an investment, like the space, planning, and landscaping of your registration parking and welcome center. Or it might be something as small and detail-oriented as raking a site in preparation for a guest’s arrival. On the dollar-to-worth side, your café might offer a two-for-one ice cream cone happy hour or an extra handful of chips with burgers and dogs. Value, both high and low, is a concept that continues to unfold in every interaction throughout their stay.
Using Bezos’ line of thinking, “I’d like to pull into a cramped registration area then dodge and weave my way to an unkempt site,” said American campers never.
You’d be hard-pressed to see a customer review that reads, “The staff members at XYZ park were, on the whole, rude and uncaring. They did not know how to do their job, and I was an obvious bother. Five stars!! I can’t wait to return!!!”
Ours is a service business through and through. That’s not going to change, even with the advent of automatic check-in tools and self-driven activities. Service might look like a roaming maintenance person, a well-stocked brochure rack or a reader board with local, up-to-date information, a helpful and prompt reply to a customer contact, or a well-trained, friendly staff available to answer questions and solve problems.
Identifying the level of service acceptable to your guests and bumping it up a notch or two is, and will always be, a business differentiator. Ask your guests. They’ll gladly tell you what service means to them.
Safety is a basic human need and a modern, first-world country expectation. RV parks and campgrounds are not exempt and never will be. When guests stay at your property, they expect they will be free from violent crime and predators. They also expect equipment to be maintained, dog-leash rules made and enforced, interior roads to be well-kept, and trees trimmed and looked after. If you have a water attraction, attention must be given to everyone’s safety, from proper chlorination to rescue equipment. Bonfires and BBQs must have a safety corridor around them. Emergency plans must be in place.
When a guest chooses your park, they are trusting you with the safety and security of their loved ones and their property. Very rarely will someone choose to endanger themselves to save a buck or because an ad was effective. It’s a perpetual given.
Delivering on your brand promise
What does your park tout? Easy-on/easy-off overnight parking? A full roster of family fun? Fast Wi-Fi connectivity, sparkling restrooms, peace and quiet? None of that matters in the context of this discussion. What does matter, is that you deliver on your promises. Families expecting a boisterous activities schedule will never be happy to find a quiet retirement park that only allows children in the pool from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Overnighters will never appreciate having to shoehorn their rig into a tight back-in site. Communicate what your business does and be true to that vision. That’s an expectation set in stone.
Taking It Online
The same concept of expectations that will never change also applies in terms of digital marketing. Your fans, followers and subscribers will never look forward to a poorly executed email message, a non-relevant social media post, a droning YouTube video or uninspiring Instagram images.
While websites will continue to morph, lookers and bookers will never tire of seeing true-to-life images of your park, honest reviews, and up-to-date rate schedules.
We’ll always see new and improved versions of online reservation platforms and processes. However, potential guests will never rejoice at an incomplete or incorrect availability calendar that requires a phone call to straighten out.
Build On The Basics
The savvy modern marketer works to identify customer essentials that remain static across the years. They create a long-term plan to hone their business’ core strengths for sustained success, including a formal training program, checklists, and routines.
In the final analysis, regardless of who your park serves, every individual wants to feel like they’ve made a smart decision, spent their time and money wisely, and that they and their business are appreciated. It’s human nature. Take it from Bezos, some things never change.