Evanne Schmarder

Editor’s Note: Want to know more about marketing your RV park or campground online? Evanne Schmarder, principal and founder of the RV industry-specific digital marketing firm Roadabode Production, has a new book to help you do just that. Marketing Your RV Park/Campground Online is available as an e-book at your favorite online book seller or in print at Amazon.com.

Resolutions, predictions, and “best of” lists. You’d be hard-pressed to visit a marketing website this time of year without reading at least one story about strategies and tactics destined to shape your business in the new decade.

From artificial intelligence (AI) to modern versions of that old standby I keep going on about, video, frequent digital marketing plan adjustments are necessary. Fortunately for us, emerging trends and tools aren’t impossible to grasp. Instead, understanding your audience, determining what success looks like, developing a written plan, putting cutting-edge processes to use, and meeting prospects and customers where they spend time online in 2020 is just another iteration of what you’ve been doing all along to promote your business.

Pay Attention to These 5 Trends

While it is true that, as we’ve experienced over the last 10-plus years, digital marketing is moving at light speed, not every innovation is a good fit for outdoor hospitality or at least a good fit for the time being. But there are a few tools that the wise modern marketer should be aware of and even begin implementing.

I’ve combed through a mountain of expert opinions to identify five top trends that I believe can (and will) impact your park business in the coming future.

  1. Artificial Intelligence

Will artificial intelligence take over the world? Maybe, but not in the foreseeable future. It does, however, have the potential to change the way we do business today.

In the most basic of functions, chances are you are already using some form of AI. Do you unleash a Roomba to vacuum? The mapping system learns your floor plan. It’s AI. Are you using Alexa, Siri, or Ok Google? This form of AI uses voice search (speech recognition and computer learning) to deliver (and hone its responses to) what you are asking. Have you ever received a message or call about potential fraud on a credit card? That’s artificial intelligence, recognizing a break in a pattern and following a preconceived chain of communication.

Like at the infancy of social media, it’s impossible to put this genie back into the bottle. It’s time to figure out how to use this tool to your business’ advantage.

The most likely introduction of AI into your marketing program is the use of chatbots. If you consider your website to be a 24/7 sales tool, adding a chatbot is like hiring an around-the-clock, know-it-all customer service rep.

Chatbots can be programmed to answer some of the more common questions you get, route calls to the appropriate staff members during business hours if the needs of the customer can’t be satisfied by a bot, and even provide a purchase portal to help you close the sale.

Looking to the near future, start working with your search engine optimization (SEO) expert to power your online presence for voice search. This will require a fresh look at your SEO program, optimizing for natural language keywords.

ACTION: Review your website’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) page with an eye toward developing chatbot responses as well as tweaking the on-page content for voice search.

  1. E-commerce/Shoppable Posts

Outdoor hospitality is perfect for beautiful, wholesome images posted on Pinterest and Instagram. They can tell a story, create desire, and encourage action. In your case, this means promoting the variety of experiences on offer (cabins, glamping, supersites, etc.) and connecting them to a booking mechanism through shoppable posts. You might also consider selling ancillary packages (picnics, entertainment, etc.) via this emerging avenue.

ACTION: Talk to your online reservation provider about ways to automate your reservation process to work with shoppable posts. Ask about adding the ability to sell ancillary packages through automation.

  1. Image Marketing

Images are critical to an experiential business like outdoor hospitality. We know great photographs can move a looker closer to becoming a booker. While YouTube ushered in video and continues its corner on the market, the new(ish) kid on the block – the one you should be paying attention to – is Instagram Stories (you can link them to your Facebook page, gaining additional exposure).

Stories are short, ephemeral 15-second photo and/or video “clips” that vanish after 24 hours (but can be saved and used in other forms). Get creative and add filters, text, stickers, GIFs, and music. If you have 10,000-plus Instagram followers on your business account, the “swipe up” function allows you to add a live link.

ACTION: Get started on Stories today. Aside from a glaring social media faux pas it’s hard to go wrong. Determine goals for your Stories program. Brainstorm ideas, create engaging content, post, and measure.

  1. Digital Detox

With overwhelm on overdrive these days, consumers are choosing to turn down the riotous chatter for their attention by tuning out all or some social media channels for anywhere from a period of time to permanently closing accounts. It’s called digital detox.

This amplifies the need to “own” your marketing. The danger of a social media platform pulling your account or penalizing you for some unknown wrong continues to be a concern. Even if that is not your case, with the drip, drip of digital detoxing, your digital marketing reach could be severely hampered. Like life, it’s rarely wise to keep all your eggs in one basket.

ACTION: Continue to build your email list. Tweak your SEO to get in front of your most likely customers. Develop new ways to be discovered including influencers, blogging, Stories, and press releases.

  1. Personalization

With fewer opportunities to be seen by your potential guests, it’s more important than ever to understand what matters to them and deliver relevant, interesting, and entertaining content at every turn. A screaming deal during the raucous family camping season, no matter how good it is, is unlikely to appeal to the quiet-loving retiree unless they’re camping with grandkids.

ACTION: Segment your email list, consider targeted remarketing, present offers that are specific to the viewer. Not sure about your guests’ preferences? Ask them.

It’s (Still) a Brave New World

Time and tech march on. It continues to be a new world out there (exhausting, I agree) and nothing’s going to change that. The smart owner/operator will figure out how to use new tools and tactics to their advantage, bringing business to their door. That’s one prediction I think we can all stand behind.