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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 bookseller or in print at Amazon.com.

These are unprecedented times. Businesses are shuttered, streets are eerily quiet, and uncertainty hangs in the air like a heavy fog. It is a terrible and challenging period but eventually, the human race will prevail and slowly but surely, things will get back to (a new) normal. As it stands today, some parks have closed; others are offering sites with reduced amenities. The path of least resistance would be to sit back and wait for this to pass, but the smart modern marketer understands that this is an opportunity to plan for the future. 

However counter-intuitive that may seem, now more than ever you must promote your business to stay alive, keeping your brand strong and attractive. It’s important to reinforce the wonderful experiences the outdoor hospitality industry is known for. Fortunately for us, once this breaks, Americans will be eager to travel and the outlook is considerably stronger for our industry than many others. 

To-Do Today 

Your customers and prospects have a lot of questions and extra time on their hands. They want answers. Understand how this pandemic factors into their present and future and become a resource. Are you open? Are gas stations and grocery stores in your area open? What’s your policy on refunds? Are you accepting long-term stays? Does your park have RV storage available? How will they know when your park is back to business as usual? If you haven’t already, consider the following. 

  • Website: The home page of your website should deliver the most pertinent news and information about the situation at your park, linking to an internal blog page with running commentary. Update it as frequently as necessary. 

This is a great example of why I continue to be a proponent of CMS (content management system) websites. You should be able to quickly and easily go in and make changes without having to wait for your webmaster to do so for you. If your site is built on a WordPress platform, as many are, and you don’t know how to access and post on your site, this is an ideal time to ask for a tutorial from your webmaster or seek out an online learning resource. 

  • Email: Many people rely on email as a means of communication. Use this permission-based, direct-to-inbox tool to update your list on what’s happening at your park. You might even refer them to your website for the latest news. 

Depending on your circumstances, consider segmenting your list, grouping those that have or had 2020 reservations, those that visited in the summer of 2019 but have not yet made reservations, and all others. Create specific messaging for each group. Allow for replies, comments, and follow-ups. 

  • Social Media: If you have a presence on social media (think Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) use it as a platform to deliver news, publically answer questions, and share your park’s daily goings-on. Be as positive and as fun as appropriate. Offer engaging anecdotes, photos of some favorite park spots (do you have a mascot that’s exploring the property, that could be interesting), even a game or contest. 

If you haven’t already, now may be the time to explore creating chatbots to answer some of the more common inquiries. 

Looking Forward

Begin looking past this state of affairs. Review your marketing plan, making adjustments and tracking measurements. 

  • Be original in your marketing: Now is not the time to cut your marketing budget but it may be time to rethink your strategies. Have you identified your target market and are the marketing platforms you are using reaching them? What tools have you been interested in but haven’t had a chance to explore or implement?
     
  • Review your program’s performance: How have your marketing efforts played out? Are you seeing the results you’d hoped for? Have you recorded your goals and tracked your campaigns? Have you developed a strong ROI analysis? 

If this hasn’t been an area you’ve excelled in, gather your reports and sit down for a serious planning session.  

  • Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes: Think about their concerns, needs, wants and brainstorm how you can deliver an experience that provides a sense of continuity. If you’re unsure, ask. They’ll be more than happy to tell you what direction you should take. 
  • Focus on the product and value you have to offer: If nothing else, we are ambassadors for the freedom of the great outdoors, building and nurturing relationships, offering a venue to make memories. What can you do to foster these ideals? 
  • Remember, your current customers can be your best customers: Good times or bad, never overlook your current customer base. Stay in touch, offer them affinity programs, frequent stay benefits and/or referral bonuses. Recognize them by name and ask about their family. Building these relationships is critical to your success. 
  • Continue to deliver gee-whiz service, both in the heat of things and later, once we are heading back to normal: Devise ways to surprise and please your customers by offering exceptional service. Go out on a limb and offer something outrageous and memorable that they’ll enjoy and be eager to share.

Maximize Today’s Time 

Experience tells us that destiny smiles on those that are prepared. By no means is this an easy period in our lives. It’s one fraught with both personal and professional pressures. Sometimes doing nothing seems like the answer but alas, it is not the time for inaction. Use your time wisely, do “something.” Today’s something will likely look different than yesterday’s something, but forward movement is what matters.

Seize the reins, reimagine your marketing program, work your ideas, and be practical and creative. Communicate like your business depends on it (because it does) and plan like there’s a bright tomorrow (because there will be). What you do now will shape the perception of your park today and into the future.