Profaizer on Point: Marketing Your Campground
Linda Profaizer is immediate past-president of ARVC. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She welcomes help along the way to give her some ideas on topics of importance to campground owners and operators as they manage their businesses.
After writing 20 in-depth reports for as many parks as I visited in Nova Scotia, it reminded me of some marketing basics that would be good for all of us to review. Here’s my top 10:
1. Name Agreement: It is still amazing to me that there are still parks (and I’m sure this is not just limited to parks but to all businesses) that a park’s name will be different in every place a name would appear, from the entry sign to the business card, to their brochure to their website. For example, Joe’s Ltd; Joe’s Park; Joes Cottages and Campground; Joes Campground, etc. Really – which is it! Pick a name for your park and make sure it is used consistently EVERYWHERE.
2. Check Those Listings: These days a listing will appear for your park in both known and unknown locations on the Internet. Enter the name of your park on a search engine like Google and check out all the websites that have a listing for you. Make sure the listing information is accurate and consistent. You may not have enough time to check all the websites, so concentrate first on the major ones and those that you know bring you business or are particularly targeted to your audience.
3. Photos: Take another look at the photos on your website and printed material. Are there people in at least some of the photos? I remember looking at a park’s brochure and there was not one photo with a human being. Who would want to go to a park without people? It certainly didn’t paint an inviting initial impression of the park. Also, are the photos reflective of your park? Are the photos used of the facilities or views that you really want to promote? Are the photos sharp? Are they large enough not to need a magnifying glass to see what is going on in the photo?
4. Facebook: When you create a page on Facebook, you also need to commit to adding a message on that page regularly. I have seen many parks where the park owner started out the season on May 1 talking about the season opening and then the next entry might be about how great Christmas in July was. If you are going to have a Facebook page, make the commitment for yourself or someone you trust to fully utilize it. Having infrequent messages or comments is a negative.
5: Google Places for Business Pages: Make sure that you have a Google Places Page. This is a free service. You may already be shown on Google maps, but this is so much more. You can upload photos, coupons, video and a dashboard provides stats on your Google Place Page listing. If only your park name and address appear, you are really missing out. Uploading photos and having some reviews will increase your search position.
6: Google Phone: I came across this great tool when I was trying to figure out an inexpensive way of calling home from Canada. This Google tool enables you to make calls from your computer to someone’s phone. The call will indicate it is coming from California, but the best news is that all calls are FREE in the US and Canada. There is a way for you to link your phone number to this application so that on your webpage, you could tell people if they call to make a reservation to “click here.” A screen will then come up asking people to download the Google plug-in. The plug-in only needs to be downloaded once and it takes only seconds. Once they download the plug-in, a dial will appear on the screen with your campground phone number already on it. The camper will then just have to click “call” and the camper will be connected directly to your park. The clarity is terrific! Just don’t think that all of a sudden you are getting lots of business from California. Go to: http://www.google.com/chat/voice/
7: Links: When you have links on your website, you or your web provider should check the links periodically to make sure they still work and are going to the page you want them to go to. One park had a link that went to their competitor’s listing on a travel website.
8: If you say you have it – make sure that you do: I spoke to an owner who promoted a lobster pound on site, which is something fairly common in parts of Nova Scotia. Problem is that the lobster pound was destroyed three years ago in a storm, yet is still being promoted. Parks with lobster pounds on site are a big draw, so you can imagine some disappointed guests. All the amenities and activities you are promoting should be in operating condition for each and every guest.
9: Outdated Activity Lists: Keep your website fresh and updated. It should not be something you do just once a year. There is a Google Doc application where you can create your activities list and upload it to your website. You can make any changes you want and it will be updated on your website once the link is made. Your web provider should be able to help you get this set up.
10: Call to Action: Make it easy and apparent where people are supposed to call for a reservation. Include your physical address, phone number and e-mail address on every page of your website. By the way, there is nothing wrong with saying, “Call now to make your reservation” or something similar. It’s OK to just list your phone number, but why not be proactive and tell people to call.
And one more thing: Keep in mind that Marketing Takes Work! There is nothing easy about marketing your park and there are no magic formulas. If you’d like to get more kayakers to your park, more clubs, more kid’s groups, more families, it takes you researching how to reach those niches and contacting them with your specialized marketing message.
There is no truth to the saying, “If you build it, they will come!” That only happens in the movies and, oh, by the way, in case you want to actually live that dream, “The Field of Dreams” is up for sale for a mere $4.3 million!