Profaizer: Info That May Affect What Makes Your List of Goals for 2012
Linda Profaizer, a Colorado resident and immediate past-president of ARVC, is a columnist for Woodall's Campground Management. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Having stepped away from her association duties at the end of 2010, she welcomes input on topics of importance to campground owners for upcoming columns.
The New Year is always a good time to reflect on the past year and to set some achievable goals for the next. Long ago I ceased writing down New Year’s resolutions because it became too frustrating when I didn’t achieve them. On reflection, maybe I was setting too many and too lofty goals. I also didn’t take the time to reflect on what I had actually achieved in the prior year – letting unachieved goals overwhelm those that I had achieved.
So, why not start out 2012 by taking a few minutes to think about what you accomplished in 2011. Write down the achievements you were particularly proud of; those that really paid off financially; those that were a hit with your customers; those that taught new skills.
That gets you in a positive mood and ready to think about what you’d like to achieve this year. Here are some trends and information to consider for 2012 that might affect what makes your short list of goals for 2012.
• Your customer is still looking for value: While campers will still want to get away for those long weekends, cutting costs is still on the top of every consumer’s mind. The travel industry is predicting that we will see an increased demand for package vacations, and all-inclusive vacations. This doesn’t mean that you have to discount, but it seemed last year the three-day stay for the price of two days or four days for the price of three was popular among many park owners. Are you or have you thought of putting together packages which would include camping, plus a special offer at your store or food service (if you offer it), plus coupons for local tourist attractions, restaurants, sports events or participation in a sporting activity like hot air ballooning or zip-lining. If you have recreation or other activities that you charge for, consider a one price gets all deal, i.e. everything included for one price.
One way to provide value is to provide the unexpected. Capitalizing on opportunities to provide unexpected service may actually leave a greater lasting positive impression than providing service the customer already expects. For example, on a visit to a park in Florida that we had visited before, I remembered that we had great seafood at a local restaurant but could not remember the name of the restaurant. The person registering us took the time to kind of refresh my memory asking questions like do you remember what you ordered? Was the restaurant on the water? Was it a family restaurant? The front desk person suggested two restaurants that were likely options (which one was) and then printed out a recipe from one of the restaurants for the seafood dish I remembered. That was an unexpected plus!
• Customers are looking for local: That refers to experiencing the local area and enjoying local food. It also has a bearing on what you might stock as gift items in your store. I don’t know about you, but I hate traveling to different parts of the country and finding items that were made in China or are items that you can find anywhere in the country. Consider adding some unique items to your store that are definitely from the local area made by local companies/artisans. If you offer some food items in your store, consider some items that come from your local area – local cheeses, meats, specialty items. You might consider offering a cooking course using local cuisine and taught by a local restaurant or chef. Food activities are always popular with your guests.
• Consider offline and online marketing options: The data from 2011 Portrait of American Travelers produced by Ypartnership reveals an interesting insight into the evolving role of the Internet when it comes to "planning" versus "purchasing" travel. Specifically, family and friends (52%) and travel guidebooks (46%) still trump Internet search engines (39%) as preferred sources of "ideas and inspiration" when planning leisure travel. Thus, the most effective marketing strategies should include both offline and online components. Of course, you still need to determine what marketing options worked for you in 2011.
There is always something to keep up with regarding marketing options today. Predictions are that online bookings will continue to grow modestly with more than 114 million people researching travel online this year. The expectation is that more and more people will be turning to their mobile devices to not only research lodging and travel options, but to book and communicate directly with the travel provider. Google is predicting that mobile will overtake PCs as the most common Web-access device by 2013. That’s just around the corner. With travelers adopting Smartphones and tablets at such a rapid pace, it’s important to consider optimizing your website for mobile usage to capture those potential mobile transactions. You don’t necessarily need to optimize your own website (though it is a good idea). If you are a member of ARVC, or part of the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park or KOA franchises, your park appears on a website for mobile users.
• Evaluate your current programs and services: Successful businesses don’t do things that their guests don’t value. Why invest in providing a welcome package to your cabin guests if it is not valued or used by your guests? Why invest in adding a pool to your park if your guests don’t value that as an amenity at your park? I have mentioned this before, but it is really important to use the services that you provide at your park. Are the restrooms in a condition that you would want to use if you came to a campground? Is your signage easily followed? Are your roads in good condition? If you offer food, is it good food and do you provide an inviting area to enjoy it? Is it time to upgrade some of your facilities? Money is supposedly becoming more available, but you’ll have to go in to your lender with a solid business plan and ROI.
• Read, research and learn: Take the time to read some books and keep up with business articles and the trade press. You might consider reading: “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable” by Seth Godin, “Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (And Other Social Networks)” by Dave Kerpe, “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon and “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. Take advantage of any industry research, too. Here’s a link to the “Special Report on Camping 2011” sponsored by the Outdoor Foundation, KOA and Coleman: www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/research.camping.2011.pdf. This report provides a profile of a camper and camping trip plus camping participation and information on the future of camping. RVIA recently published “The RV Consumer: A Demographic Profile 2011 Survey” available at www.rvia.org in their publications area.
I just read an article that said that our world is and will increasingly be controlled by Google, Facebook and Apple. These companies pretty much control “access” for the majority of us. Apple is going to enter the travel world with iTravel at some point. Go out on the Google website and see what is going on and what’s new. Apps for our mobile devices continue to increase in number and variety. Have you heard of something called Google Goggles? It is a free image recognition app, which enables users to search, based on photographs taken with a handheld device. By taking pictures of objects, places or product barcodes, users can find out further information. Predictions are that all commerce will be handled via mobile devices in the years ahead. Are you prepared to handle this phenomenon?
Whatever your goals are for this year, make sure you include a goal of taking some time for yourself – some down time! It helps to refresh the batteries. Pick a day or half day a week that isn’t as busy as others and arrange for someone to cover for you. Go do something you enjoy or just relax! Here’s to a busy and profitable 2012!