Market Your Campground with ‘GuestReviews’
Bob MacKinnon, president of GuestReviews and MacKinnon Campground Consulting, is a leading campground industry consultant, instructor and regent for ARVC’s National School of RV Park & Campground Management, and a 30-year veteran of the Walt Disney Co. He provides a broad range of services, including feasibility studies, business plans and design concepts for park owners, buyers, and developers. He wrote this column for Woodall’s Campground Management. Contact MacKinnon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of my mentors routinely reminded me that “success is a journey, not a destination.” On my journey, I’ve met scores of successful managers who are continually seeking the answers to “How do I improve my business, retain current customers, gain new customers and enhance profits?” One of the best strategies that I’ve found is to stay close to your customers – understand their needs and expectations, then do everything possible to satisfy them. In 2008, we introduced the GuestReviews system with the main objectives of providing easy-to-use tools that measure guest satisfaction, provide actionable data and create a reliable guest-driven rating system.
Over many years as a consultant, I’ve helped campgrounds develop marketing strategies that produce cost-effective ways to achieve competitive advantages. However, when I ask them, “How are you using online reviews to market your park?” I get a lot of blank stares. Most operators understand the value of guest feedback to make better business decisions, manage employee performance and resolve guest complaints, but, until recently, only a few were actively utilizing ratings and reviews to promote their park.
Marketing through reviews is not a new or radical concept. For a long time, businesses have used customer testimonials as word-of-mouth advertising. However, potential customers are smart enough to realize that those testimonials have been handpicked by the advertiser to position their business in the best light. How many times have you read a less than glowing testimonial?
The Public Does Not Trust Testimonials
Today’s reality is that consumers do not trust testimonials. They want reliable, unbiased, and transparent information from other people about their experiences. Research has shown that potential customers now use online research as their primary source of information to make buying decisions – and reviews are an important part of that process. When guests plan a visit to an unknown locale, they search multiple sites and make decisions based upon features, availability, price and reviews. The following are five key reasons to make online reviews a core element of your marketing strategy.
1. Guests seek credible information. 78% of the respondents to a Nielsen survey of Internet users stated that “consumer recommendations are the most credible form of advertising.”
2. Guests want an alternative to directory ratings. As the driver of purchase decisions, online reviews are second only to personal advice from a friend, and user reviews are more influential than third-party reviews.
3. Ratings provide a competitive advantage. Parks should display their guest ratings and comments everywhere possible. Transparent comments increase the information’s credibility.
4. Reviews drive buying decisions. 82% of those who read reviews said that their purchasing decisions were directly influenced by those reviews.
5. Reviewers are your best customers. Consumers who contribute reviews or post messages will visit a website nine times as often as non-contributors do, and review contributors make purchases nearly twice as often.
Currently, more than 1,100 campgrounds are actively using the GuestReviews system and realizing benefits from guest feedback to improve the guest experience, and to encourage guest interaction and expand social marketing. These unique features of GuestReviews help campgrounds and guests benefit from feedback.
1. No anonymous reviews. Reliable information can only come from actual guests and not fake or fraudulent reviews. Guests must submit a valid e-mail address to begin the GuestReviews process. Parks can know who submitted a review to determine appropriate action.
2. Real-time online feedback. Guests expect a quick response to their problem and parks can know about an issue within minutes of the review submission. Our online ratings and comments are always current and updated immediately.
3. Detailed, actionable data. Strengths and weaknesses can be pinpointed through the results of our standardized 55-question survey so that appropriate action can be focused on the specific problem.
4. Turnkey tools to promote reviews. The GuestReviews system provides tools to engage your guests in the review process and boost response volume – 50 reviews carry more credibility than five reviews.
5. Links to display ratings and comments. Displaying real, unfiltered comments adds credibility and value to the ratings. Our links allow you to post real-time ratings and comments on your website.
6. Management Response postings. Posting a response from management is a critical part of the social media process. Real-time responses are easy to post to any guest comment.
In today’s marketplace, promoting feedback must be an on-going part of your marketing strategy. Reviews are a basic expectation for today’s guests and a key factor in your social media efforts. They represent an important connection between you and your guests. The technology of online feedback through GuestReviews puts you in control. Unlike other online review programs, GuestReviews was specifically designed by, and for, campground owners. It puts you in the driver’s seat by channeling feedback directly to you. You get survey data, you get guest appreciation for providing the review opportunity and you get to promote your park through your scores. It’s a three-way winner for you and strengthens the loyalty bond with your guests.
Go to www.GuestReviews.com for more information and see how easy it is to connect with your guests through feedback. Online registration takes only a few minutes and you can begin using these tools right away.