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Six Elements of Good Campground Websites

June 18, 2013 by · Comments Off on Six Elements of Good Campground Websites 

Jeff Loper

Jeff Loper, a 17-year marketing professional and Campgrounds Connect founder, provides campgrounds/RV parks with affordable marketing, social media, website design, video production, photography and graphic design solutions. Jeff is also available to speak at association meetings/events. He wrote the following guest roundtable for the June issue of Woodall’s Campground Management. Visit www.CampgroundsConnect.com to subscribe to the blog which offers valuable marketing ideas. E-mail jeff@campgroundsconnect.com.

More often than not your website is the gateway to your campground or RV park. It’s the first impression many people have of your business. If you have an unkempt website, it can give people the impression the same is true for your campground even though it may be the greatest facility on the planet.

With technology moving so rapidly it’s hard to know where to place your website efforts. Aside from great design and navigation, my aim here is to provide you with the most crucial components needed today to have a website that fills campsites. Some of these ideas may seem obvious, some may be new, some may be for you, and some may not. If you’re already applying them, keep up the great work. If you aren’t, read closely and consider the possibilities. The digital revolution is NOW!

Mobile-ready

Did you know?

  • Of the 88% of U.S. adults who own a cell phone, 55% use them to access the Internet or go online. Of the 55%, 31% use their phones to go online more than they use their computers or tablets.
  • Nearly 25 million US mobile users will research travel information on their mobile devices before making a trip this year. Nearly 12 million will use the mobile channel to book their plans.

The above facts should clearly state the need for a mobile-ready website that is easy to navigate on today’s smaller screens. To do so you have two options. The first is to create a mobile version of your existing website. However, if you’re ready to upgrade your site, the second option is developing a new site that’s – and here’s the key word – responsive. A responsive website adjusts to whatever device is accessing it; be it a smart phone, tablet, or computer. When developing a new site don’t fall for anyone wanting to create or charge you for a mobile version. They can be one in the same. This means not only money savings, but also time savings when making revisions.

Updated Content

You work hard to keep your property up-to-date and inviting. The same should go for your website. Updated content, events, and area attractions not only put your campground in the best light, it gives people a reason to visit. The content you supply is an essential marketing and customer service tool that must not be overlooked.

So, why do many campgrounds have outdated content? Experience has shown me that campgrounds do want an up-to-date website, but it often comes down to ability. They either don’t know how or don’t want to pay someone to do it. The truth is there are solutions that require little more knowledge than browsing the web and writing a Microsoft Word document. Perhaps campgrounds have hired a web developer that’s not knowledgeable of the possibilities. Not only that, some developers want to hold the keys to the website, meaning they don’t want the client to be able to update it. Why? Because it sacrifices ongoing revenue. Make sure you have the ability to update your website should you choose to do so.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is an often overlooked key website component. It’s the process of making your website as visible as possible when people search Google, Yahoo, and Bing. While no one, and I mean no one, can guarantee you the number one position on Google, the better your SEO, the better your rank will be. Sure, you can likely type your campground’s name into Google and it may appear. But, for example, what if you’re located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado and someone does a search for “Colorado campgrounds,” “Colorado RV parks”, or more specifically, “Glenwood Springs, CO Campground?” These are some possible search examples, but the end result is that your campground should appear.

While a whole article on SEO could be written, the takeaway is that you should invest in the process and have it reviewed regularly to make sure it is working for you or you won’t be found.

Social Integration

In working with campgrounds and RV parks I find varying levels of comfort and acceptance when it comes to social media. If you’ve made social media part of your strategy – excellent! It’s a powerful marketing tool and you likely have your social profiles displayed on your site. For those of you that fall into that “resist” category, did you know you can still integrate social into your site without having to maintain any social profiles? Tools such as AddThis or ShareThis allow you to add the ability for website visitors to easily share your campground to their social networks.

Digital Contact Information

You should have a way for people to contact you digitally on your website, whether it’s an e-mail address or contact form. You may say, “pick up the phone” but that’s not realistic in an age where digital is the way of life for most. If they can’t get in touch with you, they’ll go someplace else – plain and simple.

Online Reservations

Online reservations are a point of contention for many given that it comes at a cost. While some campgrounds are able to be fully booked without online reservations, there are others of you that are being passed by because you don’t offer the ability. People are busy and when it comes to making travel plans it is often reserved for the late night hours long after you’re closed. If they can’t book right then and there, they’re moving on to someone who accommodates them.

In conclusion, as you review the list above you may be thinking that a well designed and developed website that does all of this and more would be expensive. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be if you’re working with the right developer that understands your needs, and the developer is working with the right tools.

 

 

Vine: 6 Seconds of Life; 13 Ways to Use It

March 12, 2013 by · Comments Off on Vine: 6 Seconds of Life; 13 Ways to Use It 

Jeff Loper

Editor’s Note: The following story first appeared on Jeff Loper’s Campgrounds Connect’s website. To read this or other articles by Loper, visit www.campgroundsconnect.com.

Vine is yet another social media tool. I know what you’re thinking…”aren’t there enough already?!?” In this post I’ll explain exactly what Vine is and 13 ways you can use it in your campground marketing.

What is Vine?

Vine launched earlier this year is a video sharing app and it’s currently only available for the iPhone and iPad. The app itself was made by Twitter and therefore integrates seamlessly with your Twitter account, meaning whatever you post to Vine automatically posts to your Twitter account. It’s also more fun and I can see where campgrounds and RV parks can get a lot of use out of it. If you’re using Twitter, you know that you must focus on short, concise updates of 140 characters or less. Well, Vine isn’t much different in that you can only film and share six seconds of video. So, you have to be creative in using it. Once the video is posted, it loops continuously like the videos shared in this post.

How to Use Vine

Using Vine is pretty self-explanatory, but there is a cool feature I want to point out. Quite simply, by clicking on the little video camera icon in the upper right-hand corner of the app you will be able to film short video clips. Upon clicking it a screen will open showing what your are about to film, just like when using your camera app. To actually begin recording you touch the screen. When filming the video you have two options:

  • Continuous Filming: Keep your finger on the screen and film a continuous six seconds, or…
  • Stop Motion Filming: This is the cool feature. While filming release your finger from the screen and the video stops recording. You can then touch the screen again and filming resumes. This is great for stop motion videos. An example would be using this stop-and-start technique to create a series of six, one-second clips showing a pop-up camper as it’s being set up in one of your best, most scenic sites. Or, if you’re creative you can film a clever stop motion video like the one here.

13 Ways to Use Vine in Campground Marketing

While you may be wondering how on earth will six seconds of video help your campground or RV park in your marketing efforts, there are ways. If you’re using Twitter, you probably thought the same thing about 140 characters. Here are 13 suggestions to get you started.

  • Post Status Updates: Rather than posting to Twitter using text, use Vine to make it a little more interesting with video. Plus, it gives your account more personality.
  • Introduce Staff: Have each of your staff members say their name and what they do. It puts a face with the name, so-to-speak.
  • Show Activities: Film clips of activities taking place at your campground so people can see all the fun your place offers.
  • Show Improvements: Just finished adding a new feature or making an improvement? Show it off.
  • Show Campers: Quite simply, just show your campers enjoying themselves.
  • Capture Things to Do at Your Campground: Whether it’s a pool, miniature golf course, fishing hole, hiking trail, or game room, share the many things people can do at your place.
  • Capture Things to Do Near Your Campground: Film area attractions and events so campers know all that your area has to offer.
  • Share a Quick Tip: Have a quick tip about camping, your campground, campground cooking, etc? Post it.
  • Create a Funny Video: Humor is always great in the social media space.
  • Camper Interview: Ask campers a question and ask them to answer it on film. This makes for great little testimonials about your campground.
  • Share Trivia: Whether it’s about your campground or the surrounding area, share interesting facts that campers would want to know.
  • An Inside Look at Your Business: Believe it or not, people are interested in what you do. Share clips showing some of your day-to-day operations and how you handle them. Greeting campers, filling propane, cleaning fire pits, mowing the property, etc. This not only gives people an inside look, but it’s an opportunity to show off your customer service attitude, the services you offer, and how you care for your park.
  • Promote a Special or Contest: Use Vine to get word going about an upcoming special or contest.

Vine can be a great opportunity to show off your campground or RV park’s personality in a way your website, photos, and text can’t. Quite often nothing says it better than video. Will you give it a try?

 

 

 

Opinion: Try EV Charging at Your RV Park

February 20, 2013 by · 4 Comments 

Jeff Loper

Editor’s Note: The following post first appeared on www.CampgroundsConnect.com and was written by Jeff Loper, editor of that website and founder of Mount Juliet, Tenn.-based Campgrounds Connect. For more information, visit www.campgroundsconnect.com or call Loper at (615) 310-6440.

Last week I saw an interesting article fly by in my Google Reader account from Woodall’s Campground Management. Well, it wasn’t really an article, but rather a forum discussion pulled from the Tesla Motors website. Tesla is a manufacturer of high-end electric vehicles (EVs). The forum discussion was on the topic of recharging EVs at RV parks.

We are in a different day and age now, aren’t we? The world around us is going electric. We’re surrounded by electronic gadgets everywhere and now the throaty exhaust sound of a V-6 is slowly being replaced by a virtually noiseless electric motor. While EVs have been on the roads for several years now, they still aren’t huge. However, there’s promise and they’re growing in popularity with each passing day. Especially as gas prices continue to rise as they are right now. I, for one, have considered trading in the pump for the plug.

Whenever a new product comes along that becomes even remotely successful there also other industries that benefit. When the happening new shoes, Crocs, hit the market accessory manufacturers made fancy little do-hickeys that kids could stick in the holy shoe’s holes to give them some bling. When iPods, iPhones, and iPads entered everyones hands, manufacturers developing cases, keyboards, and screen protectors sprung up out of seemingly nowhere. These are just two more known examples, but the fact of the matter is that new business breeds new business.

The EV Transformation

With the EV transformation taking place there are bound to be industries that will benefit. And with proper voltage systems already in place at many, could the campground and RV park industry be one? It’s an unconventional thought, but think about it. Pure EVs, those that are only electric, can’t go very far on a charge. We’re talking anywhere from 75 (Nissan Leaf) to 300 (Tesla Model S) miles per charge. Granted, no one is probably going to drive crosscountry in one of these vehicles anytime soon, but I would certainly not think twice about hopping in a Nissan Leaf to drive to Chattanooga from my home in Nashville if I know I could stop and recharge my EV easily along the way. Problem is, there aren’t a whole lot of options right now.

Some Cracker Barrel restaurants offer the option, but I don’t want to eat every 75 miles. There are others as well, but could a campground EV charging service be part of the mix? They could provide a solution to need that is arising and make some additional revenue at the same time? As I see it, campgrounds along interstates or major thoroughfares stand to benefit the most.

Campground EV Charging Service – What It Could Look Like

Campgrounds could provide an excellent place for families to stop, have a picnic, play on the playground, etc., while they wait for their vehicle to charge. Not only that, they could make their way into your campground store to make a food or beverage purchase for the road. Of course, the charging service shouldn’t be free. Pricing would be up to each individual campground, but $10 for an hour worth of electricity sounds reasonable and a heck of a lot cheaper than a tank of gas.

As for marketing a campground EV charging service, here are some ideas:

  • Add the EV charging service to your marketing materials. Especially your roadside signs, as well as your brochures and website. At some point RVers that pull extra vehicles are also going to make the switch to EVs if you haven’t seen them already. They would be comforted to know that they can charge at your campground for a nominal fee.
  • See about having your campground or RV park added to the list of gas stations posted at interstate exits.
  • Add your business to sites like CarStations.com, ChargePoint, or PlugShare. It appears as though they are FREE to join and all three have mobile apps making it easy for drivers to search for locations on the go.
  • Talk about it on social media.

Campground EV charging isn’t for everyone, but for those where it makes sense, why not give it a go? Don’t spend a lot of money and effort on it in the initial phases, but you might as well add it to the things you’re already doing as suggested above. A little extra income here and there never hurts. While you’re making a little extra, the traveler is getting deal. And you never know, by inviting them in to charge their car you might see them again, but next time as a camper.

What do you think? Would you consider adding a campground EV charging service to your business? Let us know below or we’ve added the topic to our forums for ongoing discussion.

Campgrounds Connect Upgrades Its Services

February 8, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Editor’s Note: The following news release was issued by Jeff Loper, founder of Mount Juliet, Tenn.-based Campgrounds Connect. For more information, visit www.campgroundsconnect.com or call Loper at (615) 310-6440.

It has been nearly one year since we opened the doors here at Campgrounds Connect and a lot has changed in that short amount of time. As the campground/RV park industry and technology change, we must as well in order to stay current for our clients. Not only that, but we are constantly learning what campground and RV park owners find useful on our site. Traffic has continued to grow and it’s evident that the most appealing part of the site has been the informative blog posts that we share regularly and our services. Taking these things into account, it was time for change. The highlights include:

New Website

Campgrounds Connect has been totally revamped in 2013. The old site was great, but had its limitations. The new site features:

  • New Design: Completely new layout focusing on what we do best; our blog posts and services.
  • Mobile Ready: We are constantly talking about the need for campgrounds and RV parks to be mobile ready. While our old site had the ability, it wasn’t the best. We want to practice what we preach. Check it out. It rocks!
  • Portfolio: Now you can browse the great work we’ve completed for our clients.
  • Testimonials: Just in case you’re wondering if we actually do the great work mentioned in the point above, here’s proof.
  • Email Signup: While this was available on the old site, it’s been completely revamped. Website users can subscribe right from the homepage.
  • Forum: Again, this was available on the old site, but it was buried. This has potential to be one of the most useful parts of the site, so we brought it front and center.  Start a conversation today

    Jeff Loper

Video Production & Photography

This past year a need was discovered: high quality video production and photography to help make campground and RV parks look their best. Online video viewing is huge (YouTube receives more than 2 billion views per day) and having a video tour should be an important part of a campground or RV parks marketing strategy. It provides people with an attractive, inside look of a campground or RV park in a way that pictures alone cannot accomplish. With spring on the way, now is the time to think about having a video tour produced. Flowers will be blooming, trees and grass will be green, and campgrounds will be looking their best and ready to welcome their winter-weary guests. Prices start at just $500 for a fully produced video tour up-to three-minutes in length. More details and a sample video can be seen on our website.

We hope campgrounds and RV parks enjoy the new design, features, and services at Campgrounds Connect. Our goal, as always, is to serve the industry in new and better ways.

About Campgrounds Connect

Campgrounds Connect was founded in February 2012 by Jeff Loper, a marketing professional with more than 17 years of experience. Offering a wide variety of affordable solutions, Campgrounds Connect helps campground or RV parks shine and be a superstar among the campers they serve. Offerings include:

  • Marketing Services: Reach campers and RVers in new, cutting edge ways.
  • Website Design & Development: Soar into the future with an attractive, mobile-ready website.
  • Social media Setup & Strategy: Get plugged-in with campers on the hottest social networks.
  • Logo Development & Graphic Design: Be creatively fresh, eye-poppingly good, and informationally refined.
  • Video Production & Photography: Visually tell your business’ story in a professional way.
  • Speaking & Presentations: Grow in knowledge of marketing and social media at state association or national meeting events.

 

 

4 Ways to Handle Bad Campground Reviews

November 16, 2012 by · Comments Off on 4 Ways to Handle Bad Campground Reviews 

Jeff Loper

Editor’s Note: The following article appeared on Campgrounds Connect, a website operated by Jeff Loper. Loper is a marketing professional with more than 14 years of experience creating campaigns for some of the biggest entertainment brands in the world. In 2010 he voluntarily stepped away from the corporate world to refocus his efforts around his passions, of which camping and the outdoors are a part. Campgrounds Connect was born.

Your campground or RV park falls into one of these categories:

  • Bad things HAVE been said about your campground
  • Bad things WILL be said about your campground

Over the past couple weeks I’ve had this question come up twice:

Bad reviews are being written and posted online about our campground. What do I do?

The truth is, you can do a lot. Here are four ways to protect your campground or RV park’s online reputation, combat those negative reviews, and turn them into positives.

1. Be Responsive

If you come across a situation in the online space where you’re receiving bad campground reviews you NEED to respond. Failing to do so doesn’t help your business in any way.

People post negative reviews about a product, service, or experience because they want to be heard. Sometimes they want to be heard by their peers or be able to inform others of their experience, and sometimes they want to be heard by the business itself. By not responding you allow this negativity to live on forever in the online world and your telling your campers that you don’t care, even though you probably do. When you respond you have the opportunity to:

  • Turn a negative into a positive
  • Stop the negativity in its tracks
  • Prove that your camper’s concern was heard
  • If applicable, use the negative criticism as a learning tool to make changes

2. Be Graceful

How you respond to the bad campground reviews can make all the difference in the world. A combative response can often times turn into an online exchange of tit-for-tat. Not only that, others that are online see the conversation taking place and can come very quickly to a conclusion as to whether or not they will want to visit your campground.

Rather, respond with grace and tact. Let the camper know that their concern was heard and thank them for their feedback. If it’s something you can remedy, let them know what you plan to do to address their concern. If it’s something you can’t solve or it’s out of your control, acknowledge the problem, explain why it can’t be resolved or why it’s out of your control, and apologize. Consider also offering the camper a discount or a free stay the next time around. This is obviously sometimes hard to do depending on the personality of the person you are dealing with, but in the online space it shows that you care. From there, others that read the conversation taking place can draw their own conclusions about whether or not to visit your campground. Chances are, by responding in the proper way, you can turn a negative into a positive and encourage campers to visit as apposed to staying away.

3. Be Informed

The best way you can protect yourself from bad campground reviews is to be informed when it happens. Otherwise you have no way to address the situation. There are two steps you can take to do so. The first is pretty obvious, but also very time consuming and unrealistic. Basically you would need to find all of the online review sites, bookmark your listing at each, and review them from time-to-time. Rather you can stay informed much easier by using Google Alerts. In using Google Alerts you can receive emails right to your inbox that will let you know when something has been been posted online about your campground.

Click here to read an expanded explanation of Google Alerts.

4. Be Socially Active

And here’s yet another reason for campgrounds and RV parks to be active on social media. In doing so you:

  • Provide another outlet for customer service.
  • Provide campers a place that you control where they can vent their concerns. At least if they post their bad review about your campground on Facebook or Twitter, you can control that and respond appropriately, whereas with some campground review sites you aren’t allowed to respond to a bad reviews written about your RV park or campground.
  • Have a place where your fans can come to your rescue if the concern is unfounded or ridiculous.
  • Show that you care by responding, and responding gracefully.

How about your campground or RV park? Have you received a bad campground review? How did you handle it?

 

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