How to Tell if Your Marketing Plan is Working
It can be challenging to verify that your marketing efforts are effective, especially in the campground business. It will take work, even if you are in a successful business phase. As most of you already know, the bounceback after COVID is unprecedented. The boom resulted in record numbers for both independent owners and for conglomerate operations.
There’s a problem, though; record numbers can obscure weak spots in your marketing plan. In an industry as successful as ours, it’s not enough to look exclusively at occupancy or revenue to evaluate your marketing. Think of it this way: would you want to spend money on a program, yet have no idea if it’s working? Of course not! To be assured your program works, you need to look below the surface statistics, at what you’re doing to market your business, both to first-time visitors and to the all-important repeat-and-referral customers.
For starters, it’s essential to assure brand awareness — no matter how big or small you are. Do you have a unique name and/or logo, and are you consistent in promoting that brand imagery? We all know the more common campground names. If a name is so generic that it could be replicated in any part of the country, how can you expect people to remember you, or successfully Google you? That’s why certain big brands name their parks after their location or after some nearby memorable geographic attraction. You certainly don’t have to go the route of renaming your park. Do try, though, to think of why people will be visiting YOU. And when you figure out what makes your establishment unique, promote the hell out of it and make sure your message is consistent. Often a slogan or high concept can be helpful to assure both staff and guests really “get it.” Do you use one of these?
The next item to evaluate is the engagement of your audience. Engagement can mean many things, from how many calls the office is getting, to how well your website is performing. To measure engagement, take advantage of different tools to track certain initiatives in your marketing or advertising plan. Create a unique URL for your printed material. Regularly monitor your website analytics (time spent, bounce rate, etc.), and examine which pages of content are most visited on your website. There is rarely a silver bullet when it comes to marketing your business. There will be several (relatively) small victories along the way which, when added together, make for a consistently engaged audience.
And what about at the park? I tell campground operators all the time that marketing doesn’t stop when an RVer checks in, it’s just entering the next phase. Are you surveying your guests to see what they liked? More importantly, are you asking them where you can improve? In our guest guide/site map division, AGS surveys its readers to ensure that its product is providing value. You should too so you can continue to provide what the guest wants and improve in the areas that need it. You can spend a million dollars on marketing and advertising but it won’t matter if it’s spent on a product that nobody wants.
What is the point of all this work? Obviously, it’s more bookings. But, what if you’re one of the many parks that are already at capacity? Don’t forget that there are a record number of RVers hitting the road, which means even more opportunities for your park to capture them. “We are always full” isn’t a consistent barometer of how successful a marketing plan is at any given time. Rate structure is a useful and reliable indicator, followed closely by net income. If you are 90% occupied and netting more money than days gone by when you were 100% occupied, you may have pinpointed the demand for your park and services.
Yes, the industry is doing very well and we are all fortunate to be operating one of the more successful post-COVID activities, RVing and camping. Don’t get complacent when it comes to measuring success at your park. To ensure long-term success, it’s necessary to take your marketing — and your business — to the next level.
Your past is not your future!