Recently we’ve been reading a lot about big RV shows where consumers are canvassing arenas looking for their next RV unit or camping destination. RV dealers and manufacturers have been chomping at the bit all year to get in front of these large crowds to convince them to buy their units. Campgrounds, with similar enthusiasm, hope to raise their attendance by handing out their thoughtfully created marketing materials in the hopes it will increase their annual visitations.
Duh, Brian. What’s the point of this article?
Hold on. I’m getting there… RV consumer facing shows are important AND so are the upcoming Outdoor Recreation Tradeshows. That’s right, we’re talking about the OHCE, KOA EXPO, YOGI and especially your state association’s conventions. I think it’s extremely timely because, “tis the season” for said events, and if you’re thinking of skipping them this year, I want to try to convince you to go for your business’s sake.
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Recently I published an article about the occasional occurrence of campground owner’s becoming too wrapped up in the macro picture of their park’s visitations and completely forgetting about creating loyal customers. One of the main points made in that article was about capitalizing on this well pronounced camping industry upswing. Campgrounds have a great opportunity to create more loyal customers now than during the boom in the 70s. The article also discussed certain ways to create loyal customers but industry tradeshows have a plethora of strategies right at your fingertips.
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What, “strategies” are you talking about Brian?
I am talking about best practices. Let me ask you a question without you looking up the answer. What are the industry proven, best practices utilized today for cancellation policies, staff recruiting, staff training, reducing your electric bill, pet policies? Think about it because certain methods of doing things have proven track records of success and learning about these have dramatically increased business profitability and customer satisfaction rates.
WhatIs.com defines “best practice” as: “A best practice is a technique or methodology that, through experience and research, has proven to reliably lead to a desired result. A commitment to using the best practices in any field is a commitment to using all the knowledge and technology at one’s disposal to ensure success.” Attending tradeshows like the OHCE, KOA EXPO, Yogi Symposium and/or your State Association events, gives you access to those that have had experiences in cultivating methods of doing things that have past the proof of concept phase. If any of these methods free up your time, alleviate frustration, make or save you money, isn’t that alone worth it? Attending tradeshow classes can help you get to the end result of another’s success through their hard-fought journey of trials and errors that were instrumental in creating a winning process that you can easily adopt to help your business prosper.
So if I attend one of these shows, go to the classes, I am going to be successful, right?
Short answer, no. Events like these are best attended prepared. Perform a SWOT analysis as if you are entering your business for the first time to learn where you can spend your time most effectively.
For those of you that are somewhat new to the marketing lingo, SWOT stands for:
Let’s take these one by one.
Starting with your strengths. What does your campground, rv resort or rv park do really well? If your business is strong in customer service and you believe that you have the best program for personalizing the guest experience and training your staff, then you will want to consider decreasing the priority of the classes you attend and the types of vendors you need to engage with that surround that subject.
TIP: Vendors you determine that you want to see, be sure to write down all of your questions before the convention and be prepared to write down their responses. Consider choosing your vendor only after you measure one versus another in the same business sphere.
Weaknesses are places you may or may not know you need help. Let’s say for example, you’re a KOA campground that is having difficulty selling Value Kards. Then it would make sense for you to visit classes at the KOA EXPO regarding this topic. Perhaps then, you can understand the features and benefits of the Value Kard so you can improve the way you articulate those items to the KOA customer. You can even take it one step further and find another KOA that is doing it well and make arrangements to talk to that franchisee while at the convention.
TIP: If you are not asking your ENTIRE staff without leading them to answer a certain way, about what they think your park’s greatest weakness is, then you will not prioritize which classes you attend or vendors to see, correctly. THEY WORK THE FRONT LINES, listen to them, they pretty much know where their hang-ups are.
Opportunities are my favorite part of the acronym. This is where you look to expand your business. Survey your campground, is there room for that deluxe cabin. Perhaps you realize you are the only campground within a 100-mile radius that could have a Jump or Splash Pad installed within your property giving you a unique value proposition that separates your park from the rest.
TIP: Understand the difference between a value add opportunity and an opportunity to diversify. A value added opportunity, in the context of camping, could be installing a splash pad within your resort. The thought being, that this particular amenity will enable you to increase your site pricing.
Diversification opportunities would be more of the cabin example. You would not be able to make a solid case for increasing your RV site’s nightly rate by the mere presence of a cabin. You can however, open up a new market for those that do not have RV’s but love being outdoors.
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Both of these opportunity types are still subject to the principles of supply and demand. This is where your State Association events can help you decide which of these opportunities are right for you. You can converse with campgrounds that share trends that are unique within your State and in certain circumstances, trends you may share in the same market area. “How are your cabins doing”, “Has the splash pad helped with your site rates and occupancy?” Conversations like this can help you make better decisions and are ubiquitous at these events.
Finally, the dreaded “T”, threats. Did you see that vendor that was selling that RV tractor beam? Of course you didn’t because it doesn’t exist … or does it….
In an age full of disruptive technologies, it might be hard to sort through the clutter. While it’s unlikely that technology will immediately impact your business, a new market entrant might. You might be aware of a well-known franchise campground or a major class A resort opening nearby that will command some of the market. How are you going to grow or maintain your current levels of business? Are there other brands, services or products that can directly and immediately compete with the new competitive environment?
TIP: State Association Events and the OHCE are great places to learn about legislative issues that could be threatening to your business.
Remember, properly research each class and vendor that will be in attendance. Classes are sometimes given by vendors that have perspectives that align with their business models however, all that I have heard are more than willing to review pros and cons of their particular point of view. If you ask the right questions, usually you will get the full perspective of that particular topic.
This is a big time for this industry, don’t forget to take time to celebrate with your peers too. You’ve all earned it.
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