What is Your Digital Image? Seven Tools For You To Use

There was a time not too long ago when you could only guess at what your image was among your potential customers.  The Internet has changed a lot of that.  Now, word of mouth has been transformed into words on the net.  People don’t hesitate to write their opinions on forums, review sites, Facebook and Twitter.

What is your business image? 7 tools for you to use.

Do you know are they saying about you? What is your digital image?

The good news is that you can trace those opinions and determine what your image is on the web.  It will take a bit of work on your part for the initial setup and then you need to schedule time on a weekly basis as a minimum to review the information.  It would be better if you could do your reviews on a daily basis in order to stay on top of any negative information and respond in a positive way.

Before we get to the details, let’s talk about how to respond to bad reviews…and responding is a must.  Once someone types your name into a comment, it will live for a long, long time.  Your only hope to combat a bad impression is to respond, but you need to respond in such a way that you don’t start an internet war.

How many of you heard about the war of words between Steve Jobs and a college journalism student asking for a response to a problem she had with Apple’s PR department?  After several emails back and forth, Jobs finally basically told the student to “Leave Us Alone.”  To make a long story short, this all happened last fall and instead of dying down and disappearing, it is still out there on the web as a case study of what not to do.

When you respond, be sure that you stay positive, try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and be as tactful as you can possibly be.  Start off by acknowledging that the person had an issue with your park.  Then begin stating your side of the story in a positive manner.  Whatever you do, don’t give in to the impulse to say things like “Jerks like you…”, “Why are you such a Liar…” or “Dealing with idiots like you…”  We have all been there but keep those thoughts in your mind and not on the keyboard.

To find out what your image is on the web, take the following steps:

  • Set up Google Alerts for your park name.  While I am at it I also set up an alert for my competition.  It never hurts to find out what people are saying about them.   Go to google.com/alerts to get started.  Once you are set up, you will receive an email anytime Google picks up your specific keywords.
  • Check out the park review sites on a regular basis, such as RVparkreviews.com, http://www.tripadvisor.com/, etc. for any comments regarding your park. Be sure to reply to reviews where you can either thanking the reviewer for their glowing comments or trying to resolve any issues the reviewer had while staying with you.  Whatever you do, don’t engage in posting bad reviews about the competition even if they have done it about you.  This definitely won’t help your position or your image because you will be found out and then the world will know.
  • There are several programs that monitor Social Media and aggregate the results such as http://www.mention.com/, http://www.talkwalker.com , etc. I would suggest starting out with a free program until you determine what you want to see and how much information you need.  (Be sure to check on what the program covers.)
  • Facebook is more difficult to monitor than other programs. Facebook users are able to limit their openness to the rest of the world.  That means that you will only be able to monitor those users who have opened up their pages to more than family and friends.  When you sign in to Facebook, enter your business name into the search bar and look for results from all public profiles.
  • For Twitter, you have a wealth of sites that will gather information for you. You can use com and TweetDeck.com to find instances where your search words have been mentioned.  These two have the added advantage of allowing you to schedule your tweets as well as many other features.
  • Do regular Google searches for your name. When you put the name into the search field use a quotation mark before and after the name.  This will help to limit the number of references that are actually linked to the individual words in your name and will return results for your full name only.
  • Don’t forget to watch Workamper News forums to see what workampers are saying about working for you. Listen to the comments and use them as constructive criticism.  It can be hard not to take the comments personally, but unless you look at the comments objectively you won’t be able to use the information to your advantage.

This list should at least get you started on determining what people are saying about you.  Once you know what is being said, you can determine how you want to react.  I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to track what is being said about you on the web.  The internet has become a way of life for us and it is only going to get more important to your guests as time goes on.

If this is overwhelming, don’t give up…give me a call.  Let’s talk about what you need right now and what needs can wait till later.

 

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Need a nudge in the right direction?  Give me a call at 800-478-0516 and let’s talk about what problems you need solved.   Be sure to follow me on Twitter:  @RVStops and @FocusedWords and join my group on LinkedIn, “Social Media in the RV Industry” and “RV Park Management Software User’s Group”.   Check out my blog at www.FocusedWords.com/blog for more articles about doing business in the RV world.  Copyright by FocusedWords.  If you would like to reprint, please email pwright@FocusedWords.com with your request.

 

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Have You Secured ALL of Your Assets?

Like most campground owners I am sure that you know exactly where the title to the company car is, who holds the mortgage on your property (or where the property deed is), and how much insurance coverage you have.

Website Assets

Websites, domain names, hosting services get left out when talking about business assets.

There is one area that I have repeatedly seen campground owners in the dark about.  That is their website.  This is a MAJOR asset.  It cost you a lot of dollars to get it set up, it is delivering customers to your door and it could have a very negative impact if you were to lose it.

It isn’t that unusual for that kind of lose to happen.  It isn’t something that you have insurance to cover and it is difficult as well as costly to recover from.

Let me give you an example.

Not too long ago I had a new client that didn’t understand why his business had suddenly slacked off.  He hired me to create a marketing program that would bring back his business.

As a part of the process I began gathering all of his collateral materials, brochures, flyers, identifying the business internet footprint, and looking at his website.

Here is what I found.

  • His website didn’t have the current updates which he had submitted 3 months earlier.

The company that he had contracted with to create and maintain the website went out of business without notice.

  • He had no idea who hosted his website

The charges that he had paid to the website company for hosting services had not been forwarded to the actual hosting company.  When they didn’t get paid, they shut down the website.

  • He didn’t own his domain name.

Even though he paid for the domain name, the website company was listed as the only contact for the website.  When the company failed to pay for the renewal of the domain name, a company bought the name and was holding it for a ransom of $2,500.

  • He hadn’t received any digital inquiries since he changed managers.

He allowed his manager to set up an email address for inquiries.  When he had to fire his manager, he quit receiving any email inquiries about the park and the manager hadn’t shared the login or password for the email account.

  • All his collateral material referenced the website and the email address.

While he was still getting calls he had lost all potential business that relied on his website.

This was a disaster but we could recover enough to begin seeing business building within 3 months.  It took a lot of work and a lot more dollars than he had wanted to spend but we were finally successful.

The moral to this story?  Don’t ever forget that your website and online presence is a major asset just like the title to the company car or the deed to the property.

What do you need to do to make sure this doesn’t happen to you?

  • Have your web service company send you a zip file of your website after any major update. You are not in control of the service company and any number of things can happen that will affect your website.  With the zip file, you will at least not have to have a new website designed.
  • Know who the website host is and make sure that you have access to make sure that the hosting premium is paid. Make sure that the hosting service is considered reliable, reasonably priced and has firewall protection at a minimum.
  • Have your name and contact information on your domain name registration. There is nothing wrong with having your web service as the technical contact, in fact I would recommend it.  However, unless you are listed as the owner with your contact information, you won’t know when there is a problem that is could affect your business.
  • Do not let someone set up your business email without knowing the login/password information. No one else should be able to change the login or password except you.  Remember, this is your digital lifeline; anchor it to your business.
  • Anytime there is a change to your website name or email address make sure that the change happens on all your collateral materials as well. Your web company should be able to redirect any inquiries to the old website name or email address to your new domain until the old collateral material flushes out of your marketing populace.

While these steps won’t guarantee that you won’t face a web company shut down, you will at least be prepared to recover in the shortest time possible.

 

 

Need a nudge in the right direction?  Give me a call at 800-478-0516 and let’s talk about what problems you need solved.   Be sure to follow me on Twitter:  @RVStops and @FocusedWords and join my group on LinkedIn, “Social Media in the RV Industry” and “RV Park Management Software User’s Group”.   Check out my blog at www.FocusedWords.com/blog for more articles about doing business in the RV world.  Copyright by FocusedWords.  If you would like to reprint, please email pwright@FocusedWords.com with your request.

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Time to Write Your Yearly Marketing Plan

It’s that time of year again where we need to stop and take a look back at how our marketing worked for this past season and look forward to what we need to do for next year to keep progressing.

Marketing Plan/Marketing Program/Marketing Campaign

Let’s get started on your marketing plan/marketing programs/marketing campaigns.

As a part of this effort I am going to dedicate the next few posts to creating the most important document of your business, an Executable marketing plan.

You can have a beautiful document that fills in all of the sections of a proper marketing plan but the real issue is whether you pay any attention to it as the year progresses.

A lot of people do their marketing on the fly. Buying advertising when a great salesman comes by, spending lots of time on social media or jumping on the latest gimmick that promises to deliver guests to your door won’t deliver on real ROI.

I’m going to suggest first of all that you don’t worry about how pretty your document is or if it is the proper font. This document is for you to use to improve your business and to make sure that the money you are spending is really giving you a bang for your buck.

That said, let’s get started on the Marketing plan. As we progress in creating the plan we will create Marketing Programs that fit your particular guest and within the Marketing Programs there will be Marketing Campaigns that you will use to let your current and future guests know what a great business you have.

This issue we are going to start with gathering all the current data about your business.  For the sake of an example, I am going to use an RV Park/Resort/Campground as the basis of the collection of data.  You should be able to translate it to your business without any problems.  (If you don’t understand the terminology or what direction to take, just post a comment and I will get with you to explain it.)

 

1.)       How many and what kind of sites do you have and who is the customer for each.

I know this sounds silly as you know all of this in your head, but you would be surprised how the process of writing it down brings out something that you hadn’t quite considered before.

2.)       On average how far away do your guest travel from and how long do they stay and on what day do they typically check in and check out?

We all have those guests that come from a thousand miles away as they are traveling through, the ones that come from nearby for a quick getaway and the ones that come to stay with us for a while.

Create mileage segments that make sense for you. These could be something like 0-100 miles, 101-250 miles, and 251 miles and up.

Sort this out and at the same time, look at how long on average each of your mileage segments stay with you and what their arrival and departure days are. This is going to give you insight into how you are going to market to each of these segments.

3.)       What was your marketing spend for this past season?   

This can be a little tough to sort out depending on how well you categorize your marketing/advertising spend.

In general look at the spend for collateral materials I.E. business cards, brochures, flyers, print advertising, etc.

How much did you spend on your online efforts? Facebook ads, Google Adwords, premium listings, digital efforts, etc.

 

As you pull all of this information together you are going to have a better understanding of where you are headed and where you need to change course.

The next post is going to help you take all of this information and begin categorizing, sorting and developing your Marketing Programs for 2017.

I’m looking forward to hearing how things are going. If you get stuck or have a question, just give me a call to get unstuck or have the light bulb go on.

 

Need a nudge in the right direction? Give me a call at 800-478-0516 and let’s talk about what problems you need solved.   Be sure to follow me on Twitter: @RVStops and @FocusedWords and join my group on LinkedIn, “Social Media in the RV Industry” and “RV Park Management Software User’s Group”.   Check out my blog at www.FocusedWords.com/blog for more articles about doing business in the RV world. Copyright by FocusedWords. If you would like to reprint, please email pwright@FocusedWords.com with your request.

 

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You Are Losing 14% of Your Customers

If you aren't replacing 14% of your customers, you are sliding down the slope.

If you aren’t replacing 14% of your customers, you are sliding down the slope.

Did that headline shake you up just a little? I know that the 14% figure did it for me. Did I just make that number up? No. It actually came from a blog post on Hubspot.com, a well respected website for all things marketing.

While you are losing a large number of your customers every year, only 3% of your total market is actively buying at any one time. Think I am just leading you on with numbers? Let’s take a look at your market.

If you are a family oriented park, your customers are probably in the 30-40 year old range with kids who are old enough not to require immediate supervision. You may have a strong record of those families that return every year to spend time at your park. That’s great except that those kids are going to become teenagers who are less and less interested in going to an RV park with their family during the summer.

If you are a 55+ park, this means that your customers are more reliable on returning until they reach the point of no longer being able to be away from the family, doctors and other support.

What does this all mean?

It means that it is more important than ever to make sure your marketing efforts are working. Specifically your digital marketing efforts are key to keeping your name in front of your potential buyers.

Now that is both good news and bad news. The good news is that with digital it is easier to reach out to a larger number of people. The bad news is that it isn’t the “free” way to market that you have been promised.

It takes time, effort and knowledge to have an effective digital marketing program, just like it took for offline marketing. After all, when you bought an ad in the park directories, did you design the ad yourself or did you depend on the sales rep to get that done for you?

So what do you need to get done to make sure that you are replacing that 14% lose of customers?

1.) Know where your current customers are and where to find your future customers.

It is more critical than ever to make sure that the person who answers your phone or checks your customers in knows how critical the question of “and how did you hear of us?” is. Just checking the first box on the form on the computer isn’t only not good enough, it is a death knell for your marketing efforts.

While you are asking where they found out about you, make sure you get a good idea of where they surf for potential places to stay. Now you have a better idea of not only how they found you but also of where they go to look for you.

2.) CTA, CTA, CTA

I can’t tell you the number of ads, websites, marketing materials, etc. that I have seen that have ZERO calls to action. That’s just like throwing your money out the window as you are traveling down the interstate.

CTA’s (call to action) aren’t that difficult to create. It is basically telling your customers what you want them to do when they see your online or offline marketing efforts. You see these every day. “Call to find out more,” “Mention that you saw this ad for your discount” “Bring this coupon on for your special gift” These are all typical CTA’s that you can easily adopt for your park.

3.) Static Websites Don’t Work

You have to have something that changes on your website to keep people coming back for more. It can be a blog, a page that has content that changes regularly, or photos that tell a story and are changed out regularly.

Don’t fall into the trap of just putting a bunch of photos up on a gallery page and figure that you have done your marketing job. Change those photos out on a regular basis and make sure that they tell a story.

Start collecting articles that apply to your customers and share them on a regular basis. Make sure that you give proper attribution to the author and/or website where you found the information.

4.) Quit Treating Marketing Like an Afterthought

Do you trust yourself to figure out what your ailment is and then tell the doctor how to treat your problem? I don’t think so. And it isn’t an analogy that is that far off for marketing. If I ask you where your customers find you, can you honestly answer? If I ask what the time spent on Facebook by one of your visitors, do you know?

14% is a large number when it affects your bottom line. On top of that your marketing efforts need to recognize that on average it takes 8 times to truly reach your potential customer. Put that together and the bottom line is that you MUST have an effective marketing plan/program/campaign to make sure you are replacing your customers on a regular basis.

Where are you on your marketing efforts?

 

*** Don’t have time to do it all? Give me a call at 800-478-0516 and let’s talk about what would work for you. Be sure to follow me on Twitter: @RVStops and @FocusedWords and join my group on LinkedIn, “Social Media in the RV Industry” and “RV Park Management Software User’s Group”. Check out my blog at www.FocusedWords.com/blog for more articles about doing business in the RV world. Copyright by FocusedWords. If you would like to reprint, please email pwright@FocusedWords.com with your request.

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A Disaster Is On Its Way. What Now?

The past couple of years have been crazy in the weather department. We all know that having a disaster hit our area isn’t all that far fetched. When the disaster of the BP oil spill hit it was a major disaster for Louisiana and Mississippi; however it wasn’t a disaster for all of the Florida panhandle and south Texas. That didn’t keep the media from scaring everyone away from RVing in south Texas or in the Florida panhandle as they had planned.

We have also seen this work with the scare tactics used about illegal immigrants crossing the Texas border. While the area RV parks didn’t see the drastic rise in crime rates that were being cited, that didn’t translate into news for the winter travelers from the North.

When disaster does strike and while some areas are in disaster recovery mode, other areas are just trying to recoup from the disaster of people believing they are in a disaster. Here are some ideas that I have put together on handling the bad press that comes from this kind of media.

 

Be Proactive Instead of Reactive

When the news begins about a disaster that could be heading your way, this is your call to action. Hit your Social Media sites with information about what you are hearing locally, what your plans are and how often you will keep everyone up to date on what is actually going on.

If you publish a newsletter now would be the perfect time to send interim newsletters regarding what the current conditions are. Let people know that you will be sending a newsletter out more frequently than normal until after the “Disaster” is over.

When people call in with questions about their reservations, be sure you front office has the most recent information and is able to calm the jittery nerves of your future guests.   You might want to consider offering a refund on reservation deposits if you have to shut the park down due to the “Disaster.”

Take the opportunity to put out as much information as you can to prevent the mistaken idea that you are already closed for business.

During The Disaster

Work with other RV parks/resorts/campgrounds that are close enough to you for a quick drive but that are out of the disaster area to set them up as recommendations of where the guests can go for their vacation without interruption

Stay with your Social Media program and send out as many updates as you can telling people what is happening where you are located. If the disaster is headed away from you, let everyone know that you are no longer in the eye of the “Disaster.”

If you are in the eye of the “Disaster,” this would be a great time to let all of your guests with reservations know that you have taken the liberty of cancelling their reservation. . Particularly in the summer, many guests have scheduled vacation around the trip to your park. You made the effort to find other places for your guests to stay and now is the time to give them options of where they can go to enjoy their vacation. You aren’t going to lose the guest, you are going to make your guest more loyal because you took the time to think of them.

If you were evacuated because of the impending disaster, continue to use your Social Media program to report how you are being affected. Remember the base of Social Media is “Social.” That means that the people who are reading your Facebook updates, your tweets, your newsletters or your blogs feel that they have a relationship with you and are concerned about what is going on.

After The Disaster

If you were hit with the disaster, you already have your hands full. However, now is a good time to consider letting everyone know how bad the damage was. You might even give people a chance to help you with the cleanup by giving them a free site for a weekend. Above all else, you need to let everyone know what your schedule for cleanup and reopening is.

If you weren’t hit with the disaster, you still want to let everyone know that you are open for business and that things are looking great. You may even want to go the extra mile and schedule a “Let’s help our neighbors day” where everyone goes to a park that had been affected and helps them clean up. This would be a great opportunity for a press release to talk about surviving the disaster and what you are doing for your friends in the business.

Disaster Planning

Hopefully, everyone has a disaster plan already in place for how they would shut down the office, backup computer systems and notify employees and guests. If you don’t, this off season would be a good time to get started.

Having lived through a direct hit by a hurricane, there were a number of lessons learned for me. To give you a small chuckle, before the hurricane made landfall, we filled up our 250 gallon tank with gas so that we would have it available after the hurricane. The problem? We needed diesel to run the equipment we wanted to use for clean up.

Check to make sure the simple equipment is available. Chain saws have replacement chains, there is oil on hand to mix with gas for mowers, chain saws, etc. and that your computers are backed up. One major advantage to the software that runs on the web is that your data is safe from a local disaster. That isn’t to say that it is safe from other problems.

Make sure that shut off valves are clearly marked and that there is documentation so that it isn’t dependent on one person who knows where everything is.

 

I hope that you never have to execute your Disaster Plan but that if you do need to, the plan will be in place and current. Don’t let the media convince your guests to cancel their reservations without a real reason. Get out in front of the problem and control it instead of it controlling you.

Are you ready for a “Disaster?”

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Don’t have time to do it all? Give me a call at 800-478-0516 and let’s talk about what would work for you.   Be sure to follow me on Twitter: @RVStops and @FocusedWords and join my group on LinkedIn, “Social Media in the RV Industry” and “RV Park Management Software User’s Group”.   Check out my blog at www.FocusedWords.com/blog for more articles about doing business in the RV world. Copyright by FocusedWords. If you would like to reprint, please email pwright@FocusedWords.com with your request.

 

 

 

 

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Get Them Talking About You Marketing

 

If I had to sum up marketing in 5 words or less, I would say “Get Them Talking About You.” After all, that is what marketing is all about isn’t it?

Give Them Something to Talk About!

Marketing Rule #1:
“Get Them Talking About You!”

The tough part is finding a way to get people talking about you if you can’t afford a major ad agency that can come up with something memorable like “Where’s the Beef?” or “Just Do It.”

While the season on us, now is the time to get those unique giveaways created and ready to hand out. Here are 5 ideas to get you started:

1.)            Have you heard people say “We hate to leave but we have to go back to work tomorrow” when they were checking out? How about creating a branded work excuse? Here is one to get you started thinking:

Dear Guest,

Ever needed to let the boss know that you won’t be in to work after a great vacation? Send this work excuse to him:

(Date)

Dear (Your Boss’ Name),

We hate to inform you that (Your Name) cannot be at work today as (he/she) has been detained at (Name of the resort/park/campground).

Now you may think that (Your Name) is just goofing off and having fun, however this is anything but the case. (Your Name) is actually performing a critical humanitarian service. (Your Name) has accepted the critical responsibility of reviewing the quality of the pool temperature here at the park, critiquing our shuttle service to the beaches, and analyzing the quality of sun’s rays here in (Your city name) to determine if they are of sufficient strength to provide a proper tan.

As you can see from the above specifications, this job could not be performed by just anyone. It is imperative that you excuse (Your Name) from (his/her) job duties for the next (your preferred number) of days without penalty.

Thank you for being such an understanding, reasonable boss.

(Resort/Park/Campground name)

2.)      At the start of the season, all of your guests have to pack up kitchen, bath, and bedroom supplies for their visit to you. This can be quite a task. Provide a branded Start of the Season Packing Check List to your guest when they check in. Even better, tell them that if they will give you their email address you will send a link to the list. Do the same thing for the end of the season with a Getting Ready for Storage Check List.

3.)      Gather birthday months from your guests and send them a special birthday card with a coupon for a discounted stay, free ice/firewood, or free hotdog/hamburger. Make sure that whatever you are giving away is something that your guest would want and need. Don’t make it another bottle koozie, ink pen or any other typical item that you get at a trade show and immediately throw away.

4.)      Create a small cookbook that has recipes specifically for RVer’s. Limit the number of ingredients and make sure that it is something that is easy to fix. If you have grills at each site, outdoor camping recipes are a great idea.

5.)       If your guests bring their pets, provide them with a branded box that contains pet pick up bags and a pet treat. The box can be refilled and kept in the RV for future visits. While you are at it, don’t make this for dogs only. You would be surprised how appreciative cat owners are when you give them a gift for their cat.

 

These are just a few ideas to get you started thinking on how to keep your name in front of your guest’s eyes after they leave you. Just remember that the idea has to be something that is useful, that your guest demographic would appreciate (you don’t want to give branded Frisbees to your 55+ guests just like you don’t want to give a discount to the kids activities to guests who don’t have kids.)

What ideas have you come up with to make your business name synonymous with fun and relaxation?

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Don’t have time to do it all? Give me a call at 800-478-0516 and let’s talk about what would work for you.   Be sure to follow me on Twitter: @RVStops and @FocusedWords and join my group on LinkedIn, “Social Media in the RV Industry” and “RV Park Management Software User’s Group”.   Check out my blog at www.FocusedWords.com/blog for more articles about doing business in the RV world. Copyright by FocusedWords. If you would like to reprint, please email pwright@FocusedWords.com with your request.

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I Can Get You A Gazillion Visitors

We all receive those phone calls wanting us to advertise on a web site. The question, though, is how to determine whether the ad will be worth the price.

website traffic

I Can Get You a Gazillion Visitors.

There are actually two sides to the equation. The first is deciding if the website has the traffic that is complimentary to the business. Let’s take a look at ways to make your decision easier.

The person on the phone is sure to tell you how many daily “hits” the site receives, which is usually quoted as being in the thousands if not millions. A giant red light ought to go off if the salesman can’t tell you any more about the statistics for the site than how many hits the site receives. I will again state emphatically that, in my opinion, hits mean nothing. You need to be looking at Visits, Unique Visitors, Page Views and Traffic Sources. Let’s get some definitions established so we are all talking the same thing.

HITS: Hits are defined as the number of times a file is accessed. The critical point here is the word “file.” On any single page of a website, there are separate files for graphics (usually more than one file), files for text, files for photos, etc. If you have buttons on the page for Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, each of those will have separate files. The current average for hits on a page is 15.

Visits: A visit represents one individual who browses through your website. The key here is to understand that the number doesn’t differentiate how many times the same visitor comes back to your website.

Unique Visitors: This statistic will tell you how many people visited your site for the first time by tracking the IP address of the computer that is accessing your site. (There is one caveat. This statistic depends on cookies being enabled on. If cookies are not enabled, the computer will not be identified as a unique visitor.)

Page Views: This statistic will tell you how many pages of the website a visitor has accessed. Some people will also refer to this as Impressions. On average, a visitor will go to 2.5 pages on a website.

Traffic Sources: This is where you will find out how people found your site. One of the critical traffic sources is PPC, Pay Per Click. This source will tell you how many click throughs you receive from sponsored ads.

(As a quick aside, if you don’t have an analytic tool on your website that gives you this information, get one on there NOW!! Google Analytics is a great tool and is free for the basic information.)

Now you may be asking what any of this has to do with advertising on a website. While companies like Southeast Publications does an outstanding job of making sure that you have the information you need, a lot of the online sites that are hitting you up for advertising dollars don’t give you the information that you need to determine the effectiveness of your advertising dollars.

There are a number of companies on the Internet that you can request website traffic information as it relates to the company that wants to sell you ad space. My “go to” program for checking out a website is www.Alexa.com.

When you request information on a website with Alexa, you will get traffic rank number. This will tell you how the site ranks in comparison to other similar websites. By clicking on details, you will also find out things such as the Reach %, Pageviews, Users, etc. It’s like looking at the sites individual statistics.

With this information in hand, you can now begin to determine if the website is one that 1.) attracts your client profile, 2.) pageviews are large enough to justify the cost of the ad, and 3.) will tell you what words people are using to search for when they access the site.

 

Now that you have the statistics to make a decision about running an ad, let’s take a look at PPC and how to use the information.

Just like display ads in print media, you need to analyze your results carefully to determine whether the cost of the ad is justified.

Before we go much farther, please let me emphasize that, just like display ads in print media, pay per click is going to be dependent on the attractiveness of an ad and the call to action. If your ad doesn’t attract attention or doesn’t have a call to action, you aren’t going to get the click throughs even if the website matches your potential guests to a tee. Make sure your ad has all of the qualities of a well designed ad. This will include not only the message but also the font, font size, background, graphics and overall design.

The whole point of PPC is to get users to click through to your website. You are paying for people to visit your site. The big difference here is that, unlike print media ads, you have meaningful statistics to tell you how well your ad is being received and the cost of the ad is usually considerably less than for a print ad.

Now that you have placed your ad, the next task is to review your statistics. Before you decide that PPC/digital ads don’t work for you, take another look at the ad and make changes to the text, the appearance and/or the call to action to see if your results improve.

One last point that I need to make is that in today’s world we are inundated with advertising. Unlike the past where conventional wisdom held that an ad needed to be seen a minimum of 3-7 times, in today’s world it requires a person seeing your ad upwards of 20 times. Just because it is easier to get your name in front of more eyes doesn’t mean that marketing/advertising is easier. In fact it has gotten much harder to set yourself apart.

How is your digital advertising working for you? What lessons have you learned?

 

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What You Need to Know Before You Hire Your Front Desk Team

LinkedIn has published a great post on recruiting new hires.  You can find it here: http://bit.ly/1OsNazO

There are a few things that you need to have in place before you start looking for employees.

  1.  A policies/procedures manual is critical to making your life a little easier.  With this manual you can give direction to your employees without having to be there to answer every question.  This should include everything from your social media policy (and yes, you definitely need one) to a how-to on entering reservations.
  2. A job description that clearly points out what duties you expect your employees to perform.
  3. An ideal job candidate template.  This defines who it is you are looking for and what talents they would ideally have.

These are just three of the critical items you need to understand before you begin hiring.  Don’t let it overwhelm you, we can help.  Just give us a call and we will spend 30 minutes with you at no charge deciding what you need to do and when.

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What Do All Those Numbers Mean?

I’m sure that you already review your accounting information on a monthly basis at a minimum, but I have found that a lot of you don’t review the other information that you are regularly collecting. This other information is critical to your marketing efforts, your advertising efforts and your plans for the future of your business. Here are   points that you should be reviewing on a regular basis.

 

  • How accurate are your Email Addresses?

You should be collecting email addresses for everyone who walks in the door. If they don’t want to give you their address, you should have some way of identifying that within your system.

Each month at a minimum, review the addresses that have been collected for accuracy. Look for missing periods in the email provider name, incomplete addresses, unnecessary spaces, etc.

While you are doing this, you should also be reviewing the accuracy of your employees in inputting the information. Sometimes, our employees get lax or just too busy to be bothered. This is a very poor excuse as the email address is your best (and cheapest) way of staying in touch with your customers/guests. This review will give you the information you need on who and what needs retraining.

2.) Where are your website visitors coming from?

I know a lot of people who totally ignore the analytics on their website. This is a major mistake!

Your analytics will give you a wealth of information about your future customers. Review it on a monthly basis at a minimum. Look for things like what state your website visitors are coming from, how long they spent on your website, what pages they spent the most time on. Be sure to have your Webmaster block the spiders from being considered in your analytics. They can really skew the numbers.

  • What devices are your visitors using to find you?

Take a look at the types of devices being used to access your website. It is all but imperative in today’s world that you have a responsive website (meaning that the website adjusts to be read on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.) By taking a look at these analytics you will have a better feel for how people are finding you.

4.) What pages are your visitors going to?

By looking at the behavior of your visitors, you are going to get a deeper understanding for what they are looking for on your website. Fresh content is critical to maintaining not only your SEO but also in keeping your customers interest. The behavior section is going to tell you what content is most popular.

4.) What is Webmaster Tools telling you?

No, you don’t have to understand everything that this free tool tells you, but it is very helpful in identifying where your website is breaking down. Take a look at the pages that are returning 404 (Page Not Found) errors. Get your Webmaster to fix those errors. Customers won’t be real patient with you if the continue to receive 404 errors when they visit your website, and your SEO efforts are going to suffer also.

5.) What online listings are actually giving your referrals?

This is particularly useful information if you are paying for an online listing in a directory. Don’t depend on the statistics you may be receiving from the vendor. Take a look at what your statistics are saying. And above all else, please don’t look at the number of hits. This number is all put meaningless. Look at the number of unique visitors you are receiving.

If you don’t see a large number of referrals, it makes next year’s decision on where to spend those tight marketing dollars a whole lot easier.

 

These are just 5 of the places other than accounting that you should be reviewing your statistics. These should get you started in getting a better understanding of who your customer is and what they are looking for from your business.

 

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Training Your Team for Positive Customer Relations

After traveling around the country and checking into RV parks and hotels and after having managed RV parks I have noticed that recognizing that the front desk is the core to our marketing efforts is not at the head of our marketing plan.

It is so easy to hire people who have some experience in taking reservations and assume that with a minimum amount of our time they will be up and running on the job. This is particularly true if you hire workampers. After all, they have experience working in RV parks, taking reservations and checking people in. They understand all of the terms that are unique to our industry (i.e. guest guides, Good Sam discounts, etc.)

That takes care of the physical part of the job. But what about the mental part? Does your reservation clerk answer with a memorized spiel that falls out of their mouth at an impossible speed? I once had an employee that could go through a 15 word phone introduction in less than 5 seconds. (I know you don’t believe me, but I timed him.)

I have had employees that would spend 15 minutes chatting with a guest about area attractions and how to get there while other guests lined up to check in.

I have had employees who would automatically fill in information without asking the guest. (This was particularly true when it came to the infamous “How did you find us” question.) The employee had the best of intentions, getting the guest to their site, but it sure played havoc with the data that I used to decide where to put my marketing efforts.

I could go on and on but you could probably match me example for example so let’s move on to how I worked to solve this problem.

Here are the highlights of the training program that I put together. Each new employee was given a week of “Knock Their Socks Off” training. This training was over and above the basics of park policies and procedures.

  • Making the Connection

First impressions are the most important part of an initial conversation giving the guest a mental image of the park or hotel. When a guest calls initially to ask about the park or hotel, or make a reservation most of us have a boilerplate introduction that we have our reservation clerks use. It usually goes something like this: “Good afternoon, Your Favorite RV Park/Hotel. This is Pamela. How may I help you?”

 

This is short, sweet and to the point. The problem is that it becomes so routine that employees don’t think about what they are saying.

 

As a part of the training period I had the training clerk call the new employee and listen to their delivery. I created a short checklist to be used that had things like: 1.) Did you hear a smile in the clerk’s voice? 2.) Did you understand what was being said? Particularly the clerk’s name? 3.) Did you feel like you were imposing on the clerk by calling or did you feel valued?

 

  • Pacing the Conversation

This is a difficult concept for some people to grasp but controlling the pace of the conversation is vital to a smooth running operation. It is also vital to your bottom line.

 

Reservation clerks have to be trained on how to get all the necessary information they need to create a reservation, check a person in or answer a guests question in a timely manner. This is where a good reservation clerk excels.

 

Once again using a one on one session, the training clerk works with the new employee giving them examples of situations they may run into. An easy example to replicate is the phone reservation where the guest is asking questions about the area, things to do and see, what the weather is like all while the clerk is trying to get the reservation into the system.

 

  • Perfecting the Visit

Now that the reservation clerk has made the connection and knows how to pace the conversation, giving the guest a perfect visit is much easier. The guests stay needs to be consistent from the time they call to make the reservation through to the point when they check out.

 

You have given the guest a great image of the park, so live up to it. Follow these few procedures to make everything memorable:

  • Make sure your reservation packets (reservation receipt, guest guide, area attraction literature, etc.) enhance your image. Don’t flood the guest with a lot of paper that they will just throw away later.
  • Make sure that their site/room is clean and the picnic table is in place and in good condition.
  • Remind everyone working outside to look up, smile and wave to the guests. It’s amazing how far a smile can get you.
  • When it is time for the guest to check out, have the outside person tell the guest that the park is sorry to see them go and ask if there is anything the park could do to help them. Sometimes this is as simple as telling them where the nearest fuel stop is and how to get there.
  • Handling the Unexpected

One last point to be made is in how to handle those unexpected issues that come up from time to time. Often these are really small issues that, if taken care of right away, can give you a lot of gold stars.

 

The toughest part about this step is in the letting go. Give your reservation clerks the latitude to take care of the guest’s problem. You do need to establish some limits to what the clerk can do but you will be amazed at how much can be accomplished with just a little leeway. If the guest isn’t happy with their site, allow the clerk to relocate them. If the guest needs a fuse for the RV but doesn’t have a wallet with them, let them take the fuse back to the unit and make a note of the price. (You may have some guests who will drive off without paying but I believe that 95% of the guests will make sure that you get paid. I have even had guests call back and give me a credit card number for a $2 purchase.)

 

The point here is to give your clerks the authority to make the guests stay memorable. Not only will you look good to your guest, your clerk is going to feel valued and important. After all, both of these people are key to your business.

What works for you? Do you Knock Their Socks Off?

 

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Pamela and her company, FocusedWords, are dedicated to helping you promote and market your RV business to RVer’s everywhere. Have a question? Email her at pwright@FocusedWords.com,, follow her on Twitter: @RVStops and @FocusedWords and join her group on LinkedIn, “Social Media in the RV Industry.” Check out her blog at www.FocusedWords.com/blog.

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