Case Study: Sundowner Mobile Home & RV Park

Sundowner isn't just another one of our case studies - it was a complete turnaround park.  It went from being one of the worst RV parks in town to, arguably, being the best park in town.

It's one of the parks in our family.  It's also a "test park" for RV Park Marketing Experts - where we experiment with many of our new strategies and techniques before sharing them with our clients.

Dogs On Log Chains...

Imagine that it's 1972. The oil and gas business is booming.  Interest rates are sky high.  One day, you get a call to come check out a great opportunity in a little town in North Western New Mexico.

Driving through the park, you realize this "opportunity" has knee-high weeds in almost every lot. As you drive through the park, Rottweilers and Pit Bulls race towards your car door,  suddenly yanked backwards as they hit the end of the slack in their chains.

As you look around, you notice a lot of junky cars missing tires and sitting on concrete blocks.

You look for a place where you can pull over without being mauled by the dogs (hoping they're all on chains). You get out, and as you start to walk around, something seems strange. That's when you realize that despite it being the dead of winter, most of the homes have their windows wide-open.

What's going on here?  Then it hits you. There's no way the tenants would do that unless... they weren't paying... their own... utilities. No wonder the place is for sale!

You sit back down in your car and think to yourself, "I can see the opportunity AND it's going to be A LOT OF WORK."

My father took that drive. He bought that park.  He could see the potential.

The First Turnaround (It Wasn't Easy)

Sometimes, it was incredibly stressful.

Other times, it meant stepping out into the void and taking risks.  Imagine choosing to almost empty a park of the existing problematic tenants so you have a shot at creating a better, more profitable park.  That's a tough call, and one that paid off...

Within a few years, Sundowner was one of the nicest and most in-demand parks in town.  The waiting list was a yellow legal pad (and was three pages long).  The strategy had worked and we learned that sometimes you have to forego or invest some of  your current income today in order to survive and make a lot more money in the days ahead.

Depending on the occasional ups and downs in the oil and gas industry, business was either good or really.

But then, the entire game changed.

Early Warning Signs

In 2011, we noticed that something had changed.  The mobile homes spaces and park-owned homes were doing well, but overall revenue from rental income was starting to decline.  

Some of the early warning signs included:

  • Increasing RV space vacancies over time
  • Fewer overnight RV guests were showing up
  • Fewer and fewer RV owners were making reservations
  • What worked to advertise the park before wasn't working anymore
  • Local coal-fired power plants and oil and gas companies were laying off employees and contractors due to new regulations and excess overseas oil production
  • "Marketing Malpractice"

    Around this time, Sundowner was getting a lot of postcards and SPAM email messages from marketing and advertising agencies saying they could drive a lot customers into the business with solutions ranging from SEO to Google to print advertising. Maybe you've seen them yourself.
    Now, let me ask you, when was the last time the doctor prescribed a course of treatment for you before he or she examined and then diagnosed what was going on with you?

    Imagine calling the doctor's office and hearing them say, "No need to come in, we'll just schedule you for surgery. Would you like to start your surgery on Tuesday or Thursday?"

    That would be crazy, wouldn't it?  It would also be medical malpractice.  And the same principle applies to marketing and advertising...

    You can't prescribe the RIGHT solution until you've diagnosed the REAL problem.
    Which is why we set up a meeting to identify EXACTLY what was happening with Sundowner (even though it's one of our family parks).  They didn't want to because they thought they already knew what the problems were.  I insisted.  Here's why...

    It's human nature to think we know what the problem is and to think we know what the solution is as well.  In fact, maybe you're here right now, you're reading this case study and you're thinking you know what the problem is with your park or resort and how to fix it.  

    Well, the initial "problems" my family was telling me they were experiencing weren't the real problems at all!  They were symptoms.  It's kind of like going to the doctor because you're having trouble walking because of a blister on your foot.  You know without a shadow of a doubt the problem is the blister and you just need to get it fixed (until the doctor tells you the blister is being caused by splinter you didn't even know you had in your foot).

    After we discovered the real problem, we put together a group of comprehensive solutions. Now, you may be wondering how we did that.  That's another story you can check out ´╗┐here if you want to. Here's the short version: 

    Real Solutions

    After we discovered the real problem, we put together a group of comprehensive solutions. Now, you may be wondering how we did that.  That's another story you can check out ´╗┐here if you want to. Here's the short version: 

    Some of the strategies came from my experience growing up in the mobile home and RV park business.  Some strategies came from the time when I was selling and leasing commercial real estate.  Others came from strategies I learned and was using online after investing over 10,000s of hours of time and well over $100,000 in direct-response marketing and online advertising.  The solutions were a mixture of things that I knew worked in similar industries, customized for the RV park business.

    We reviewed the solutions and the cost to implement them.  It wasn't a small investment, but the problem was going to be more expensive if it wasn't solved.  After all, when things aren't working like they should in your business, it's kind of like having the "check engine light" come on in your car (you can ignore it, but you know it's going to cost you a lot more in the long run).

    Plus, they realized our solutions were going to be likely tax-deductible as marketing and advertising expenses.  

    Based on those two realizations, Sundowner decided to move forward.

    Rolling Up Our Sleeves

    Working closely with Sundowner, we put a number of solutions in place, many of which worked together to get better results than any one solution would achieve on it's own.  

    We also worked with them on their property management practices to help them convert more of their callers into reservations and tenants (this was a key piece of the puzzle).

    Fighting a Declining Economy

    At the end of 2012, here's what Diane told us regarding the local economy:

    "From the time we started until the end of 2012, economic conditions continued to get worse. 

    Lower interest rates were causing a number of park-owned home and long-term RV tenants to leave the market as they purchased single-family homes.  

    The local economy also continued to decline due to EPA regulations and restrictions on the oil, natural gas and coal-fired power plant industries."

    Shocking Results

    Despite the fact that local economic conditions were continuing to decline, Sundowner reported that the solutions we had put in place were working:

    • Daily call volume skyrocketed 
    • 95% of new tenants come from what we put in place
    • Revenue increased by $67,895.54
    • Best year in terms of revenue since 1973

    While those results probably excite you, keep in mind, we can't manufacture tenants out of thin air.  However, we can help you attract more of the tenants that are in your market using tested and proven tactics and strategies that you're either not using or not using to their full potential right now.

    Special Offer To Be Our Next Case Study

    We're currently offering discounts for RV Parks and resorts who would like to be featured as one of our next case study success stories.

    "...our best year since 1973 in terms of revenue..."

    Our revenue dropped in 2011 and was on track to drop again in 2012. Now we get 95% of our customers from the work you did for us...

    Diane Ayers Owner

    Disclaimer:  Sundowner's situation is unique, as is yours.  Their results are not a representation of the results you might experience, which could be better, the same or worse.  Every park, campground and resort is unique as are the areas and competition where they are located.  Your experience may vary significantly.  This is one of our family parks, so when something needs to happen to make it more attractive to tenants, it happens - that may or may not happen with your park or resort.

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