3 Reasons Why Your RV Park Is Struggling
If you own or manage an RV park, what I’m about to share with you may make you uncomfortable.
By the time you finish reading this, you may realize you have some hard decisions to make. And, that’s why you should know I’m sharing this because in the long run, you’re going to be happy you read this.
RV park owners and managers come to me because they want to fill their vacancies. They want to increase their profits by putting good looking RVs into each of those empty holes they have in their park.
That’s my job, and I think I do it pretty well.
But, there are three things that will kill any effort to market or advertise your RV park. I call them the “3 RV Park Marketing Killers,” because they can destroy the results of even the best marketing in the world.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering what they are, right? Good, let’s dive in.
#1) Your Park Is Broken (Deferred Maintenance)
Tell me if this sounds familiar…
Revenues from the park haven’t been very good. You may have even had to pour money into the park to keep it operational. There are some maintenance issues that keep surfacing, but you keep telling yourself that you’ll fix them later when revenues increase.
If that sounds familiar to you, I hate to say it to you, but your logic is flawed.
Revenues won’t increase.
Because deferred maintenance issues either:
- Make the park look bad
- Create hazards that are not enjoyable (or worse, that may trigger insurance claims)
- Create a negative experience which lead to negative reviews on Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor and RVParkReviews.com (which scare off more and more and more tenants over time)
This is what they mean when they say “penny-wise and pound foolish” – the “pound” being the British Sterling Pound (our equivalent of the dollar).
I’ll share a little story with you. Between working in the MHP and RV Park business and becoming an expert at marketing MHP and RV parks, I was a commercial real estate broker.
I had a client, whose name will remain anonymous, who employed this strategy of deferred maintenance. He also deferred painting and landscaping.
Now, I had a lot of clients in the area and I was filling their buildings with tenants faster than you would think possible.
But, even though I showed carload after carload of tenants through his building, nobody rented.
I told him he needed to address the maintenance issues and cosmetics.
He disagreed and thought it was me.
This could have been true, except for the fact that I was filling all of the buildings around him with tenants.
The real kicker was that he would have recouped his investment over and over again had he just pulled out his checkbook and taken care of the issues. Instead, he lost tens of thousands of dollars in lost rent…
It was like trying to sell a car without washing it or picking up the french fries off the seats.
Don’t be like that guy.
Be the owner that knows you need to wash the car before you start trying to sell it (because it will actually sell and it will sell for a whole lot more money!).
#2) You Are Creating a Bad Experience for Your RV Guests
Missed expectations are the source of disappointment.
If your potential RV guests expect to find a nice, clean park and they see something else when they arrive, one of two things is going to happen:
- They are going to leave before they check in (in search of another RV park)
- They are going to stay but they aren’t going to be happy about it
The sad truth is, you’re better off if they leave. That wasn’t true 10 years ago, but the Internet has changed everything.
If someone stays with you but isn’t happy, there’s a good chance they will get on YouTube, Google+, RVParkReviews.com, Twitter or TripAdvisor.com and leave a negative review.
How to Deal with Negative RV Park Reviews
Negative reviews can kill your business (and your profitability).
That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to have a systematic customer satisfaction and review collection system in place. I know that may not be something you want to do, but it’s something you need to do because it’s just too easy for your guests to posts negative reviews now. The way to overcome those negative reviews requires several steps:
- Take steps to improve the looks of your park (it may cost you some money today, but it’s worth it in the long-run)
- Make sure your guests are happy with their experience (you do this by designing a positive experience and by asking them if they are happy)
- If a guest is not happy, fix the problem and fix it quickly (neglected requests are a major source of frustration in the mobile home park and RV park business)
How to Improve the Curb Appeal of Your RV Park
Thankfully, bad curb appeal can usually be fixed pretty quickly and often at very low cost.
I have several videos devoted to this inside Mobile Home Park Classroom, which is a mobile home and RV park management training program I created based on my family’s three generations of experience in the business. If you are having operational (management) challenges, it’s the go-to course in the industry, but for now…
Let’s consider a few things you can do in just a few days:
- Plant flowers near the entrance to the park and near the office (planters work great if your park is a concrete jungle)
- Do a daily walk-through and remove any trash or debris – pay attention to the bushes, which can be magnets for trash
- Paint – if your park has painted curbs, fences, buildings or anything else, a fresh coat of paint can work wonders in terms of how your park “feels” to new tenants
- Remove or fix anything that’s an obvious hazard (this is good for your insurance liability as well)
- Cut the grass and trim the trees – you can usually hire someone to do this for you if you don’t want to be seen with the “weed whacker.”
- Add gravel or fix the pavement wherever it looks bad
Don’t put these things off. Deferred maintenance, lack of beauty, and neglected features (like advertising a pool that’s not working), all lead to negative first impressions which will eventually negatively impact your bottom line.
On the other hand, taking care of these things today can quickly turn your park around and lead to positive reviews (and great photos for your marketing).
How to Deal with Unhappy RV Park Guests (aka “How to Prevent Negative Reviews”)
The best way I’ve discovered to deal with negative reviews is to not get them in the first place and to drown the occasional negative reviews that we do get with a ton of highly positive reviews.
But, how do you do that?
The difference between a business owner and an entrepreneur usually boils down to systems. Business owners often spend a lot of time putting out fires. Entrepreneurs focus on creating systems that make sure the fires never start (they usually do this after putting out the same fire a few times).
So, which one do you want to be?
A business owner or an entrepreneur?
Now, if you’re a park manager, do you want to be a manager that frantically puts out fires or do you want to be in charge of a well-oiled machine that runs flawlessly?
I remember the early days when I was working in my family’s mobile home and RV parks and I can tell you that we had to create a lot of systems.
We weren’t always as fast as we should have been to put systems in place, but once we did, life started getting a lot easier (and a whole lot less stressful). In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I created Mobile Home Park Classroom and Send More Leads…
I was sick to my stomach when I watched other park owners and managers struggling needlessly with the same problems we had solved just because they didn’t have the right systems and experts in place. It just didn’t make sense to me.
How do you think some owners end up owning 2, 3, 5, or even 10 mobile home or RV parks?
It’s simple. They either learn, buy or build systems.
And, if you want to prevent negative reviews, while at the same time collecting lots of positive reviews, you need a systematic process to:
- Ask your guests if they are happy with their experience
- Fix anything they are not happy with (and make sure it stays fixed in the future)
- Ask them (once they are happy) to leave a positive review
- Show them how to leave positive reviews
- Thank them once they have left you a positive review
We actually build this into some of our marketing system because it’s so important.
#3) RV Park Marketing or Management Failure
Deferred maintenance and negative experiences are not the only things that can kill your RV park business.
- Your park is located in a desirable location
- You are taking care of maintenance issues
- You have systems in place to make sure your guests are satisfied
If your park is still not performing well, there’s a good chance you have a breakdown in one of two areas.
Why Attractive RV Parks Struggle
I’m a huge reader and student. I love to learn from the best in the business and model what they have already discovered that works. I’ve invested well over $100,000 on my education to do this, and along the way I discovered a guy named Kevin Nations. Nations was responsible for selling over $100 million a year as a salesman and he’s a brilliant strategist for high-end sales. He hit the nail on the head when he said that struggling businesses have one of the following problems:
- You have a bad plan
- You have a good plan but you aren’t executing it properly
- You think you are an exception to either #1 or #2 (e.g. You don’t want to face reality or you say, “but, my business is different.”)
So, let’s assume that your park is located in a good location, is in good condition, and has attractive rental rates (part of “the plan” mentioned in #1). Furthermore, let’s assume that you’ve either worked with an RV park consultant or you’ve just figured out through trial and error how to run your park well using proven systems (that you continuously improve). In other words, you have provided your manager with a solid plan to execute.
And, let’s assume your park is struggling (and if you don’t think your park is struggling, plug your numbers into the MHP & RV Park Rent Calculator – don’t worry, it will open in another window/tab).
What’s the problem?
Well, we’ve already concluded that you have a good plan, right? That just leaves two options. Either someone in the system isn’t executing or you’re ignoring the hard reality (because like most of us, it’s hard to face reality and deal with it until it gets so painful that we just have no other options).
That leaves two potential failure points:
- Your marketing and advertising person or team (or lack thereof)
- Your manager(s)
Why Your RV Park Marketing Isn’t Working
If you have an awesome manager in place and that manager is using great systems to run your RV park, then one of the following is probably true:
- You are failing to budget for marketing and advertising
- Nobody is actively marketing and advertising your park (one of Coca-Cola’s competitors tried this strategy during the Great Depression. Guess what happened to them. That’s right – they did a fire sale to Coca-Cola after a few years. Don’t be like them. Be like Coca-Cola instead.)
- The person or company you hired to do your marketing and advertising either a) has a bad plan, b) isn’t executing, or c) thinks that a) and b) don’t apply to them
But, let’s assume that you do have a good marketing and advertising team in place that knows what they are doing and they are doing it well.
You guessed it. Management.
Why Your RV Park Manager Is Destroying Your Profitability (and Possibly Your Reputation)
Disclaimer: Sometimes It’s The System and Not the Manager
Now, remember what I said about having a good system in place for your manager. If you don’t have good systems in place, then even a great manager can fail (that’s why I created Mobile Home Park Classroom – to provide the systems and training for MHP and RV park managers and owners).
But, let’s assume you do have good systems in place. Let’s assume the manager does have access to good training and a solid set of procedures to follow.
What does that leave?
If you guessed “poor execution”, then I want to congratulate you. Now, poor execution can simply be a matter of having the wrong person in the position. They have may have started out great, but then suffered a change of attitude, major life event, or whatever.
The point is, if your manager isn’t cutting the mustard, it’s time to make a change before they tank your park.
Don’t think that will happen?
Let’s say your manager starts doing any one of the following:
- Refusing to accept qualified tenants because they represent more work (long-term tenants or short-term tenants for example)
- Doesn’t consistently answer the phone during business hours (missing valuable prospective tenants who then go elsewhere, robbing your park of potential revenue)
- Doesn’t deal with maintenance requests quickly and professionally (thus pissing off otherwise satisfied tenants who will then leave negative reviews)
- Doesn’t tell you what’s actually going on with the park (because it will make them look bad or create more work for them)
- Starts being rude to guests (who will then leave negative reviews that will drive away tenants in the future – possibly for years)
- Starts cooking the books (unfortunately, it’s pretty easy in a cash business and it’s happened more than most owners care to think about it)
Having the wrong manager in place can crash your business and your investment in your RV park.
And, this is probably one of the toughest things to deal with. It’s easy to stroke a check to pay for better marketing and advertising, and, you can always fire them if they stop performing…
But it’s hard to deal with a manager that lives in your park (who you may like on a personal level), if they aren’t getting the job done.
This is a tough one for most of us (myself included).
Nobody likes to have to discipline or fire someone. It’s not an enjoyable experience. But, it gets a lot easier when you start to think of the bigger picture.
Here’s a Useful Tool: Consider Different Perspectives
You don’t own the park to serve your manager. Your manager’s role is to serve the park.
Your role as the owner is to operate a profitable enterprise.
Instead of focusing on how un-enjoyable it will be to fire your existing manager and find a new manager, think about your park in:
- 2 years
- 5 years
- 10 years
Will the park be in the same condition? Worse condition? Better condition?
Will it even be operational?
If your manager isn’t serving the park, and subsequently runs it into the ground, you are going to be in a pretty pickle. You’ll either have to:
- Fire the manager and manage the park yourself
- Fire the manager and find a good manager
- Hold a “Fire Sale” and sell the park for pennies on the dollar
None of those options sound very good, right?
And, that’s why it’s going to be far more painful to leave a bad manager in place instead of dealing with the situation right now, isn’t it?
By the way, this is a useful tool anytime there is something you know you need to deal with, but, you find yourself avoiding. Just consider the consequences of not taking action over the next 2, 5, and 10 years.
If you want your RV park to make as much money as possible while producing very little stress, there are just a few things you need to do (assuming your park is in a desirable location with tenants coming to the area). They are:
- Deal with deferred maintenance (and regular maintenance) – it’s worth it.
- Improve the cosmetics of your park – it should look good if you want “a date” with RV owners
- Put proven systems in place (buy them if you have to) – they are the key to operating well, preventing negative reviews, and soliciting positive reviews
- Budget for and hire a good marketing and advertising firm that knows the RV park business (and make sure they are doing their job)
- Put a great manager in place and give him or her proven operating systems (even if that means going through the discomfort of terminating a bad manager before he or she can crash your park’s profitability and reputation)
That’s it. I hope you fill your park with great tenants and enjoy the benefits of RV park ownership. If you want to know why your website isn’t converting more visitors into paying tenants, then this is for you…
Give us a call or schedule a time to see if we’re a fit.