Empty sites on your campground mean money out of your pocket.
If you’ve ever looked out on unoccupied lots and wondered if you could have done more, if somewhere out there a camper needed a spot just like yours, you are not alone–and you are probably right.
In 2021, 57 million households in the US and Canada went camping–an increase of 36% since 2019. And the industry shows no slowing down. In fact, early booking for campgrounds is increasing.
If you struggle to book your sites, it’s likely because you aren’t reaching the campers looking for places to camp. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to market your park that are proven to increase visitors. The more diverse and creative your strategy, the better.
Here we take a look at the thought behind your marketing efforts and some creative ways to reach more campers.
What do you want your marketing to do?
Be clear about what you want to achieve before you let the creative wheels spin and you create plans to reach a bigger audience. If you’re going to garner attention, make sure you know what to do with it.
Be specific about what you want.
Create a tangible list of target results–or KPIs. Be specific. Scattergun marketing will produce results, but they won’t all be the strategic results you’re after. Think of the customer’s journey and how each step will occur. What do you want the customer to do? Some questions to consider asking yourself:
- Are you developing interest for this season or next season?
- What are short-term and long-term goals?
- Do you simply want to build awareness about your campground’s brand?
- How will success be measured?
- Is the goal to drive traffic to your website or to call and book?
- If a customer is interested, where do they learn more or sign up?
Determine what’s unique about your campground.
We will cover the different ways you can communicate your message, but identify a few key factors that make your campground unique, interesting, or that most people don’t know. Whether you include these details in your marketing efforts or not, it helps that you and your team have these characteristics in the back of your head. A few questions to ask yourself:
- What’s the story of your campground?
- What features or amenities make it unique?
- How did you (or the owners) become campground owners?
- Do you do anything different than your campground competitors?
- What’s the #1 way you consistently help campers?
Measure the results.
How will you know if you are successful? If you try something new and invest time and energy into a new outreach, how will you measure the results to know if it was worth it? To measure the results, you need to identify the factors you will measure. Again, be specific:
- Does success mean increased booking?
- Will you collect email addresses from a promotional?
- Will success mean more traffic to your website?
- Does creating relationships with the community count as a win?
So now that you have the overall structure built, you’re off to the races, and it’s time to explore the creative ways you can market your campground. But don’t let this list be your end-all, be-all. The best way to market your campground will be to highlight its uniqueness–and only you know your campground well enough to brainstorm those strategies.
Partnerships help validate your business, and they help market your campground to an entirely new audience. Identify businesses, groups, and related industries in your area to partner with, and both parties could benefit.
- Is there a local RV dealership you could partner with, referring guests there when they have RV needs?
- Do you know of a local outdoor retail shop? Even national outdoor stores may be interested in learning more. Incentivize campers with discounts at the store or campground.
- Could you reach out to state and local parks to recommend your campground when they reach capacity and visa versa?
Here’s where you can get creative and think of unique businesses in your area to connect with.
Along the same lines of partnerships, sponsorships can connect your campground to other businesses, campers, and potential leads. Some sponsorships are really affordable, and sponsoring an event puts you in front of a whole new group of people–even those who wouldn’t typically camp.
- Local Little League and sports clubs
- 4H sponsorships
- Cultural events and charities/non-profits.
There’s a lot of freedom for your to choose which event or group to sponsor, and the added benefit is that you decide the type of audience you’d like to align and connect with. Look for interactive sponsorships where you can meet people, create unique experiences, and coordinate something people will remember you for.
There are just so many possibilities to connect with campers everywhere through social media. From posting videos and photos to creating weekly series, hosting social account take-overs, and posting camping hacks, this is an inexhaustible resource. To get started, we suggest growing your followers.
- Incorporate your handles and socia. links to any media or print for your campground.
- Interact with other campgrounds online and follow camper-themed profiles.
- Incentivize your campground guests to follow your social platforms for giveaways and discounts.
Remember to keep it fun. Social outreach can become dicey if your platform turns negative for any reason.
Marketing is just one of the many benefits you receive when you join a campground association. You become a valued member and can connect with campgrounds across the country, effectively including you in a community that can help put your campground on the map.
Campground associations form partnerships with outside organizations, and this becomes another way you can reach new customers. Join an association that meets annually, and use this as an opportunity to network and brainstorm with other camping-related organizations and campground owners.
Branded Apparel & Gear
The purpose of branded hats, t-shirts, and koozies isn’t just to generate extra revenue. And it isn’t necessarily to create the walking billboard effect, either.
When you sell branded gear, it invites some easily earned brand loyalty from visitors. With a simple shirt, you increase the likelihood of visitors talking about your campground, referencing the trip, and associating your campground with a memorable experience. And when it comes to marketing, that authentic connection is about as good as it gets.
The only issue? Marketing tactics like this aren’t easily measurable. So don’t break the bank on merch, but it’s a good, simple strategy to gain traction.
When you start to think of marketing as a fun way to connect with potential guests, you open yourself to a world of creative outlets. You have an opportunity to promote your campground on any media platform you use.
- Podcasts – Create your own or network to be included in one. Or consider sponsoring an episode, which can expose you to a different audience.
- Blogs – Build out a blog on your campground’s website, which can boost your SEO and help you promote specific events.
- Youtube Channel – Explore different media options. Between Youtube and Tiktok, you can build a solid level of content with how-to videos and park tours.
As you create content in alternative media spaces to market your campground, try to learn ways to track the success you may see from those marketing strategies. Talk to visitors and don’t shy away from asking how they learned about your campground.
Advertising is still a surefire method to market your park to new visitors. And though your presence online might priority, traditional methods still prove to be effective.
- Online ads
- Flyers, brochures, and pamphlets
- Direct mail
- Online directories
Encourage your guests to leave reviews, and make sure they know where your campground is listed. Word of mouth, perhaps, this the most important attribute to building your audience, and reviews are the currency campers use. Make reviewing your campground easy with QR codes posted in public places around your location.
Don’t shy away from reading reviews, either. Inevitably, some guests will have a bad experience at your campground. Reviews help you identify any issues you can control. Don’t sweat what you can’t control.
Host incentivized, promotional events
What’s a more direct way to engage people in your community than inviting them to a campground open house?
There’s no need to reinvent every wheel when marketing your campground. Physical events like open houses, holiday parties, and fundraisers are especially helpful if you as an owner build relationships better in person.
- Incentivize attendance with prizes, raffles, discounts, and games.
- Collect emails for your newsletter and other promotionals.
- Distribute flyers and other promotional literature that include coupons for campsites.
You likely receive newsletters that you actually read. You also likely receive newsletters you delete, unopened. Think about why, and tailor your campgrounds newsletter to entertain and inform your subscribers.
Newsletters are a great way for businesses to connect with their customers and for you to market your campground. For campgrounds, newsletters are an authentic way to connect with previous guests and potential new guests. Make sure you promote your newsletter on your website. Even if web visitors haven’t been to your campground, an interesting website can lead them to subscribe, and that’s the very next step to getting them to book a stay at your campground.
Rethink your website
Speaking of engaging websites, what does yours look like? And when was the last time you made any updates? Your website is one of the easiest and most crucial ways to market your campground.
Your website is the equivalent of campers driving by, deciding if your campground is a place they’d be interested in staying. Not only should it provide the necessary information to book, including an automated reservation system, but they should get an idea of what it’s like to stay at your campground.
- Include flattering photos of your campsites and amenities
- Consider developing a “campground tour” video.
- Develop a blog where content is updated monthly if not weekly.
- List amenities and features on the front page, to answer questions quickly.
Keep in mind these ideas to market your campground are only starting points. You’ll find that visitors respond to marketing that’s authentic to your campground’s personality, and it may take some trial and error to dial in which strategy works for you. But if you continue to offer a great location where guests are treated well, the messaging will connect.