I have just come back from a drive across five states: Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. And I was extremely impressed at the RV park occupancy that I saw. But that’s not to say that every RV park I drove by was a winner. It’s important to remember that all real estate is tied to “location, location, location” and there are good and bad RV park locations out there. I drove by some RV parks in eastern Colorado that had maybe three out of 100 spaces occupied, and then others that were 100% full in Nebraska and Kansas. Benjamin Franklin once said “diligence is the mother of good luck” and he was 100% correct. The U.S. is huge – many times the size of Europe – but not all states and locations are created equal. Make sure that you only buy in areas that are well suited for high RV occupancy. “Destination” RV parks still have a huge advantage over “overnighter” facilities. And certain regions have much higher demand for spaces. Become an expert on your market before you buy. That’s the best way to insure that you have selected a winner.
Memo From Frank & Dave
Good Deals Don’t Come From A Magic Genie
You don’t get a great RV park deal by rubbing a bottle. You don’t get great RV park deals by asking a Genie. It’s unfortunate that it’s not that easy, but nothing worth doing in life is simple. Instead, the key to finding a great RV park to buy is a matter of working smart and hard work. That being said, I have never seen anyone who fully commits themselves to the role that does not find a good deal. But there’s more effort required than simple luck in finding that correct RV park to buy.
It’s all about volume
Once you know what you’re looking for as far as size and geography, then finding the right deal is all about volume. The more deals you look at, the better your odds of finding a winner. That’s true of anything in life, right? The more people you meet, the better odds of finding your dream mate. Where many RV park buyers get it wrong is that they fail to understand what real volume is. Real volume is looking at hundreds of RV parks for sale, not just a handful. You should be hitting every on-line listing, every broker pocket listing, and phoning and direct mailing every owner that has what you’re looking for.
And you have to be able to spot an opportunity
You never get dangerous as a buyer until you can immediately spot what is and opportunity from what is not an opportunity. This gift will allow you to plow through a huge number of RV park candidates without wasting any time. To achieve this level as a buyer, you must educate yourself on what makes RV parks successful, and what you can fix about an RV park (such as poor marketing) as opposed to what you cannot fix (such as location). Don’t just look at listings, get the packages and pour over the data. See if you can find similarities between certain types of RV parks. Soon you will be able to size up a deal in 10 seconds, and that’s an important skill.
No good RV park buyer ever has the attitude of just dabbling and not giving it their full effort. If you call a broker and they do not call back, then call again. Call 10 times a day if you need to. Persistence is a huge virtue in finding the right RV park. If you talk to many RV park owners, they will tell you that the best deal they ever found was from the seller who was the hardest to reach. That makes sense, right? If you were easy to reach, you’d have already sold.
Listen to the facts
Once you find a potential deal and start doing due diligence on it, be sure that you listen to the facts that you uncover. The worst mistake that a buyer can make is not following the clues. If the financial statements show declining occupancy, then maybe the market is not that great. If your investigation of the market points to all types of weakness, then accept that fact and move on. Some buyers become so personally involved with some deals that they are adamant to buy them no matter what. That’s a terrible strategy.
RV parks are out there to meet every goal and budget. But you have to get off the coach and make that happen. There is no simple method, and no secret shortcut.
The Story Of Winnebago
Winnebago was founded by John K. Hanson in February 1958. The firm was founded in Winnebago County, Iowa, thus the name Winnebago. The original product was a travel trailer. However, in 1966 the first motor home rolled off the Winnebago Industries assembly lines. These motor homes were sold at a price approximately half of what was being charged for competitors’ models, which led to its popularity among RV buyers. Because of its massive sales at such a low price point, the brand name has become synonymous with "motor home" and is commonly used as a generic trademark for such vehicles, whether they were produced by the company or not. Because of the reputation of providing a good value for the consumer, it is popular as a collectible among RV owners, many of which could not have afforded to buy an RV without Winnebago. Winnebago models all have the “flying W” on the side and, based on the number of collectibles we see out there, many folks love that “W”.
Don’t Get Your Customers Stolen: Fight Back
When you own an RV park, you are dependent on occupancy to create the revenue. Any customer that enters a different RV park, other than the one you own, is costing you money. And it’s shocking how many RV park owner are completely passive in losing this income.
Declare war on your competition
When you own an RV park, you are at war with your competitors. Any success they have is a failure on your part. So you need to take the attitude that you are going to garner every customer that comes down that highway. You need to be physically horrified when a customer selects a different RV park than yours. Your goal should be to get 100% of the market share.
Learn your strong points
Take an accurate inventory of what your RV park’s strong points are. Is it your location? You amenities? Your scenic beauty? Your rates? Put these thoughts into three or four bullet points. These are now your ammunition to get customers to come to your RV park over all others. And you should reinforce these points in all of your marketing efforts from this point forward.
Learn their weak spots
Now compare your RV park to your competitors. What do they lack in that you have? Make a list of at least three or four areas in which you are superior. These are now part of your marketing, as well, to be used when needed on the phone with potential customers.
Time for some fantastic marketing
Once you know what makes you best, time to really ramp up your marketing. At a minimum, every RV park you own should 1) show up on any Google search of RV parks in your area 2) have a compelling website to direct traffic to your RV park 3) have terrific signage on your frontage to draw customers in 4) have an enthusiastic manager answering every incoming call with none going to voicemail 5) provide terrific service so that every customer who leaves becomes a walking salesperson for your park and 6) guerilla marketing to draw customers in the least costly, but most effective manner (this can include everything from flyers at the highway rest areas to “bandit” signs or billboards near the exit to get to your RV park (or past your competitor’s entrance).
Don’t assume anything
Mystery shopping is an important business skill. Mystery shop not only your RV park, but your competitors’ as well. Pretend to be a customer, and call and see how their sales pitch is vs. your own. Drive into every RV park in your market on a frequent basis and see what the playing field is really like. Never assume that your manager is doing a good job without testing that theory.
Refuse to let a customer leave unhappy
There’s a scientifically proved theorem that an unhappy customer who is made happy has greater loyalty than one who was never unhappy to begin with. Never let a customer leave your RV park unhappy. If you have to, give them their money back. You don’t want any negative comments about your RV park on the internet. Even unhappy customers can become sales tools if you make them right.
Fight to get every customer in your market, and your revenues will skyrocket. Don’t accept the loss of a single customer without putting up a fight to get them in your RV park. That’s the attitude of the successful RV park owner.
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