RV Park Mastery: Episode 76

Don’t Trust Others With Your Direct Mail Future

One of the best ways to find a good RV park to buy is through direct mail. But this simple structure can fall apart when you introduce outsiders into your plans. In this RV Park Mastery podcast we’re going to explain how outside groups can often botch your direct mail attack plans, and give you some better concepts to run a successful direct mail campaign.

Episode 76: Don’t Trust Others With Your Direct Mail Future Transcript

Of all the ways to find a good RV Park to purchase, one of the best is through a direct mail campaign. The three top ways to find them are brokers, direct mail, and cold calling. And since finding an RV Park is so dependent, if you're gonna use direct mail and doing it properly, it's very, very important you don't trust others with your future. This is Frank Rolfe, the RV Park Mastery Podcast. We're gonna talk about how to do a correct direct mail campaign to find an RV Park to purchase and why it just doesn't work out well, typically, when you delegate that. So let's first start off with the list of who you're going to contact. Now, if you wanna buy an RV Park in a certain part of the America, the first thing you wanna do is compile a list of all those RV Parks in that region or that section of the country. And how do you do that? Well, you can get that off of a Google search. You can get a pretty tight analysis of RV parks from that search, and what it'll do is it'll give you the RV Park name and the RV Park address. So do you then send your direct mail directly to that park and the address? And the answer is no. That's the wrong way to do it. What's gonna happen then is you're gonna send a direct mail piece to a bunch of managers of those RV Parks, whoever gets the mail.

And what does it mean when they get something saying, "Hey, do you wanna sell your RV Park?" Well, that means, "Hey, do you wanna get fired?" So they're gonna throw that in the trash. The only way that it will not occur is if there is a owner operator, who's there, who actually gets the mail, which even in RV parks where the owner runs it, they don't often get the mail. So it might be well intercepted and trashed. So you have to go through the work of taking the name of that RV Park and its address and going through the tax assessor's database of that county to get the actual name and address, mailing address, of the owner of the property. There really is no substitute for that. If you're not willing to take that little bit of effort to go to the tax assessor's database or call the tax assessor's office, if it's not online, then you're just wasting your time. So it's probably not worthwhile even doing the direct mail in the absence of that step. Once you've compiled that list and those owners' names and addresses, then comes the question, "What do I send them?" Well, there's two different kinds of things you can send someone with a direct mail. You can send them a letter, or you can send them a postcard.

In general, historically postcards have been more successful. Why are postcards more successful? Because many people don't open the envelope that contains the letter, if they smell it as being something that was mass mailed out so therein lies the problem. So the good old letter that's sent, maybe with a label you print off, oftentimes that is so ineffective it may not even be worth the effort. The postcard on the other hand, even though everyone knows that's a direct mail piece, they can't help but read it because it says RV Park on it, typically has a photo of an RV Park on it, so they're gonna look at it. So at least you got your foot in the door. Now, an alternative, another way to get your foot in the door that's not a postcard that comes in an envelope, is an actual personally written letter to the owner of the RV Park. You'll hear lots of stories in the industry of people who found the RV Park to buy, because the owner read their personalized letter and gave them a call. So that is another very worthwhile opportunity. But obviously, it takes a lot of time and effort to write a personalized letter. So you might wanna hold that in reserve just for the RV Parks that you are the most interested in.

So now that we have the list and now we know that we're gonna use either the postcard or the handwritten letter, how do we put that in motion? Well, this is where it gets bad for many people, because they will then offload that. They'll entrust that to some kind of direct mail company to send it out. And the problem is, do they? That's the $64 million question. We have found, historically, back when we've tested that, something strange happens because typically with direct mail, you have a 1% response rate, 1% of those who will receive it will call you saying, "Hey, I'm interested in selling my RV Park," maybe. But for some reason, when we use the direct mail providers, we don't hit anywhere near that number. In fact, we often don't get any calls at all. We do it and we get 1% or better, and they do it and we get zero. If you want to offload and allow someone to do that for you and take that gamble, I would suggest you stick into the mix a fake name and number, which is basically you, to see if they really mail it. If they say, "Yep, it went out," and you don't get it, then nobody got it. Now, how hard is it to do it yourself then, if you don't send it out? Well, it's not that hard.

If you get the postcards printed. I'm not advocating you handwrite every postcard, but if you get the postcards printed, it's really not that time-consuming to write or print yourself and put the labels on the postcards. You can probably knock out a stack of 500 of those in one evening of watching a movie on Netflix or maybe watching a football game. It's very, very quick work, and then you know that it actually went out and that you didn't waste your time or your money or your effort because those postcards actually did go, and those are going to hit. On the letter side again, I find it's not hard. It's almost soothing like people who knit to write letters and do things on direct mail while you and the family are watching television. Why not? You can multitask that. It's not complicated, it's not hard to do. You can look up from what you're doing periodically, look at the movie or the TV show, but I find those to be a very reasonable add-on to get it done. Now, when you send out your direct-mail piece, remember the direct mail is a very imperfect science. Typically it's a 1% expense rate, what... Or success rate. What else in America can you fail 99% of the time and yet get patted on the back, good job. And the answer is, "I don't know what that would be." So if you send out a direct mail piece and it doesn't get anything, then you know that's a total failure.

But if you get even the smallest amount of response, just 1%, then that was successful and worth your effort. Now, let's just monetize that for a moment. If I send out 500 postcards or 500 letters or a mixture of letters and postcards, then 1% would mean I would get five people who would call me. Out of those five that call me and I work up a price and we negotiate, I could well end up with one to buy. So that's perfectly reasonable in our industry. Now, it wouldn't work well if you're trying to sell cars, probably. You'd have to send out a million of them for 1% to actually make it work. But the good news is RV Parks are pretty big, pretty valuable, and you don't have to do that many to be successful, to feel good about it. So the 1% success ratio in direct mail in RV Parks is fairly reasonable. Now, also don't forget that it doesn't hurt to mix your direct mail, maybe you do a postcard one time and then you do a letter, maybe do a letter, and then a postcard. Also vary those postcards because again, when you have only a 1% success ratio, then only the most minor thing on that postcard might trigger that extra person to call you. It might be the photo of the RV Park you use. It could even be something as minor as the color of the ink on the postcard, something that catch the attention of one additional person that didn't look at it before.

And don't be afraid to take gambles because again, it's such a low success threshold that it may be that just putting a photo of you and the family on a tablecloth, eating a picnic might get someone to call you and say, "Hmm, I like that family. I like good old family values. I think I will call them." So don't be worried about experimenting. At 99% fail. It's very unlikely you're going to ever have something that's a true failure, if you follow up on it yourself. The key item on direct mail we found over the years is where it always goes bad, where we don't get sufficient response to get anywhere is when we delegate it to another person. I'm not saying that the average American doesn't wanna work anymore, but it kind of appears that way. For some reason when we've asked others to do direct mail for us, it never has had a very successful ending.

Maybe it's just the people that we selected. Maybe I'm completely wrong. Maybe you might say, "Well, yeah, that's because you use those vendors and those ones are no good, but here's my brother, Larry, and he does a good job." And that may well be true. All I'm saying is you definitely want to take your future, something so very important to you, and keep it completely under your control. At a minimum, if you do use an outside service to do the direct mail, then I would definitely wanna stick into that list, something that would go back to me. And as far as the list itself, there's no substitute for building that yourself. Many people will say, "Oh, I've got a list of RV Parks nationwide. How is that list derived? And what is that list? And who are the people on that list? You may well find that those aren't all RV Parks and most importantly, they have not truly identified the name and address of the actual owner. Again, you gotta go back to the basics, because it's such an important feature of your search to find the RV Park, you cannot leave any room for error. This is Frank Rolfe, the RV Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.