Campground Names Are Important
You already know that, which is why you are reading this article. The name of your campground is not only how people will find you, but it is often the first impression they have of your park. Evoking a particular image in the minds of your potential guests is a very powerful marketing tool, but you must live up to those expectations. Likewise, choosing a name that is easy to remember can help drive loyalty or word of mouth. You have no reason to make it more difficult for your guests to find or remember you, so keep that in mind as you consider your name.
Imagine you are looking for a place to stay for the weekend. A quick search presents you with two options, both located in the city of Timber Ridge. Both of these campgrounds are located the same distance from the highway, the amenities appear to be identical, and the price happens to be the same as well. The first park is called Timber Ridge Campground and the second is called Timber Ridge Resort. If there is no other information online, that will help you decide between the two, which one would you stay with?
Don’t for a second think that I am advocating everyone call themselves a resort, though. In fact, in the scenario above, Timber Ridge Campground is likely the more successful business long-term. Why? They have chosen wisely to manage the expectations of their campers. A successful business is not all about getting people into the door and then forgetting about them the next day. In a society dominated by large companies, where the only thing that matters is the next quarterly profit, a long-term strategy for growth is hard to find. Forgetting this will set you up for failure from the start.
Managing Camper Expectations
Let’s continue with our two example campgrounds we introduced above. Assuming both parks are identical in every single way, in most cases, Timber Ridge Campground will be more successful long-term. For the last 50 years or so, before the popularity of social media and online reviews, that strategy didn’t mean much, though. Like the example of big business and quarterly profits above, a campground could name themselves anything they wanted and chase the short-term profit that the word resort would bring. That’s all changed now. In a world of online reviews, a resort needs to be a resort.
Put yourself in the shoes of your potential guests. Guest #1 stays at Timber Ridge Resort, a campground with the same amenities as Timber Ridge Campground. When they arrive, there is no real resort experience as they were likely expecting. It’s a clean campground, the staff is friendly, and the amenities are kept up, but it’s not a resort. Guest #1 is going to leave Timber Ridge Resort and potentially head straight to social media or an online review site to make sure everyone knows about his experience. They will give a good review, but it’s three stars for not being a resort as they expected.
Now let’s look at the opposite scenario. Guest #2 stays at Timber Ridge Campground, again with the same amenities as Timber Ridge Resort. When they arrive, they are pleasantly surprised to find a clean campground, welcoming staff and well-maintained facilities. It’s a nice campground, and they are happy to have found it. Guest #2 is going to leave Timber Ridge Campground and potentially head straight to social media or an online review site to make sure everyone knows about his experience. They will give a glowing five-star review, simply because expectations of a resort were not there.
Why Change Your Campground Name?
Hopefully, you have already compiled a list of positives and negatives to answer this question. Many campground owners find themselves in a unique situation that other industries do not, though. You are running a business in a world where the pressure can sometimes be overwhelming to join a large franchise system. Each of these franchise systems comes with their own unique naming requirements. After signing on the dotted line, your campground name automatically changes, often with very little input from you. This change can be both good and bad, depending on your reason for making the change.
Dismissing the automatic changes that come with joining a franchise, there are still other valid reasons to change your name. You could be a new owner who just bought a park with a bad reputation. The existing name is well known across the internet or in local circles as being the last choice when you want to stay in the area. Changing the name will solve a good part of your online reputation, provided you do it correctly. It will not, however, solve your problem with locals. You won’t be able to trick them into coming back to a park with a different name, at the same address.
In truth, there aren’t many compelling reasons to change a campground name beyond franchising or repairing a bad reputation.
Let’s look at another example that frequently comes up in the campground industry. You are brand new owners of a campground and have just closed on it last week. After carefully scouring the country to find the perfect place where you think you can succeed, you finally found a place with solid financials and more. Your new campground has a pretty good reputation, it has good online reviews, and grew about three percent last year. You just don’t like the name, though, and your first order of business is to change it. You immediately open discussions with your team.
Shooting Yourself in the Foot
You just spent months studying everything about this campground, including the financials. You have a pretty good idea of how much you will grow in your first year, and to continue growing after that. There is already a decent website, a couple of boxes of brochures, and some pretty good reviews. The first time you step into the campground office, you imagine all the possibilities. It’s time to get to work. Your first challenge? Figuring out a brand new name to confuse everyone who already likes you.
Allow that to sink in for a second. Regardless of what you think about the current name of your new park, all of your inherited customers know it well. It has been listed on hundreds of different websites. In fact, it’s actually on your website which was part of the purchase price you just paid. The name is printed on all your brochures and stuffed into racks at travel stops for hundreds of miles. A huge billboard sits a few miles down the highway with the name on it as well, along with social media platforms and online review sites.
Without considering those consequences, you insist on spending thousands of dollars. Money that may be well spent, but only if you can survive the next few years. Years during which almost no one will know that the ‘old’ park exists any longer. A time where they don’t realize that your ‘new’ park has the same amenities that they have grown to love. Instead of focusing on the relationship you need to build with the loyal customers who have never met you, the attention is on something else.
Changing Your Name The Right Way
Putting all of the above aside for a moment, I don’t want you to think that changing your name should be avoided at all costs. There are countless stories of new owners succeeding after changing a name that didn’t need to be changed. Could they have succeeded the same way with the old name? Perhaps. Often what is not taken into consideration, are the many different things you must put in place to successfully implement a name change. You can’t just change it on the sign and be done with it unless you want to struggle of course.
You’ve decided a name change is needed, though, so how do you move forward? The most critical first step is having your campground website redesigned with the new name. You must also make sure that this website clearly states you were formerly known as the old name. If you change your domain name, make sure the old one redirects to the new site. Likewise, if you are changing email addresses, make sure the old ones still forward mail to your new ones. Make it easy for your guests to find you, regardless of the name they are searching.
Once your website is being designed, get started on changing the name of the campground online. Don’t wait for the website to get done; otherwise, you are losing valuable time. Get control of things like your Facebook Business Page and other social media accounts, ensuring your name is updated. Do not create new pages or new accounts and lose the connection with those people already loyal to you. Instead, change the name and set up scheduled posts that go out once every few weeks telling guests about the new name.
Finally, hire a good agency with campground experience to help you. You might not think spending the money is worthwhile, but the expertise they bring to the table is priceless. Instead of spending months struggling to learn all this, you can spend quality time with your guests. In the end, that face to face contact is what will make you even more successful, name change or not.