Marketing an RV resort or campground is tricky. Customers come from all over and for many reasons. But one piece of marketing that is always important for RV parks is signage on well-traveled roads and highways.
The first step in constructing a successful signage campaign is evaluating what highways or roads are important to you – where does the traffic come from? To help you in this matter, you can normally buy a “traffic count map” from your local state right-of-way office. This map shows how many cars per day travel on the highways and major surface roads. This will give you a good idea of the volume of traffic. The next step is to find out more particulars on where your customers are coming from. The best way to achieve this step is to tape a regional map to a piece of marker-board, and either hang it on the wall or place on an easel. Every time a customer checks in, put a dot or pin on the map where they came from. You will soon start to see patterns on where your customers really come from and where to emphasize your resources.
Once you have determined where the signs should go, it’s time to construct a budget of what you can spend on signage. Signage needs to be just one part of your total marketing package, which will also include listings in Woodalls, etc., as well as flyers at rest stops and other high-traffic RV oriented businesses. Don’t bankrupt yourself – a successful marketing campaign includes consistency, and you need to be able to afford to keep this program (with modifications of course) going for years. At the same time, remember the old adage “you have to spend money to make money”, and don’t budget nearly nothing.
These are pretty much your options for signage:
* Exit information signage on the highway right-of-way. These normally blue signs are located right at the exits, and are owned by the state. They are ideal and reasonable priced, and are by far your best option. If they are available, this should be your number one options – even if it exhausts your entire signage budget. If one is not available, contact the state to see what it would take to get one built. Sometimes they have not built the exit signs yet due to lack of demand at certain exits – maybe you are the one client they need to build the sign. These signs traditionally cost $50 to $100 per month.
* Billboards. These signs are much larger than the exit information signs, but are not as well located, and are very expensive. Even in a rural market, they can cost $500 per month or more, so be sure you have a winner before you lease one. Often, to be effective, these signs would be in tandem with the exit information signs, which means they would be located miles before your exit to lead customers in. It is often hard to measure their effectiveness. If you do not have a big budget, I would hold off on this until your budget gets bigger. One option you could look at is to “share” the space with another business at that same intersection. That would halve your cost and risk. Of course, it also cuts in half your ad space and effectiveness.
* Build your own legal sign. It may be possible that you can build your own billboard for your RV Park on the highway. You will need a permit from the state and the municipality you are located in and, in some states, a license to even apply for the permit. You will then need to locate a landowner and cut a deal to pay him some form of compensation for the ground space. Even a small billboard of wooden telephone construction can be expensive, and so can the insurance an cost to produce your ad, so you might want to build something relatively small, maybe 8’ x 8’ on two or three 4” x 4” poles that just says “RV PARK, EXIT #3”. Remember that simplicity in signs is vital, and keep the words big. And don’t forget that you need a lot of contrast between the lettering and the background.
* Bandit signs. These signs are basically illegal, and I cannot endorse them. They are usually on plywood and stuck to fences, trees, even the base poles of legal billboards. The highway department will make you remove them if they find them, and might even fine you. It’s always best to do things legally.
* A tall feature that attracts attention. The easiest of these is a huge U.S. flag on a very tall pole. These can be built for $4,000 and up, and are permanent structures, except for the cost of replacing the flag periodically. They can also create a lot of noise, so be sure to place them in an area that will not cause problems. You also must light them at night, so make sure you have electrical access. There is no better way to attract traffic than something unusual along the highway that acts not only as an attention getter, but also a directional item – “we’re located under the big flag”. Another option is a big, dirigible balloon. Anything that gets attention and can be seen from far away.
A well-thought signage program can be one of the best returns on your investment. Often, good signage is the difference between a winner RV Park and a loser. So be sure to put a lot of attention to this item. You reward will be cold, hard cash.
Frank Rolfe is a mobile home park investor and owns over 100 parks with his partner Dave Reynolds. Frank also teaches about RV Park Investing through www.RVParkUniversity.com.
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