March 9

The Way of Water with Dylan Marma of TRG Resorts on the Park Pod

Welcome to the March 2023 version of the Park Park Pod. So glad to have you on board. We're also glad to have Dylan Marma of Requity and TRG Resorts on board the Hats Off portion. Even though he didn't have a hat, we still allowed him to take part, so we were very nice. He has several parks throughout the Southeast. Their team there, and they really look for places that are close to water, waterfront, water adjacent.

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That really flows right into one of our news items we talk about in our news section. So check that out as well. We have some SEO tips in our marketing tips section. We had our monthly webinar just a couple of weeks ago where we really dived into that a little deeper. So you can always check that out on our YouTube. But for today, we just have a few tips that you can run with on your SEO as well. So thanks for tuning in onto the next thing.

March 2023 News

It's the news, and we're looking at Woodall's Campground magazine March edition. Water features are more popular than ever as park owners look for unique revenue streams. Get it? Streams and then water. Great play on words. I don't know if they're trying to do that, but I just did it. There are several items that they highlight by different providers. Definitely check that out. There's another page, too. We got slides, we got play areas. We got no-slip stuff. We got those things where you can jump on the back and fly around in the lake probably. Definitely look at that as we're moving into the warm season, and obviously it's the high season for many parks as people start going on vacation.

What else is in the news trending along RV lifestyle? There's a website that they have a podcast as well, and they've been doing this for quite some time, but I thought this was an interesting subject to take a look at. What's the difference between an RV resort and a campground? There's RV parks and boondocking lamping, a whole lot of different variations of what we all do out here. I think we have a general idea of what these differences ar: RV park, campground, resorts, like the nice one, right, has a lot of stuff, but it doesn't mean just because your name is that, you don't have a lot of the same type of features. This is a pretty good in depth article about understanding the different types of parks and resorts and campgrounds and all that, what that looks like, and the different business models are out there. Check that out as well. And that's the news.

Hats Off to TRG Resorts/Requity

Mark Rowan: Hello, everybody. It is another episode of the Park Pod and we are excited to have Dylan with us today from Requity. Did I just say that right?

Dylan Marma: Nailed it.

Mark Rowan: Awesome. Thanks for coming on. Dylan, introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you guys are up to.

Dylan Marma: Yeah, thanks Mark, for having me on the show. Excited to be here. So I'll give you a little bit of brief background. I've been a full time real estate investor for probably coming up to six years now. When I got started a young age, I went to work for real estate investing education company and sort of sunk my teeth into learning everything I possibly could. Getting into single family rental homes, eventually kind of scaling my way into multifamily apartments. And there seems to be a trend in the last few years of when I saw a lot of really big money competition coming into the space and things getting increasingly competitive. I found my way into mobile home communities. And then sure enough, in a similar way as more and more sort of private equity and bigger capital that maybe demanded a lower return came into the space. We actually had a mobile home community that had part of it was an RV campground. And eventually we landed into our first seasonal campground and especially the last 18 months really shifted a lot of our business to the campground world, as it seems to be one of the few spaces where there's not as much competition of big corporations and private equity.

It's a great place for sort of the smaller size investor to be able to make a nice return and make a nice impact and it's a business that we've really grown to love along the way. So today I worked on over 100 million in total real estate. We have about over 1200 sites of campground sites in addition to the rest of our portfolio, ten campgrounds and actively looking to continue to grow here, mostly in the Southeast. And, yeah, that's kind of my story in a nutshell.

Mark Rowan: Sounds a little bit similar to some of the other folks we've been able to meet and talk with. So very cool how you've gotten your journey into the RV park space. So you said the Southeast. Where are you guys headquartered out of? And also what are some of the locations of the parks that you guys are running?

Dylan Marma: We're out of Tampa, Florida. We don't own any RV parks in this area, but we have one half mobile home, half RV park in northern Florida near Ocala. The majority of our portfolio is along the coast of North Carolina. We have five campgrounds that are on the coast. Most of them are actually on the Intercoastal, so they have boat ramps and you can kind of be able to boat right into the ocean, which is great, and ton of demand for that kind of thing. We have two outside of the Charlotte MSA in North Carolina as well, and we have two in the Smoky Mountains area. Big outdoor destination. And then we have one right outside of Cincinnati near a big kind of attraction place right outside of the city there. So that's where we're geographically located.

Mark Rowan: Seems like most of your geographic locations have some kind of connection to where I live or where I used to live or something. Yeah, where I went to vacation just recently. We're just down the road from some of those that you talked about. We're up in Virginia Beach. You already kind of tapped into how you got into the industry, which is cool. Specifically, can you expound a little bit more in how the RV park and resort thing became a part of your world?

Dylan Marma: Yeah, definitely. Well, I think from the outside looking in, it can be sort of a daunting business to invest in. I think the demand is clear, right. There's no doubt that camping has totally picked up. And the the growth rate, I think it's or over 6% compounded annual growth rate over the lot from like, 2012 to today. And it doubled in during COVID and really accelerated things. And it it's also clear that, you know, campers have higher expectations than they did previously. It used to be more of kind of the private campgrounds that almost blended closer to what the state campgrounds had to offer. And now, similarly, how people, especially the younger generation, is not really looking to go just traditional backpack tent camping anymore. They want to go glamping. It's similar on the RV side, where now you're seeing just a bigger you're seeing an elevated level of demand for more amenities, for nicer sites, for more just upgraded bath houses, upgraded laundry rooms, and all the kind of the core things that people seek.

So I think that's pretty clear, but I think it's daunting in the sense that there's so much to it, right? It's it's not just like buying a rental home where you have a twelve month lease and you kind of know what's going to happen and things get really crazy. The HVAC breaks one year and now you have moving in and out traffic, you have all the marketing which is obviously the stuff you guys specialize in and assist owners with. But you have to really figure out the marketing piece, the hospitality piece. How are you creating a world class guest experience, how are you minimizing all of the things that could go wrong? And how do you even start to think about underwriting which is pretty much like modeling what the income and the expenses are going to be on that kind of a deal. So that's at least the feedback that I had when I was looking at it before I became really familiar with it and I still the feedback I get today from a lot of other entrepreneurial type people that I connect with. So for us, what made us most comfortable was starting off with more of a seasonal campground because it was a little bit easier to understand. We could say, well, we can kind of really predict, we see this place has been fully occupied for so many years, we can kind of really predict kind of what the revenue is going to be next year because it's been really consistent.

There's not as much going on in the marketing side of things. There's not as much going on with the staffing side of things. So we started off there and we kind of inched our way in through that because it was similar enough to what we knew and we were able to start to kind of learn about holding good events for campers and what people like and had demand for. We started to kind of lightly experiment with doing some short term sites as site would open up and then we kind of venture our way into it and eventually now today over time we've got to the point where we're very comfortable with more of the short term heavy call. It more of a transient place, it's more of like a hospitality place but it kind of took us a little bit of time to get familiarized with the industry and learn all the ins and outs. I think starting off with a nice more steady seasonal place was a great way for us to kind of make our way into the space.

Mark Rowan: You were alluding to that you started out short term. Are you guys basically building a certain type of park? Of course there's 55 plus, there's family oriented ... Where do you guys sit right now and is that your long term or how do you see that?

Dylan Marma: It's been a work in progress as far as our criteria goes. So I think it's something we've sort of iterated on and we're constantly trying to think about what's the sweet spot for us. What we know that we love right now is we know we love being on the water. We know we love being on the ocean or major lakes and we like those because people want a lake house and people want an ocean house but they don't want to pay the crazy insurance costs that are spiking up every year. So the fact that they can purchase, they can pay upfront for the year at a time in many cases and say I'm going to have my RV park there, I'm going to be able to go every weekend, I'm going to be able to keep my boat there and go out in the water. And that sort of thing to us is great because we like the predictability of more of the annual site agreements for the guests that want to be there, have a portion of those be available for people that want to have a similar experience, but do it on more of like a short term level.

In addition to that for ones that are not on the water. We know we love being in good cities or I think a lot of the industry says be within two hour drive radius. We like to be even closer than that. We like to be really like within an hour drive just because we worry that as more campgrounds get built over time, 2 hours might be too far and your competition might be closer over time. So we like to really be in good cities and be within reasonable driving distance. And as far as the size of the campground goes, we've done quite a few that are around 100 total sites, but we are inching our way up to be more focused on now. The largest we've done is over 400, but we're really focusing on 200 plus site campgrounds now just because to staff it well and be able to give the quality of experience that we'd like to give, it's a little bit easier on the 200 plus site campgrounds. Whereas the 100, you have a smaller team, which means that you are very reliant on that team in that sense. So if someone goes out sick or if someone just can't make it to work or they quit on you, then you're at a spot where you have to have someone else kind of fly in or jump in to be able to fill in the gap there for the day. So that's what we found is that on the larger ones you generally have a little bit bigger of a team. So if someone's out, you can kind of have someone else fill in until you can find the right fit for the next seat. So that's things that you learn over time from the operations side. 

But that's been our big thing and we're more in that kind of like middle of the road campground right now where we're not necessarily like building the upper class. We're all acquisitions to date. We haven't built anything from scratch. And it's generally been going in to buy campgrounds that were built maybe 30 to 50 years ago and giving them sort of a fresh update with maybe paving the roads, maybe upgrading a few sites to concrete renovating the bathhouse. Adding a bathhouse if there's not one, adding a laundry room if there's not one, adding dog parks, adding light amenities and stuff for the kids and the families to do. So it's kind of like your middle class, just standard American campground that's probably right down the farewell pricing for the most part. That's generally where we've been. Maybe some of our waterfront stuff can be a little bit pricier, but you're always going to pay more when you want to go in the water.

And we have been thinking more about development and working with a few experienced development partners and looking at land to maybe build something that's a little bit higher end. But we haven't done anything yet, so that's something that maybe is there down the road.

Mark Rowan: Last 18 months, two years, you've really gotten into the space. What is it that you really enjoy the most in the RV Park world?

Dylan Marma: I usually say this is the most difficult business out of the businesses that I've been involved with, but also the most fun at the same time. And usually people scratch their head when I say that, but I think that you can probably relate as someone that's active in the industry. It's very fun and rewarding in the sense that it's fast paced and there's always Google reviews coming through, good or bad. Right. And there's always constant feedback. And especially when you have we oftentimes are booking hundreds of different reservations every week. So when you have so many people booking so many people coming in and experiencing what you have to offer, there's just a lot of moving pieces. So I like to think of myself as kind of like the systems engineer of thinking about how do we build the process to be able to create the best experience to make sure the guests are getting called before they come in for their stay. And we're meeting all their needs when they're at their stay and then they're getting courtesy calls after their stay and we're getting real time feedback along the way to be able to constantly kind of take in their feedback and improve in a way that's going to be most meaningful, to build loyalty and create some long term guests along the way.

And it's also weekends and it's also holidays, right. Those usually the off time for other people. So that's why I guess I say it's difficult but fun at the same time. It's super rewarding because we have events going on nearly every weekend, especially during the main season. So you're constantly seeing how do the events go kind of all the positive feedback flowing through afterwards. And it's a fun business in that sense. And I think you're able to really create a lot of this isn't just a place that someone lives in where generally it's most campgrounds. This is where they're going and making time to have fun and to connect with their family and build community and stuff like that. So you have them go in there with a different intention, which means you're able to make sort of a great impact along the way.

Mark Rowan: On the flip side of things, what's that challenge that you've been running into that's been the biggest that you've tried to overcome?

Dylan Marma: Well, I think the biggest is you have to realize that there's just a level of unpredictability. This is not the most predictable revenue stream. And you can have weather events that mess up what could usually be a busy weekend for you. Or you can have the seasonality, just the ebbs and flows of knowing that you're going to make most of your income during the summer months and then you're going to be probably coming out of pocket to pay your mortgage during the winter months in certain campgrounds, especially if you have more of a short term component. 

So it's just kind of like having that having less predictability, I think is probably one of the harder pieces for someone to psychologically adjust to with this sort of a business and then pass that it's very people intensive in terms of lots of guests and big team to be able to manage the guest experience accordingly. So it's being able to make sure that the team has the proper training and the proper feedback. We have a great team of regionals that manage our onsite managers, but it's always about getting the right butts in the right seats and that's always the hardest part.

And a lot of most businesses, I would say, is kind of getting the team right. And past that you definitely have the marketing aspect. It's competitive and just a lot of stuff you got to think about.

Mark Rowan: You mentioned already about you guys have locations near lakes and the ocean and outside the city. What are some other attractions near and around your parks that people can enjoy?

Dylan Marma: Yes, so recently we have purchased one that is outside you're probably familiar in Ashbrook there's a North Carolina Zoo and this is one of the closest campgrounds to the North Carolina Zoo. It's zoo land, family campground and it's an awesome place with a great reputation. They do this awesome haunted house every year in October, which gets a ton of attraction. So that's an attraction on the campground itself. And then we have a bunch of inflatable slides, pools, jumping, pillow, things like that that will give people something to do while they're there at the campground itself. But it's also less than 30 minutes away from the zoo and most people are going there to be able to kind of pair the trip with an experience at the zoo.

We have one that is outside of Cincinnati that is nearby the Ark Encounter, which is a giant replica of Noah's Ark and has an incredible amount of visitors on a routine basis all days of the week, not even just weekends. And we've seen just great amounts of traffic coming out there for the Ark Encounter.

In the Smoky Mountains, we have Smokey Mountains, Gatlinburg, Dollywood ... You have a ton of attractions. I think it's the largest, the most visited outdoor attraction in the country each year. I think it's got I don't want to misquote, but millions of visitors each year. So it's been great with that, though it is competitive there. Right. You have a lot of campgrounds and hotels in that area. And then, of course, like you said, the waterfront. So those would be some of the tractions that we have currently.

Mark Rowan: You're a little bit of a newbie in the space, but you've already got a lot of experience. For someone that's just getting started, what would be one piece of expert advice you'd lay on them?

Dylan Marma: Yeah, my biggest recommendation, because everyone starts from different levels of how they're going to get started. Right. In my case, the reason we have done so much so quickly is largely because we had existing real estate experience. We had investors that had built trusts in our team, and we had a lot of our systems down for a lot of the basic stuff. So we were able to grow a little bit quicker as a result of that. So I wouldn't really compare what we've done because it really has to look at what's your experience running a business or with real estate investing or running it's kind of a hybrid. It's like a little bit of a real estate play, but a little bit of a business play at the same time.

So you have to kind of look at your current experience and think about what's most palatable for you to begin with. And I think that probably the biggest mistake that I see people make early on is not thinking about budgeting for the payroll and just thinking about doing everything themselves. And I think if you're getting into this business to have the rest and relax, ROI, if you haven't budgeted properly to hire the right team, you're not going to have much resting and relaxing.

You're going to be doing a lot more wearing all the hats yourself and building yourself really a full time, non stop job. Right. That could be seven days a week. So I would recommend think there's a good book called The Emyth that I read many years ago that talks about kind of the entrepreneur versus the manager and the technician. And the technician is the one doing the job themselves, and they build themselves into a job, whereas the entrepreneur is the one sort of being able to grow the business and manage it from a higher level. So I would just first make sure you're comfortable. You're going and looking at it as more of at least the manager, but hopefully over time the entrepreneur. And then aside from that, just making sure you're comfortable with the numbers. My team likes to laugh at me because I'm constantly hammering on the numbers, and it's just extremely important that you understand the numbers and you know what those are going in. Because I know it's exciting and I know for a lot of people that are looking to enter into the industry, they're doing it because they are in many cases passionate about the industry and they see the fun experiences that you're able to create.

But you want to make sure to keep it fun and to not be creating a burden or too much just for yourself. You have to make sure on the front end you're really diligent with the numbers and you have a way to kind of represent, to almost have maybe get someone with experience a second set of eyes to kind of give you some validation that things look good now.

Mark Rowan: It's kind of the difference between do you want a job or do you want to own a business? I think there's a thing there where you can't always start out in the same place, but sometimes people are just giving themselves more work. thanks for dropping some knowledge on us right there. We are the marketing people. We like to also get some advice, some tips from you, things that have worked well within your parks. So what's that look like?

Dylan Marma: You could probably teach me more than I could teach you on this topic, but if I were to share what we've done up to this point, definitely. Google Ads and Facebook Ads are essential. We probably put 90% of it into Google, maybe 10% into Facebook. We have a call center that has been extremely helpful for us, especially as we've grown, where we are currently available 18 hours a day right now. And so having that the conversion be there because a lot of people still about half of your bookings might go through your online software. Have to have an online software, right? And half will go through your online software, and then half will still call in.

So you want to make sure you have a team. We track every single week we're reporting on what percentage of the calls were answered, and we want to usually be somewhere around that 95% mark, around how many calls get answered to improve our conversion rates. So I always make it a priority. Everyone's got to pick up the phone. If you don't pick up the phone, it gets routed to the call center, and it's make sure they pick up the phone pass that we are currently getting more into our regular email campaigns.

We haven't done all that much of that yet, but I think it's really important because you're going to get a big network that you have a way to send out newsletters and updates and promos. And then we also have a we have social media. Facebook is probably by far the number one social media to engage on, but we find that we build a good following of our campers on social media. We make it a priority to have all of our managers post bare minimum two times a week on social media, on Facebook with pictures of either improvement projects or events and things going on around the campground. And we have a Slack channel where we can see all the posts going on each week. And it's just exciting to be able to engage on that and see what's going on.

Mark Rowan: You've hit on some pretty good things that I think a lot of people are not doing. So it's exciting to see that you guys are involved with that. We're going to promote something for ourselves for once. You said answering the phones. FYI people, that is a feature that our software has. It's called missed call, text back. So if you're in one of those places that if you can't answer the phone, it means lost business. We have a feature in our software that literally does that. If someone calls and you can't get to it, you can immediately get a text message and still continue that conversation and not miss the opportunity, hopefully. So that's just a little promo for ourselves.

Dylan Marma: I love that. That's great. That's what it's all about, right? You have to work with guys like you that understand the tech side of things and to be competitive in today's world, I think it's crucial.

Mark Rowan: Yes, definitely. We're wrapping our time up, but we definitely want to get a little bit of your own personal camping or RV experience, maybe growing up. So what's a fun story that you could share with us today about that.

Dylan Marma: Yeah, so on the camping side, I grew up upstate New York and we had near the Hudson River Valley and we just had a ton of these great little campgrounds that we could hang out on and go to the different rivers, waterfalls and things like that. So I just had a lot of good experiences throughout high school, going with my dad and my friends, things like that, and really always enjoyed that. And then now today, I don't own an RV myself yet. It's definitely on the radar, but I've been able to rent one several times just here in Florida has been just an awesome experience and really to me it's a lot of fun and definitely beats just getting out and going to a traditional hotel resort.

Mark Rowan: If people want to learn more about what you guys are up to they can go where?

Dylan Marma: You can visit if you're interested in more of kind of our investor facing brand and then you also can visit, which we are currently adding to right now. But we do have links to at least all of our individual campground websites. We may be making kind of a master website soon. But, yeah, you can visit if you get familiar with any of our current campgrounds. And we'd love to have you as a guest.

Mark Rowan: Yes, you will be able to check that out in the description of the video as well. Well, Dylan, it's been really great to have you join us with The Park Pod. We didn't get a chance to get a hat. I don't know if you have a hat, but we like to wear it on the Hats Off episodes but we got by without it somehow.

Dylan Marma: I need to get one, but yeah, definitely.

Mark Rowan: If you ever get one, send us one and we will represent the brand no problem. For everyone else, thanks for tuning in today and until next time, happy trails!

R & R ROI Marketing Tips

All right, folks, we're talking about SEO and common mistakes that are made. This is from our latest webinar, which you can find on our YouTube channel. Just look up, Rest & Relax ROI, and you can find this. Check it out. Keyword stuffing. That is overusing keywords in your content. So you're trying to rank better on search engines. And you heard about using keywords the old times. In the old days, you could just put as many words as possible. It even would hide them so that you couldn't see them. And just over and over again, all these words, that does not work anymore. Don't try any version of that or any variation of that.

Another thing that you want to avoid is ignoring user experience. That can lead to high bounce rates. So people leaving quickly from your site, low engagement, and decreased conversion rates, those are bad, poor quality content. Just do content for the sake of content. That can lead to low engagement and reduced trust in your brand or your park, your resort, your campground. Earlier we learned there's different types of things, right?

Also, not considering local SEO, we've harped on this. Maybe not even harping, but we definitely recommend making sure this is in place and done well. You're forgetting to optimize Google Business. That's a common mistake. And then finally, inconsistent business information. So you could have the address is not right across all the different listings out there. Maybe your phone number is wrong. Different things that may have changed over time that didn't get updated, that can lead to confusion and impact your ranking. So you're confusing your guest and then Google is not quite sure what's the right information. Make sure that is taken care of as well. Check out the full webinar on our YouTube channel and that was the marketing tip for March 2023.

Thanks for tuning into The Park Pod. Don't forget subscribe to us on your favorite podcast platform. We really need your attention and validation. Seriously, we can't go on without it. For additional episodes and more, visit Join us next time. Until then, happy trails!

About the author 

Mark Rowan

Mark grew up on a campground in West Virginia. Since that time he's been guiding companies across the United States to a better online experience.

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