April 11

Time to Save with Joel Holland of Campers Card on the Park Pod

Hello. Hello. Welcome once again to another amazing episode of the Park Pod. It is April 2023. We were honored and privileged to host Joel Holland. He is of Campers Card, a new membership service not only benefiting the camper, but also the RV, park campground or resort, because it's free to you, but it offers some great value. You want to hear more about that, so stay tuned. In addition, we're going to talk about some industry news. As usual, you want to keep up with what's happening, right? So we're going to bring that for you. And, of course, there is the marketing tip. This month, we will be talking about website design. What does that look like as far as some effective things that you can be doing to help your website perform better? All right, thanks for tuning in, as always. And once again, welcome to the Park Pod.

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April 2023 News

Taking a look at Woodall's Campground Magazine April 2023 edition. This caught my attention. CampersDAO, Travis John is planning to use blockchain to purchase a park. So blockchain, crypto, we heard these terms a lot in recent years. It continues to grow. And while this article explains you don't need to have crypto to be involved in what he's doing, it's using this Web Three technology to kind of come at investing and opening parks in a totally different way. And as you see here, Travis John says, "Blockchain is just an evolution of technology. Web Three just adds another layer of transparency and puts things into more of a peer to peer opportunity, which is exactly what we are hoping to do, raising funds directly with people versus outside investors. It's not to say that we wouldn't do that in the future with our scaling, but ultimately, what we want is for everyone who buys a membership to have a voice."

There's some great information about what they're doing with this concept. Like I said, crypto, if you wanted to get involved, crypto is not necessarily needed and those kind of things. But yeah, that's a really interesting take on how to develop a park.

Also, we wanted to bring attention to this campground reservation system study. No surprise, they're talking about huge growth in the next ten years or so with how many people are going to be adopting that, right? And so you can go through and look at this. This is actually found on tewahanui.info. I'll put the link in the description, so you'll be able to link to that if you want to see more on this study. You can see some of the forecast information. It's based off of 2021, historical years 2016 through 2020, and the forecast last year through 2030. There's going to be some great information. The different companies that were covered in this one. I do believe it also includes countries in Europe and Asia, Latin America. So it's not just US based data, but definitely if you're interested in learning more about the direction of reservation systems and what's being forecasted. You want to take a look at this. This is an in depth analysis of the state and competitive landscape globally. They looked at several different providers in different areas of the world. Check it out if you're interested.

Hats Off to Joel Holland - Campers Card

Mark Rowan: Hey, everybody, it is great to have you. And we're excited that Joel Holland of Campers Card has joined us for this episode of The Park Pod. Thanks for coming on with us, Joel. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Joel Holland: Yeah, thanks for having me. So, man, my wife and I became RVers, now it seems like an eternity ago, but it's been about ten years ago, and we started kind of impulsively, as many do in this world. Picked up a rig, hit the open road, wanted to kind of feel the breeze in our hair and the freedom under our feet, and totally fell in love with it. Ended up RVing through all the lower 48 states realizing, hey, this is a really cool community, right? And it really is a community. And the people in it are wonderful. The businesses are wonderful. And I realized in that process, I want to build a business in RVing if I can, because it'd be really fun to combine a passion for RV with work. To me, if you can do it, that's the best way to do it. We did that. So we started by purchasing Harvest Hosts and really growing that program. But my goal from the beginning has always been to support small businesses throughout the country, and that includes campgrounds. And what I always say is our average Harvest Host member stays four nights a year at a Harvest Host location and then 30 plus at traditional campgrounds.

And I'm the same way. Most of our time is spent in campgrounds, and so we have always wanted to build a product to promote and support campgrounds. We finally got there and this year we're launching Campers Card. We've kind of been in stealth mode for the last few months recruiting campgrounds to the program. We now have almost 600 who have signed on and soon we're going to announce this to the public, which is, hey, we've got this program, it's a discount program, but it's also like a VIP perks program. So if you're an RV or you're looking for a campground, any of them in our Campers Card program, first of all, they're great campgrounds, so there is a quality element and they're going to offer some nice reason to visit, right? Maybe a discount, early check, in, late checkout, welcome amenity discount. The store just a way to make you feel special.

Mark Rowan: The Campers Card, you talked about Harvest Host and all that, and now was that something like even before you got into doing Harvest Host that you had some experience in business wise or is this something that you came up with through the process of doing the RV life?

Joel Holland: Yeah, a little bit of both. So before Campers Card and before Harvest Hosts, I built a company called Storyblocks, which was a subscription to stock video production, music, stock photos for creators. And so I learned a lot over the twelve years of building that business about online marketing, building products to actual tech products and memberships. And so my thought was, I love RV, is there a way I can take some of that expertise out of the video world and put it into RVing? Then I came across Harvest Hosts and said, oh, this could be interesting because it's a really good concept timing wise. It's funny. I owned Camperscard.com before I bought Harvest Host, and my initial concept was to launch this Campers Card loyalty program and get campgrounds on board and start promoting it. What I realized at the time was I don't have enough people to promote this yet too, so it really wouldn't be that beneficial for campgrounds. So it felt a little disingenuous. I'd bring campgrounds on, but I wouldn't be able to send that much traffic. So fast forward to today, it's great because we can send like millions of bookings and so it's meaningful now.

But yeah, basically once I got into RV and fell in love with RV, I really wanted to find a way to work within this world. And luckily it worked out. Luckily it worked out. And now this is my full time thing and I also get to RV a ton and so it's the best of both worlds.

Mark Rowan: So you're actively RVing. So what's your set up? What's the rig that you got going on?

Joel Holland: Yes, we have two and one is a 35 foot fifth wheel. It's a grand design solitude. That's the one that's fully wrapped in harvest host branding. And we take it around the country. We go to different events. It's a good post up and party kind of thing, but it's a lot to pull. And we've taken it everywhere. But what we realized was we need something smaller also for quick weekend trips for some of those. Like, we live in the mountains for some of the tighter spots. So we bought a Truck camper. So we have a Cirrus 820 Truck Camper pops right on the back of the truck. It's kind of nice. I can use my same truck for both the fifth wheel and the camper so it doesn't feel too wasteful. And yeah, then we can literally do anything. So we always toy with this idea. At some point, we'd like to buy a Drivable just to experience it. And we have a two year old daughter, and we have a son on the way. I think once they're both like toddlers, then a drivable makes sense because you can go and they can kind of be playing in the back, sitting in their bunk beds, going to the bathroom. Happy campers, right?

Mark Rowan: Yeah. Awesome. Is it an over the cab truck camper?

Joel Holland: Yeah, it's amazing.

Mark Rowan: So I have a memory of growing up, so my parents had one of those when I was a kid, and so I had four siblings. And the truck back then was like a 1973 Dodge. Things ugly as heck. I think my dad still has it, orange. And so it was a club cab, so I was the little guy, so I actually didn't get to sleep in the camper. I was behind the driver's seat in that little part with a little mat, and then all the other big kids got to hang out in the actual camper.

Joel Holland: Well, it probably gave you a little privacy, right? You could sleep without the other kids messing with you.

Mark Rowan: Yeah, although I was a much younger one, so it was probably more for their benefit than mine. So membership cards, obviously, programs have been around a long time, and you said you kind of had this in your back pocket for a while. How's yours different than maybe some of the other ones that are out there, some of the big names as far as what is it? Sam's? And those kind of things. So just chat about that.

Joel Holland: Yeah, totally. So to me, Campers Card, first of all, it's franchise agnostic, so Good Sam. You have to be kind of in the Good Sam program, which is great program, but it's not free. Right. It comes with a cost, and you got to make sure that works. Koa, you're really in the program. It's a legit franchise agreement. I look at Campers Card as the loyalty program for the other 10,000 private campgrounds who aren't in a franchise. Right. This is the way to provide a loyalty program that a doesn't cost any money and B, provides additional revenue. Right. And it's, it's really that simple. So so, you know, our pitch to the campground is pretty easy. It's, you know, we're going to send you traffic and it's not going to cost anything. No long term contracts. You don't have to put our name anywhere. It should just be a benefit to the campground and now to our members. The benefit is essentially a curated network of campgrounds that they know they can trust because there's a quality element. We're making sure the campgrounds we let in are great campgrounds and some sort of benefit that makes them feel good.

And so it's not going to be crazy. Like there are some discount programs that really offer quite a lot of a discount. I think that can be hard on the campground. So we let the campground decide. We say, you choose what you want to offer our members and then our members will decide if they think it's a good offer and they'll drop by it's very much. Just like a kind of a laissez faire free market economics. Like you guys figure it out.

Mark Rowan: You've been hanging out working in the industry for a few years now. What's the thing that you really enjoy about the RV life and the RV industry and campgrounds? That sort of thing?

Joel Holland: Everyone's super friendly and I've worked in a number of different industries. There are nice people everywhere in every industry, but everyone's nice in our being. And that's obviously a generalization, but it's pretty true. And I think it's because it's a community of travelers and when people are traveling, they typically are pretty happy. And so our members are wonderful. They're so delightful. Our small business hosts are wonderful. The campgrounds we work with, they're all wonderful. There's a lot of just shared I guess that there's a lot of shared experience. You can have other industries like finance or my old one, stock, media, lots of different walks of life. But in the RV world, everyone's tied very directly to RV and they love it one way or another. And I think that's kind of cool. So there's that shared passion. So as soon as you meet someone new in the RV world, you've got something in common and commonality links people nicely.

Mark Rowan: Sure. Now on your somewhat new venture, even though, like I said, you've been thinking about this for a long time, what's the challenge that you've seen that you had to overcome to kind of get this to be what you wanted it to be?

Joel Holland: Yeah, the challenge is recruiting campgrounds to the program because campground owners are really busy. And so it's interesting even really when the offer is so simple, it doesn't cost anything. Click a couple of buttons, our team will do all the work. You'd think that would be like a no brainer. Like let's just 10,000 campgrounds just sign up overnight, but it's not the case because they're busy. And I get that, like, campground owners are super busy. They're constantly being hounded by different groups trying to sell them stuff. And so we have an internal team who's reaching out, and a lot of times it takes a phone call, right, or a couple of phone calls to get someone on the phone and describe the program and educate. Luckily, my concern was that we would encounter people thinking, this is too good to be true. What's the catch? Luckily, that really hasn't been too much of that because we've tried to keep it so stupid simple. And that's why I'm happy we're doing this podcast. The more we can get the message out to people that are listening. And there are decision makers at campgrounds. The message is simple, like just go to camperscard.com, click the button, list your campground, tell us a little bit of information about your campground, we'll do the rest.

And I promise you will only see a benefit from it. So we're just trying to get the word out. I think getting the word out is the challenge and this is the thing that helps.

Mark Rowan: No, I get it. Same kind of thing as far as this platform is concerned. We're all about talking to the same folks that you are, and we love to hear their story. So there's no strings attached to be a guest. Right. But they're busy. They're busy as always. Some people are like, yeah, for sure, but it just never quite works out on their schedule. But if you're listening to this and you do have a little time, we'll take you.

So you touched on a little bit, maybe describe a little bit more about the Ideal RV Park partner. What's that look like? Avatar, so to speak?

Joel Holland: Yeah, the Ideal park is a park located anywhere that has some spots to fill. You can choose when that is right. So if you've got weekday spots and you're like, hey, we're not at 100% occupancy, we'll basically put you on our map, right? Put your pen on our map. Our members will start to see as a route planning and looking around, they'll see your campground and they'll see the benefit that you offer them and then we send the traffic straight to you. So whatever booking system you're already using is fine. We're not pushing a booking system. We're not asking you to change anything. Goodness, that would take a lot of work. Right? So whatever you're using is perfect. We just send the traffic your way. That could even be a phone call. Put a phone number on there. So the Ideal campground is a campground that is looking for additional traffic and has to meet certain quality thresholds. And that's a little bit more vague. But put it this way, if we do some research and see that the Google ratings are under three stars, probably not a good fit. But if you're a good campground and you know, right, if you're attracting travelers, that's who we want in the program.

Mark Rowan: You've already explained a little bit in the fact that you come from a marketing background on some level. So we always like to ask people because that's what we do, we're in the marketing space. What's a piece of advice for the RV park owner/operator besides joining your program that you would say they should definitely take part in as far as an activity in the marketing?

Joel Holland: Yeah, it's interesting. So I've actually invested in a couple of campgrounds and especially when they're new, everyone always thinks, oh, campgrounds are all full. That's not true. Especially new campgrounds. They're not. It takes a while to get the word out. So I say join every program, especially if it's free, and get on every listing. Right. Get on The Dyrt. Get on Road Trippers. Get on Good Sam's trip planner. If you can get on every list, you should be on every list. Because every RV searches different ways and our users are going to search one way, other users are going to search a different way. So you can't be in only one place. And so we're not exclusive. I would never push exclusivity because I think for a campground owner, the key is just be everywhere, everywhere you can. And some of the programs do cost money, and I'll let you make a decision on whether those make sense or not. But there's plenty of free programs and free places you can list. That's where I would start.

Mark Rowan: We've had another guest that had a very similar thing. Fill out those websites that allow you to put your listing on there. It takes a time, but not any money, so that's always good.

We always kind of give a chance for you to lay out your thoughts on the future of the RV industry. So we'd like to hear what is it you see? We know the last couple of years kind of crazy. I think it may be kind of going back to a little bit normal per se. What are you seeing for the future?

Joel Holland: Yeah, I mean, COVID clearly was a wild time across the board, ultimately drove a lot of interest in RV and I think well deserved interest. Right. People are falling back in love with Road Tripping and using RVs to go visit really special places that you really can't get to easily by airplane or even hotel. So I don't think there's ever going to be it goes back to total normal. I think interest is elevated and it's going to stay elevated, but there's going to be a little bit of normalizing. We're seeing it already with the RVIA numbers this year, they're 50% off on shipments compared to last year. I think too many people are going to read that number and say the end is nigh. Right? That's not true. I think last year. They just built up a ton of units to get through some backlogs. There was huge order backlogs. So I wouldn't look at shipment numbers as an indicator. What we're seeing this year, actually we're going to a ton of trade shows. So all the RV shows we've been to, they are all popping. And in fact, we're seeing in our data, bookings are up year over year.

They're higher than they were last year at this time, KOA is seeing the same thing, bookings are up. So I think that it's going to be another really good year for RV. And so I think there's going to be a lot of noise. There'll be a lot of people saying like, it's all falling apart. Look at the shipment numbers. We're not seeing that. We're seeing that. Interest is great and I think some things are moving in our favor. Gas prices are like 25% less than they were last year at this time, like going into April. And the gas are getting crazy. That's important. There's less economic uncertainty now. The whole bank crisis was interesting curveball, but last year this time we were like, oh my gosh, are we going into a recession? What's going to happen? People don't deal well with uncertainty. And I think right now it feels a little less uncertain. Right. And so I think people are going to kind of get back on the road and just act normally, which is great.

Mark Rowan: Yeah. Anecdotally I think you could say everybody that bought their RVs the last two years or whatever, that would be one reason it would slow down because so many people now have them. And I'm sure there's some cyclical numbers as far as people getting new ones, but now you got all these people with RVs and they need to go use them.

Joel Holland: Yeah, that's right. Totally.

Mark Rowan: We're about to wrap up our time on our podcast today and it's been really great to hear about what Campers Card is up to. But before we finish out, I want to get your favorite camping memory. So it could be from recent or even from a long ago, but what's that like?

Joel Holland: Man, there's so many good ones. But really it's been the last two years where we've had our daughter, Waverley, started going camping with us and that really adds a whole other element because she's so excited about everything. So I think, I guess it was May of last year, we took her to the KOA in Moab and she loved it. We took her hiking. We took her to Arches to see the arch and that whole trip was just super special. And it felt like that was when I was like, yeah, she's going to be a camper. She's into it.

Mark Rowan: That's awesome. I started out young and it's been a lifelong love of being associated with and going, all those kind of things. So yeah, that's a good thing to start out doing, for sure. So this is the shout out time. Tell people where to go, what to do, if they're interested. Give us your best pitch for Campers Card.

Joel Holland: Totally. Yeah. So look, I like simple things. Campers Card is super simple. Go to camperscard.com, click the link, list your campground, give us a little details about the campground. Our team will do the rest of the work, building a profile page. We'll then put it on the map, put it into our route planning software, and members will start seeing it. And doesn't cost anything to join. Never costs anything as a campground. That's just always been a part of our mission is to support small businesses and not ask them for more money. Everyone seems to be asking them for money. I promise you, it's all upside. There's no reason not to try it. It won't take time. It won't take money. I think you'll be impressed.

Mark Rowan: And you're going to make a billion dollars.

Joel Holland: And that's Mark's words. Yeah, just listen to Mark.

Mark Rowan: Yeah, for sure. Check it out, everybody. We thank Joel for you being on with us today. And of course, those that have tuned in. We're so glad that you listened to the Park Pod. And until next time, happy trails.

Joel Holland: Thanks, Mark.

R & R ROI Marketing Tips

We have a marketing tip. All right, so this is from our latest webinar where we talked about creating a website that converts for your RV park. There was so much good information throughout the webinar. Definitely go check it out. You can see that on our YouTube, our website, Restrai.com. I'm going to leave that in there because that's fun. So we're going to talk about up to date information. This has multiple benefits. You want to ensure that it has the right information. It's accurate not only just about your park, your resort, your campground, just the basic information, but the supporting info about maybe the things that are in the area that you can post about, you can create content for. So regularly update the information about the amended activities and events. I'm going to make that available so people know how to plan when they're coming on their trips, right? Have a blog or news section to keep visitors informed about what's happening in and around your park. So like I mentioned briefly, the surrounding areas and the attractions that you're close to. Create some good content that revolves around those things. That's not only going to help people that know they're coming, but maybe potential people that are searching for a place and they don't quite know that you're the place they need to stay at.

So that's going to be a search engine optimization piece of what you're doing with your website, creating content that's not only relevant and helpful for your guests, but that's why it's good for SEO. So up to date information is huge. Of course, the basic information that I alluded to also is talking about your business name, your contact information. Not only should that be up to date and correct for your site, obviously, but when it comes to other sites and business listings, that needs to be updated and corrected on a regular basis because old information could get propagated through the Internet, cause confusion for one, but also affect your optimization and your website results in regards to search engines. So don't want to do that. So make sure whatever you have on the Internet about your park, it's correct.

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 restrelaxroi.com. 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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