I just got back from the CCCA Ozark section. It was fun to get to connect with some people, hopefully help some people out, and hang out at New Life Ranch. A taught a workshop called Marketing for Guest Services. I want to write a bit over the next few weeks to get a bit deeper into some of the stuff I talked about, but, a summery is probably a good place to start.
Basically we talked about three things:
Your Abilities Meet Their Needs. The idea here is that any given camp has a set of things they can do well. This set is defined by a lot of things, size, staff, location, culture and more. Potential guest groups have a set of needs defined by size, program type, group type, and more. So, any given camp needs to figure out how to get connected with the groups they can service well based on ability. Now, there may be some gaps in what a camp can do that need to be filled or less people will come. If a camp, for example, has no beds, they probably wont get any groups. To do this you have to understand what groups need and constantly adapt to changing needs, but you also have to recognize that you wont serve everyone well. You have to define your market and figure out how to be great at serving them, but you don’t have to be great at serving every possible group.
Relationships – Friction vs. Smooth. We talked about how you relationships in a key to serving groups well, and to increasing the number of groups who will return. Relationships are also key to impacting peoples lives, so if you are about more then money building relationships is a big part of having impact on people. I tried to think about what it means to say “we are about relationships in how we handle guest groups” Im not sure i really figured that out or explained it well in the workshop. I guess the first thing is just to see people as people who have value. A spirit of servanthood is part of this as well, thinking of serving people as on honor goes a long way. How you define success is also part of this. If you see success as helping a group be successful then you will do everything you can to make sure they have what they need.
The next part of relationships is friction vs smooth. This is one way you can evaluate your processes and camp, in every interaction there is potential for friction or smoothness. So, if you think about everything that happens in the course of booking, planning and hosting a retreat and evaluate its contribution to friction or smoothness i think you are going to learn a lot about places that can be improved.
Filling Capacity or Getting People to Come. This is about filling beds. We talked about 3 ways to get people to come to your camp: returning groups, word of mouth, and connecting with people with influence in your target market.
Returning groups kind of take care of themselves if you are doing a good job. If you serve people and meet their needs in ways that exceed expectations a lot of them will come back.
For word of mouth it seems like one of the big things to do is identify your fans and ask them for help. They may really like you a lot, but it has never crossed their mind that they can help you fill unused space. I think though that it is important to equip them. Give them ways to spread the word about you.
Connecting to people with influence is just a way to think about networking. A camp has a target market, and there are people with influence over that target market. basically the idea is to fend hose influencers and connect with them.
More on all of this later…