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Must have vacation planning with Mark Koep and CampgroundViews.com [EP 271]

CampgroundViews.com uses video, data, and photographs to provide Tent and RV travelers with vital information to help them plan their vacations. And with over 40M Americans going camping every year, this is a must-use in trip planning.

Show Notes

Intro to Outdoors

My outdoor experience has been long and varied. I originally started outdoors back when I was 13. I started mountain bike racing at a very high level all the way up to racing the world championships in 24-hour races.

So I was always outdoorsy, but our introduction into the Camping and RV space happened about 12 years ago when my wife and I decided to sell everything we own, buy a fifth wheel and start traveling the country.

And we weren't rich. We had student loan debt, the typical stuff, and just felt let's go adventure while we're young. And so we sold everything and bought this RV and headed out on this Epic adventure, traveling the country.

How campground views came to life

When we started traveling, we recognize that the biggest problem for other people that would want to travel like us was actually finding a campground. It's a real pain in the butt.

So we ended up coming up with this crazy idea to launch a business called campground views.com and focus on photos and videos of campgrounds and allow people to see it. And as we built that business up, we recognized that the next big problem in this industry, this being the outdoor hospitality industry is that a lot of the owners and operators of those businesses are not the most sophisticated business owners.

They love the outdoors, they want to run a campground, but they don't necessarily know how to do all of that and really provide a good customer experience. And so we believe our mission is to help people get outdoors and experience camping and that if we could help these owners better operate their parks, that would create a better experience for the campers.

So through that, we've focused all of our attention on that experience. And over the last year in COVID times we really ramped that up and we run a few organizations that basically have more members than any other association out there of RV park and campground owners. And we help them by just providing them tons of free content to run their businesses better.

Another Mission

Now the big thing for the outdoor industry is helping train all these new people on how to properly treat the outdoors. It's one thing to go camping, hiking, whatever. It's another thing to do it right. And there is definitely a knowledge breakdown there. And I think it behooves all of us to help. Help the newbies come along

This actually goes back to 2020, one of the big things, this was through the efforts we've done. We're talking to the park owners all the time. And about early July we started getting feedback from the owners that they're seeing this massive wave of new campers coming in. And it was great for business, but it was driving them nuts because these people did not know basic camping etiquette there.

I went to the owners and said, okay, what do you want to tell these people? And teach them to do. And so the owners laid out this massive list and we took it. We assigned it to our graphic designer and we created a tri-fold brochure and an infographic. And we put those out there for free. We just said, Hey, anybody, take them all we ask is that you leave our little campground views, the logo created by campground views, but you can put your own branding on it and share it.

We also partner with a number of influencers to help them get the word out because the industry has changed and this is for all the outdoor spaces. There are so many voices that you and I may never have heard of, but the people that are in that space, like those people are idols.

They're the type of personalities, the ones that get the information out. Helping them get the information out is is actually a really good way to educate the audience.

Favorite Campgrounds

We used to be able to easily say yes, and it was camping in Springdale, Utah, right at the base of Zion national park. That used to be like our best spot to go. But as we've traveled more and more, we have found that there are so many amazing, unique places that we no longer have a favorite.

For example, we stayed in the Florida keys for a month, camped on sunshine key. And every day we're able to go out kayaking and in those blue waters there around the keys, but then that same summer, we spent a month outside of Acadia National Park, and we're able to go ride the trails.

So that's one of the great things about camping and RV, in particular, is it allows you to go to these unique locations, actually stay closer to them than if you were in a hotel or whatnot, and really get to enjoy them. And there are so many places like you say, how can you have a favorite? They're all beautiful.

New Project

Traditionally, we've been marketers for campgrounds and RV parks. So we help them get people in their parks. And through that experience, we have found that video imagery is the best tool available to help people choose the right campground. And over the last three years, we've been doing standard 360 videos just to help.

And through that, we now know that 360 videos can have a profound impact on a few things. Number one, it gets more people into the campground because it allows them to see it. All that stuff. Yeah. But number two, it actually drops customer service calls into the campground, because many of the questions you want to ask, you can answer on your own.

So by looking at the 360 videos, and so by dropping that demand on their time, on the phone down, it allows them to be more present onsite for the people that are in their face. And a lot of campgrounds, the reason they can't post on social media is the managers may be stressed because they're always on the phone and they just don't have the time.

And so by reducing that phone need and helping the campers pick a better place that meets their needs. We're dropping the demands off camp hosts all the stress and we're allowing the campers to be more empowered in picking their campus sites.

Activities

We hike we're hikers and we're bikers. So we have a, my wife and I have a tandem Mountain bike. It's a Ventana, it's one of those It's got eight inches of travel and we've raced that thing. We've had it for a decade now. Just love it.

And so then we'll tow a trailer with our little one and our son is now old enough, he’s got a Scott mountain bike. And so we'll go mountain biking or riding on trails. And then a lot of hiking as you get older, you get a family you're adventures change, instead of going on a five-hour hike, you now take five hours to get going on the hike and then you hike about half an hour.

Connectivity

Yeah, connectivity is actually a big deal now. I'll go back. So when we started full-time RV, it was 2009 at that time I had a Motorola no, it was a Nokia flip phone with a keyboard slid out. And my connectivity was a USB top toggle that I attached via USB card. And it was a 3g connection, but that was before the iPhone.

So the 3g connection was almost as fast as a 4g connection back then because was nobody else using the network. And so as time has gone on now, you have all this usage we're now on. We carry with us a Verizon 4g, a Sprint 4g, and an ATT 4g card. We utilize wifi routers that, that tie into those 4g cards within the rig.

We also are now at the point because of our data needs that we actually look for RV parks that have high-speed internet. That's actually a thing now there installing super high speed at RV parks and travel to those locations. So there's still nothing that really works truly mobile, no satellite option or that kind of thing. Cause you get the latency with satellites. It becomes an issue, and the 4g cards they’re the best, and I, you didn't see me do it, but I threw air quotes around the best because the problem is that there are so many people seeking the outdoors and working remotely that the 4g networks are now getting overloaded.

Suggestions or Advice

The one thing we didn't do that we should have done is rent an RV and go out, not for a weekend, go out for a week or two and act as if that RV is your home for a week or two. So if you're gonna go full time and live on the road, Do that because it's a big commitment. Then the second piece of advice that we got, and we followed and I think it's absolutely true is to buy the biggest thing you possibly can. Because if you're living in it, when it's raining, when it's crappy weather, you're stuck inside.

The Airstreams look really cool, but most people that full-time in an Airstream, they generally make it about a year and a half before they finally quit. Because it's a small space.

If you're looking just to get into RV camping the same rules apply, go rent something for a weekend. See if you like it, and then start doing your research as to what type of unit is appropriate for you and your camping type. And ask yourself questions about, obviously budget. What can I afford? What's the vehicle that you're gonna be towing it with, is drivable or not, Do you have a place to store the darn thing when you're not using it? So those are some big questions. There's a lot more to ask along that journey. Where are you going to go camping at? How often are you going to use it? Those types of things? The big thing is the RV rentals become very accessible now with companies like RV share over the place.

360 Insider Crowdfunding Campaign: https://www.campgroundviews.com/join-the-club/

Connect with Mark: mark@campgroundviews.com

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