Campground Commander Shares Ideas for Long Term and Seasonal Online Software


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Mark Koep: Hey everybody, Mark Koep with and this is our first session of 2023. So congratulations, you made it to 2023. Who knows what’s in store? If you know, my current management plan is only planning three days in advance, and that’s been holding, well, for the last two years, but Mary Mary is with us. She plans a little bit further along and Mary, thank you for joining us.

Mary Moeller: Doing great Mark.

Mark Koep: She’s from Campground Commander. How you doing?

Mary Moeller: It’s good. The sun is shining here. It’s not snowing, it’s not raining, it’s not doing anything. So I’m doing good.

Mark Koep: Yeah, I’ve changed my office around here and you were just messing with the camera. It’s currently snowing outside. We’ve got two inches of snow overnight and it’s winter, you know, we’re filming this in January, it’s middle of January, it’s winter. And, you know, wild weather and all that type of stuff. But, you know, amongst all that noise, what I wanted to bring you on here to talk about and we had some conversations offline. So, first of all, let’s let’s back up real fast. Can you give everybody a rundown on who you are? And what Campground Commander is and how long you’ve been in the industry for

Mary Moeller: I’d be happy to mark. We’ve been in the industry for about. Probably about six years now, Campground Commander, and I apologize for my voice. I am just getting off of not having a voice after I’m having the flu and whatever else for a week, but we are an online reservation software company that markets specifically to family on campgrounds and we are family owned. It’s my son, my husband, myself, and all of the people that work with us, are all family own their own businesses too. So, we feel it’s very important for people to understand the difficulties of growing a business and keeping a business in today’s society of corporate and I’m not against corporate. But I think it’s really extremely important to understand what family owned businesses go through and what their needs are in order to actually serve them the best. So when we started this, when our son came to us about five years ago and said, Mom, he actually came to me because I’m the

Mary Moeller:  Risk taker and he said, Mom would you be willing to do a business with me? And we started looking into it and there really were no other software companies out there serving specifically to the family-owned business that said, Mark over the past five years. Then we have grown and

Mary Moeller:  Our reports have changed our software has changed, we listen to our campgrounds. They are, they all become our friends and they know that if they have anything they want to add to the software anything that would be helpful for them, all they have to do is get in touch with myself or Carl and we’ll certainly look into it and it was interesting because we were at the brands and conference this year brands. We’re in Kansas City. So by the way weatherwise, we wish we’d get a little winter here. It’s been in the 50s. It’s just too warm. But anyways at the parents and conference in December, we invited all of our campgrounds that could come to it to come and we host it a little dinner for them and get together. So they could get to meeting each other. And the one thing that every single one of them said about working with us as they felt heard and they felt like their words didn’t just go out there and never get heard that if they wanted something or ask for something, we did everything in our possibility to make sure that their campgrounds. We’re

Mary Moeller:  Getting what they needed to be able to do the reports or work with their customers. However, it was

Mark Koep: You know, our industries made up of mom and pops. I mean, there’s estimates. I would guess. And I don’t know what your number would be, but I would guess between 65 and 75% of all the campgrounds. All the private campgrounds in the United States, operated by family businesses, you know, Mom and pop tech style operations and it’s one of the reasons I love this industry is because that that dynamic creates a dynamic industry creates all the the variability there,…

Mary Moeller:  Yep.

Mark Koep: but it is a challenge for a lot of these folks to operate their parks because they may not come from a hospitality background, they may have, you know, it had some different career and this is either retirement or just I want to get the hell out of that. I want to start doing this. So there’s, there’s different reasons for them to own the parks. And so, the topic we were gonna dive into today, and I want to really, kind of get into it. So just a little background,…

Mary Moeller: It.

Mark Koep: everybody, these videos will be shorter in length. They’re the whole idea, is you bite, size information that you can take and implement. So, the topic I want to dive into you with today, Mary, because you have the experience working with the parks and work with is, the main question is two questions because it comes up from parts that you talk to one. It’s, you know, I’ll form the question. In the form of a response statement. I don’t need online bookings because I only have long-term. Yes, one or number two. I’m a very small park and I don’t need online bookings because I want to vet everything. So those are the two statements that I want to kind of dive into. And so when I say those to you what are your responses

Mary Moeller: Well I’ll store the vetting one first mark because it’s understandable that small term smaller campgrounds family on. Campgrounds really want to get to knowing who they’re bringing into their campground, if they’re going to be there for 30 days or longer. And so, that’s really understandable. One of the misconceptions though is that, by having a long term, heavier, long term, campers on software that you cannot vet the customer.


Mary Moeller: I think number one that needs to be put to rest because you still have the ability to contact her to talk to this customer to find out all the information you need and then decide whether or not they fit into your campground. So that that is not a I that shouldn’t be something that should be thought of as a reason not to have software.

Mark Koep: If?

Mary Moeller: Anyway, the second thing is a lot of times campgrounds. Don’t see the value of having online software for their seasonal campers and there’s a number of reasons to have online software. I think the benefits if customers if campgrounds would look at the benefits rather than many times, I hear them say Well these are long-term customers. They don’t take nearly as long as a nightly customers, you know, to get in and out of my campground.

Mary Moeller: But if we look at the benefits of having longtime seasonal can’t a long time and seasonal campers on a software, you know, the thing of it is is that it’s cost-effective actually, our average cost is $25 a month, four seasonal camper per campsite.

Mark Koep: Hmm.

Mary Moeller: When you think about that, adding $25 in on a season, is not going to make any difference. But the thing of it is is that all of the reports are already done for you. So let’s say there’s a tax and you’re some states, require tax. And some don’t taxes are all figured for you. All of the reports that you need to do your bookkeeping in the end of the year or have already been created for you. All you have to do is download them and upload them into QuickBooks or whatever you use for bookkeeping systems. So, that in itself is a huge savings. You know, the other thing is that you can add fees for your campers and then automatically invoice them every month at the end before they leave or whenever you want.

Mary Moeller:  Who you’ve already got their credit card into the system because that is put in when they’re reserved, you know, when the sites are reserved. So let’s say a camper comes in and their work camper for a month. And after a month, they leave, but they’ve added on firewood, they’ve added, They’ve got electrical bill, they’ve got gas bill or whatever else your campground may charge to them that can automatically be invoiced to the customer before they leave and automatically charge the credit cards. Now, it’s all taken care of automatically, which makes a huge savings of time. Plus, it means it’s more. There’s no mistakes being made in the total amount.

Mark Koep: You know, that time thing, that’s, that’s a big one. I think for a lot of a lot of folks is there’s this, there’s this feeling I’m the same way. I don’t know if you are Mary, but I’m the same way. Like I I I’m not gonna pay somebody to do something. I can do myself, right? And so you start doing that and it stacks up, right? So it’s one thing to say. Yeah, I can go ahead and and manage the payments, but then the taxes and then everything adds up and all the sudden you created a career out of just managing paperwork that you could do with the click of a button. Do you find that? That’s, that’s part of it.

Mary Moeller: It.

Mark Koep: I mean and it’s one of the things I love about the industry is people are do it, you’re do it yourselfers, right? But at a certain point you have to say All right you know do you really want to do this? Like Is there other things that you can be doing that you don’t and and you know hand this off

Mary Moeller: That’s a great point Mark and it’s it’s interesting because that is one of the points that entrepreneurs do. I mean, if you think about it many times, entrepreneurs in a campground have come from some kind of a background in farming or some kind of a background where, that’s what you do, you know, you don’t pay someone to do something, you can do yourself. Although it’s interesting because when we lost our hog operation in the early 80s and then we ended up landing here in Kansas City area. We’re in a small town, outside of Kansas City, but I started going to a lot of business meetings. And then I started mentoring because I’ve always had a business of my own. I’m an entrepreneur from the get-go and so I started mentoring with very successful business owners across the board, every single one of them said, If you want to make money if you want to do well financially, you have to learn to delegate things to people that know what they’re doing. Otherwise, you do exactly as you have just said, you spend your time.

Mary Moeller:  Getting overwhelmed with more and more and more things that you have on your list because I can do it and then you end up losing the whole fat focus of why you have your own business in the first place to give you freedom. So we all know that when you own your own business, you’re going to work seven days a week. Yes, but does that mean, you’re gonna work? 24/7, seven days a week. It might, if you think you have to do everything yourself, you know, but if you allow people that know how to do the things, That you would have to learn how to do or that. Take you more time that frees up more time for you to be thinking, more creatively as to, How can I curl this business more, how can I make my campground busier?


Mark Koep: And that leads into and I hope this information is useful to you. If you’re watching this, I mean it it’s a hard conversation. Some people shake their heads at that because they disagree because it’s it’s hard for the truth to be said but that’s that’s the truth. You want to really grow your business.

Mary Moeller: Hmm.

Mark Koep: One of the and there’s two things here and I’ll say something on it. One of the other reasons that’s usually unsaid for folks not wanting to use an online booking in credit cards that want to take cash and check is it allows them to skirt some of the the taxes that they potentially pay the the issue there and there’s a real issue there and I hear it all the time. On my end from folks looking to buy parks is the parks for sale for a million bucks. But the income shows that being worth four hundred thousand because the the owners pocketed a bunch of money over the years and the actual value of the business is not based. Most parts is not based upon the land. It’s based upon the business, it’s on the land. And so, if you’ve been talking in that cash,…

Mary Moeller: It. Hey Mark.

Mark Koep: it doesn’t count. So, you know, and having this system, Yeah, you got to pay taxes on it. Yeah, you’ve got to report it, but in the end, if Your goal is to eventually sell the business use that as a retirement, you’re losing significant value in that business, but I just want to put that little piece of in there, Mary. Go.

Mary Moeller: Can I add one other thing to that? I would really like to add something to that because I know exactly what they’re talking about and how that feels the other side to that is that you’re always looking over your shoulder. Is the government going to audit me?

Mark Koep:  Hmm.

Mary Moeller: And if so, are they going to find all this stuff? You know, so there’s two different sides and I totally get both sides because You know, we’ve been there and done that especially when we had our hog operation, you know? So yeah, I I prefer not to look over my shoulder anymore.

Mark Koep: Yeah, so the question after you Mary’s is as you’ve built your business, you’re now working with these, these family operators, all over the country, what are their thoughts going into 2023? Obviously, we’ve come off of record years here. Leading up to this. What are their worries? What are their excitements. What are they thinking? As we go into this this next year

Mary Moeller: Well, it’s it’s been interesting, Mark. We are on the process of onboarding, six new campgrounds, three of which are brand new campgrounds, three of which are newly purchased campgrounds. We work a lot with people that are new to the industry because I do a lot of coaching in consulting and if I don’t know the answers, I refer them to other places such as your website, Facebook website where they can get the answers. They need, um, there’s a lot of optimism in it with the campgrounds that are new, which is really, really good because camping is a big industry. Now I think the industry has changed so much in the last two years though. Three years since covid. Whereas campgrounds for quite some time. Look for nightly campers. They’re now looking into more work campers.

Mary Moeller:  And so that they can have an ongoing income through work. Campers the downside to that is there’s certainly not going to make as much money through work campers as they would if they had nightly campers the upside to it is that they have they can tell what’s coming in monthly. One of the things that we saw and honestly, I’m not gonna try and sell something that is makes it look like everything is 100% wonderful. You know, that is not who I am going to be truthful. I’m I’m yes. I’m in the front sales for our company but no, I am not going to tell you a lie last year sales for campgrounds campsites. I’m sorry. Reservations were down a little with family on campgrounds. That said it was not below, 2019 prior covid.

Mark Koep: Yeah.

Mary Moeller:  So things are probably leveling out so if a campground sees it last year they brought in less revenue, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they brought in the last revenue. It means that people are now getting out more. So now the thing is, how are you going to get the people to find your campground so that you can continue growing. The campground industry and you’re in your campground.

Mark Koep: Yeah, and and you’ll be seeing more of these videos, I’m gonna be doing a bunch more for you and, and one of the key things, you know, from a marketing side of your campground, because marketing is gonna be a big issue for you. Going forward. Most parks haven’t had to market for the last 12 years and all of a sudden like, Well, what do we do now, right? Good Sam’s, no longer good Sam, it doesn’t, it doesn’t do what it used to do. So you have to do, Google ads, Facebook ads, and all this other stuff to drive people in the missing link for most campgrounds is you pay all this money to get this traffic to your website and…

Mary Moeller: If?

Mark Koep: the goal of that traffic is for them to book. That’s usually where things break down because usually have a phone number there, you barely answer the phone. You can barely address that or your online reservation system is not slick. So the folks you’ll be seeing for me all provide good services and…

Mary Moeller: but,

Mark Koep: campground commanders, you plug your son here. This this was not just this isn’t fly by night. You got you’ve got some chops behind the software and and assisting belt. So go ahead and and plug it a little bit, please.

Mary Moeller: We have some chops behind it. Our sun started in his family. Started camping probably 10 years ago when they went full-time rving, he’s a software developer so he could do that. He wanted to support family-owned businesses but a lot of times the campgrounds were not online and so being a millennial, he is not going to wait for an email. He is not going to wait for a telephone call. He’s on the computer, he has decided where he wants to stay if you’re not ready for him,…


Mark Koep: Yep.

Mary Moeller: he’s not ready to go to your campground. So he came up with the idea of…

Mark Koep:  Yep.

Mary Moeller: how he could help family on campgrounds out by writing them software. So that they would actually be working with somebody. They could be comfortable with knowing that he’s not just some software, architect developer way out and Tim Buck too. So that’s and and he also developed a software at the time. He had a 48 foot rig and so it was a big rig. It was a pull behind and hit hard times. Sometimes when he did go online for reservations,

Mary Moeller:  He couldn’t get his rig around the corners, you know, the static maps look like he could get him around, he’d get there and ten o’clock at night. He can’t get his rig in. So that’s why he developed the software on Google maps. So people can actually see the lay of the land. And, and just all of the The items that he’s putting onto it and that he built it originally with was specifically, so that it was advantageous for the camper. now, that created an issue because he was thinking about, Your your customer, the campground customer. He was not thinking about the campground, so we put the mark, the product on the market. We got a number of campgrounds on and they started dropping off of it. And finally, five of them said

Mary Moeller:  You don’t have to write bookkeeping system for us, you know, you don’t have the right reports and stuff. So, we took the product off the market for a year. He redeveloped it with the help of these five campgrounds to create the product, the back-end system in the reports that they needed. So, and we’re all campers. Now, he and his family, got a camper with bunk beds. Carl and I were their guests. So, here we went, we took our first camping trip up to South Dakota, not too far from you wall, South Dakota. And we kept telling him March was not a good time to go to South Dakota camping. Being raised in Kansas City, they couldn’t see, the reason why we finally talked him into waiting until April. We get up there, we get camp in the campground. I barely fit into the bottom bunk and we get into a lizard.

Mark Koep: You.

Mary Moeller: and the winds are blowing so hard, Carl and I are laying back there in that bunk figuring out our exits in case the camper got blown over Camping trip with them after a year of going camping with them all the time. They decided it was time for us to buy our own camper,…

Mark Koep: Here.

Mary Moeller: So we got booted out.

Mark Koep: So campground,…

Mary Moeller:  So that’s our background.

Mark Koep: you can go get information on them if you’re interested in their services. If you’re looking for software, obviously Mary’s an expert on helping you with your family business and you’ll see more of her. In these videos we got a number of them scheduled out always open your feedback.

Mark Koep: Feel free to leave comments either below if you’re watching this on a video streaming platform or respond directed me via email and let me know what you want to hear. We’ll go find the experts, bring them on here and and share some information to help you run your business. So, my name is Mark Koep with Campground you’ve just met Mary Moeller from Campground Commander. I hope you have a good day

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