Transcript of the interview:

Hey everybody, it’s Mark Koep with campgroundviews.com and I’ve got a special session for you here today. I brought out Mary Moeller, you may have met her at the outdoor hospitality expo this last year and the year before. Actually I met you Mary at the event two years ago. Her family has created and brought into the market a new software system called campground commander. And I’ve asked her to come on here today and tell us a little bit about herself, her business, and what the overall goal is with campground commander. So Mary, thank you for joining us here today.

Thanks Mark for letting me be on your show today.

So fill us in what is, what is the whole idea behind campground commander and how’d you get here?

Well, you know, Mark, my husband and I are former farmers. We lost our farm in the eighties to larger corporate businesses that are taking over the farms across the United States. And that really kind of resonated with me when I started looking at campground reservation systems that so many people, so many campground reservation systems are not built for the smaller campgrounds. They’re built for the larger campgrounds and then sort of brought down to try and fit into a smaller campground that said, our son is a full time RV beer. And from the RV park he was having a difficult time getting his RV into some of the smaller family-owned camp runs. Now he had a larger RV, but one of the big problems with the RV is that when you’re pulling an RV into a static campground you know, you see the static map online and you go to pull your RV into that.

Sometimes the RV doesn’t fit around the corners. The sites are different than what they look like on a static camp ground map. And he would get there and many times they would have to leave because they couldn’t get into the site. So that said he decided that from his side of it from the camper side, which by the way, Mark, I don’t know if your listeners are aware of this, but I do continuous marketing research just to make sure that what we are creating is going to work for our customers. And at this point, over 50% of campers are millennials and gen Xers. That has almost completely flipped in the last year. So last year.

And I’ll add to that, I mean, one of the, one of the reasons why I make a big push within this group about the reservation softwares, you know, first off, I don’t sell reservation software. We don’t, we provide marketing services. And what we know from the market is that it’s not only just millennials, but what we call the second wave boomers, the folks that are retiring right now, they’re tech savvy and they’ve always booked their, their business travel online. And so if you’re an RV park campground that’s not currently doing online reservations, I can promise a few things. Number one, you’re missing business. Number two, you’re earning less money. And number three, you’re creating headaches for yourself. And so I do believe that reservation software is the key to that success. And you know, when we do marketing projects for clients, it’s always the first question we ask. Well actually is probably the second one. First one is are you willing to pay us? And then the second one do you have a reservation software? So yeah, I, I’m, I’m a believer. Absolutely.

Well, and you know, Mark, another way of looking at this that I think is extremely important is this is an investment in your business whether you believe you need it or not, it is an investment. And like you said, how many people that are baby boomers call, call a let’s say motel to reserve their, their room. The majority of us go online, you know, and we reserve the room online because it’s easier for us to do it that way. So reserving a camp spot is actually even more to me, important to have an online reservation system because people are planning vacations, they or they may be on the road and feel like just stopping someplace on the road in the, you know, 50 miles up from where they’re, they’re going and to wait for an email or a phone call, it’s not going to work because by the time they don’t know when that email or phone calls is going to come through.

So by the time they get it, they’re past the camp ground and onto the next one. So yeah, I just feel it’s so important. And you know, the thing of it is, Mark is we have chosen to work with small business. We have chosen, our goal not only is to provide a great tool, an easy tool to use for smaller campgrounds, family owned campgrounds to be able to put, to put onto their, their current website or have us build a website, whichever they want to be able to have their customers have. The ease of being able to reserve in a system that’s extremely simple to use. And it also has been built with the help of other soft small campgrounds. We’ve, we’ve had probably about seven to eight campground family owned campgrounds that are under 175 sites. Help us build this out so that we have the tools and the software and the reports that these campgrounds that your campgrounds need not extra reports that you’re really not needing. So, and we continue to update every single week. We’re working on updates that our customers ask us to do, but I just can’t, I don’t think I can say enough how important it is in today’s camping world to have an online reservation system, whatever it is.

Well, and one of the things that made me excited about bringing you on here today is that you, you focus strictly on the smaller parks. You know, 125 sites or less. You know, and the reality is a lot of our members of this Facebook group are small park operators, mom and pops folks who have, who’ve got this entrepreneurial drive to start something to build something and run it. And so let’s kind of dive into that a little bit. You’ve been working with small campgrounds. What are the key things that you’ve seen that are probably their biggest worries and wonders and how are you seeing them address that in taking on a software system, whether it’s yours or somebody else’s, what are those key things that are really driving their success or failure?

You know, Mark there’s a number of things that come up almost every time I talk to a campground owner. Number one is customer service. You know, if they don’t have someone to walk with them and hold their hand throughout the process and during the process after they have the system up, it’s, you know, there’s going to be things come up all the time that you’re going to have questions on. Campground owners are going to have questions on or want to know if this is available or whatever. I think customer service is number one and that is something as small business owners, I’ve owned a business all of my life. Mark and I truly understand small business. I mean we were raised with small business owners. My dad had a manufacturing plant, he had 20 employees and he was actually the largest employer of the County and it was in a town of 650 people.

So I was raised in a small town, small town, Iowa. I understand the thought process in rural areas. I also understand I’m small business, but so the number one is support. The second thing is ease. I mean this has to be something that is seamless and Mark in the process of looking for processors. And, and for, for people that don’t understand the software industry every time every campground reservation system has to have their own credit card processor. And in order to have the credit card own credit card processors, there’s a couple of ways that they do this. Number one, it might be that they have the money in the background to be able to hire their own developers to create their own credit card processing updates or, or processes or they have to partner with a processing company. Because we are small, we, I had to go out and find a company that we could partner with.

And one of the things I wanted to be able to do is we’re from Kansas city. We, like I said, we were originally from Iowa, but we’re from Kansas city now and it needed to be somebody where I could go in and actually talk to the people in person. And I also looked for a processor that was family owned. So they had the interest of family owned companies that they work with. We found the company here in Kansas city basis, which is one of them that we process or we work with. So and I, the other thing was at the company that I worked with had to be easy to work with. So for instance, another thing that campground owners are constantly worried about and understandably so is the fact that getting and changing a new to a new process or can be a real overwhelming task. And I understand that and I will tell you that of all the processes that I’ve worked with and talked to basis makes it probably the easiest task. In fact, he brought on a new customer yesterday and she said, I hardly even knew anything needed to be done because they did everything for me. And then when it was ready, they taught me how to use it.

It was going to be my question. So you hit it on the head. I’m so for that process of switching over for a PR to a processor, what do they have to have in place on their end to be able to do this? Whether it’s it’s with you or anybody else. Cause I know that’s always a big and a big worry

For us, Mark to, to move into a process for our system. What I do is it’s extremely simple. I introduced them to Jared, my, the, the man that I work with and Jared just takes it from there. He literally does everything for them over the phone. So it’s like he literally fills out their application for them. I think the one thing that they have to do is send in some kind of reports from their business so that he has an idea as to what, what their income is and how, what the reports are as far as what they’ve had come in. So he can basically give them a pricing. And, you know, Mark, the other thing is, is his basis has worked with us to get a lower credit card processing fee than anybody I know of. And that’s once again something that we’ve been able to work out because they are a small family owned business.

You know, there’s just so many benefits to working with the family owned business because we have the ability to make changes and to do what we need to help our customers to become successful. So those are a couple of things. And the other thing is learning the product. It’s been interesting because I think I told you this yesterday, the last three customers that we’ve brought on our product is so simple to use on the management side that we’ve had to do. No training are available anytime Mark. Texting is the best to let us know if you have a question or anything but like they can text us at any time and we’ll get back to them right away and answer any of their questions, help them out, get on the phone with them. If we need to get on a, an online zoom meeting if we need to, we do whatever we can because we know customer service is really important.

But the ease of using the product is the biggest thing and what the customer, what people are seeing right here is our basic, this is what the management goes to. So you can just go here and you can see the six screens. If you want to scroll back up again, you can see this. Yeah, there we go. Yeah, you can see the six pieces that the management actually has and each one of those six screens includes all of the information, all the help that they need in just a few short steps. So it’s extremely easy to use. When we were building this, the developer asked me, he said, so I want to develop this for the campground campground campers. And I said, but that’s okay on your end, you’re a millennial. Gen X are right at the very edge. But I said, a lot of campground owners that have private owned family owned campgrounds are my age, the baby boomers. And I said, so this isn’t something that I can go in and look. And by the way, Mark, I’m also dyslexic. So one of the things I told him is I said, you’re gonna have to make this so that I can do it very easily and has a lot of pictures where it isn’t going to fly. I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna bother working with it. And so any rate, that’s pretty much what we you know, it’s made for that

Kind of mobile phone to a tablet or does it matter what you’re logging in with?

If you have internet access, you can log in on any device. And it also, and this is another thing that some people may or may not know. I’ve had a web and software development company for almost 12 years now. And one of the learning processes of that was that not all websites will how do I want to say it? Mark? Go down to the size of the, yeah, they’re not responsive, which means that for those of you that are not tech savvy, I’m like, I probably wouldn’t be if I didn’t own a weapon software company. But responsive means that the entire picture of your website, whatever you’re looking at creates itself onto the size page that you are looking at, whether it’s phone, whether it’s tablet or whatever. And essentially you don’t have to use your fingers to pull it in.

What do you find are the biggest issues that a small park face when they’re making the decision of buying a whatever? And maybe this, let me ask a first question. For the parks that have signed up with you so far, have they been coming? Are they first time onto our reservation software ever or are they switching over? What’s the answer? Is it mostly switching over or coming over and for the first time?

Well, we have some of both.

Both. Okay. So then the next question is based upon the folks who are coming on for the first time will be one answer and then moving over the other answer. What are their key worries and, and, and how do you help them get, get past those,

Those coming on for the first time? Once they see a demo they really don’t have any worries. Those that are switching over the worries usually pertain to the issues that they’ve had with their current system.

Well, actually, I’m want to back up so on that one so that they don’t have a worry. I know, I know that your software is awesome, but there’s a reason why they haven’t signed up for a reservation software as of yet. Right? I mean, there’s gotta be something that’s held them back. What was that thing? Do you know?

Well, a lot of times they think that the comment is it’s worked for me all along this way and I don’t think it’s necessary. I, a lot of campground owners, especially the older generation, meaning baby boomers they’re used to doing something a certain way and they don’t see the value or the need to basically they have customers that come in on a regular basis and they don’t see what they’re missing out. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. And they don’t realize that if those campsites are not filled every single night or if they have empty ones in a weekend, they are missing out on campers that will not call or send an email or fill out a form and wait for an email or a call. You know, they’re just not going to do that. So they’re really missing out on revenue. So the big things is, is that they basically don’t see the value because they’ve always done it this way. And the thing is they don’t think they are computer savvy enough to be able to run an online reservation system through their office. I would say those are the two biggest things.

So for that last one, and I agree with you, both of those are actually like the value valid objection. So that, that second part there, they’re worried about being able to operate the software system and, you know, putting your software system aside, what feedback would you give them that to consider when they’re, you know, to get them over that hump of, of being worried of using this software system? What would you suggest that they consider think of or, no?

One of the things I would certainly consider is if a software is a good software, I would say they should be able to allow the customer, the potential customer, the customer coming on a training period where they can literally play with the software and use the software before they actually are live. Yeah, that’s good. I would say that’s, that’s huge so that they can become aware and familiar with software. I mean, that’d be, it’d be like buying a new car without driving one first. You know, it’s, you know

Yeah, and to that point, one of my pieces of advice and on all the software systems is that, you know, Hey, do the demos scheduled with everybody because you don’t know what you don’t know. Right. And so you know that that’s why we do these sessions is because I’m sure, I’m sure for a vast majority of people, they’ve likely, if they weren’t at OHC, they don’t know who campground commander is. And so now you’re being you know, now you’re seeing another software system that’s out there. That’s another option. Take the demo, go call up Mary. Say, Hey, I want to, I want to test out your system, schedule a demo and go through it because only by going through the different software systems can you really number one, know what’s out there. And then number two, learn what questions to ask. I’ll actually share a story here.

I was looking for some legal help and I had spoken to a few attorneys and they said, Hey, do this. And then I realized something that if I just set up a whole bunch of interviews with a bunch of attorneys and I just simply said, Hey, here’s what I need. And then I shut up and let them talk. I would learn what questions I actually needed to be asked. And so by the time I got done with that process, I actually already knew the law and everything, you know, so you can kind of do the same thing with software. Correct.

Well, that’s totally correct, Mark. And the other thing is not every personality fits with the personality. So we’ve had a few come on that have gone because of the [inaudible] or the demos. They basically were not, they didn’t feel like they were going to get a, I think it’s very important to, to feel the personality out because the personality of the person that gives a demo was going to be reflected from that company. So, you know not everybody fits with everything and yeah. You know, that’s something I think is very important also in order to have a good relationship between whoever you decide to get for an online reservation system, there has to be that synchronization of personalities. And if that’s not there, then that’s probably not going to be a good product for you anyway because there’s always going to something that you’re not satisfied with because of the way that entire company is run.

Perfect. And that leads us. So back into the original, the other question we’re talking about, so now you mentioned what folks that don’t have a software system and what they’re considering when they do go to get a software system. What about the folks that have an existing software system and are making that change to a, to a new platform? What are their worries? What are their hurdles? What are their thoughts and how do they go about the process of either overcoming that or not?

Well, one of them is that a lot of them already have reservations scheduled and it just seems insurmountable to be able to go through all the reservations through all their current customers and get them put into the new software. It’s like what time of the year do you do that? If you’re a year round campground, when is a good time? When is the slow time? If your campground that’s closed in the winter, that’s the time when, when you might decide to do that, but you also need some time off, you know? So I think that’s one of the big things is, is how am I going to, to move from what I currently have into the new system without just being overwhelming and difficult for me. I think that’s, that’s a big one, Mark, is that, and then the other thing is I already know what I’m going to ha what I have.

I already know the ups and downs. I know what’s good and not good about it. I don’t know that about a new software. So how do I know for sure that I’m going to like it? You know, and then I’m going to want to stay with them and I will say Mark for that reason. We allow our customers to trial it for a period of time. But also our contract is not a binding two year contract, like many of the software some companies are. And we’ve chosen not to do that because we understand that sometimes people just decide, you know, this isn’t the right choice that they made or whatever. And there again, we’re really working for the, the family owned campground to make, make it as best as we possibly can for them.

Yeah. And you mentioned it, so your developer, he, he, he was a RV or, and so he actually, and we’ve seen this story over, I, I’ve seen it, you know, from the marketing side multiple times where, you know, some developer tech person goes out and tries to camp, they try to RV and they’re like, what the heck is going on in this industry? Why is there not, you know, it’s like so obvious to the outside world of, of the, the issue of online reservations that they’re like, man, we’re going to start this. You know, and so your developer said, I’m going to start this. And then you’ve actually followed through and start creating the business and you’ve been in it now and, and add it for a few years and, and you’re here now kind of standing on, on the pillars of the success of growing your business out. And you know, too that, you know, first off, congratulations. I know, I know at the undertakings like to do that entrepreneurial venture and to start off from scratch. So that’s, that’s really cool. And I think, I think all of yours on this group will, will give you a thumbs up for that one at a minimum because they all know what it’s like to start something. That’s cool.

Yeah, it’s quick.

Wait, there’s no such thing as overnight success. Well,

You know what, if I had hundreds of thousands of dollars to throw through it to Mark that might be the case. But I’ve never had that, so I really can’t tell you for sure.

So when we’re, when we’re talking about [inaudible], what caught me in this was actually the first time I met you was you are very specific on who you’re going after. You weren’t, you weren’t reservation systems for everybody. You were very specific. We’re going after small parks, parks under 125 sites. We want to help the mom and pops the individual soul. So owners out there, what he features it may be pricing or, or what, what differentiates you to where you can clearly say, Hey, we’re going after small parks and not everybody.

It’s my passion to help, you know, Mark United States was not built on corporations. United States was built on small business, working with small business, helping small business. It wasn’t built on corporations. And having corporations take over your business such as our farming business. And having a dad who had his own manufacturing business and going in there and working with him as often as I could just to see how business ran. And being farmers, you know, it just resonated with me to choose those people that needed to have a competitive edge with the corporate, if you will, software products that had the tools and the money to be able to throw out what they needed to do. I don’t know Mark, it’s just a passion I have working with, with small businesses. I understand them. I know how they think. I understand their ups and downs.

I understand the entire thing. The other thing, Mark is, it was pretty funny because when we started building this product, we were building it for the campers because of course that’s what our design architect was thinking. And so we brought it out to the customer and said, here’s our product. It’s a nice, wonderful product. Try it. And the customer looks at it and they said, well, we really don’t care about the campers. We want offer side, which is a management side to be easier. And it’s like, Oh, go figure. We didn’t think about that side of it. So we actually pulled the product off the market for another year while we could get some, some campgrounds, some small campgrounds to help us build out the management side of it. I mean, this isn’t, this isn’t a product that just came in and we figured out what we wanted and threw it out there and people started buying it.

I mean, we’ve had to reassess and reassess and then continue to move forward with it. So that it actually fits the needs of our, our customers. And for a small time camp grounds. And I think I went in the roundabout way of answering your questions. I may not have even gotten an answer, but I did want people to know that this is not something that, you know, you just come up and you and you do it and you’ve got it all created. It’s something that just like a camp ground, just like you’re small campground owners, you’ve got to work and continue to work as to what is it that your customers need? What is it that they’re wanting? How can I, how can I provide that for them? You know what I’m saying? So it’s, it’s, I mean, we’re in the same boat as, as the marketplace we’re looking at, we, we are there with them. So we understand their ups and their downs and their ins and their outs and their sadness and their non sadness. You know, we understand the campground that’s been flooded for the full season of last year. We’ll work with them to, to allow them to get back on their feet again because we’ve been down in the pits. You know, you don’t lose a farm and not wonder how you’re ever going to get on top of things. Again. You know, so we understand

When you were sharing with me yesterday that you’re actually, you develop with your, your clients. So as you’re, as you’re building out your, your product development schedule, you’re actually taking direct feedback feedback from your existing clients. So you know, I know some of some of the viewers of this will actually be really excited about that. You know, the idea that they could actually help build their own software system around their needs so that, you know, it’s, it’s kind of a cool tie in to all of that. And so I, you know, I wanted to introduce everybody to take campground commander, kind of give you a brief overview of what, you know, what they’re working on, what they’re about and, and give you the opportunity to go request a demo. The website is campground commander.com and what we’re gonna do is next week Mary and I are going to jump on again because honestly I didn’t know really what questions you would have as as owners of her.

So we tried to have a really high level conversation here and my, my hope is that you’ll comment on this video and ask the questions you want to ask or, or do the demo and then PM me with questions you have. And I’ll anonymize. I mean I won’t put your name out there, but I’ll go and Mary and I’ll jump on another live video next week and have a conversation based upon the questions and comments you give back to me. So if you think it’s cool, if you have questions you want to know about, if you want to get deeper onto the operations in the switchover from an existing system and what it means to be a small park and how that that impacts your overall business. That’s the goal here. So Mary, if you’re willing to do that, I look forward to doing another video with you next week and let’s let everybody kind of view this digestive schedule, the demo campground commander.com.

If you’re under 125 sites, you’d love to talk to you because that’s who they’re going after and reach out, do the demo. I know a bunch of you are in the market right now for different software systems and my advice always is, you know, if you notice I never say one software system, I always list out a whole bunch of them saying go do the demos with these folks and you can come back. Let’s add campground commander to that list. And then Mary, I look forward to talking to you again next week. Thank you for your time today.

Hey Mark, can I add one more thing? Absolutely. one of the things I wanted to mention too is we are not out to become the biggest and the best on the marketplace. Well we are the best. I mean, yeah, I mean, our goal is not to put salesman out there so that we can say, well, we’ve, we’ve done more. We brought on more campgrounds than anybody else in the state or in the nation or whatever. That’s not our we work with our customers one at a time so that we can put them on to make sure that when they are on and off and when they are up and running, they are comfortable with what they have. So we don’t have hired sales people. It’s just my husband and myself. We’ve got a number on our team. There’s about seven people on our team.

These people, most of them have worked with me in design and development for the last 12 years. And we’ve got a couple of developers and, and that’s it. So it’s not like we’re a big company, so we work with our customers usually one or two at a time so that we can get them up and running and get them them moving forward. So I just want people to know that we’re not out just to, to see how many campgrounds we can get on. We’re out to make sure that our customers are satisfied with what they get and that we can give them the full amount of time and energy that they need to be comfortable when they actually go live.

Very cool. So on my homework for you is to, obviously, I hope you’ve watched this video and I hope you’ve gotten some value out of it. Take the time to schedule a demo or just ask questions that you’re going to have and then we’ll bring that back on and ask Mary and we’ll, we’ll do another one of these sessions next week. Mary, again, I appreciate your time. I hope everybody’s having a good week. We’ll talk to you later. Thanks, Mark. Appreciate it.


Transcript of this video

Hey everybody, it’s Mark Koep. I’m here with Mary Moellher from Campground Commander. If you remember her, she came on last week to introduce her software and herself to you here in this group. I’ve asked her to come back on here today. Now that you’ve had a chance to review that video, think of the questions and even send over questions to me, to Mary and then also post them in the group. And from that we put together a, an interesting conversation that we’re going to have here today to help increase your awareness of what you can and should be doing with your software system, whether it’s camp prank, commander or any other system that you’re using. So Mary, thank you for agreeing to come back on here with me today.

Thanks Mark. I really appreciate the opportunity.

So one of the first questions that I want to, and it’s more of a general topic and we kind of alluded to it originally, but it’s a big one and it’s credit card processing. So let’s, can we go a little deeper into that overall subject? I’m a, I’m aware of it too cause we do credit card processing not as selling it but we use it for our business. And I know it’s a nightmare industry right now. I mean there’s all sorts of rules, regulations and everything else. And so a lot of folks, and, and this doesn’t just go for campground commander, it goes to the other reservation systems too. A lot of them have like their dedicated processor that they’ve integrated with and it may be one or maybe two or three, but they’ve integrated with them. They worked through the hoops. Talk to us, educate us on why that is and what, what owners need to consider when they’re looking at whatever system they’re using for credit card processing.

We know, Mark, this has been a very interesting subject for us because we had no idea that this was going to be as difficult as it is in order for people to have any campground reservation system to have processing capabilities. They have to align specifically with one or more processors. Now in the back end this means that there has to be a lot of coding goes on because you can’t just take any software, any reservation software and say, okay, I’m going to choose this processor and this process is going to be the person that’s gonna work with me or all of these other processors. Each one of those processors has a test format, if you will, but they go through that reservation software has to perform. So for instance and each one is different, but each one can take up to 40 to 80 hours for a developer to go through.

So basically like what it is let me see if I can give a picture to the audience a better picture as to what this might be. So for instance, the processor comes up and they say, okay, you’ve passed all of these other things, these hurdles that you’ve had to go through as far as all the paperwork and all of this and all that. So now what we want you to do is we want you to build out this particular system to show us that your software is adequate for our product. And that’s where all the time you get all the time. You know how it is filling out forms for everything. I mean everything. You go to the government, you fill out forms, it takes you weeks to fill out one form. You know, well me maybe, but I’m probably a little slow.

But you go to the processes and not only do you get the filled out, now you have to do tests, you know, and you have to develop software that they approve and say, okay, yeah, this is the software that we think, you know what you’re doing well enough to put you on our software, on our company processing. So that’s why many companies, software reservation companies just have one processor. Because if you have to go through that and you have to pay your developers over and again to do that kind of process [inaudible] a lot. That’s why I mentioned the last time we had our interview last week. That’s why a lot of times companies will develop their own processes for us, a software processing company. So they’ll literally integrate. They’ll, they’ll say, okay, we have the money, we have the capabilities, we have the development team to be able to develop our own processing company. Let’s just go ahead and develop our own. And then we don’t have to every year go through these testings that the processing companies make, the smaller guys or whoever is using them go through to keep [inaudible].

And would that testing be like the PCI compliance, is that what you’re referring to or is it a different type of testing altogether?

No, it’s a different type of testing. I mean, that’s part of it. That’s a, that’s a piece of up the rest of it is literally you have to go through and develop a product. They will give you the guidelines for product that they want you to develop. And then you have to have to develop that out for them. And then they go back in and look at the code that you’ve written. They’ve looked at the way it’s done and it has to pass their whatever you want to say. You know, they’re testing points in order.

Yeah. Yeah. I mean cause you’re handling people’s credit card information. I know, you know, recent rulings and recent rules from the credit card companies is they’re pushing all of the loss onto the processors and the processors are pushing it back on to whoever their clients are. So if you’re the RV park operator and you allow your credit card information just lay on your desk and you lose it, you know, you’re responsible for whatever those losses are. And so I imagine that’s part of your paperwork that you’re filling out is that you have to jump through and you being a reser reservation engine and all the other ones out there, they’re having to jump through these hoops to say, well, here’s the steps we’re taking to protect the credit card information, make sure it’s not stored on our systems and all that is, is that what’s going on? Basically.

Yeah. Mark and I’m glad you brought that up because that is that’s, that is basically what’s going on. And I, and I think one of the pieces of confusion with campground owners possibly might be that they think that the reservation systems store their credit card information. The reservation systems do not store any of the credit card information. They literally, the information goes back into this into the company that I was just talking about that you have to do the testing for. And so that company is where it’s stored and that’s where it’s stored safely. So any, any reservation that a person does within any of the software, the reservation software is not kept on that software. It goes, it’s kind of like a bank, you know, you get, you get all this stuff online that you can take a look and see what your bank account look like looks like. But that doesn’t mean you have the money in your house or in your safe or something like that. You know, it’s, it’s in a whole different facility that actually if something happens to that money, they have to, they have to take care of it for you. You know, you can turn around and say that was my money. She just lost, you know.

Yeah. That’s a good analogy for it. Cool. So that’s, that’s a good background on just that overall topic. Cause I know it is a complaint that folks have and like why do I have to switch my process or why can’t you just use my processor, whoever they are in it. You know, it probably goes back to as business operators you’re constantly getting called and, and pitch new processing, new new credit card systems, all that stuff. So, you know, I guess that would be kind of a hurdle. So a good topic on that. The next kind of piece,

Can I back up just a second with that? Because another thing is sometimes people have their processors with their banks and that’s, that’s not uncommon. And because it’s their bank it seems that you should be able to keep your processor with your bank if you go with any reservation system or any, you know, and the, the reservation software company says, no, you have to move to a different software. And a lot of times the, the comment is that, well, but I know the bank, I know the people there and they’ve been doing all my work up to this point. That’s an entirely different type of processor than what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a process or that can, a lot of times the banks will process, but it’s not it’s not the same type of credit card processing as if you’re,

They don’t have the, they don’t have the gateway through the site. Right. Yeah.

Thank you. I appreciate that. But I wanted to bring that up. Sorry.

Yeah, no, that’s all right. Yeah. Cause you know we, we do web development and like when we integrate a shopping carts, we’ll, you know, whoever the processes are is we’ll be like, Oh, you got to sign up for an authorized.net account. And they’re like, what’s authorized.net? I already have. You know, so it’s, that enables the gateway that has basically, it enables the bridge to connect your merchant account to your website securely. So that way the credit card information is processing back and forth. So, you know, that’s those avenues. So I hope that helps cause so for the owners out there, you know, there is that, and it doesn’t matter what reservation software you’re going to use, if you’re going to be taking online transactions, there’s only going to be certain processors that they integrate with because those are the ones that they’ve gone through the testing process with and verify. Correct.

Well, and you know, Mark, that is true. And the other thing is that different processors as as campground owners know, have different fees and those fees a lot of times you know, a lot of times the larger processors have the bigger fee, the higher fees for whatever. I’m not certain, but what they do. But those also are the processors that can take care of larger resorts. Because sometimes the smaller processes don’t have all, all of the equipment and all the, the pieces that they need to take care of the larger systems. So know there is a reason why there are larger fees on, on some of the processors and sometimes it’s just that’s what their fees are. You know,

Very interesting. So then piece that’s kind of came up in the, in the questions and it was a kind of a new topic was emails and when was the appropriate time to number one send emails. And then how to use emails and schedule emails out. And so, you know, thinking in broad terms as park owners, what type of email should, should their software system potentially be sending and is you, what’s the best practice on that?

You know, Mark that’s something that it’s been interesting to get into this whole process because different camp grounds I think differently, but actually I think overall it’s best to allow your customers to have emails. Let’s say if you if they cancel or if they reserve or if you refund something paper, well, paper, email, paper type of thing, it’s really good for your customers to be able to have that and it’s good for you to be able to have that. So I would certainly recommend and suggest that that campground owners make sure that anytime there is a money transaction that takes place, but there was an email sent out to their customers so that their customers know what’s going on. What that does is that just keeps the customer more satisfied. It also gives them you know, credibility with you because you’re not holding anything back. But for the campground owner, it also gives them a paper trail, if you will. If the customer says, no, I didn’t pay that, or yes I did pay that, or whatever, you’ve got proof that exactly when it happened and what time it happened. You know, the whole system has been sent out to the customer. So it’s, it’s above board on all, all parts.

Yeah. And, and I’ll, I’ll add to that conversation. So one of the other things that folks will ask about with their email through the reservation system is, well, can it do email marketing for me? And, and, and some software systems can, some software systems can’t. But my advice as a marketer is, you know, if you’re going to use a tool for marketing purposes, pick the best tool for the marketing purposes, right? So, so your system should be able to export your emails out and then put them into MailChimp or constant contact for your marketing messages, not your reservation messages, but your marketing messages. Just a little tip that I share with parks that we work with. It’s just something to consider that you can, you can buy a system that has everything in it, but you can be a master of everything. Or what’s the phrase?

Whatever. You know, you know what I’m talking about? Yeah. Master very thing expert none or whatever, you know, but you get the point. So choosing the right system don’t overbuy for what you’re going to do. Utilize the right tools for the different pieces that you’re going to do, which then brings us into a secondary question that kinda came up and, and, and it goes deeper. So I did that interview a couple of weeks ago with the, the gentleman who’s now a member of this Facebook group who started this, who’s building the self-contained RV park that’s completely automated, doesn’t require any staff members on it. And that’s, that’s really blown some people’s minds is that overall concept of how in the heck can you run a campground without being there? And I know some folks, that’s not their plan. They didn’t buy the campground to not be there. They bought the park because they want the family there, all that type of stuff. But we were having a conversation off the air about some ways that people can automate their processes. And I know that there’s some automation tools built into your software. So can you, can you talk a little bit about automating that process and just reminder, we’re talking to Mary Mohler from campground commanders. Mary, take it away.

Well, you know, Mark, this has been very interesting. I’ve read these articles too. When I saw that they came up on, on your Facebook page, it’s like I don’t know. Somehow or another we had seen one about two months ago and actually we had a campground call us last fall and want to know if we did this. I have, I have a Barry on, not a theory, but automation is really good to a point and there will be those people that absolutely love not having to talk to anybody or, or have anything do with anybody, but there’s also going to be the majority of campers I believe that want a personal touch to things. Automation is good and it can make it really a lot more, a lot easier for in some ways. But you still lose that personal touch on that. And I, I’m, I’m a big believer in the personal touch.

That’s an interesting point, you know, and so the, you know, the, the gentleman’s name is Jim turned tinies in the group and we were, and we were discussing that a little bit and you’re right there, there’s a place for it and there’s a place not for his park is located off the interstate. He’s in between a Cracker barrel and like a flying J, you know, that’s his, that’s his local competitors, right? So people are expecting to pull in the stand, a truck stop and you know, he’s offering them alternative combinations. But if you’re showing up at a resort, you expect there to be people there. So that’s a really good point to it. If you’re going to automate your systems, automate your, your processes, what steps can they take within their reservation engine to help do that and you know, what would you think would be good steps they could have? Would it be assigning sites or you know, the emails or you know, what type of process should they have on check in? What is your, your thoughts on those?

Okay, I see what you’re getting at now. I was, I was trying to determine where you were what you were all over the place. So I’ll go anywhere. So let’s take example, a campground that doesn’t have any type of automation. Let’s say they don’t have any reservation system. They don’t have anything. Typically what, what you would have then as a customer calling in. And however many long it takes to talk to that customer, which is, they’re getting, you’re getting that, that person to person thing, which is really a good thing. On one hand and on the other hand, people are busy today and that may not be something they want. So you think about the amount of time and I sat down one day and figured out the amount of time that I, you know, people might spend on a reservation that they wouldn’t otherwise spend if it was automated.

With an automation system, you can still have that personal touch no matter what system you use. You can still have that personal touch because number one, an email will go out immediately thanking them for making the reservation and giving them the information. And, and most every reservation system will let you make that email, say what, what you want it to say along with confirming what they have. So that’s the first touch. But the other thing is, is an automation. I think one of the first things, and I’m going to go personally, Mark, because I think that’s something that automation is great, but I think we really, really need to keep that personal touch and in place also. Because when you think about it, people that are leaving their jobs to go camping one of the things they’re wanting is they’re wanting a good experience and that experience, if, if you just go and sit in a place and you never have any personal touch with anybody, you know, you, and I’m not saying that’s not that people aren’t going to want that because I’m not, I’m not putting it down and saying those, those campgrounds that are like wanting to do it so that it’s all totally automated are bad because there’s going to be times and probably a lot of times when people are on the road and that’s what they want.

They want to sign in, come in, sit there and leave the next morning or whatever. So there’s good ways for everything. But if you’re working with the typical camper the automation can, like with an online reservation system, it can make it a lot easier for the camper much, much quicker. If they’re at work, they can pull up their computer and take their 15 minute break in the morning or afternoon and reserve a reservation. They don’t have to wait for a call. They don’t have to wait for an email. They know that that reservation has been made done. And that’s great. Now the other thing is that with emails that makes that automated or the camp ground by doing that, they can automatically pull up their computer no matter when. All of the reservation systems allow you pretty much to be able to run it any place and be able to see what’s coming in. You automatically have that money in, in the bank, you know, because if people go online and reserve, and I know this is something that I’ve seen some of the comments on your Facebook page. If people go online to reserve, they typically expect to pay the full amount when they reserve the campsite. And that it would be the same thing as if you serve a motel. You don’t reserve a motel room and say, can I pay $10 on it now and pay the restaurant I come in.

Huh. Yeah. And I’ve had that same experience too where, you know, if I’m booking a site, I kind of expect to be paying for it or at least paying a significant deposit. Right. You know, half of it or whatever with the arrests due upon arrival. So I agree with that.

So when you look at when you look at that and how much time that saves over sending out an email or making a phone call and trying to catch the customer at a time that works for them and works for you and then talking to the customer and getting all that information, most reservation systems will have all the information for the most part that you would get if a customer comes in. The difference is that with an automation system customers choose where they want to, but I think almost every reservation system in one way or another allows you to move campers into a spot that works better for your campground if that’s needs it needs to be. Right. So I think, I think when you start looking at the time that it can save and the time, then you look at all the reports.

I mean, almost every reservation system, Hm. Has a reporting system that is not on paper. Everything when a customer reserves online or when the campground reserves through their reservation system online, all of those reports are pulled together. The monies are all figured out, everything is figured out. So that is no longer sitting on a piece of paper where you have to physically do it all. You know, you’re going to still have enough work to do when you’re running a campground. I think maybe it would just be a little less chaotic and congested if more automation was, was put in.

Good answers. All right. So then the next topic that kind of came up with point of sale and, and tying that into a reservation engine. So let, let’s go actually broader. I, I mean I kind of, POS is kind of a funny acronym for something. So let’s talk about point of sale. That’s, that’s basically the system at your store that lets you sell whatever the items are. So it could be groceries, drinks, whatever. Right? And, and, and why would you want that to integrate with your reservation system and what features would you want in order to have it integrate with your reservation engine?

There’s a number of reasons why you’d want it integrate in with your reservation system. Once again, it saves time. You know, if you have a, with your integrate in with your reservation system, you can do everything in one, one fail swoop. Customer comes in, they want to purchase things from your store before they go to their campsite or they come up and they want to purchase things from your store. That can all be put right in with their bill. So when they finish up at the end and you charge them whatever, it’s all pulled together. I think one of the things too is sometimes people have POS systems and that they really like and they really don’t want to get into, you know, get rid of those. Right. So there are reservations systems out there that allow you to use your current POS system with the reservation system software.

And what that does is it creates two different reporting systems. So then at the end of the day, you’ve got to, you got your POS system that you can, that gives you reports from that. And then you’ve got your reservation systems that gives you reports from that. But it still allows customers, it still allows you to use your POS systems. The other thing is one of the difference with the POS system too is a lot of times they have a terminal, which if you have customers come in and you know, they called online or whatever and reserve the space and you haven’t taken their credit card when they come in. A POS system allows you to go ahead and stick your credit card chip in there if you want to. That’s another thing that that terminal and the POS system that work together both do that together.

Overall though most reservation systems you can go ahead and put the credit card number into the reservation system and just pull a credit card number up, which actually when you look at it would save time if you can do that. And then just put your other info. The only, the only thing I see a POS system really being necessary for in some senses. And, and your, your listeners maybe disagree and I’ll be interested to see what their comments are. But I would say it would probably be for store goods if they have a store in their, in their campground.

So again, this is Mary Mohler from campground commander. I vet people before I bring them on here to, to introduce them to you on the Facebook group. And so Mary has been on the group since we did the video. Respond to a few comments and just calming and following along and, and she’ll be in the group following this. So if you have questions, feel free to reach out to her. Specific to campground commander, the reason I agreed to, to bring you on here is you’ve got a new system and it’s, and you’re targeting a lot of the members of our group. And it’s just the nature of the group are small park owners, you know, under a hundred sites. The reason this group is so powerful is because we bring this great information to them at their fingertips. And so, you know, bringing campground commander onto here, I think it’s the perfect tool for a lot of these small parts and you target smaller parks with your software. And so one of the, one of the questions that was out there and it’s very specific to your software, is the pricing of the software. You want to go into that a little bit. The campground commander, how does your pricing work?

You ma Mark, I’d love to go into that. First I would like to mention though that I belong to a number of different Facebook groups and I really appreciate the work you do to keep your group positive and informative. So I just wanted to compliment you on that because you do a great job on that. And, and your group is one of the best groups I’ve seen. So basically we have a number of different, well I shouldn’t say a number. We’ve got three ways of, of pricing. We understand that a lot of the smaller campgrounds have seasonals and they have seasonals for a reason because that keeps an income coming in on a regular basis for them. And they know those people are going to be there for six months to a year. And so that, that gives them a stable income. For those camp sites, we charge only $5 a month.

So if their seasonal charge is $400 a month or $300 a month, they only get charged $5 a month to have that camp site on our reservation system. Otherwise there’s two different ways that, that campgrounds can decide that they want to charge their customers through our system. One is they can pass the charge off of their customers of service fee. So when the customer is reserving a site then it gets down to the very bottom and you see this on a number of reservations software where it says service fee, X amount of dollars, so the customer actually pays it through that. Or we charge 3% per reservation on regular nightly reservation. So camp grounds can decide on the 3% where they add that into their campsite price or they can push it off onto their customer and as a service charge or service fee

And they have the additional data, they have to pay the credit card though processing fees too on top of it, right?

Yeah, they do. Although if the credit, if there’s enough money that comes through the credit card, the there, yeah, they pay the percentage, which typically one of the reasons we’ve lined up with the company that we have, which is called basis is they’re a smaller company. Like we are there family owned and their processing fees are, are usually right around 2.75 which is really, really low. And if the customer, like if the campground has enough revenue coming through, then they don’t pay a monthly, a monthly fee along with the processing fees.

Yeah. And I know a number of you have already scheduled demonstrations with Marion and taking the opportunity to look at their software. I, I as I always recommend if whatever reservation software you’re looking at or if you’re looking to change it all, is take demos with all of the softwares that you can possibly get a demonstration with. Don’t pick one, do a demo and say that’s the best one ever. And even in this group, I know that like campground manager, I think it is the software that goes on your computer. A lot of folks use it because it’s what’s been around forever and it may be great for them. But one of the things realize is that it’s great for them cause they know how to use it. Take the opportunity to go demo all the different softwares that are out there because the one that’s right for you, you may not even, you may not even be aware of it yet. Take the opportunity to demo everything that’s out there. And I know a couple of you have already reached out to Maryanne, set up some demonstrations and let her know you saw her here on the Facebook group. And thank you for, for taking the time to come on here cause it, you know, she’s taking the hour to, to come on and do these videos and taking the time to join us here.

Can I add something to that? One of the things I would like to mention too is, is when you are doing reservation or when you’re doing demos with the different reservation software, also pay attention to the personalities of the people. And, you know, I think there’s a lot to be said about about when you’re doing the reservation demos, it’s not just about the software, it’s about the people that are behind the software too. So I think it’s very important to make sure, because it’s the whole picture. You know, there may be some people that I do a demo but don’t like me. Well that means you to have to deal with maybe decided to go with my software. So that may not be the best scenario, you know, so I just want to throw that out there to make sure that it seems like it’s a good fit for you too. Not just the software, because this goes a lot farther because when you’re working with a software company you know, we, sometimes you’re in touch with our customers every day and if they don’t like us, that’s going to be a little hard conversation. We’ll all wake up thinking, dang, I wish I didn’t have to go through this day and contact them again.

So again, as campground commander and hopefully you like her, if you don’t, then find a different software. I mean, that’s, that’s her advice, not mine. That’s good. If you do have other questions, feel free to post them in the comments below and then reach out to Mary directly to schedule a demo. It’s campground commander.com software system targeted at parks 125 sites or below. The reasonable fees is as you’ve just communicated and you know, another option that’s out there for you to help better run your park. And that’s all part of this Facebook group is to help you run your parks better. If everybody’s doing a little bit better job every year, we’re increasing the quality of this overall industry. We’re bringing more people into it, or we’re making camping a better experience. So I appreciate your time today, Mary. Thank you for joining me. Thanks, Mark. I appreciate it too.

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