Pelland Blog

The Family Farm, Reinvented

August 3rd, 2017

Years ago, farming was a much less complicated way to earn a living. Concepts like agribusiness, patented GMO seeds with resistance to herbicides, and acres planted in soybeans and inedible corn were futuristic nightmare scenarios. With the exception of tropical fruits such as bananas and pineapples, most of our food was locally grown, field ripened, and harvested in season. As economies of scale, shifting consumer preferences, and the influences of the chemical, pharmaceutical, and transportation industries came into play, more and more small farms turned fallow or were parceled off to real estate developers. It had become a pretty depressing time for family farming.

More recently, times have changed, thanks to a further evolution in consumer preferences and some innovative thinking on the part of a new generation of farmers. Gone are the days when farmers could literally put all of their eggs in one basket. When those eggs would otherwise cost more to produce than the price that they command in the marketplace, there is a significant market for people who are willing to pay a premium for colorful eggs that come from free-range hens that are raised without cages, antibiotics, or GMO-based feeds. If they are purchased in a farm share, farmers’ market, or at a farm stand, consumers are often willing to pay even more because they feel good about the farm-to-plate concept. Most importantly, if that farmer has more than eggs to offer, sales and profits will multiply. The secret ingredient has become creative diversification.

Expand the Experience

Farming today is about much more than crops, livestock and harvests. Particularly for a business that is subject to the vagaries of the weather, it is mission-critical to have more than a single product. Just think of the long list of words that can make a farmer shudder in fear: drought, flooding, hail, frost, disease, insect pests … the list goes on. Other types of businesses long ago caught on to the concept of diversifying the experience that they offer. In the beginning, cruise ships simply provided a means of trans-oceanic transportation, ski resorts had a brief winter season, and concerts and festivals were nothing more than music venues. Even movie theaters, which were once decimated by the advent of television (which has since been devastated by the Internet and live content streaming), are reinventing themselves with luxury seating and food and drink selections that are served by an on-demand wait staff.

Reinvented business concepts share one thing in common: They increase income and profits by getting consumers to stay longer, return more frequently, and buy more. There are few things that consumers today value more highly than their leisure time. We have even invented new terms like “quality time.” According to the Collins Dictionary, this term did not exist prior to 1985 but is now one of the 30,000 most commonly used phrases in the English language, with equivalents in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. The importance and value of quality time should not be underestimated.

Back on the Farm

That expanded, quality time experience can take many forms on a small farm operation. Anything that can turn a farm visit into an “event” will work, while a multitude of events can turn a farm into a destination. The possibilities are nearly endless and include:

  • Pick-your-own – from berries to tree fruits, your customers will pay you to bring in part of your harvest.
  • Petting zoos – ever-popular with toddlers (and their grandparents), you can even sell small bags of feed.
  • Prepared food concessions – from bakeries to restaurants to ice cream stands, people will pay a premium for freshly-prepared foods with natural ingredients.
  • Hayrides and walking trails – give visitors a chance to get to know your property better, perhaps learning of crops that they did not know you produced.
  • Music events – a singer-songwriter or acoustic duo will extend the stay of your guests throughout their sets of music, especially if you have outdoor seating with a view or an indoor seating (and dining) space.
  • Off-season offerings – from Christmas trees and accessories (where tag-your-own or cut-your-own become variations of the pick-your-own concept) to maple sugaring to scarecrow making, corn mazes and pumpkin decorating, there are a variety of ways to extend your season.
  • Breweries and wineries – expanding like wildfire, craft breweries and small wineries have the potential to draw tremendous crowds, especially when combined with other on-location activities.
  • Wedding receptions – sometimes a unique location with a terrific view can be in high demand.
  • Farm stays – if you have guest rooms available, this is another way to expand your income, whether simply a bed & breakfast (with fresh-from-the-farm products for breakfast, of course) or a work and stay opportunity. Over the years, my wife and I have enjoyed stays everywhere from an orange grove in California to a winery and vineyard in Tuscany.

Regardless of which of these options – or others – that your farm chooses to pursue, there are a few basics that will make your endeavor more consumer-friendly and successful.

Successful Marketing Basics

First of all, stop thinking that you are competing against other nearby farm operations. Your competition for consumers’ attention will now be major events and attractions, and your reach will extend far beyond the home base of your farm stand customers, most of whom are drivers who stop on impulse. If you are planning one or more events, choose your dates far in advance, allowing time for promotion and avoiding conflicts with other, more established events. Then promote your events as extensively as possible, most heavily in the 7 to 10 days beforehand.

Here are a few additional tips:

  1. Negotiate trades with local media, particularly newspapers with weekly event schedules and local TV and radio stations. Ask a local TV station to cover your event. They are often eager to cover a local human interest story, particularly on a weekend, which is an otherwise slow news period.
  2. Avoid the temptation to save money by doing it yourself. It seems that every farm family has a relative who attended art school, but leave your website and print advertising to professionals who can provide a cohesive branding.
  3. Maximize your use of social media. Promote your event on a Facebook page that is dedicated to your business. Respond to questions and reviews, and don’t neglect other social media apps.
  4. Always give something away for free. Whether a free petting zoo (again, you can sell the feed!), free parking (of course!), free hayrides, or free samples, “free” is an incentive to attend and an incentive to stay longer and spend more.
  5. Accept credit cards. There is never a rational excuse for limiting the amount of money that visitors can spend to whatever cash may be on hand in their wallets.
  6. Use every event as an opportunity to promote subsequent events. Have a calendar or other handout so that people can “save the date” and return to the venue that they are enjoying today.
  7. Partner with other businesses in the area that are marketing to the same clientele. A “tour” of businesses along a 20 or 25 mile stretch of highway helps to extend your efforts into an all-day destination event. Develop incentives for visitors to one participant to stop at the other businesses as well.
  8. Capitalize upon signage. It worked for Burma Shave and it works for Wall Drug. For a one-day event, post signs along the route to encourage travelers (who may have been otherwise unaware of your event) to stop by. Be sure to incorporate the word “free”.
  9. Have plenty of parking, along with ushers to flag drivers into available spaces.
  10. Make your event photo-friendly, encouraging guests to share photos on the social media, and be sure to take plenty of your own photos to promote the “second annual” event next year.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Never Burn Bridges

August 20th, 2016

There were two e-mails over the last week that got me shaking my head in wonderment. The first was forwarded to me by one of my clients. She had recently left a well-known website hosting services provider in favor of an extensive list of more personalized hosting services that my company provides. After the other company threw down as many roadblocks as possible, as well as making several attempts at trying to scare the client into cancelling her plans to move, the migration was finalized. When my client formally cancelled her services with the other company, they could not accept the loss of the account without one last word.

The e-mail that she forwarded to me included a sentence that started with the words, “When you are ready to come back to us ….” Apparently the sender either thought that she had nothing to lose or preferred not to use the phrases “When you come to your senses”, “When you realize you made a mistake”, or “When you realize that you made a stupid decision”, but her words had the same effect in insulting my client and ensuring that she would never reverse her decision.

The second e-mail arrived this afternoon. It was sent to me by a highly presumptive young salesperson for a startup Internet company that is trying to capitalize upon the consolidation of online campground reservations. I had previously written about this and similar companies after another of my clients had related his nightmare stories about trying to get his campground de-listed from one of these sites. As I wrote at the time, Campground reservations are accurately perceived as a multi-billion dollar business, and companies that would like a piece of the action are suddenly coming out of the woodwork. Funded with infusions of venture capital, the focus is on generating income from the collection of processing fees on those reservations, either in real-time (with campgrounds that get on board) or with the type of delayed booking that initially caught my client’s attention.”

These online reservation consolidators tend to compete with your own official website and your own chosen online reservation engine, a situation that can only serve to confuse consumers and dilute the effectiveness of how you run your business. In the instance this afternoon, one of our clients (with a new website that was less than a week old) was being asked to funnel traffic from his website to the startup company’s booking engine. The salesperson could not understand why I explained that it was not in my client’s interest to accept her offer and why we would not be installing her company’s “Book Now” button on the new website. Not only could she not understand why I would not matter-of-factly follow her instructions, she actually sent me two additional e-mails where she attempted to educate me in marketing basics.

What do these two e-mail stories have in common? They demonstrate the importance of never burning your bridges. As a campground owner, if a guest has a less than perfect experience and expresses his or her dissatisfaction on a review or social media website, take a deep breath before posting a thoughtful and empathetic response. There is no logical reason for the last word from you to be along the lines of “I hope that the door didn’t hit you on the way out!” or “Don’t even think of ever trying to come back here again!”

If you want your business to grow and prosper, every camper who enters your gate is your most important customer ever. To alienate only one represents not just the loss of any potential future business from that person and his family, it also likely means the exponential loss of business from every friend of that individual, as well as the friends of those friends. I am a frequent contributor to the TripAdvisor website, where statistics tell me that my reviews have influenced over 90,000 readers, many with recommendations of businesses but others with warnings to stay away. Since I have written 136 reviews, this means that my average review has been read by over 660 fellow travelers.

That is a demonstration of the power of exponential influence. Think about it the next time you might be too tired to thank a guest one more time for choosing to stay at your park … or the next time that a guest gets under your skin and you really want to serve him a piece of your mind. Always remember that bridges are for connecting, not for burning.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

A Buyer’s Guide to the Ultimate in Customer Satisfaction

June 22nd, 2016

I have often written how customer satisfaction is the key to the long-term success of any business. This applies to the full gamut of service industries, but it also applies in a much more tangible manner to the manufacturers of everyday products. As the owner of a small business, you need to spend your dollars wisely, and there is no greater assurance of satisfaction than an unconditional lifetime warranty.

Companies that offer no-questions-asked warranties generally do so because they know that they can stand behind the quality of their products, in a day and age where so many people have grown to accept the concept of planned obsolescence. Sure, you might pay a slight premium for the better quality product, but wouldn’t you rather support businesses that, like your own, are committed to customer satisfaction? As a bonus, many of these products are made in the USA, helping to employ people who might be the same people who will in turn patronize your business.

In years past, before the days of mass production, and certainly before the days when manufacturing began to be outsourced to foreign factories employing a low-wage workforce, manufacturers were more typically craftsmen who took great personal pride in what they had made. Products were designed and intended to last for years. When they eventually reached the end of their useful lives, they were often imaginatively repurposed, rather than being hauled off to a landfill for the rest of eternity.

Quality and Marketing Intersect in Freeport, Maine

Many companies today differentiate themselves from their competition by standing behind their products and using that customer assurance as a highly effective marketing tool. If any individual could be singled out as the originator of the concept, it would be Leon Leonwood Bean, who founded the company that bears his name in a one-room operation in Freeport, Maine back in 1912. His first and only product at the time was the Maine Hunting Shoe – affectionately known for many years as the “Bean Boot”. According to the company, 90% of the original production run back in 1912 was returned under the terms of L.L. Bean’s money-back guarantee, due to design defects. Those defects were corrected, and the company’s flagship store now occupies 220,000 square feet and is one of the leading tourist attractions in the state of Maine. Along with its 41 satellite stores, the privately-held company employed a workforce of 5,000 with sales exceeding $1.61 billion in 2014. The iconic Maine Hunting Shoe is still made in the USA, at a plant in Brunswick, Maine that employs 450 people.

Lifetime Warranty

The List

L.L. Bean: A full line of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing; footwear; outdoor gear; hunting and fishing gear and apparel; luggage; and products for the home.
www.llbean.com
100% satisfaction guaranteed, free shipping to the U.S. and Canada with no minimum order.

Eddie Bauer: A full line of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing; outdoor gear; footwear; outerwear; and home accessories.
www.eddiebauer.com
Unconditional lifetime guarantee

The North Face: Men’s, women’s and children’s clothing; outdoor gear (including tents and sleeping bags); footwear; and backpacks.
www.thenorthface.com
Lifetime limited warranty

Lands’ End: Men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and shoes; swimwear; and home accessories.
www.landsend.com
Lands’ End has actually trademarked its warranty: “Guaranteed. Period.”

Patagonia: Men’s, women’s and children’s clothing; outdoor gear.
www.patagonia.com
“Ironclad Guarantee”

Duluth Trading Company: Men’s and women’s outdoor clothing, footwear, and accessories. Over 150 products made in the USA.
www.duluthtrading.com
“No Bull Guarantee”           

Bogs: Boots for men, women and children.
www.bogsfootwear.com
100% satisfaction guarantee, free shipping and returns on all non-sale items.

Darn Tough Vermont Socks: Comfortable, durable socks, made in the USA.
www.darntough.com
Unconditional lifetime guarantee

Dr. Martens For Life: Men’s and women’s boots, shoes, and industrial footwear.
www.drmartens.com
Only “For Life” products are covered under the company’s lifetime warranty.

JanSport: Backpacks, bags and accessories.
www.jansport.com
Guaranteed for life, with free shipping and free returns.

Briggs & Riley: Luggage.
www.briggs-riley.com
Lifetime repair guarantee, even if damaged by an airline.

Buck Knives: A complete line of knives, made in the USA.
www.buckknives.com
Forever warranty

W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery: Pocket knives and sporting knives, made in the USA.
www.wrcase.com
Limited lifetime warranty

Craftsman: Hand tools, sold by Sears, Kmart and Ace Hardware stores.
www.craftsman.com
Limited lifetime or full warranty, varies by product.

Kobalt Tools: Hand tools and lawn and garden tools, sold exclusively at Lowe’s.
www.kobalttools.com
Lifetime hassle-free guarantee

Ridgid: Power tools.
www.ridgid.com
Full lifetime warranty on most power tool products

Vortex: Riflescopes, spotting scopes, binoculars and other optics.
www.vortexoptics.com
Unlimited lifetime warranty. Out of 297 customer reviews, 284 rate this company as “excellent”.

CamelBak: Hydration systems.
www.camelbak.com
Lifetime guarantee

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Give New Thinking Another Thought

February 17th, 2016

We generally tend to believe that new ways of doing things improve our efficiency, while we turn a blind eye toward any associated shortcomings. Nobody will argue that an e-mail is more efficient than a handwritten letter, a fax, or an expensive overnight document. In some instances, new technologies and new ways of thinking have brought about the total obsolescence of old ways of doing things. How many readers are old enough to remember the delivery of a telegram by a Western Union courier?

Sometimes, upon closer inspection, some of the new ways of doing things are not necessarily better than their predecessors, particularly when an opportunity for face-to-face conversation and dialogue is lost in the process. Let us look at the commonly-used conference call as an example. When it is necessary to schedule a meeting of the minds, the logistics of assembling a diverse group of people into a single room at a single time can be both overwhelming and contrary to a need for urgency. As convenient as the logistics may be, there is reason to call the overall effectiveness of a concept as simple as a conference call into question.

A study that was conducted by InterCall, the world’s largest provider of conference and collaborations services (according to Wikipedia) was broadly reported in publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Forbes Magazine to the Harvard Business Review. The study was based upon a survey of 500 corporate users of the company’s services, and the findings were eye-opening to say the least. They bear repeating here.

SleepingWorker_148344734_600400_90

  1. 65% of participants in conference calls admitted that they did other work during the course of the call.
  2. 63% of participants admitted to sending e-mails during the course of the call. Of course, this may have included instances when the e-mails being sent had something to do with the subject being discussed.
  3. 55% admitted to eating or preparing food during the call.
  4. 47% admitted to leaving the call, unannounced, to go to the bathroom.
  5. 44% admitted to sending text messages during the call, a percentage that has probably only increased since the time of the survey.
  6. 43% spent time on Facebook or other social media while they were supposed to be participating in the conference call.
  7. 25% admitted to playing video games during the call. If the person organizing the call had the authority to terminate the employment of participants, this would certainly constitute justifiable cause.
  8. 21% admitted to doing online shopping during the call.

Keep in mind that, in each instance, we are looking at statistics that are based upon personal behavior that participants in the survey were willing to admit. The actual percentages may be higher. In addition, there were smaller numbers of people who admitted to either exercising or taking another call during the course of a conference call.

It may be apparent that it is imperative for a conference call to be kept on-topic and as brief as possible, if we are to avoid the risk of losing the attention of participants. On the other hand, the percentages cited would be closer to zero in a physical, face-to-face conference. Even when video comes into play, via Skype, it is amazing how some people think that the same rules do not apply to virtual meetings as apply to physical meetings. I recall making a Skype presentation before a local tourism association in another region of the country a few years ago. As I started my presentation, the camera showed one of the committee members to whom I was speaking with her eyes closed, proceeding to take a nap. I was understandably offended.

The important point from all of this is that we always need to be aware of the trade-offs when we embrace a “new and improved” technology to substitute for direct human interaction.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Caller ID: Correcting How Your Business Name Displays

December 16th, 2015

I do not know about you, but I pre-screen my calls before answering the phone, trying my best to avoid telemarketers, robo-calls, and other unwanted phone calls. Even though Caller ID readouts can easily be spoofed by aggressive telemarketers, a caller name that I know will always lead to a call that I will answer.

The problem comes into play if, for any of a variety of reasons, the name that is displayed when you call another phone is not the correct representation of your business name. In some instances, your business name may have changed, but the Caller ID still shows the name of the previous business … perhaps a business with a less than stellar reputation that you have been working vigilantly to overcome. In other instances, your business name may be spelled wrong, due to a careless database entry somewhere along the way.

One of my clients, Shir-Roy Camping Area, recently called me, but my Caller ID displayed the name as “CAMPIN S”. Another of my clients, Holiday Park Campground, always displays as “HOLDAY PARK” when they call. Worse yet is if your business appears as “Unknown Caller”, a situation that can be damaging to your business in its ability to contact its customers. Getting these corrected can be an exercise in frustration; however, I will attempt to offer some assistance.

Caller-ID-device

First, it helps to understand how all this works. The phone number and the name that will appear on your Caller ID readout represent two entirely different pieces of information. The Caller ID represents the phone number of the originating call, and it originates with that person or company’s phone carrier. It is the CNAM that represents the name that is associated with that number, and it is delivered by the local phone carrier of the person on the receiving end of the call, doing what is called a “database dip.” The two pieces of information are alternately displayed on the same device that is broadly (and confusingly) referred to as your Caller ID.

Next, for the purposes of this article, I am referring to the Caller ID information that is displayed for calls made from landline telephones. These telephone carriers include AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Fairpoint, Frontier and Windstream, as well as cable companies like Comcast, Cox and others. Regardless of your carrier, it will access the Caller ID and CNAM databases from one of a couple dozen companies: most typically Neustar (formerly Targus), VeriSign, or Syniverse. The most dominant of these appears to be Neustar. Your phone carrier might subscribe to one or two databases, but any problems will persist unless all of the databases have been corrected.

Further complicating matters, some of these companies only update their databases annually, when new phone directories are published. As you might imagine, it is important for your business name to be listed correctly in your directory listing and on your phone bill. Presuming that you are tired of waiting, there are companies that offer to fix your Caller ID listing in these databases for a fee. One such company is called FixCallerID.com, and it charges a fee of $295.00 per phone number. However, I want to help you to do this on your own, without paying any fees.

To start, my recommendation is to call Neustar at 1 800 682-7487. Tell the operator that you are seeking to make a correction in your CNAM database listing, and you will be transferred over to an automated system where you will begin that process at no charge. The corrections are said to take “as long as 24 hours”, which is far better than waiting up to a year or paying a fee to expedite the process.

If this has not corrected the error within a few days, it is time to call your telephone carrier (either landline or cellular). Tell them that your outbound caller ID information is incorrect (or, in the case of an “Unknown Caller” situation, missing) and that you are requesting that it be corrected. They will first check for any possible errors at their end, along with any errors in the settings on your cellular device (if applicable), then check their internal CNAM database for potential errors. Any such errors will be corrected while you are on the call.

If your Caller ID information still does not display correctly, ask the representative from your telephone carrier to file a CNAM inquiry on your behalf. They will ask you to provide the same information that you provided to Neustar, but they will also have a direct route to get the information corrected with all of the other database service providers. At this point, it should only be a matter of a few days before your Caller ID information will begin to display correctly.

Yes, this process will require the investment of a bit of time on your part; however, anything that helps to enhance your business’s ability to communicate effectively with its customers is well worth the effort.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Shining the Light on New Facebook Premier Ads

November 6th, 2015

When I first started using Facebook, I hated it and “hate” is a strong word that I don’t throw around very lightly. One of the biggest problems I had with the social media giant was the whole privacy thing. Remember, posting is forever and what you put online will be there for the world to see for an eternity.

Don’t worry, Facebook and I kissed and made up. It’s just the way that I was raised I suppose. My ultra-conservative Dad was one of those “big brother is watching you” type of people and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.


FACEBOOK PIC

 

The problem wasn’t with Facebook, it was with me, since I was essentially using it the wrong way. We all know that you can adjust the privacy settings so that only your “friends” can see you, but the concept that they owned everything that I posted rubbed me the wrong way. Now that I am looking at it from a marketing perspective, my view has completely changed.

 With over a billion users, you can’t deny the tremendous exposure that a post or advertisement can reach and that Facebook is “open” twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. What other marketing strategy can boast all of those features?

 The benefits don’t end there since premier ads offer other amenities and choices, such as:

 

  • Page Like Ads – that allow users to give you the old “thumbs up” directly from the ad
  • Page Post Ads – increasing traffic directly to your site
  • App Ads – driving app installs, engagement and conversion
  • Domain Ads – taking users to the page of your choice at your website
  • Event Ads – inviting them to join your event
  • Offer Ads – enticing users to purchase your product at a great price

 

Facebook has been recently shifting its advertising and marketing attention to a paid-only format, so why should be “pay to play” on their site? Mostly it is because they have very effective audience targeting features that give your advertising more bang for the buck. Before you say it, Google, Twitter and a thousand other sites will target your prospective customers, but Facebook’s targeting strategies are a little more unique.

Since most users craft a fairly comprehensive profile about themselves, Facebook can hone in on many different areas rather than concentrating on just one bullseye, like women or men, they can aim more precisely according to:

 

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interest
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Life events
  • Apps
  • Groups
  • Device usage
  • Travels
  • Purchasing behavior

 

And those are just a few examples. Arguably, no other social media site uses this combination of  comprehensive data to reach their specific audience. This is what makes Facebook such an effective way for businesses and specific industries to find the consumer best suited according to their wants and needs. This type of marketing strategy also takes little time and effort from the advertiser.

 

This post was written by Peter Pelland

When There Is a Copyright, Copying Is Wrong

September 30th, 2015

You may have heard the recent news report (September 22, 2015) about how a federal judge in California ruled that the song “Happy Birthday” is not subject to the copyright claim of Warner/Chappell Music. That company had purchased what it insisted were the successive rights to the song that was originally copyrighted back in 1935. This legal ruling declares that the song, which is said to have originated with two Kentucky sisters back in the late 1800s, is in the public domain and may be used freely, no longer entitling Warner/Chappell Music to collect some $2 million in annual royalties.

HappyBirthday_97375856_600x271_24T

Campground owners are probably already familiar with the licensing rules that must be addressed when showing films or playing music within their parks. The entire concept revolves around the fact that intellectual property is, in fact, property. Perhaps not as tangible as a three-dimensional object that you have purchased, that intellectual property is the result of the work of one or more people (typically thousands of people in the instance of a feature film) who earn their livings by creating this work, just as you earn your living by running your campground. Without compensation, we have no more right to use their work than we have the right to take a ride in a car that we admire that we see parked along the side of the road. (Personally, I would like to take a spin in a nice Tesla Model S!)

When it comes to films and music, associations such as National ARVC have negotiated group discounts with licensing organizations such as the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) and the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). As a member, you should subscribe to those member programs in order to stay on the right side of copyright compliance.

Photography is another copyright zone that may directly impact your business. If you hire a photographer to take photos at your park, confirm in advance that you will own the rights to those photos without further compensation. If you are using stock photography, on the other hand, there are two basic types of usage rights: royalty-free and rights-managed. With royalty-free images, you pay a one-time fee to either a photographer or a photo agency, allowing you generally unrestricted rights to use a photo. Reproduction of images on articles for resale (such as posters, calendars, postcards, or coffee mugs) is generally not included, and the photographer retains the right to sell additional royalty-free rights to as many people as may be willing to pay the requisite fee. There is always the risk, of course, that your company and another company might purchase the same usage rights to the same photo, potentially creating an embarrassingly awkward situation.

Rights-managed photos, on the other hand, involve very specific licensing fees that are based upon how and where a photo is being used. These fees are always going to be substantially higher than the fees for the royalty-free usage rights that are more than adequate under most circumstances. Companies with deep pockets might choose to pay even higher fees for exclusive rights to an image, preventing anyone else from using the photo.

The important thing to keep in mind is that, if you are using a photo that you did not take yourself, you must be sure that you have paid any applicable licensing fees. Even a photo that you have taken yourself, if it includes another person or another person’s property, may not be yours to use in a manner that involves public distribution (either in print or online). If you need a stock photo or graphic, turn to one of many online stock photo agencies. You are likely to find the perfect image, and you may then pay a reasonable fee for royalty-free usage rights. (The stock image illustrating this story is a perfect example of a royalty-free image, rights to which I have purchased for this specific purpose.)

What you must not do is carelessly assume that you have the right to use a photo simply because it appears in a Google image search. For example, I just did a search for “John Wayne”, and I can assure you that somebody owns the rights to each of those photos. In fact, the family of the actor has even attempted to copyright the name “Duke”, taking legal action against Duke University in the family’s efforts to license the actor’s nickname for a line of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey.

I was recently contacted by one of my company’s campground clients who had received an e-mail from Getty Images (a very large rights-managed stock photo agency), demanding compensation for copyright infringement. My client questioned the validity of the e-mail, since there are so many phishing scams these days that look quite official. Unfortunately, this demand notice was very much the real thing. Apparently, one of my company’s employees had somewhat carelessly found a photo of a red-tailed hawk in flight (no doubt using a Google image search) and used it to accompany a link to information about a nearby raptor migration lookout.

It is clear that companies like Getty Images are using some very sophisticated image recognition technology to actively seek out and pursue cases of copyright infringement, regardless of intent or knowledge.

Their correspondence included the following notes:

  • Ceasing use of the imagery does not release your company of its responsibility to pay for the imagery already used. As the unauthorized use has already occurred, payment for that use is necessary.
  • You may have been unaware that this imagery was subject to license. However, copyright infringement can occur regardless of knowledge or intent. While being unaware of license requirements is unfortunate, it does not change liability.

In this case, I took responsibility for the error in judgment on the part of one of my employees. I removed the image from our client’s website, and I paid Getty Images the $520.00 that they demanded in settlement. A friend of mine who runs a travel website later told me that he had once been sent a demand in the amount of $4,200.00 for using a historic photograph of Abraham Lincoln on his site. Even the images of one of our most beloved Presidents are apparently not in the public domain.

In summary, let me offer fair warning and a word to the wise, urging my readers to be cautious to an extreme when using stock photos. In the meantime, let’s all sing a round of “Happy Birthday”, since it is somebody’s birthday today and every day.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

The Evolution of Two Industries

July 2nd, 2015

The 2015 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report from the Outdoor Foundation includes a breakdown of outdoor participation by activity for everything from Adventure Racing to Wildlife Viewing. In summary, it reports that 48.4% of Americans participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2014, translating into 141.4 million participants engaging in a total of 11.8 billion outdoor events. These are impressive numbers, many of which are skewed – either positively or negatively – by weather patterns; however, it is important to examine individual industries in order to get a better grasp regarding trends.

With the gathering of statistics going back to 2006, the report includes 3-year changes within individual activities that provide a quick snapshot of either increases or decreases in participation. There are similar trends exhibited between Alpine/Downhill Skiing and RV Camping. Putting aside the reported 3-year changes, I think that it is even more compelling to compare the 2014 participation numbers with the high water marks within the 9-year survey period. Measuring people ages 6 and up, skiing peaked in 2010, when there were 11,504,000 participants, decreasing 24.8% to 8,649,000 participants in 2014. Similarly, camping peaked in 2009, with 17,436,000 participants, decreasing 16.1% to 14,633,000 participants in 2014.

Beyond Blaming the Weather, What Is Happening?

I have been working with the family camping industry since 1982, although I started my business in the New England ski industry back in 1980. With an intimate understanding of both industries, one of my most fascinating recent reads was Hal Clifford’s “Downhill Slide: Why the Corporate Ski Industry Is Bad for Skiing, Ski Towns, and the Environment”. In this compelling exposé, Clifford documents the evolution of skiing from its roots in Scandinavia, through a growth spurt following the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid (New York), through the development of Sun Valley (Idaho) as the first destination ski resort back in 1935-1938, through the return of World War II’s 10th Mountain Division veterans, through another growth spurt following the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley (California), through the “industrial tourism” that it became in the 1990s – when 3 major companies then controlled 24% of ticket sales from coast to coast. I believe that there are parallels between the downhill skiing and family camping industries.

The ski industry in the United States was essentially given birth in the first three decades of the twentieth century, including the development of Sun Valley as the first destination resort by railroad magnate W. Averill Harriman. By 1938, Harriman understood that there was far more income to be generated than what could be realized through lift ticket sales, adding tennis, golf, fishing, rodeo, hiking and swimming. The “golden age” of skiing took place in the 1950s. This was the period of time when 2,000 veterans from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division returned home from the Italian and Austrian Alps to kick-start the post-war ski industry, founding, managing, or running the ski schools at 62 American ski resorts. In New England alone, there are 605 former ski areas (most operating in the 1950s) that are documented by the New England Lost Ski Areas Project. Most of these were “mom and pop” operations run on snowy hills, with rudimentary rope tows run by the likes of tractors or old Packard automobile engines. In Massachusetts alone, my company has at least two campground clients with campsites that are partially located on the remnants of the slopes and trails of former ski areas.

In the 5 years following the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, skier days increased by 50%, with the greatest increase going to destination reports. The handwriting was on the wall for the mom and pop areas attempting to compete. A decade later, in 1975, there were 745 ski areas in the United States, a number that would drop to 509 by the year 2000. Despite the advent of snowboarding, total visits to ski areas stagnated in the 1980s and 1990s, numbers which would have witnessed double-digit declines if not for snowboarding. According to Clifford, only 15% of beginners go on to become serious skiers. Although 33 million Americans considered themselves skiers or snowboarders (at the time when the book was written, in 2003), only a third of them actually go out even once in any given year.

Part of the problem with the ski industry is the aging of the post-war baby boomers. Statistics have shown that, once they hit the age of 44, the average skiers hang up their skis for the last time. The changing population does not bode well for the ski industry. People today have less leisure time, less disposable income, and new interests – such as fitness clubs and the Internet. Another strike against skiing is that it requires a learning curve, and most people today want instant gratification.

Lift Tickets Equate to Campsites

It is a well-documented fact that most of the ski industry is no longer in the business of selling lift tickets. Even with single-day lift ticket prices topping $100.00 at many ski resorts this past season, those ticket sales cannot begin to cover expenses. In the year 2000, a Poma detachable quad chairlift would cost just under $3 million to install, plus another 15% for site preparation. Then it would cost about $14,000 per month for the electricity to turn the lift. At the same time, an 8-place gondola carrying passengers only 2,200 ft. would run about $6 million, with a monthly electric bill of about $20,000. Not pocket change, even some of the biggest corporate players have faced economic challenges.

Then there are snowmaking costs. Again in the year 2000, the air compressors to run a bank of snow guns cost about $250,000 each, basic snow guns cost about $1,000 each, fan-driven snow machines cost about $10,000 each, and the electricity to make the snow might cost a large resort $1,000,000 per season. Clifford cites an interview with the general manager of Sugarbush Resort (Vermont), who said at the time that his snowmaking costs were $1,000 per acre per inch, with a monthly electric bill of $300,000 to $400,000. For all of this money, skiers and snowboarders get snow conditions that are as predictable as a MacDonald’s hamburger … something that not every skier actually wants. Whether or not skiers demanded the industry improvements, or whether they got caught up in the competitive one-upmanship of corporate skiing, the industry has changed. Just like the cruise industry, the theme park industry, and perhaps what is beginning to happen with camping.

In the ski industry, the profit center is now real estate development, with million dollar building lots for second homes, condominiums for every middle-to-upper income level, fractional ownership, absentee homeowners, and artificial “ski villages” that are designed to keep all of the dollars spent in the resort’s pockets. People who were once attracted to authentic ski towns and their ambiance have found those towns displaced by the new manufactured village concept, with bars, restaurants, shops and hotels all designed to capitalize upon that now lost romantic notion of the ski towns of yesteryear.

At one extreme is the relatively new concept of the private membership ski resort. The Yellowstone Club, in Montana, is only open to members who can demonstrate a net worth in excess of $3 million, paying an initiation fee of $250,000 and an annual $16,000 membership fee – along with the mandatory purchase of property at the resort. Then there is The Hermitage Club, in Vermont, (located at the former Haystack Mountain, one of my favorites back in the day), with an initiation fee of only $75,000 and billboards along Interstate 91 in Connecticut and Massachusetts touting “your own private ski resort”.

The good news is that there is a backlash in the ski industry, with a growing popularity of back-to-basics skiing, often cooperatively owned, at ski areas like Vermont’s Mad River Glen, California’s Bear Valley, and British Columbia’s Shames Mountain. There are also many of the healthier “mom and pop” areas that are still maintaining their niches in their markets.

Yes, there are many parallels between what is happening in the ski industry and the family camping industry in North America. I will leave it to my readers to connect the dots. The bottom line is that there are forces that are driving up the price of camping, that profits cannot be based solely upon campsite fees, and that there is plenty of room for diversity. There are many definitions for the “perfect camping experience”, and it will continue to be the goal of every campground to effectively market itself within its niche target market. Define your park’s experience, and then do everything you can to get the word out, helping the people who want precisely what you are offering to find you.

Change might be inevitable, but the survival – and continuing success – of your business is held within your own hands.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Have a Question? Ask a Vendor!

April 21st, 2015

Early in the summer of 2014, one of my campground clients e-mailed me to let me know that she had sold her campground. She provided me with the name and cell phone number of the buyer. The following day, I called the new owner to introduce myself, encountering a highly unprofessional outgoing voicemail message but leaving my own message that explained the purpose of my call and asking him to get back to me. There was no response. I tried again a few days later with the same outcome.

I realize that some people have an aversion to what they may perceive as sales calls; however, my call did not include the words “I need to speak with the person who orders your office copier supplies.” I was not trying to sell him anything, I mentioned the name of the seller, and suggested that he might like to discuss changes that should be made to the website that my company had built and was hosting. He might like something as simple as having us add a notice that said “Under New Ownership”. There was no response, and I moved on to other things … such as being of service to people who return my calls.

About a month after the park changed hands, I started getting error logs from people submitting reservation requests on the campground’s website. The request forms were set to be sent to the campground’s Comcast e-mail address, and the new owner had cancelled the previous owner’s contract with Comcast. After four reservation requests were rendered undeliverable over a weekend at the height of the summer camping season, I made another round of calls to the new owner’s cell phone. I listened to his same childish outgoing message, and told him specifically why I was calling, that he was losing business, and that he needed to provide me with a new e-mail address for the reservation request forms on his website. I also called the campground’s main phone number. Once again, no response.

As of this writing, there have been 82 people who have attempted to make reservations through the campground’s website, some of whom were inquiring about multiple sites or stays of one week or longer. Let’s presume that the average request was for a two-night stay at the campground’s $35.00 average nightly rate. That translates into $5,740.00 in lost business from the undelivered forms alone. Stated another way, this is $5,740.00 in lost business because my phone calls were not returned. Of course, I have no alternate e-mail address, allowing me to reach out in another manner. The campground’s website hosting service (prepaid by the former owner) expires in July. Will he call me when his website is disabled? Time will tell.

The point of all this is to stress the value of industry vendors. Yes, we sell products or services. However, selling is not a crime. In fact, it is the backbone of our economy. I have always had a policy of providing up to an hour of free consultation services to anybody who calls me and who would like to plug into my expertise. There are no sales attempts or strings attached, and my base of knowledge extends well beyond the services that my company provides. For example, at the recent Northeast Campground Association conference, I participated in the “Learn from the Experts” roundtable sessions, where my topic was online and office security standards.

If you have a question about payment processing, insurance, wi-fi installation, or which store merchandise will provide the greatest return on investment, ask an industry vendor. If you want to know the pros and cons between alternate lines of laundry equipment, golf carts, power pedestals, lawn mowers, or picnic tables, ask an industry vendor. With very few exceptions, the people who I know who are serving the family campground industry are truly committed to the industry and can be relied upon for honest and objective information. I believe that most put the interests of their customers and the overall industry ahead of their own interests. There is a tremendous resource at your disposal. Put it to good use. Those who fail to do so may suffer the consequences.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Tech Acronyms & Abbreviations: A Quiz for the New Year

January 4th, 2015

Acronyms and abbreviations surround us and have become a part of our everyday lexicon. You are familiar with acronyms: words that have been formed from the initial letters of a series of words and are then pronounced as words themselves. Abbreviations, on the other hand, are also formed from the initial letters of a series of words but are not pronounced as words themselves. For example, NASA is an acronym for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and KOA is an abbreviation for Kampgrounds of America.

Many acronyms originated with military jargon, including RADAR (which stands for radio detection and ranging), AWOL (absent without leave), and SNAFU (which I will leave undefined). More recently, a whole new generation of acronyms and abbreviations has been generated by the proliferation of technology and the Internet. Many of these terms have become part of our everyday conversations, but how many of us really know the definitions of the words that we use?

It is the start of a new year, and I thought that we could take this opportunity to have some fun with a little quiz that will allow you determine whether you are a true geek or simply a nerd in geek’s clothing. I will throw in a few easy terms, just so nobody feels totally discouraged. I will provide you with the acronym or abbreviation, along with a brief definition. See if you know the words that provide the origins for the terms. Have fun and see how you do, checking for the correct answers at the end of the quiz.

1)    RAM – Usually found in pairs of “sticks” that fit into “slots” in a computer, these allow a computer to perform calculations quickly. Variations include SDRAM and VRAM. Not to be confused with an early solo record by Paul McCartney.

2)    PDF – These are pages of content that can be downloaded online and will always render identically on every display and print consistently on every printer.

3)    DSL – This is a form of high-speed Internet access over telephone lines that replaced the screeching sound and excruciatingly slow speed of dial-up modems. The next breed of this will use fiber optic cable.

4)    CPU – This is to your computer what your brain is to your body. Without it, your computer would be nothing but a case full of components.

5)    BSOD – This is the last thing that a Windows computer user wants to see on his monitor. It is also known as a stop error or bug check, and it displays a memory dump that typically includes thousands of characters of text that are totally undecipherable to the average human being.

6)    CMYK – These represent the colors that comprise four-color process printing, as opposed to the RGB colors of digital displays. Most folks read out the letters in this abbreviation, but other people pronounce it as the acronym “smick”.

7)    Wi-Fi – This is a means of connecting to the Internet without the use of cables. Everybody at your campground wants this available at their particular campsite, and it better be fast and free.

8)    USB – Before this was adopted as a standard, there seemed to be a different type of cable for every device connected to a computer, each with a unique plug and computer jack. Of course, as devices got smaller, there is now mini-USB and micro-USB found on things like smartphones. Thanks to USB, you probably have a box full of old cables that you cannot even give away.

9)    URL – This is the address of your website or any other particular page on the Internet. It is even more precise than a 9-digit zip code.

10) HDMI – This allows a single cable to transfer video and audio between devices such as computer monitors, video projectors, and digital televisions. Thanks to HDMI, almost nobody uses two tin cans and a string anymore.

11) HTML – The websites that you see online work because this allows text files to be “tagged” in a manner that allows them to display specific fonts, colors, graphics, embedded content, and links. Some people think that this is magic, but it is really some form of HTML.

12) JPEG – Probably the most common means of compressing and decompressing digital images. When saving an image, the amount of compression can be selected. Too much compression leads to serious loss of image quality.

13) IMAP – A protocol that allows e-mail to be retrieved from a mail server, it offers added functionality over the POP3 standard, including an improved ability to synchronize your e-mail among multiple devices such as your office computer, laptop computer, tablet and smartphone.

14) FTP – This Internet function allows for the upload and download of files, sometimes using a cloud service, from one computer to another. Many people try to send large files as e-mail attachments because they are unfamiliar with FTP.

15) SQL – If a website runs some sort of structured database, that database will be programmed using some form of SQL.

16) DVD – This storage format replaced the CD due to its greater storage capacity and its ability to play high-resolution audiovisual material. Thanks to the DVD, your VHS tapes are in a box with your old 8-track audio tapes and you no longer see “Be kind. Please rewind.” stickers.

17) GPS – This provides the ability for drivers to get from point A to point B without opening their glove box and unfolding a large, confusing piece of paper.

18) ICANN – When you want to register a domain name, you perform a “whois lookup” at an accredited registrar to see if it is available, but it is this organization that keeps the Internet running by allocating IP addresses and managing the domain name system.

19) GIF – Another means of saving graphic files, dating back to CompuServe and the early days of the Internet, it is pronounced “jiff”, not “giff”. If photos are saved using this format, they will have a blotchy appearance due to the limited number of colors represented. The animated version of this format is responsible for all those annoying little graphics that you don’t use on your website, right?

20) MIDI – Not a skirt length, this term also goes back to the early days of the World Wide Web, when it was commonly used to include songs on websites. Thanks to MIDI files, people quickly learned to turn off the sound on their computers. It was more annoying than Muzak, and copyright enforcement put the final nail in its coffin.

Well, how did you do? Scroll down below for the answers. You are probably happy that I did not include EXIF, FQDN, FLOPS, GUID, PPGA, TWAIN, SOAP and TCP/IP. In all honesty, I cannot identify most of those myself. On the other hand, I try not to think of myself as a geek. Let’s hope you had fun!

 

Stop scrolling here, until you want to see the answers!

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The answers:

1)    RAM = Random Access Memory

2)    PDF = Portable Document Format

3)    DSL = Digital Subscriber Line

4)    CPU = Central Processing Unit

5)    BSOD = Blue Screen of Death

6)    CMYK = Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (or Key)

7)    Wi-Fi = Wireless Fidelity

8)    USB = Universal Serial Bus

9)    URL = Uniform Resource Locator

10) HDMI = High Definition Multimedia Interface

11) HTML = Hyper-Text Markup Language

12) JPEG = Joint Photographic Experts Group

13) IMAP = Internet Message Access Protocol

14) FTP = File Transfer Protocol

15) SQL = Structured Query Language

16) DVD = Digital Versatile Disc

17) GPS = Global Positioning System

18) ICANN = Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

19) GIF = Graphics Interchange Format

MIDI = Musical Instrument Digital Interface

This post was written by Peter Pelland