When it comes to marketing ideas, most aquatics professionals are the equivalent of a fish out of water: They’d rather be in the water than talk about it. Besides, with so much to think about — water quality, lifeguard training, staffing, to name a few — who has time to worry about the Web site or publicity?
But forgetting about marketing can be just as harmful to a facility as failing to watch chlorine levels. After all, without patrons, even the best-run facility won’t be around for long. And just like operations, marketing needs careful thought and planning to be successful. Here are10 simple marketing tips and how they can help your facility thrive in the new season.
Set clear goals and understand your business plan. Work closely with management to develop a mission statement, if you don’t already have one. This will allow employees and guests to have a clear understanding of what your facility provides.
After you create the mission statement, establish short and long-term objectives for your facility. Creating and sticking to a marketing plan is the best way to keep you and your business focused, and on track for success.
Do your research. A great deal of time needs to be spent researching your customers, competition, industry and economy — and your facility’s past successes and failures. The Internet is an excellent tool. Not only does it reveal what the competition is doing, but it also can provide valuable economic impact articles, weather forecasts and general marketing ideas to help you create a marketing plan.
Determine your product’s position and brand image, and stick with it. Distinguish what sets your facility apart from the competition, then describe your product or service in simple, easy-to-understand terms. Remember, you’ll burn out on the creative ideas and tag lines far quicker than your audience ever will. Give your message adequate time to make an impact in the marketplace.
Enhance your Web site. Your site is the face of your product and the first place customers go to find information. It must mirror your product and entice potential guests to visit. Invest the necessary dollars to enhance the site with new flash, sounds, video, interactive maps, Web cams and the like. It will be one of your greatest investments. Look into selling tickets, memberships, merchandise and gift cards online. E-commerce is guaranteed revenue, and is quick and easy for the customer.
Build a group sales program. Market to groups of 10 to 15 or more for birthday parties, family reunions, company picnics, school field trips and day-care groups. Provide groups with discounted admission, a private area, catered meals and special activities. Group sales can potentially make up one-third of your sales when implemented and advertised correctly.
Develop a public relations strategy that incorporates key marketing messages. Positive coverage in the local media is free advertising that can impact and create more credibility than a traditional media commercial. It’s important to provide various media outlets with unique, interesting information about your facility, presenting your product to potential customers in a positive light. Work in key messages so that your advertising and public relations efforts are working cohesively to brand your product.
Implement grass-roots and viral marketing initiatives. These initiatives are a cost-effective, results-driven way to communicate with a target audience. Develop a marketing team that includes interns and mascots who can visit community events and distribute facility information. Use your members and staff to spread the word through referrals or incentive programs, thus naturally increasing brand awareness.
Give your audience new reasons to visit your facility. A new attraction will generate media buzz and increase desire for guests to visit. If you don’t have the budget to add a new attraction each year, develop creative events or facility updates that will generate a similar positive response. The Beach Waterpark in Greater Cincinnati hosts a variety of exciting events to keep guests coming back all summer long: Dive In Movies, Dog Day, Teen Nights and Reggae Fest. Guests may visit once a week, and during times when attendance is typically slow, for events such as these.
Enhance your customer service and integrate the practice into your marketing plan. The most strategic marketing plan and advertising campaign will guarantee increases in attendance and revenue, but if a guest visits and leaves unsatisfied, your marketing dollars will be wasted. Customers who experience exceptional customer service will spread a positive message above all else.
On average, satisfied customers tell three people about a product or service they like, and 11 people about a product or service they did not like. Bottom line: Fewer dollars will be spent on retaining customers than advertising to new ones.
Stay positive, have patience and enjoy. A marketing representative is the spokesperson for the company. That individual must exude excitement for the product, and not only share it with the staff, but with the public every day. You must develop a solid plan and stay focused on your goals. Give the plan enough time to succeed or fail. Tweak and keep at it. But know when it is time to go a different direction.