News here, get it while it’s hot! We are constantly bombarded with sales pitches, marketing, and advertisements suggesting that we spend our disposable income on a particular product. What compels us to choose one product or service over another? Sometimes it is the quality or price, but what if the products are comparable? Subconsciously, we make decisions on products and services based on our personal connection with their message.
Marketing vs. Advertising
A common misconception is that marketing and advertising are one in the same. A simple way to distinguish the two is to think about marketing as a pie. Marketing is the way that we connect buyers and suppliers in a way that is mutually beneficial to both parties. Advertising is just one of the ways to accomplish that goal. Marketing is the spreading of your facility’s message, while advertising is the medium you use to facilitate that. For example, your message may be, “We offer super fantastic birthday party options for busy parents who love their children and want to celebrate, but who do not want the hassle of planning and cleaning up, so come spend your valuable dollars with us.” Your direct mail campaign or flyers may say, “We offer hassle-free, all-inclusive packages to celebrate your special occasion.” If you simply list your packages and do not gear your marketing and advertising towards really connecting with your customers, it is a missed opportunity.
Crafting Your Message
If you manage a smaller facility without an experienced marketing team, creating the most appropriate message for your facility will be the biggest hurdle. Use your customer surveys and analyze your revenue to determine what your customers desire, their favorite programs, and their concerns. Peruse your social media to see the common themes are in customer posts. You may be known for something extraordinary that you can really craft your message to. For example, if you work for a smaller waterpark or aquatic facility, you can tout the message that your facility is safe and family-friendly because it is geared towards families or Children Under 12. Perhaps you are famous in your area for Parent & Child classes? Figure out what your claim to fame is and craft a message to solidify your superiority in that niche.
Let it Out
Now that you have a focused message, how are you getting the message out? Social Media is a common tactic used in most facilities, but how are you maximizing time spent managing the page? Are you posting a few times per week or even every day and still not receiving the response you expected? Look at what you are “selling.” Mix up your post content to ensure customers stay engaged and do not unsubscribe. With typical aquatic facilities, we have a vast array of programming from recreational swim, water fitness, swim lessons, and special events. Use that diversity to create exciting posts. Maybe you focus on drowning prevention and the shock factor of drowning statistics one day, then post an aquatics joke the next day. Increasing your visibility on social media is completely dependent upon the number of engaged users active on your posts. Facebook has changed its algorithm to weed out “sales” posts, so encouraging followers to “Like and Share” more than once every 6 months will actually decrease your visibility. Instead, opt for posts where followers “Comment” on the post. Each comment can bring it to the top of the feed as “new and relevant.” For example, post a close-up picture of something in your facility (drinking fountain, lifeguard tube, architectural detail, etc.) the same day each week. Ask for followers to comment on what they think it might be. Give a deadline and let them know that a correct guesser will be chosen at random to receive a fun prize. Switch the prizes up to engage all types of facility users. Many have been successful with this approach, most notably, one park with 7,000 Facebook followers was receiving over 100,000 views on each of their “What is it?” posts over the summer season.
One of the most effective social media campaigns was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge we all experienced last summer. The premise was that people would film themselves dumping a bucket of ice on themselves in lieu of donating to the cause, however, many people decided to do both. At the end of the challenge, the person would challenge several other people to complete the challenge. In a six week period from August- Mid-September 2014, the ALS Association received $115 million in donations related to the ice bucket challenge. This is in addition to the awareness that the internet buzz created with challengers sharing personal stories of how their loved ones were affected by the disease.
Connect with your potential customers in unexpected ways outside of your facility. If your facility or City has a mascot costume, organize sponsor invasion days with those who you have community partnerships with. For example, send your mascot to the bank who is sponsoring one of your programs to greet children and distribute discount coupons for swim lessons or birthday parties. Schedule these outings for times when people will be depositing their paychecks, around the 1st and 15th of the month. In this example, you are connecting potential customers who have current disposable income and their excited children with your message of drowning prevention or hassle-free fun. These types of “invasions” are great PR opportunities for the sponsors as well.
In 2006, Adidas opened a store in Copenhagen and pulled a fun PR stunt that went viral. Blue ducks with the Adidas logo were deposited into local Copenhagen fountains. On the side was printed, “I’ve swum too far – help me get back home!” and the bottom said, “Return me to the Adidas store!” Once people returned the ducks, they were given a free t-shirt. Adidas was successful in communicating their message in a fun way, engaging potential customers to visit their store, where they left with a smile.
Hopefully these examples have sparked your interest and inspired a new way to think about marketing and advertising. Remember, marketing and advertising is about the customer, not the facility. Learn what your customer wants and figure out the best way to be the solution and connect with them!