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Asking the Important Questions

Do you remember the 1992 vice-presidential debate where Ross Perot’s running mate, Admiral James Stockdale, began his opening statement with “Who am I? Why am I here?” It was an unfortunate turn of phrase, one that was picked up by comics nationwide, and, combined with his debate performance, was the beginning of the end of any presidential aspirations he may have had. Thud!!

When a business owner asks me to review their digital marketing program and provide insight for growth and success, the good Admiral always comes to mind. So I ask you, interested readers, one of the first things I ask my consulting clients as it relates to their digital marketing: Who are you? Why should or shouldn’t you be active on particular platforms? These two questions can help build the foundation of your program. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Who Are You?

While many try, you and I both know that you can’t be everything to everyone. In fact, the most successful businesses zero in on a very concise answer to the question of who they are. Are you a family park that caters to summer season vacationers? Do you look to the more mature crowd to fill your park? Is the transient business model the one for you? Do you want to be known for your unique operation? Is your park a perfect base camp for exploring a highly desired tourist destination? Is your property attracting a high-end clientele? Do you cater to a more relaxed, less formal crowd? Would you like to add or improve ancillary income streams such as a café or store? Is there a market for those streams?

Chances are you already have a very good idea of who you are, what you’d like to provide, and the image you’d like to project for your park. Write it down. Reflect upon it. Make sure it is accurate and points you in the direction you’d like to take your park. This important information will shape everything about how you market your park.

Why Should or Shouldn’t You Be Active On Particular Platforms?

Ask yourself who – exactly – your customers are. Are they outdoorsy? Do they have a limited budget? Are they more the s’mores around the bonfire crowd or would a festive evening of Texas Two-Step be more in order? Write it down. Reflect on how you can reach these demographics. Really get into the mind of your customers or prospects. This important information will shape the platforms you choose to market your park.

Platform Considerations and Industry Stats

So where should you concentrate your digital marketing efforts?

  • You must have a well-crafted website offering the details your customers want to know and expect to find online, regardless of your target market.
  • Email marketing is still a tried-and-true workhorse and should be employed, with the critical caveat that you deliver relevant information based upon your above observation of who your customers are. According to the 1st Annual Digital Marketing Benchmark Study for Outdoor Hospitality, 61% of respondents utilize email marketing and they achieve an average 33.5% open rate. Look at your stats and see how you stack up. If your opens are below the industry average review your content for relevancy as well as your frequency. The study showed that 48% of respondents launch a campaign monthly.
  • Facebook is too big to be ignored and is populated by a wide range of users, in particular baby boomers and the more mature crowd. The Benchmark Study revealed that nearly 90% of respondents participated on this platform. That being said, organic reach on Facebook is nearly a thing of the past. Instead, successful Facebook marketers are creating tightly targeted ads across the platform, enhancing their reach to their specific demographic needs.
  • Visual content motivates young families – in particular young mothers – on Pinterest and Instagram. If you consider your park/product a niche market and can produce attractive visuals and an active presence there’s a good chance you’ll find success with that demographic on this platform. It’s important to note that while 42% of study respondents have a presence on Pinterest only 17% have a written strategy for the platform. Have a plan in writing and the implementation will go much smoother than if you don’t have a roadmap to follow.
  • Twitter and YouTube are two of the more challenging platforms to use, based upon study responses. This is very likely the result of the frequency and interaction requirements of Twitter and the perceived difficulty of producing a video for YouTube.

Use Twitter if you want a mechanism for back and forth communication with their main demographic, males and females 18-29 years old (though some reports say that the 55-64 year old demographic is the fastest growing on the platform).

YouTube tells us that it “reaches more U.S. adults aged 18-34 than any cable network” and that alone is impressive – if you’re trying to reach the 18-34 year old demographic. However, once you create a video and post it on your YouTube channel you can use it on every other digital marketing platform you have a presence on, from your website to Facebook to Pinterest and more, reaching a much wider audience.

Mission to Mantra

To help refine both your “who” and your “why” consider doing this exercise, a riff on creating a mission statement to help cement your business’ identity and marketing focus. If you already have a written mission statement, great. If it’s in your head, jot it down. If you don’t have anything formal, begin thinking about your business and how you can serve your target market.

Now comes the fun part. Business branding experts, including Dartmouth’s Dr. Kevin Keller, suggest developing a short, sweet, to the point mantra, an often repeated three to four word expression or idea relating to how you run your business, as a succinct operating version of your mission statement.

Using the Walt Disney Company as an example, Disney’s mission statement, taken from their website, reads in part: “The Walt Disney Company’s objective is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products.”

Their mantra? Fun family entertainment.

Using your answers to the who and why questions posed in this column, develop a clear mantra to help guide your decisions as you navigate not only the choppy waters of digital marketing but your operations as a whole. To help you on your journey, consider this, the mantra for my Modern Marketing column: Educate for Growth.

Now go out there and ask the important questions.