John Veverka & Associates
Provoke, Relate, Reveal and more!
For the Cutting edge in Heritage Interpretation
Interpretive Planning, Training, Evaluation and more!
5010 Delray Dr. Lansing, Michigan 48910
(517) 899-4548 (we've gone mobile) email@example.com
From interpretive planning for castles in Wales for the National Trust and bird sanctuaries in Michigan for the Kellogg Biological Station, to interpretive training in Alabama for the US Army Corps of Engineers, and museum exhibit evaluation in Wisconsin - (bottom row) and critiquing ancient temples interpretation on Malta for Malta Heritage, prehistoric archaeological site interpretation in Utah for Nine Mile Canyon/BLM, and docent/interpretive staff training for the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, we do that - and more!
Heritage Interpretation: Interpretive Planning, Training and Consultation Services
Serving Parks, Museums, Historic Sites, Zoos & Botanical Gardens, Heritage Tourism Sites and Facilities, Commercial Tourism Attractions, and related interpretive sites and facilities -
Marketing Basics for Interpretive
and Heritage Sites and Attractions
Its all about the visitors.
John A. Veverka
Without a doubt marketing is one of the most critical aspects of any heritage or interpretive attraction operations. Marketing brings in visitors and gets them to come back for return visits. Successful marketing efforts = staying in business for most heritage attractions, particularly those not totally supported by local governments or other governmental agencies. But one of the most surprising things to me is, given how critical a "professional" understanding of basic marketing principals are for any heritage attraction, is the lack of understanding of what marketing actually is and "how to do it" that exists through out the heritage tourism industry. One example of this that I see often involves marketing brochures. During frequent marketing courses I make the statement to the participants that they have probably spent thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in the design, production and distribution of marketing brochures (the kind you see at every tourist information center), and yet they have no proof that they work! How do you know that these pieces have made any money for you that they actually brought in enough new visitors to "pay for the printing and distribution costs of the piece themselves"? This usually generates an audible "GULP" from the audience, as most heritage attractions dont have a clue if their marketing materials and efforts actually work no tracking or evaluation process. This is particularly common with medium and smaller sized heritage attractions.
What is "marketing" anyway?
We spend our lives seeing so much of it, television, radio, web sites, etc. We are surrounded by it. Marketing is like the word "ecology" a nice word, but most people have never seen an "ecology". So lets use a working definition of "marketing".
Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that will satisfy individual and organizational objectives. (From "Introduction to Marketing by M. Cooper and C. Madden).
In simple terms, heritage tourism related marketing is "successfully" communicating with and convincing potential visitors that you have something that they need or will benefit from, and that you can provide a service or fill that need better than anyone else.
And Where Is the Visitor in all of this EVERYWHERE!
Another aspect of marketing problems is that many heritage organizations and attractions have little or no visitor-based information to work from. They dont know who their markets are! Marketing is ALL about completely understanding your audience (current, or intended). So in reality, many marketing pieces, from brochures to advertisements in magazines, fail due to a general lack of understanding about their intended visitors and the psychology of the visitors. Brochures often simply illustrate or promote the wrong things. For example, a hotel or motel brochure may show nice photos of the bedrooms or dining area, but what a visitor may really want to know is if that hotel or motel is "near" any attractions or other services. Developing a marketing plan followed by marketing materials such as brochures or print advertisements, requires that we know the answers to some (all?) of the following questions about our visitors:
Existing Markets to our sites or attractions
So these are some of the questions that need to be asked and answered in developing a marketing plan, and marketing materials for "current visitors" or market groups.
Market creation generating new market groups.
The next aspect of developing heritage tourism/attraction marketing plans and materials is the issue of market creation. This is the answer to the question I often ask clients - "we know who your visitors are but who do you want your visitors to be?" Market creation is generating new visitors or market groups to come to your site. For example: more school groups; more local visitors or community residents; special interest groups such as photographers, bird watchers, historical architecture buffs, railroad buffs; more retired visitors, etc. Here are some of the questions to be answered in developing marketing strategies and materials for these potential visitors (market groups):
You can see that there is overlap in considering these questions, as you may be marketing to both groups (current visitors as well as trying to attract new or different market groups) at the same time. The question arises as to "how you can do any real marketing efforts at all without knowing the answers to most of these questions"? This is why some existing marketing pieces can "look" great but not work. They are giving answers to questions that your main market groups "arent asking", and not answering the questions that they are asking. And no one knows this is going on.
What should be in a Marketing Plan for Heritage Attractions?
Here is a general outline I use when developing or teaching courses in Heritage Tourism Marketing. Feel free to add or modify this outline to suit your specific needs:
Marketing Plan Basic Outline for
Heritage Tourism Sites and Attractions
A. Objectives (what do you want this plan to accomplish?).
B. Product(s) Analysis (what are you selling?).
2. Physical products (books, trail guides, guided tours, videos, etc.).
C. Current Market Groups (Macro and Micro) analysis. (Who are your current visitors, where are they coming from, etc.).
D. Critique of current marketing/advertising strategies (do the work how do you know?).
E. Market Income Stream.
F. Competition Analysis
G. Market Creation
H. Marketing Campaign
I. Advertising Strategy (consolidated from other sections above).
J. Implementation of the Marketing Plan.
K. Tracking and evaluation of the ad campaign. On-going evaluation to see how the advertising is going month by month.
1. Tracking reviews (schedule, etc.)
2. Evaluation tools, and on-going evaluation (monthly?).
Again, this is a general "content" outline for a complete marketing plan. Feel free to add or change this as best fits your particular needs.
New theories and concepts to be thinking about when developing your marketing plans and strategies.
A lot of new and exciting theories and practices have emerged recently that greatly affects how we do heritage tourism planning and marketing. Some of these new ideas and concepts include:
These are just a few of the new heritage tourism/interpretation marketing ideas that we are now using in developing marketing plans and marketing materials.
Dont even think of not pre-testing your marketing materials!
Finally, when you have competed your thought process and answered all of the questions about your audience, and designed your various marketing pieces, there is only one person(s) who you should ask to see "what they think" of them the people the marketing pieces were planed for. They will tell you, through pre-testing of the materials, if they like or understand them. This evaluation process is very important why would you want to spend thousands of dollars on something if you have no proof that it works? Remember:
The only people to ask if the marketing pieces are good, or have any chance of generating a visit are the potential visitors the marketing pieces are intended to generate. Ask them! Then and only then will you know for sure.
It was the goal of this short paper to give individuals involved with the marketing of heritage tourism sites and attractions some "things to think about" when developing a marketing plan, and particularly in developing marketing materials. The main point is to remember that everything involving marketing is about the visitor. If your marketing materials dont "connect" with them, the visitors wont show up at your attraction. Marketing is something that requires a level of professional understanding of it, and a deep understanding of such topic areas as:
With the ultimate success of most heritage attractions centered on how that attraction is marketed it is well worth the investment in time and staff to do it right the first time.
Cooper, Marjorie J. and Charles Madden.1993. Introduction to Marketing. Harper Perennial, NY.
Gilmore, James H. and B. Joseph Pine II. 1988. Markets of One. Harvard Business Review, Boston, MA.
Gottdiener, Mark. 1997, The Theming of America. Westview Press, Boulder, CO.
Osullivan, Ellen, and Kathy Spangler, 1998. Experience Marketing strategies for the new millennium. Venture Publishing, State College, PA.
Pine, Joseph B. II.1993. Mass Customization. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.
Pine, Joseph B. II and James H. Gilmore. 1999. The Experience Economy. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.
Schmitt, Bernd H. 1999. Experiential Marketing how to get customers to Sense-Feel-Think-Act-Relate to your company and brands. The Free Press, NY.
Veverka, John A. 1994. Interpretive Master Planning. Acorn Naturalists, CA.
Note: This article was developed as a handout for the training courses: Destination Interpretation and Marketing: Secrets of Success taught at New York University and Marketing Heritage Tourism & Interpretive Sites, Agencies and Attractions, taught at Snowdonia National Park Training Center, Wales.
John Veverka, PO Box 189, Laingsburg, MI 48848 (517) 651-5441.