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Rise Above the Noise - November 2016

How to effectively market your water park in a multimedia world

by James Careless

This is a confusing time for water park marketers. In the old days, they could just rely on the trinity of print, radio, and TV to woo customers to their parks. Even Facebook and Twitter can feel old hat with the plethora of social media channels that seem to constantly burst onto the scene.

How do you get the most bang for your marketing dollar in an increasingly fragmented promotional universe? Here are some smart answers from people who are making it happen.

Use a Multimedia Approach

The growth of online media doesn’t mean water parks should abandon their old promotional standbys; people still read newspapers (whether on paper or online), listen to radio, and watch TV. Marketers should consider what each medium does best—newspapers for clip-out coupons, radio and online media for fast alerts, and TV and online media for eye-catching images—and create content that utilizes the best capabilities of each.

Abu Dhabi’s Yas Waterworld follows this approach. “To maximize our reach among the varied audiences in the United Arab Emirates, we implement a fully integrated campaign covering all platforms and channels in the region,” says Rashad Al Ghadban, Yas Waterworld’s public relations and communications manager. “We use radio and outdoor branding to target those on their daily commutes, television commercials to those at home, and wider digital campaigns to those who prefer to receive their news digitally.”

A similar approach is used by 3i Advertising/PR of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, which provides promotional support to facilities such as Las Vegas’ Cowabunga Bay and Rapids Water Park in Riviera Beach, Florida. “We use a mix of television and radio broadcasts, outdoor billboards, rack cards, direct mail, e-mail campaigns, social media, coupon campaigns with fast food chains, in-park marketing, and special events,” says Tina Hatcher, president of 3i Advertising/PR. “Social media and digital media allows us to target different audiences with different messages or offers,” she adds.

Work Social Media for All It’s Worth

When it comes to interacting with customers and building their loyalty, social media is king. No other promotional media provides marketers with the ability to identify and precisely target potential guests by age, activities, and personal preferences. Social media also allows marketers to push single admission, season pass, and special event ticket sales directly and immediately through online sales portals.

Moreover, “Social media is a 24/7 component, as it now encompasses the customer’s purchase journey including research, planning the visit, making a purchase, checking in, and sharing their visit or reviews of the experience,” says Hatcher. Add the fact that people check social media constantly on their smartphones and tablets no matter where they are, and it is the best way to establish a constant, ongoing relationship with your customers.

The key is to keep populating Facebook and Twitter with compelling content people will want to read, like fun facts and activities or videos of guests having a great time on rides. “We use social media to let guests know about upcoming events and discounts, sales, and coupons; to share pictures from the park; and [to announce] when we’re hiring to basically network with them,” says Stephanie Hee-Johnston, admissions and promotions coordinator at NRH2O Family Water Park in North Richland Hills, Texas. “It doesn’t always have to be a sale or an event. We’ve hosted contests, told jokes, asked questions; just keep the conversation going year round.”

In doing so, NRH2O Family Water Park’s marketers pay attention to whom they’re talking. “We’ve learned we have to tailor our message on social media depending on the audience,” says Hee-Johnston. “For example, on Instagram, it’s mostly teens and our team members, so we don’t do a lot of sale/coupon posts. [Instead, we post] more pictures of our rides, guests, and team members. With Twitter, we try to have a picture with our posts; those posts seem to get more likes and retweets.”

Effective multimedia marketing is the key to boosting water park ticket and season pass sales and keeping customers engaged—even when it is raining or off season. 

Get Creative with Online Marketing

When it comes to great online marketing, few can match the creativity of Splash Kingdom Waterparks, operator of six water parks in Texas and Louisiana. Here are three of the company’s top tips for social media success:

1. Work with sponsors. Splash Kingdom works with 28 different sponsors to identify and utilize events that drive sales for both parties. “We do heavily promoted appearances at Smashburger restaurants where we sell half-price tickets to our parks,” says Mickey Lewis, Splash Kingdom Waterparks’ sales and marketing director. “These events bring more people into Smashburger, and they let us sell more tickets without, apparently, hurting our regular-priced sales.”

2. Communicate changes. On slow or rainy days, Splash Kingdom uses its social media reach to offer special deals to patrons, in order to boost attendance. “Say it is a day where rain has been forecast, but the skies are clear and sunny over our parks: We let our followers know through Facebook, Twitter, and texts, and make it worth their while to come by offering discounted tickets for the rest of the day,” Lewis says. “If it is rainy, we use the occasion to sell discounted season passes—and it works without cutting substantially into our overall season pass sales.”

3. Connect directly. “Right now Facebook is free, but it might not always be,” says Lewis. “This is why we go to great lengths to get the texting addresses of our followers, so we can reach them directly.” This strategy provides Splash Kingdom with control over its contact base—rather than being at the mercy of third-party providers like Facebook—and gives the company the fastest, surest way to make contact with its fans. “People may ignore Facebook and Twitter updates,” says Lewis. “But when their phone rings with a text, they will pick it up immediately, because we have been programmed to pick up our phones since birth.”