Package-Promote & Prosper! Part Three

Package, Promote, and Prosper! Part Three

Three Solid Steps to Prosperity

Welcome to week three of my three-part series Package, Promote, and Prosper! Two weeks ago, we focused our discussion on developing wonderful packages with curb appeal that can be easily matched with the needs of our arriving guests. Last week, we looked at what it takes to promote our packages in a way that best connects these products with our guests. This morning, we're going to shift our focus to an important discussion on what some refer to as the three-legged stool: our guests' prosperity, our employees' prosperity, and prosperity as it relates to our business practices.

Leg 1:  Our Guests' Prosperity
GOAL: Raving fans who share their enthusiasm and return regularly
Guest satisfaction is essential to our ongoing success and prosperity but in a world where everything happens instantaneously, managing guest satisfaction is easier said than done (or tweeted).  How do we keep our guests happy and, most importantly, manage the outcry in a timely manner when we cannot?  Here are four ways that we can grow loyalty with our guests and create L-A-S-Ting relationships.
Listening to your guest is key. What do they want? What do they like? How was there experience? To keep our guests happy, it's important to ask the right questions...and then to be quiet and to listen to what our guests have to say. The opinions, feedback, likes, and dislikes of our guests are the key to future growth and prosperity.
In 2015, we introduced our BLOOM Growth Formula at the Brevard Zoo on Florida's Space Coast. During the BLOOM preparation phase, we conducted a comprehensive review of the zoo's existing packages, special experiences, and other offerings. As part of our findings, we identified that the zoo could grow its membership base even more by offering a mid-grade membership product that included unlimited train rides. The zoo's executive team agreed with our recommendation and confided that many of their members had also been asking for this. Opportunity exists when we can readily identify needs and fill them with the things that people need or want. We worked with Brevard Zoo to create a membership product that included the train and we priced it to make sense financially for the zoo while still appealing to a segment of the zoo's arriving guests.
Knowing what on our guests' minds can help us to improve service, introduce new experiences, and to develop new lines of business. But none of us are mind readers so how do we go about the business of knowing what's exactly on our guest's minds? By asking them, of course. But obtaining a proper sampling of data can be extremely challenging if you go it alone. However, there are companies who can help: Avius Insights is one such company and they specialize in capturing data metrics in our attractions world. Another great resource is to employ secret shoppers to visit your park. Amusement Advantage has a network of shoppers across the nation who are ready to visit, experience, and then share their thoughts with your leaders. 
First impressions are important and there's no question that appearance matters. Both the look of our people and the look of our attraction send a powerful signal to our guests--to buy or not to buy. We must be focused on guest perception and I have found that the best way to do this is to view the experience through the eyes of our guests. Everything speaks, from the appearance of our parking lot to how our custodians interact with guests.
This section is also very important and could easily be expanded into a full article (or even a series of articles-note to self) but for now, here are the highlights:
  • Look the Part. Uniforms reflect the theme or mission of the park, are consistent, and easily identifiable to your guests. Everyone needs to wear their uniform properly,
  • Act the Part. Teach your teams to smile, make eye contact, and to always put your guests first. Words and actions are equally powerful. Lead by example.
  • Keep it Clean. As important as it is for employees to shine, the environment must sparkle too.
  • Wow Them. Design your experiences to be both educational and entertaining. Everything from your attractions to your exhibits and shows must be engaging.
Share and Care. 
When guests rave about their wonderful experience, shout it from the mountaintops, talk about it to your team, share it socially. Positive experiences sell so get creative and position your raving fans' comments adjacent to a BUY TICKETS button. Invite your readers to engage in their own experience at your attraction. Their adventure awaits...
When guests rant about service failures, commit to fixing it. Be sincere and acknowledge what the failure was. There's nothing worse than to admit you were wrong but do nothing to fix the problem. Caring about your guests means fixing problems when things go south. In fact, more raving fans are created through service recovery than through any other interaction. That's powerful stuff...and if you really think about it, when you're recovering a guest from their poor experience, there's nowhere to go but up!
Thank Them. 
Saying thank you isn't just polite--it's good business. Teach your team to say thank you at the end of the sales interaction and at the end of the day. At Universal Orlando and at the Disney parks, they make a point to bid there guests a fond farewell at the end of the day. Seeing a smiling face and receiving a fond farewell ends the day on a high note. That last impression can be just as powerful as the first greeting of the morning.
Leg 2:  Our Employee's Prosperity
GOAL: Engaged Teams love their job, are more productive, and stay longer
Hire Great People.
 Jim Collins, author of the best-selling book Good to Great once said that "Great vision without great people is irrelevant". A few months ago, I dedicated an entire article to discussion about hiring the right people (2.4 - Top 12 Questions for Hiring the Best- click here to read it). In this article, I share twelve essential questions that we must ask all candidates to ensure we are hiring people who possess the quality of character, work ethic and personal drive to get the job done.
Another way to look at hiring is through the lens and practices of Jack Welch, former leader of General Electric. In his best-selling book, Winning, Jack shares his secret formula for creating winning teams. He hires only people who meet his proven formula of performance-4Es and 1P. Here's a brief summary of what he looks for:
  • Energy. This is the ability of the individual to bring it to work-each and every day.
  • Energize. This is the abilty of the individual to inspire others to bring it to work every day too.
  • Edge. This is the drive, stamina, creativity, etc. that sets the individual apart from everyone else who has applied for the position.
  • Execute. This is the person's ability to make it happen. It's the difference between hiring someone who "interviewed really well" but just didn't deliver and a real winner.
  • Passion. I love this one and in my book, this one goes hand-in-hand with execution. If you believe in something and plan to carry it out, then do it with passion. Make it happen and do it right. No one sells premium products more effectively than a passionate, well-trained Concierge Sales Agent. Find passionate people who love what you do...then, have them sell for you!
Keep Them Engaged.
 Immediately prior to this three-part series I presented a four-part analysis of one of my favorite management books:  Twelve - The Elements of Great Managing. In short, the take away from this book and my article is that we keep our teams happy and productive when we keep them engaged. Twelve is a detailed roadmap for employee engagement and a book that every manager should read. When teams are engaged, employees are happier, more productive, and everyone prospers.
Reward Their Efforts.
 When I walk into a room to share what we do and how the BLOOM Growth Formula can transform any front gate operation, people immediately get it. It's a simple concept--arriving guests are not experts on your products--but your team is (or at least they should be). Let your team guide the sales conversation by asking the right questions and focusing their recommendations on guest needs. My greatest challenge is in communicating the overwhelming effectiveness of a well-designed commission structure.
If fuel is the means of making a car run, then commission is the means of keeping the BLOOM Growth Formula going strong. People are more inclined to continue the habits of the BLOOM Growth Formula when there is something in it for them.  A well-designed commission structure is timely, fair, and rewards great performance. There is so much to be gained by implementing commission into your sales program. It doesn't have to be complicated to be effective. In late 2014, I implemented a commission structure at Jungle Island Miami. Here are the details:
  • Timely. We paid out our commission on the same paycheck as our team's worked hours. Each week, commission was part of their direct deposit. Our management team understood the importance of making a quick turn-around from running the reports to inputting the data into a spreadsheet and ultimately submitting it to our paymaster for processing.
  • Fair. Commission was calculated as a percentage of the incremental revenue generated by the sale of something greater than general admission. As a rule of thumb, we tried to keep commission at 5% of the incremental revenue that had been generated. For example, General Admission was $34.95 for adults and the Critter Encounter Day Pass was $39.95. The incremental revenue was $5 per Day Pass sold ($39.95 - $34.95 = $5.00 incremental revenue). Then, by multiplying a commission rate of 5% to the $5, you get 25 cents which is the per ticket fee that we paid our sales team each time they sold a Critter Encounter Day Pass.
  • Reward Great Performance.  We established the following commission structure at Jungle Island and stuck with it for over a year.  Notice that there are no caps.  Individuals can make as much as possible.  When the attraction wins, they win.  At Jungle Island, over the next year, we generated nearly $1M in additional front gate revenue while this commission structure was in place:

Leg 3:  Business Prosperity
GOAL:  Foster a strategic alliance within your organization aimed at matching more guests with premium products and packages
Avoid Discounts.
At many attractions, the number of available discounts can be greater than the number of ticket options we offer our arriving guests. Coupons, discounts, and Buy One, Get Ones are common practice in most of our operations--and why not if they work, right? Coupons are fine in moderation and when they aren't predictable. The trouble comes when discounts are frequent and predictable. When all you have to do is to google 'Pineapple Park discounts' as a search term and all of the available coupons are returned, you are hurting your business and setting up your sales team for failure. If you must discount, here is a list of best practices for designing coupons that maximize revenue:
Drive New Business. Discounts and coupon offers need to drive new business-not cannibalize your existing business. I'll never forget the first time that I visited Gatorland right here in Orlando. My oldest son and I walked up to the ticket window and I asked them what was available. The ticket seller asked me if I was from Florida (good start, I thought) and then told my son and I that we qualified for a special discount-we were entitled to enter Gatorland for half price. Good for the guest but bad for business.  I was prepared to pay full price until he told me he wasn't going to sell me a full priced ticket.
If you are going to offer local resident discounts, require that they must be purchased in advance or online only. Offering them at the gate to guests who would have paid full price is foolish and leaves money on the table. Gatorland would have done better to promote the half price offer online and to offer something different for arriving locals like me.  Perhaps offer a 12-month membership for $10 more than GA. I would have chomped like a gator at that one, fer sure!
Promote your best options. The way that General Admission is discounted in smaller attractions around the country, you'd think there was a law.  
WHEREAS, because your attraction must not be worth the full value of the general admission ticket, you are hereby required to provide general admission to the public for 10% off or greater.
I'm always amazed when an attraction shares with me their average ticket price at the front gate and it's less than half of the going rate of GA. We devalue ourselves as an attraction whenever we discount our base ticket price. If your attraction isn't worth full price, you've got bigger problems. 
The big operators like Disney and Universal understand this all too well. Instead of discounting the base admission, they make it a tremendous value to stay and play longer. At Disney World, by the time you get to a 7-day park hopper ticket, you're paying just $63 per day. In contrast, a one day, one park ticket ranges from $97 to $114 per day, depending on season. Isn't it a better practice to drive higher sales dollars and to focus on your most premium products? As a business wanting to prosper, wouldn't you prefer to get 80% of $60 rather than 80% of $30. It's simple math that adds up to fantastic prosperity.
Position value over price. At Universal Orlando, once a year they run a Mardi Gras promotion that is designed to sell more annual passes. They don't discount their passes but rather they offer them with an additional 3 months for free. 15 months for the price of 12. It's a different way of presenting value, yes? You're still giving something away to your guests (3 months FREE) without discounting your price.
Be Strategic. 
Being strategic is about setting up your sales program up for success. Doing this is easier said than done. Your entire executive team must be on board and aligned in their mission to drive additional revenue. Recently, I launched the BLOOM Growth Formula at Michigan Science Center in Detroit. In advance of launching the program, I made a point with my on-site contact that participation from the executive team was essential to the program's success. He agreed and as a result, I experienced what is perhaps the most engaged team that I have encountered of everywhere I have launched this amazing program. Full program buy-in is essential. Here's why:
Let's say that you are launching your sales program at your attraction. Your staff is highly engaged and ready to connect more arriving guests with premium products. At the same time, your Marketing Director is planning a promotion that is designed to drive additional guests through the front door for a discounted rate. Two different goals-yours is to generate an increase in per capita spending while your Marketing Director is focused on driving greater attendance at your front gate. That's how she's measured; that's how you are measured. Attendance versus revenue. It is a common disconnect that needs to be addressed and worked out in advance. The good news is that neither of these goals is mutually exclusive of the other: higher attendance and increased revenue are both absolutely possible at the same time and with just a little more thought. Offering a promotion that can also be applied to packages is a smarter way of promoting an offer.
Promotions are far more effective when they are designed to offer something beyond general admission. Before I wrap up, here are some other great thoughts regarding promotions, couponing, and discounts:
  • Rather than driving additional attendance with dollars off your front gate, offer cabana rentals at half price for locals or engage your out-of-town visitors with immersive and unusual experiences.
  • If you're running a 'kids free in September' promotion, require a matching adult admission. Even better, you can stipulate that kids are free with the purchase of any Adult Day Pass admission. That way, the parents are ticketed with one of your better-valued ticket packages and the FREE children will still need to pay for the add-ons. 

The point is to get creative and to align your promotions to maximize revenue.  When we do that, prosperity abounds!

"Live long and prosper."

- Leonard Nimoy (AKA Spock)