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Characteristics of an Effective Marketing Plan 53 7.3 CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EFFECTIVE MARKETING PLAN As you review your plan, determine whether it has the following characteristics (as adapted from "Strategic Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations," Sixth Edition, Alan Andreasen and Philip Kotler, Prentice Hall, 2002): It is customer and service centered. The main focus of the plan must be on meeting the demand(s) of its target audience(s). It differentiates itself from its competitors. If possible, the airport should differentiate itself from its competitors and spell out unique reasons why users should select this airport over rivals. It is easily communicated. The plan needs to be simple and clear to target audiences and so that airport staff can easily understand it and talk about it. It is motivating. A successful plan will be adopted enthusiastically by airport stakeholders. It is flexible. The plan should be sufficiently broad to embrace a variety of marketing activities and to allow for mid-course corrections and unforeseen changes in the marketplace. Consider these attributes as a check list to evaluate the content and performance of the airport's marketing plan. 7.4 PUTTING THE PRINCIPLES TO WORK--COMMUNITY SUPPORT CASE STUDY This section describes how a marketing plan to increase community support for air service is constructed from the principles presented in this chapter. The marketing goal listed most frequently by small commercial service airports is to increase air service. This goal was also shared by airports interviewed that had lost their air service. In many respects, community sup- port for air service is often the most important aspect of any air service development program. Airlines look carefully at the levels of community support prior to making a commitment for new or additional service. Airports have improved chances of sustaining higher levels of air service if the community is both aware and support- ive of the service. Other aspects of air service development, such as marketing programs that involve financial incentives for air carriers, marketing support provided directly to air carriers, or risk minimization programs for air carriers, are covered in ACRP Report 18: Passenger Air Service Development Techniques. The basic principles presented here will apply to most airports dealing with the issue of increasing community support for air service. 7.4.1 HOW COMMUNITY SUPPORT HELPS BUILD AIR SERVICE For air service to be successful at small airports, the airport must "capture" as many passengers as possible. The ultimate goal of community support programs is to direct and focus regional demand for air service toward the local airport. Increased community support for air service is a critical ingredient in a positive cycle of air ser- vice development. When more passengers use the local air service, demand is reinforced and a positive cycle to attract additional service begins. The primary obstacle to achieving this goal of maximizing local air service is the loss of passengers to other nearby larger airports. Passenger leakage or "diversion" occurs when passengers bypass their local airport to drive to another airport because air fares are lower or service is perceived as better. Although some amount

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54 Marketing Guidebook for Small Airports of diversion may be inevitable, there are many cases where it may be substantially reduced through effective marketing programs. Thus, the goal of marketing programs aimed at increasing community support is to increase awareness of the commercial air service offered locally and to retain passengers who are otherwise driving to alternate, more distant airports. 7.4.2 THE MESSAGE--SUPPORT LOCAL SERVICE Most air service development work is incremental, helping to build traffic, which in turn makes the market more attractive and leads to new service. The cycle shown in Exhibit 7.4 describes how the process works and is part of the message conveyed to build community support. Exhibit 7.4--Air Service Development Cycle. New Service Stimulates the Market Attracts More Service Bigger Market Source: Oliver Wyman By using the air service at the local airport, residents are helping to build better air service in the future. By not using the local air service, they are doing just the opposite--contributing to a decline in air service because fewer passengers mean that the airlines provide fewer flights, which in turn makes the local airport even less attractive to local travelers. One of the obstacles faced by many small airports in their campaign to attract more passengers is the problem of high airfares. Smaller aircraft are more expensive to operate per passenger mile and fixed station costs must be allocated over a fewer number of flights at small airports. For these reasons, there is a higher cost of pro- viding service to smaller airports which is often reflected in higher airfares versus fares at nearby larger air- ports. As part of the assessment process described in Chapter 4, lower airfares at nearby airports would be seen as a competitive disadvantage for many small airports. Thus, an important part of the message conveyed to gain community support must focus on the strengths of the local airport--namely convenience, less driving, potentially lower costs for parking, easier check-ins, and so forth. Communities have successfully increased use of their airports through marketing campaigns that

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Characteristics of an Effective Marketing Plan 55 remind local passengers of the overall benefits of local air service. The message conveyed is that when all costs are considered, the local air service is a bargain. Community awareness programs strive to emphasize the following points: To keep local air service, you must use it. Always check local airfares first before considering alternate airports. If the local airport has a high fare reputation, the community must deal with it directly. This means high- lighting low fares that are available locally and also highlighting the other costs involved in driving to a distant airport (including mileage, parking, and wasted time). Focus on the passengers who are driving to other airports. These messages can be highlighted through campaigns in the local press and through various other publicity channels. 7.4.3 TARGET THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY The involvement of the business community is important both in aiding general community awareness pro- grams and in helping to shift business travel to the local airport. From an air service development perspective, the involvement of the business community is crucial for several reasons: 1. First, business travelers generate a disproportionate amount of revenue and pay higher ticket prices than leisure travelers. In fact, the typical business traveler pays more than twice as much per ticket as the typical leisure traveler. Unlike airports, which focus on enplanement volume as their primary mea- sure of success, airlines focus on revenue. Thus, "high revenue" passengers are the most important to the airlines. The more of these passengers an airport can attract, the greater the chance for improved service. 2. Second, business leaders have the ability to shift business travel spending within their own companies and to influence other business leaders to do the same. This is much more difficult to accomplish with leisure travel. 3. Third, business and civic organizations are able to provide funding for marketing support and other ini- tiatives that go beyond the levels available from other sources and is not subject to the same spend- ing restrictions. For example, the business community can designate funding to be provided to support a particular carrier's air service without concern for violating FAA rules regarding nondiscrimination. 4. Fourth, funding provided by local businesses for marketing support means more to airline decision mak- ers than does equal funding provided from other sources. When local businesses contribute money to attract or retain air service, it signals the importance of that service to the airlines' most important customers. A government grant for the same amount does not serve to send the same signal to the airlines. For these same reasons, a respected business leader is often the community's most effective advocate in deal- ing with air service issues. An effective business leader is able to serve as a catalyst for change, to take owner- ship of the issue to make commitments on behalf of the business community, and to fulfill them. The business leader is likely to understand the airline's need for revenue. He or she also represents the airlines' most impor- tant customers, speaks the language of business, and has the ability to motivate other business leaders to take concrete action.