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58 Marketing Guidebook for Small Airports 8.2 STEP 7--MONITOR AND EVALUATE THE PLAN Tools to Reach Audience and Step 5 Deliver Message Step 6 Execute Plan Step 7 Monitor and Evaluate Source: GMH Consulting, LLC After the marketing campaign is launched, it may be tempting to think that the work is done. However, the cam- paign must be monitored. Here are some examples of work that must be done: · Advertisements that are placed should be checked to make sure they ran as scheduled and in the form submitted. · Where earned media is involved, there should be follow-up with local media to inquire about the status of news articles. · Help-yourself brochures should be stocked and re-supplied. Everyone involved in the project should be tasked with monitoring the effectiveness of different aspects of the campaign. Ideally, it would be useful to have on-going information on the impact of the campaign in the same way that presidential candidates have on-going polling information. For small airports, of course, that level of monitor- ing is not possible. Instead, they must rely on anecdotal evidence. · In the case of chamber presentations, what was the audience reaction? · In the case of newspaper articles, what do people think about them? · What marketing materials are people talking about? · What changes are there in passenger demand? · What changes are there in call volume? · What new questions are being asked about the airport? One key source of information is the passengers passing through the terminal. The airport director has an ideal opportunity to talk with passengers and to get some direct feedback on the campaign. Perhaps the most diffi- cult part of this process is determining whether passengers are providing an honest reaction or simply telling the director what they think he or she wants to hear. But in any event, the passengers are in effect a captive audience and the director should take the opportunity to speak with them. Where particular media appears to be ineffective, it should be discontinued and resources shifted to media that appear to be more effective. Marketing campaigns are on-going. They should be well-planned, and then they must be carefully monitored and adjusted as needed based on the results observed.
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Execute, Monitor, and Evaluate the Plan 59 8.2.1 MEASURING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF YOUR CAMPAIGN It is often a challenge to develop accurate measures of marketing efforts. This section describes some of the measures commonly used to determine the effectiveness of small airport marketing programs as well as the issues associated with these measures. CUSTOMER SATISFACTION SURVEYS About half of the small commercial service airports interviewed said that they had conducted customer satis- faction surveys at some point. Typically, these surveys are conducted by pollsters who interview passengers while they are waiting to board flights at the local airport. In other cases, these surveys are conducted via email using the email lists airports have assembled from newsletter, website, or contest signups. Free or low cost Internet survey services make the process quick and easy for the survey taker. Customer satisfaction surveys are effective in measuring the level of satisfaction of current airport users and their opinion of the facilities, services, and accessibility of the airport. AWARENESS AND USAGE SURVEYS A broad range of telephone, mail, and Internet surveys have been taken to provide measurements of the following: · Whether residents are aware of the services offered by the local airport · Whether residents consider using the local airport when they make air travel decisions · What price differences would be acceptable for residents considering flying from the local airport ver- sus driving to larger airports · Whether residents believe the airport is a good neighbor and strong community asset · Whether residents think it is important to have scheduled air service at the local airport In theory, a survey of population in the small airport's catchment area has strong potential to measure the effec- tiveness of the airport's marketing efforts. In practice, however, the cost of conducting a telephone survey using a professional survey firm is prohibitive for many small airports. Other methods of surveying, such as mail sur- veys or Internet surveys, do not always generate a sufficient response rate. What this means is that this type of survey may still be a good idea if it can be conducted inexpensively. However, the results of an airport-conducted Internet or mail survey are likely to be descriptive as opposed to statistically valid. FOCUS GROUPS Although focus groups cannot provide statistically valid information, they can provide in-depth insights into opin- ions about the local airport, how travelers make airport choices, and the effectiveness of marketing programs. There will be a cost to conduct focus group interviews if a facilitator is employed. However, the insight provided may be a good substitute for expensive telephone surveys.
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60 Marketing Guidebook for Small Airports OTHER NON-SURVEY MEASURES A variety of statistical information is available about airport usage. The information is collected and distributed in raw form by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and is typically purchased through one of a num- ber of vendors. In some cases, the state DOTs may have access to this data, which it then makes available to small airports within the particular state. The available U.S. DOT data (which includes the Origin and Destination Survey and the T-100 data) permits airports to measure changes in passengers and airfares at their airport. The information is available not only for the airport as a whole but for individual routes at the airport. Using this data, small airports can rank the top destinations for local passengers and can measure changes in passenger numbers and airfares to those destinations. By comparing local statistics with the statistics for nearby competing airports, it is also possible for airport man- agers to judge whether passenger diversion is getting worse or better. A number of other analyses can be con- ducted, which can help small airports determine whether they are effectively serving their communities. The primary drawback to using U.S. DOT data to evaluate the impact of a marketing campaign is the lag time (usually 4 months) that it takes to publish the data. Thus, the data is very useful to analyze the effectiveness of a marketing program once the program is completed, but it is not sufficiently current to permit mid-course cor- rections to most marketing programs. REGIONAL MARKET SHARE TRENDS One technique employing U.S. DOT data that may prove useful in air service development activities is to measure your airport's market share in relation to other airports in the region. For example, if there are three airports in the region that make up your market area, you might want to measure what percentage or share of the passengers you capture when the three airports' passenger volumes are combined. By measuring your airport's share of passengers over a period of time, you could see if your marketing efforts are having a positive impact. If your airport accounted for 20% of the region's passengers over a period of time, and after your marketing program, your participation rose to 23%, this would certainly be a positive indicator. On the other hand, a decline in market share might indicate that there are competitive issues which you need to address with marketing. One of the benefits of using a metric that measures your airport's performance on a relative basis (percent of market passengers) rather than merely looking at the change in total passenger volume at your airport is that it removes the effect of the economic cycle. For example, in good economic times, you might see that the passen- ger volume at your airport is rising. However, other airports in the region might be seeing the same rise in pas- sengers. It is possible that even though passenger volume is rising at your airport, your share of the passengers in the region is actually declining--a situation that might require your attention. In simple terms, "a rising tide lifts all boats," and you want to ensure that your boat is rising faster than the others. On the other hand, a decline in passenger volume should be viewed relative to what is happening at other air- ports in the region. It's difficult to characterize a decline in passenger volume as a positive sign, but if your share of the region is increasing despite the decline, your marketing efforts might be the reason.