Airport Development Marketing
Airports As Engines of Economic Development
Airports are much more than places to catch planes, attend an in-transit business meeting, or do some duty-free shopping; they are among the largest investments a city and region make.
At the regional airports around the United States, a renaissance of sorts is underway as airports emerge as engines of economic development for the communities they serve. Land development, partnerships with corporations, and development of real estate values, can all lead to long term economic benefits. To be successful, however, it’s not just enough to tell the world you’d like businesses to come to your location.
Attracting Tenants & Partners
One of the biggest obstacles faced by these groups is convincing businesses to locate. It’s a complicated decision for the business, with an exceptionally long lead cycle, and usually consultants and other experts involved in the selection and “purchase” decision.
In the end, airport development corporations and partnerships get bogged down at times in understanding how to effectively “sell” their developments. It is something we’ve spent considerable time studying, and it’s something our principals have dealt with many times before – hotels, resorts, parks, cruise ships, etc.
When there’s something new, when there’s something of the unknown, there’s always promise… and perceived risk. It’s knowing how to tell a story and making an emotional connection that matters. You can kid yourself and say, no they didn’t pick us because it didn’t make economic sense. In the end – it’s all emotional, not financial or economic. We know this is true from the decades of experience bringing new ideas and products to market. What most (if not all) airports in this position lack is an effective understanding how to build, and then go-to, market.
Connection, Feeling, Emotion
This challenge is different in a key respect from most aviation related marketing challenges – customers looking to set up shop at a regional airport, develop that new MRO base, set up regional operations, they are going to make a decision. The question is not if they will buy, but who is going to get the sale.
We like to tell ourselves that we make decisions based on the facts. But the reality is, we don’t. There is ample evidence that we are not “rational” creatures, but instead, rationalizing creatures. The most important decisions we make are made based on how we feel, what we hope, and what we intend.
Each airport development group thinks of the features, the benefits, the reasons why to do business. What gets overlooked is the feeling – the feeling in the purchase process, the feeling and hopes of the prospect going into the sales process, the feelings and hopes of the customer post “sale,” all the connections that the prospective partner makes in deciding to do business with you.
Those things matter more than you might suspect. After years of bringing new ideas and products to market – hotels, ships, resorts, and even ideas, we know that in the end go-to-market boils down to feelings, aspirations, and connections. Thus, all the things that go into shaping that – brand, experience, communications, matters considerably in closing the deal.
In 2018, an estimated 3,500 business location decisions were announced in the United States, accounting for more than $130 billion of capital investment and more than 325,000 new and retained jobs, according to the 2018 edition of Ernst & Young’s “U.S. Investment Monitor.”
Capturing an increasing share of these projects is the charge of nearly every economic development organization (EDO) and is often the benchmark against which the success of the organization and its leadership is measured.
While there are many different pipelines, surveys of EDO offices reveal one fact that remains constant – the most qualified leads that generate the highest probability of success are developed in a specific manner: relationship building with the site consultants and business development teams.
What we think is overlooked given that conclusion is then the entirety of your marketing effort should be largely dedicated to focusing on these specific audiences then – site consultants, business development teams, and multinational corporate decision makers. These individuals are not just handmaidens of the sale, they ultimately steward their clients towards one deal or another. Thus, understanding their underlying motivations, cultivating an audience and a set of relationships, and servicing their needs is not necessarily the same as those same areas for their clients.
Thus lead generation in this marketplace boils down to not just understanding the individual who will ultimately decide to relocate their business to your airport, but understanding all the motives and the environment, of all those who will ultimately steward the sale.
Thinking, Strategizing, and Communication
We have worked with getting locations visitors, ideas funding, and events attended. We can help your team attract the ideal prospects, but more importantly, we can help position you for the greatest chance of success in closing the deal. These projects are always complicated, requiring a high degree of interdisciplinary skills in consulting, strategy, communications, branding, marketing, sales, and understanding buying motivations. To our knowledge, we are the only advertising agency that focuses on aviation that possesses these experiences – let us put that knowledge to work for you.