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Marketing and 'Pester Power'.

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by Ken_R, Sep 5, 2015.

  1. Ken_R

    Ken_R Member

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    Rather than create 'thread drift' on the Teifi Valley Railway thread, I've chosen to start a new topic.

    This is something that I have long since considered. The signing available to a touring family [for a Heritage Railway] would typically be a string of letters and a symbol for a steam engine on a brown sign. Fine if one of the members of that family has an established interest in Heritage Railways but 'lost' on the casual 'passer-by'.

    To me, as a grandparent, with two grand kids, I am aware that the typical 'touring family' will be mom & dad in the front with a couple of 'ankle snappers' in the rear seats. Of which one, the elder, will be on a Tablet, and the other on an Android phone. However, both being so adept at multi-tasking, will not miss much of interest.

    So, instead of those brown signs with a string of letters, let's turn those signs into a string of letters .COM, or whatever? And then a Landing Page, not designed for enthusiasts, (enthusiasts are willing to 'burrow down' through a site), but for tourists. Obviously a steam engine/train would need to be featured but, perhaps not dominant. Where a Children's Play area is available, that should be featured [on the Landing Page]. Dining! Kids and food are almost synonymous. Such should also be featured in my submission.

    And then to the 'headline'. "A great day out for only.....", and then quote the Children's fare. In essence create a website which encourages the 'Pester Power' to announce, "Dad/Mom, that looks cool, and it only costs......" and is easily gleaned by the enquirer prior to the next lay-by/junction. If Dad/Mom have driven a sufficient distance before the information can be disseminated, then they may be unwilling to turn back, and a 'customer family' has been lost.

    As inferred earlier, I think too many Heritage Railway websites seek to 'preach to the converted'. They need to adapt a 'snappy' format to bring in those that would normally simply 'pass by'.

    How many, within the Industry, responsible for Web access, after making changes, then go on to assess the suitability of their changes, on Tablets, Kindle, or Android phones? Not many, I'd guess.

    Discuss.
     
  2. John Webb

    John Webb Member

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    I suspect that regulations re signs displayed at the road side would possibly scupper your otherwise good suggestion for more information - if in the first instance you can persuade the authorities to put one up (at your expense, not their's) to show the way to your place, as I know from experience!
     
  3. Forestpines

    Forestpines Well-Known Member

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    With my professional IT hat on: putting your domain name on a sign is almost a "heritage concept" nowadays. People don't type URLs or domain names in. Even 10 years ago, if you could persuade an average person to type a URL or a domain name in, they'd type it into the wrong box.

    This is why, if you look at say an advert or a TV show nowadays it will like as not just say "search for [name]", and the marketers will put effort and cash into ensuring that that search does indeed give the right answer.

    As for the website design - a lot of the major railways already do do that. Look at the SVR (backed up with matching TV advertising if you live locally). Not all of them, but probably the majority, have that type of site.

    (The SVR incidentally goes even broader with some of its brown signs - the outermost ones, on the motorways, just say "Steam Railway" - you see the first ones when you're about 30 minutes away, at least if you're coming from my direction)

    Advertising on price point is a trickier one because few lines have *a* price - only the very family-centred places like Perrygrove or the Lappa Valley. If you say "all this for only £40 for the typical family" because that's your family rover ticket price, you put off the people who might just want to look around and visit the café (I admit to treating Buckfastleigh a bit like a service station if we're going to Cornwall...) or who just want a shorter train trip because they're only looking to fill a morning.
     
  4. Kje7812

    Kje7812 Well-Known Member

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    The TV advert wasn't that effective really, few people I talked to ever saw it.
    Ah, I believe those are not by choice on the SVR part. I gather it was something to do with the Highways Agency not wanting to actively advertise the railway by naming it, hence the more generic 'Steam Railway'. Even in Kidderminster, quite a few of the signs say Steam Railway, though newer signs do say Severn Valley Railway.
     
  5. Forestpines

    Forestpines Well-Known Member

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    Well, fewer and fewer people are watching broadcast TV anyway! I wonder if the online options make it possible to localise adverts the way ITV traditionally always did - I have to admit it's a long time since I ever watched anything on there.

    That explains that then! I noticed recently that the signs off the Bewdley bypass have been changed, with the full name pasted over the top of the old wording.
     
  6. SR-Simon

    SR-Simon New Member

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    An interesting thread and one so crucial to the future of the industry. :)

    Brown Signs - sadly these are at the whim of the local / district authority (or Highways Agency for Motorways). Some district authorities may refuse your application if you haven't reached a threshold "number of visitors" - despite appeals (in the case of a new attraction). This could cause problems as new visitors venture out and don't know which station is best to park! They may refuse signs for your railway within say a few miles at a key junction, despite other attractions having signs many more miles further out. :mad: It is harder to get signs now than it was 10+ years ago as authorities work to reduce highway clutter. The local authority will dictate what you can include (normally just business name or attraction type with icon). AA signs are very expensive, you will soon burn-off your limited budget! You might also have to wait until the existing highway sign(s) are damaged, out-dated or stolen (!) before you can get included. They will also proceed at their own pace.... oh yes, and each authority has a different charging structure and criteria (but you are looking at £300+ each, once they have given permission)...

    Websites - Marketing managers should be ensuring their websites are fully "responsive" (= viewable on desktop, tablet, phone and across many browsers), SEOs, clear easy navigation, timetables accurate and easy to access, the site easy to download when mobile (many railways are in remote "poor reception" areas), ability to buy all tickets online (with a small discount) and now looking at apps alongside their social media engagement! I have heard that unfortunately (like NP?!) there can be the potential that vocal volunteers focus towards their own bias (design by committee?), rather than for the needs of the new "Jo Public" visitor....

    The Future - We need to carefully consider how we market, engage and communicate with the next generations (Gen Y and Z), else risk seeing our major income source (fares) diminish.
    How can we inspire and inform, ensure that we are attractive and not "preaching" or weighed down with too much detail, engage a generation which views all trains as "units" with automatic doors and wifi - even hauled stock now is a novelty!
    Can we use GPS enabled apps and ibeacons to use this wonderful mobile technology to engage these young families/visitors during their visit? To educate them why "this item" is important, its history, videos, help fulfill the requirements of the National Curriculum (et al)? Deliver really "special" themed days, whether that is a TV character or 1940s evacuation event for schools...
    Can we have touch/visual screens beside an "appeal" to show the object in use/how it was, why it is important, how it will look, CTA how the project will use their donations or sponsorship; we need to go beyond printing a leaflet or pinning up a laminated piece of paper with some rusty thumb-tacks! Can they donate easily via contact-less technology, touching their phone / watch or sending a text message? Can they follow the progress of their donation via social media or crowd-funding??

    As an industry we cannot put our heads in the sand - the bar continues to rise as other attractions undertake this and we need to incorporate our visitors ever-rising expectations while maintaining our heritage USPs, (attractive period stations, heritage coaches etc) if we are to continue to secure their custom and generosity; keeping our railways running for the next 30, 40, 50 years... :)
     
    Ken_R, goldfish and Forestpines like this.

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