Learning to “Pivot” – How to Adapt Your Marketing Strategy Amid Uncertainty
September 9, 2021
by Rachel Ilardi
When I hear the word “pivot,” I think of that scene in Friends when Ross, Rachel and Chandler are trying to get the couch up the stairs. Anyone else?
While the last year and a half of “pivoting” isn’t quite the same as this scene, it’s been truly inspiring to see heroes emerge to serve our communities, first and foremost on the front lines, and within other areas of business that struggled as they closed their doors in the name of safety.
We’ve been honored to work side-by-side with such an organization during this unusual time. accesso® – an international, award-winning technology solutions firm serving more than 1,000 venues worldwide – had to quickly pivot its operations and technology offerings as the pandemic essentially brought the travel & tourism industry to a screeching halt in March 2020. Not only did they need to rethink their own operations, but also how they would serve their client-partners within the theme park and attractions industry and other areas of business. For theme parks and attractions, in particular, operators were trying to figure out how to adapt their traditionally high-touch, social offerings into contactless experiences that would provide a safe environment for returning guests. While many of accesso’s award-winning solutions, such as virtual queuing, would support such a pivot, the industry was in need of a COVID-specific solution that could help operators avoid large crowds at one of the most traffic-heavy points throughout a venue: the entrance to and line to wait for a popular ride or attraction.
accesso sought out to solve this problem, launching its revolutionary “100% Virtual Queuing” model. This new model nearly eliminated the need for physical queues while allowing guests more freedom to enjoy other areas of the park during their wait – all at no additional cost to them. This solution allowed operators to welcome guests back through their gates while also facilitating safe physical distancing throughout their venue.
Such a pivot in the company’s product offerings required a swift marketing response to get the word out as theme parks and attractions worldwide started to explore the tools they would need to reopen safely. As the accesso sales team focused on driving direct sales relationships to build revenue, we had the honor of working side-by-side with the accesso marketing team to launch a multifaceted publicity campaign to highlight the new model and accesso’s other contactless technologies.
Whether your company serves the travel & tourism industry or not, a few key takeaways from this incredibly successful campaign hold promise as essential tools for your next product launch or promotional campaign.
Follow the momentum.
In April 2020, the world waited with bated breath as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis prepared to announce his reopening plan for Orlando, the theme park capital of the world. Everyone from The Wall Street Journal to local news stations wanted to know how Orlando – home to some of the biggest theme parks in the country – would begin to welcome travelers back to the region.
Recognizing the opportunity in front of us, our team quickly sprang into action to position accesso’s CEO Steve Brown as a go-to subject-matter expert who could discuss the technologies that would prove essential to the reopening process. In a matter of days, our team coordinated an extensive national media pitching initiative, offering Brown as a resource to more than 70 leading publications in the technology space. Within a couple of months, these efforts paid off, securing coverage of accesso’s virtual queuing technology in Skift and The Wall Street Journal.
Persistence, persistence, persistence.
Rome wasn’t built in a day – and neither is a media relationship. While our national pitching efforts began with Gov. DeSantis’ press conference, we knew it would take more than one email to truly hook media on accesso’s expertise in this area. Over the next couple of months, our team continued building relationships with the publications targeted in our first wave of outreach, monitoring their continued coverage and making appropriate connections to the type of industry guidance our client could provide. These efforts landed us two national media placements and many more at the local level – including the Orlando Business Journal, WFTV and WKMG – as well as with leading industry trade publications such as, Blooloop and Park World. Additionally, our team pitched and secured a story with the industry’s leading global publication, Funworld, which was published earlier this year.
Do your research.
One of the many reasons our media relations efforts were so successful is that we kept our finger on the pulse of the industry. If there was an industry-based publication or eNewsletter writing about contactless technologies or virtual queuing, we knew about it.
This quickly came in handy as we discovered a key product differentiator between accesso’s virtual queuing solution and others emerging within the market. The majority of other solutions available were simply ride reservation systems, varying greatly from accesso’s true dynamic virtual queuing model. accesso virtual queuing technology considers external factors outside of an operator’s control when calculating a guest’s “quoted” arrival time. If weather, operational or other factors delay a guest’s boarding time, they will be alerted automatically, well before they make their way to the ride entrance. Ride reservation systems, however, do not have this capability, causing decreased guest satisfaction and significant COVID-19 safety concerns, as guests are likely to quickly get stuck in a bottleneck at the entrance of a ride or attraction using such a system.
Realizing the value of this finding for operators in the leisure & entertainment industry, we worked quickly with the accesso marketing team to develop key messaging surrounding this essential product differentiator to demonstrate how accesso technology was unique to anything else on the market.
More than just selling accesso products, our campaign aimed to educate theme park and attraction operators on how to leverage the right technologies to reopen safely, both for their guests and their employees. One of the ways we communicated this was through creation of an industry white paper that outlined a guest’s “journey” – from the time they purchased their ticket online to the moment they received their post-trip survey on the drive home – and how the right technology solutions could enhance that journey amid COVID-19.
Though this piece served as a great tool for generating sales leads, it was designed to provide real value to its readers, regardless of sales potential. This value was particularly enticing for our trade media contacts, with our outreach resulting in dedicated features with Blooloop, Australasian Leisure Management and Amusement Today. And the white paper continues to receive downloads to-date – nearly a year since its distribution in October 2020.
Shoot your shot, but know your stuff.
Our firm’s president often likes to quote a former client who once told him, “No points for shy.” Essentially, if you don’t ask, you won’t know the answer. And, most often, the worst case is that the answer is “no.”
A few months into our continued media outreach campaign, we discovered such an opportunity with Hospitality Technology, a leading industry publication for decision-makers in the hotel, restaurant, cruise and travel space. Operators in these industries were also in the process of reopening safely for their guests, while figuring out how to provide the on-site experience they had become accustomed to pre-pandemic. This was an opportunity to reach an entirely new audience – one the accesso team had been working to expand into for years.
So, we did our research. We monitored their recent coverage. We drafted a pitch. And then, we pressed “send.”
And our efforts were successful! accesso was offered space to publish a bylined article on how to enhance the post-pandemic guest experience through the power of technology. And, in the time since that first placement, we have continued building relationships with the publication, securing two additional story opportunities with the publication in less than a year from our initial outreach. These opportunities not only brought value to the outlet’s audience, but also worked to highlight accesso’s expanding industry footprint.
Of course, none of these strategies and tactics would have been successful without a reputable company and the innovative products to back them up. The technology itself proved so successful for the industry that the 100% Virtual Queuing model was adopted in four theme parks across three continents. Two of those, Parc Astérix and Walibi Holland, renewed their 100% Virtual Queuing partnership through 2022 and 2025, respectively, and data from Walibi Holland showed the technology played a crucial role in maintaining guest satisfaction. And, earlier this year, accesso’s virtual queuing technology was trialed at Boston Logan International Airport to create a virtual security line, freeing airport guests from long TSA lines.
Our joint work with the accesso team paid off in spades and the numbers back that up.
By the end of the eight-month campaign, we secured more than 26.4 million potential media impressions for accesso’s 100% Virtual Queuing model and the company’s other contactless technology offerings. Our efforts also secured speaking engagements for the accesso team with IAAPA, Blooloop and INTIX – three of the leading publications and associations in the theme park, attractions and ticketing industries. Additionally, our work landed accesso on the Park World Excellence Awards 2020 finalist shortlist for “Best Use of Technologies” – a first in accesso’s history – for which the virtual program was livestreamed to an international industry audience.
Our own marketing efforts were recently recognized by leading industry associations – the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) – winning an Award of Distinction at the FPRA Golden Image Awards and a PRSA Sunshine District Award.
Learning to pivot amid a pandemic – or any difficult situation – is no easy feat. But with the right products and marketing to support your efforts, there are infinite possibilities waiting for you.
In search of the right marketing partner for your needs? Reach out to see how we might be able to bring your next project to the next level.