Does it ever make sense to collaborate with competitors as a marketing strategy? Sometimes it makes perfect sense. Many museums are involved in sponsorship-type free days such as Bank of America Museums on Us or Museum Month. Some are learning that working with competitors to sell shared admission passes works well whether you coordinate it locally or use an outside vendor like City Pass, which is available in 12 cities.
The Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is now in its fifth year of participating in a locally coordinated Summer Savings Pass (“SSP”) program. The pass allows visitors unlimited admission from mid-May through the 30th of September to our museum and three other prominent attractions in South Florida. Each location sells adult and child passes and keeps the revenue from the sales they make. Members of each attraction receive a $25 discount on the pass, which really helps up-sell memberships. Visitors using their SSP are processed at the gate, which allows for the opportunity to up-sell The IMAX® Experience and/or simulator rides. SSP partner revenue increased from $1 million to $1.5 million from 2011 through 2014. Revenue is up for 2015 as well.
The design of the SSP program is really quite simple. Each participating attraction has a representative that serves on the coordination team. Conference calls are conducted monthly. At the beginning of each year, a review is made of the previous year’s budget and results. Goals and a budget for advertising and print are set and shared equally. Next, an action plan is developed and representatives volunteer for assignments such as updating art, securing advertising and promotion proposals for outdoor, print, radio, and digital. Partners use their leverage to secure promotions and trade. Publicity is sought by all and one joint kick-off event is planned.
Although this program is financially beneficial for each partner, it also provides other valuable outcomes. For example, the database of all purchasers is combined and shared. We use the database occasionally for direct mail efforts to promote a new exhibit or film. This fall, the database will be added to our direct mail efforts to launch our IMAX with Laser campaign. Another by-product is cross-promotions in our social media channels. Combined, the four attractions have 275,000 fans/followers. Partners can reach audiences outside their normal social media channels to conduct contests or announce something new. Partners also serve as a great source to secure a reference on advertising vehicles in the marketplace.
One of the key factors in making this partnership work is respect. Each venue makes sure to follow the guidelines established for sales and promotion of the passes. Each representative shares equally in the coordination and gives generously of their established media contacts to promote the program.
Take a moment to look at your competitors with a different lens. Imagine them as an extension of your marketing effort. There are bound to be ways that you can collaborate as partners instead of adversaries.
Submitted by Marlene Janetos, VP Visitor Services, Marketing & Communications, Museum of Discovery and Science & AutoNation IMAX ® 3D Theater, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Email Marlene directly.