Marketing Strategy & Implementation  

By Bridget Smith, Partner/CMO & Ron Lam, Managing Partner

The authors of this blog, TMG Partner/CMO Bridget Smith and Founding/Managing Partner Ron Lam, have been involved with well over 100 entertainment centers, restaurants, and movie theaters throughout the U.S. and abroad. Together they have over 40 years of experience in all aspects of marketing, including branding, marketing strategy, advertising (digital and traditional), event sales and planning, promotions, public relations (including influencers), sponsorships, etc., primarily in the retail entertainment and restaurant industries.  In 2018, together they launched Trifecta Marketing Services (TMS), which provides comprehensive marketing services to a variety of industries,.  Bridget oversees a nationwide team of TMS professionals focused on proven top-line/bottom-line approaches, supplemented with the latest in marketing technology and trends.

For more on Bridget and Ron, click here

Marketing Strategy & Implementation

Why is marketing strategy important?  In this blog, we will describe the key elements of what is important in a strategy and plan, along with critical considerations to incorporate when developing a plan, implementing it and tracking its success.  

At Trifecta Management Group (TMG), we have had much success creating and executing marketing and sales programs for our managed clients over many years.  Our experiences have led to requests to provide marketing services for clients whose operations we do not manage.  As a result, in early 2019 we launched Trifecta Marketing Services (TMS).  Using many of the same established approaches we use with our TMG-managed clients, we have extended our services to non-TMG operated clients, with the fortunate results of meeting and, in many cases, exceeding expectations of clients in a variety of businesses. This discussion refers to examples in the retail entertainment/restaurant industry, but the lessons learned can adapt to other industries as well.

A successful marketing effort starts with a strategy and concludes with a meaningful reflection.  In this blog, we will cover six topics:

1.       Identifying Target Markets

2.       Establishing the Brand

3.       Creating a Strategy and Plan

4.       Developing Tactics

5.       Flawlessly Executing & Monitoring/Adjusting

6.       Conducting ‘Post-Mortems’ – Lessons Learned

 

Identifying Target Markets/Branding

When you first visualized your concept or product, it is highly likely you had already identified the demographics of your main customer.  You may have even created a logo with that demographic in mind, appealing to that target market (maybe even an informal focus group reviewed it). But have you thought through potential secondary and tertiary target markets?  To really maximize a business’s potential those markets need to be identified; hence it is also critical in this process as you develop those strategies to create compelling programs, but also be aware of delivering multiple messages, without overlap or alienation of other target audiences.  An example of target markets for an entertainment center/restaurant may be: Families (primary), Socially Active Adults (secondary) and Corporate (tertiary).  Can these three successfully co-exist?  Yes, but a carefully prepared strategy, enhanced by some physical “barriers”, will be necessary for this to be successful.

Establishing the Brand

Once these targets markets have been identified, a branding package should be developed, geared primarily toward the primary target demographic, but with extreme caution toward not alienating an ancillary, but important, secondary or tertiary target market.  Branding is more than a logo.  It is colors, style, tag lines, etc., that effectively communicates your concept.  Once the logo is settled, we then strongly recommend a style guide with fonts and colors so that all collateral, website, social media, and other forms are in alignment with the overall branding.  Branding message consistency is critical.  All communication starts with the usual platforms guests are mostly likely to access.  The website and social media pages are your company’s first impression to your target market, showing the best of what you are…i.e., your experiences, the smiling faces of those using your venue/product and specific promotions in concise ways.  This is mostly done with pictures, pictures, and more pictures, supported by brief descriptions and videos.

 Creating a Strategy and Plan

Before we dive into what is in a strategy and plan, it is important to note that the most important aspect is that it be flexible…things always change.  The main example of that is the ever-evolving media we use to reach our clients/guests. Eight years ago, our media spend was roughly 80% traditional (print, TV, radio, etc.) and 20% non-traditional (digital, social)—now it is reversed. 

The main part of the strategy is identifying the messaging to the various markets.  The best approach is to develop separate strategies for each demographic.  At this point, general ideas on what kind of program/promotions would work against each target should be identified (tactics come later).  Also, as part of this, the most attractive day parts, seasons, etc., for the target should accompany each strategy.

The plan, in our terms, is the media spend budget. While specific medium for each program is not identified at this point, overall spending budgets on the various distribution channels are important. We typically use between 2-4% of revenues for restaurants and entertainment centers, but this obviously changes depending on industry (a theme park % of revenues varies greatly from the grocery business, for example).  It is important to capture commitments and spends on a monthly basis against this plan/budget.  We pride ourselves on never spending over the budget in all our years.  At the same time, it is important to note that the plan/budget may need to be revised during the year, given economic and competitive developments.

Developing Tactics

Once the strategies have been established, the detailed tactics are addressed.  We like to develop programs/promotions at least four to five months in advance, to provide ample time to create the program, develop procedures, design the collateral (scrutinizing the details), and identify the right media channels, establish tracking, etc.).  Partnering with operations closely in creating these initiatives is absolutely necessary.  Compelling advertising collateral needs to be supported with brief messaging, enhanced by attractive, fitting pictures (and of course the legalese!).

Ideas may come from a variety of sources, including what you did last year, what the competition is doing, what your guests tell you they want to see, and what your employees have to say.

This is the stage where all the specifics are identified, considering peak vs. non-peak, cannibalization, avoiding alienation of one demographic over another, seasonal spreading of advertising dollars and, of course, the specific spends on the appropriate media.  Also, performance tracking processes should be clearly identified prior to the launch of the campaign.

 Flawlessly Executing and Monitoring/Adjusting

Perhaps this goes without saying, but this is a step that should be taken seriously.  Both marketing and operations need to be on the same page, going into, during and after the program.  It has to be a team effort, with everyone taking ownership in the success and any necessary adjustments needed.  We typically meet frequently, at least weekly, to discuss any modifications needed during the program.

Conducting ‘Post Mortems’ – Lessons Learned

So how do we know if the campaign worked?  This is an important, often neglected, step in the process: determining if the program worked, the successes/failures of various components of the plan and, most importantly, do we continue to do this again or what adjustments are needed?  This is more than “counting coupons” (side note: one would hope that one does not have to always include a coupon to monitor success; coupons should only be used when targeting an incremental guest visit, but that is for another blog!).

Sure, we do look at offer redemptions, when used, but the most accurate measures are captured through qualitative and quantitative analysis.  After each promotion, we ask managers and employees involved to give us feedback on if the program/event was successful and if it should be continued, what went well and what things we need to improve on. Also, we often survey guests during the program.  This is all captured in a bullet point report by our GM (we think “fancy’ reports are a waste of time!).

Analytically, we will conduct a post-mortem report against a pro forma, if prepared prior to the event (we highly recommend this be done before all events, when appropriate)—focus on the bottom line!  Top line analysis is also done, which measures the program’s attractiveness and the advertising effectiveness.  To do this, we perform sales day part/product analysis and, most appropriately, if part of a season long promotion, we conduct a sales trend analysis vs. prior year.  How were sales trending before and after the promotion vs. during?  This is a key indicator of whether or not the aforementioned program/advertising efforts were successful.

We also look at the metrics as it relates to both traditional and digital advertising and will make notes on what was effective and what was not.

When we begin our planning for the next year (three months in advance), we will take into consideration all of the promotional results, advertising effectiveness, actual vs. budgeted spends and lessons learned to incorporate into the next year strategy and plan.  This is an evolving learning experience, and while we formally put a plan in place each year, the lessons learned are applied constantly throughout the year, as this is an ever-changing environment (especially in the digital and competitive spaces!).

By Bridget Smith, CMO/Partner & Ron Lam, Managing Partner

The authors of this blog, TMG Partner/CMO Bridget Smith and Founding/Managing Partner Ron Lam, have been involved with well over 100 entertainment centers, restaurants, and movie theaters throughout the U.S. and abroad. Together they have over 40 years of experience in all aspects of marketing, including branding, marketing strategy, advertising (digital and traditional), event sales and planning, promotions, public relations (including influencers), sponsorships, etc., primarily in the retail entertainment and restaurant industries.  In 2018, together they launched Trifecta Marketing Services (TMS), which provides comprehensive marketing services to a variety of industries,.  Bridget oversees a nationwide team of TMS professionals focused on proven top-line/bottom-line approaches, supplemented with the latest in marketing technology and trends.

For more on Bridget and Ron, click here