What's Your Airport's Marketing Strategy?

Every airport needs to have a current marketing strategy in place that can be regularly reviewed and which keeps up with economic, environmental, and industry issues.

If an airport wants to attract more passengers, additional concessions, or new carriers, it has to commit to making marketing a top priority, even in a depressed economy with scarce overall operational budgets. Every airport needs to have a current marketing strategy in place that can be regularly reviewed and which keeps up with economic, environmental, and industry issues.

With the start a new year almost upon us, it is a good time to review an airport’s performance against its marketing strategy. This is best done with a cross-organizational team as a working review session.

Some questions to address:

  1. What did you accomplish last year?
  2. Did the airport increase or decrease marketing activities and budgets?
  3. What did you see competitors doing that you wished you had thought of first?
  4. What changes have taken place in the local market and in travel patterns?
  5. Where is the airport in relationship to competitors operationally and publicly?
  6. What are travelers, concessionaires, industry professionals, and employees saying about the airport?
  7. What issues are most complaints about?
  8. Has the airport kept pace with technological advances?
  9. Have the airport’s marketing efforts increased, decreased, or stayed the same?

A thorough and frank discussion about these issues can provide guidance for how to update or revise the airport’s marketing strategy, from which an airport can develop a targeted marketing and communications plan of action. Take a look at the latest Mineta San Jose International Airport plan that includes a set of specific actions required to implement the strategy. Every marketing strategy needs to be consistent with the overall business goals of the airport for maximum effectiveness.

Marketing strategies can vary for each airport, depending on its geographical location, relative size, industry rank, brand strength as well as its executive leadership. Strategies must also adjust accordingly to the economic realities of today, including airline industry performance and overall demand for travel.

Here are the highlights of a few general marketing strategies for consideration …

Market dominance strategies
There are the clearly identified market leaders like JFK, LAX, or Chicago O’Hare. Then, there are challengers such as Dallas Love Field with an aggressive strategy to gain market share. The followers are in a strong but not dominant position, and they play it relatively safe by taking on the overflow of the market leader.

Niche market players focus on a select few markets, with the ability to really meet the needs of those markets. Regional airports can dominate in their own geographic areas and thrive.

Innovation strategies
Innovation strategies include how aggressively airports adopt new technology and future business opportunities. There are pioneers who are the early adopters and risk-takers, and close followers who are comfortable with lower risk, but recognize the value of the investment. Then there are the late followers who adopt the technology after everyone else.

Growth strategies
Growth strategies focus on addressing the question of how the airport should grow. It requires analyzing its physical, economic, community, and regulatory constraints to develop a plan that meets its business objectives. For example, the LAX master plan is a strategic framework for future development of Los Angeles International Airport (and is the first comprehensive improvement plan for the airport since 1956).

Developing a marketing strategy is a time-intensive process that leads to business success. It is the foundation that sets out the more global goals so that a specific roadmap can be developed and implemented. Without a solid strategy in place, a marketing and communications plan is ineffective at best.


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