March 17, 2015

There is no time for playing ‘Small-Ball’, Winning Requires Vision

From the Oregon coast to the desert of Arizona; from the San Francisco Bay to the lakes of Upstate New York, the Zoo Advisors team has been on the go in 2015. We’ve talked Africa in Tennessee, oceans in California, and China in Florida. We’ve been listening, exploring, and probing to hear what is on the minds of zoo, aquarium, and conservation professionals coast to coast. What have we learned and what’s trending now? Here’s our take:

Without vision, you’re not going to be able to find your way. Those institutions that want to truly take it to the next level are embracing big visions and innovative ideas. They understand their guests, their communities, and their donors want bold thinking backed up by a clear direction of how they will reach their goals. In today’s extremely competitive and fast-paced environment, there’s no place for ‘small-ball.’

Is the price right? Whether it’s the economy picking up steam, the ‘uberization’ of service offerings, or all the talk of algorithms, finding the right pricing strategy is on people’s minds. “How do I know if I’m charging the right amount? Should I implement dynamic pricing? What’s the right ratio for my membership price?” The easy answer to this is – ‘now is the time to evaluate what you charge to whom.’ Chances are you are leaving money on the table, some would say easy money. But like everything, smart institutions have a well thought out plan backed up by research and data. There are many paths to finding the right answers…you just need to start by asking the right questions.

iPhone or Android – The industry still hasn’t figured out technology. We know we need to take advantage of the latest tech innovations, but we worry that our guests will be glued to their mobile devices. Chances are they already are, so how might we take advantage of this? The goal is how to get them to use that hardware to connect and engage in new ways. Some are doing it, but most have barely scratched the surface. Zoos and aquariums need to think more strategically about how to incorporate technology solutions throughout their institutions, from before the guest even arrives to long after they leave.

What Guest? With cookies, tracking, and data galore, many consumer businesses know intimate details about their customers. Yet, most zoos and aquariums might know only what zip code their customers are from, and not have a clue about their interests or buying habits. There’s a growing appetite to get a better understanding of who exactly is coming to our facilities and why. This begins with accurately capturing a wealth of data on our guests and then complementing that with a mix of quantitative and qualitative research. With this data in hand, we can do a better job of getting more like guests to visit, more effectively target our marketing, and create the high-value experience our guests are looking for. 

The search for the Holy Grail. Everywhere we go, everyone’s asking “what’s the next big money maker? What’s the silver bullet?” Beyond the zip lines, animal feedings, and brews at the Zoo, where’s the new revenue?  The quick and easy answer: it’s in the data. See above for where new dollars can come from – better understanding our guest to maximize the revenue and value of their participation. By learning everything we can about our guests and prospective visitors, we can better tailor an experience – at the right price – that delivers for both them…and you.

To learn more about any of these trends, track us down as we criss-cross the country visiting current clients that include The Oregon Coast Aquarium, The San Francisco Zoo, Seneca Park Zoo, and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. We’ll also be in Columbia, South Carolina for AZA’s mid-year conference. Be sure to connect with us there.

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