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What We Learned at IAAPA 2017 and How We’re Going to Raise the Bar in 2018

Posted by Sherry Howell on Nov 29, 2017 1:00:00 PM

IAPPA is a time for learning, building strong relationships and planning.

CenterEdge had the opportunity to again exhibit and attend the IAAPA trade show. It was a great event that offered us the chance to attend seminars, discuss industry trends, meet new people and hear the things that will make the most impact in the day to day operations of CenterEdge clients. We think 2018 is going to be exciting, and we are cooking up new developments in our content and our software, so be sure to stay tuned.

The IAAPA show always offers us the chance to level set and fine tune the direction we’re taking in the new year, and this year was no different. So much has happened, but here are three takeaways from this year’s show.

No. 1: Dream big to build a brand with purpose.

The best seminar I attended by far was a marketing session titled “Marketing Platforms, Content Tools and Scalable Programs." The speaker, Mike Wente is Chief Creative Officer of VML, a global marketing and communications company. His agency has promoted such organizations as Tennessee Tourism and the City of Miami. And while many single locations don’t have access to the same budgets that major parks or organizations do, all can benefit from the ideas presented that marketing success happens when you:

  • image copy-1.pngTarget smartly: Consider who you want to reach and what you want them to know about your business. For example, let’s say you’re interested in offering a local summer camp program. When reviewing your guest demographics of age and zip codes from your customer database, you determine you have a large guest base in zip codes from a particular school district. Armed with that knowledge, you can segment your contact lists and create targeted emails, social media and other web ads. Or, you might see that you need to spend more time advertising to other zip codes to pull in new guests who haven’t been in before. The more targeted you can be with your approach, the more relevant your efforts will be.
  • Leverage what you have: This comes down to your organization’s purpose, its uniqueness or its ‘heart.’ Mike advised determining your marketing focus by asking, “what is the one thing [we] want to get across?” and then determine viability by asking “why would anyone [care to] talk about this?” These are great questions when trying to set a strategy or campaign direction. So often, we get bogged down in our ideas that we forget to be customer-centric and consider if anyone really wants or needs what we're trying to offer.
  • Creatively tell your story: Once you know who you want to target and the message you want to send, the most meaningful strategies find new ways to tell the story. Thinking about your organization, are you a fourth-generation entrepreneur whose ancestors literally built the railroad your town was based around? Perhaps let your unique story shine through by offering a peek through history experience at your facility’s 50th anniversary party or by press releases and articles around “if we knew then what we know now” ideas from your facility’s evolution over time. Or even a costume party timed through the ages. Whatever your message, make sure you disseminate it in a sharable format so that guests experiencing will have clear calls to action and can spread the word about what you’re all about.

No. 2: More tips, tools and resources for next year! 

Everyone we talked to throughout the week had good questions and ideas for the future. One of the things we heard repeatedly is that you like to get (and share) operational ideas and resources. We want to do more of that in 2018! We are forming our 2018 Content and Resource Library and we received many topic requests for future tools and posts. We thought we’d share some of those and invite anyone else who has ideas or questions for future blog, video, or resource topics. Some of our favorites that you’ll see more about in the new year were:

  • Effective Staff Scheduling
  • Using Reports to Maximize Efficiency
  • Operations: Birthday Party Prep and Upselling
  • Handling Online Reviews
  • More Hidden Software Gems
  • Effective Web Sales
  • Send us your topics!

No. 3: We love making a difference with you (and our partners!)

We love what you do every day for your guests and communities. We believe that the fun business offers us a chance to enrich people’s lives and are thankful that we get to partner with so many like-minded clients and vendor partners.

One vendor partner, Creative Works, invited us to help grant a wish for a critically ill child through the Make a Wish Foundation. The average wish costs $10,000, so that was our goal. Leading up to IAAPA, other vendor partners donated, and then Creative Works’ #CWMemoryMakers continued the fundraising efforts in their booth throughout the show, including a custom mural that each donor could color in when donating. By Thursday, nearly $11,000 had been raised and more was coming in! It was such an honor to participate in granting a wish, and we are already dreaming of what we’ll do next year.

And that really gets to the heart of what we’re all trying to do, isn’t it? Every now and then we look back at our accomplishments and challenges and keep dreaming of ways to build more – and make more memories in the future. Pretty great goal, we think.

What do you want more of in 2018? Share your comments with our Brand Engagement Director, Sherry Howell at showell@centeredgesoftware.com, in the comments or on Twitter!

Topics: CenterEdge Team