Marketing Makes a Difference
John Van Horn
When you want to park at Denver International Airport (DIA), you have two choices: on- and off-airport. If you select off-airport, you have three choices, the largest of which is US Airport Parking.
The operation seems fairly straight forward -- a lot of flat land, covered in asphalt, with lights, some stripes on the ground, and you have it. But a closer look reveals something more.
This is a quality operation. The buildings, the signs, even the fences are first cabin. There is pride of ownership here, and a reflective pride in the operator, Standard Parking.
The 8,000-space location is arguably the largest off-airport parking operation in the country. Its major issue: how to get people to find it.
There are four major ways into Denver International; US Airport is located on one of them. But two-thirds of its potential customers don't us that one. The challenge is how to get them to go through the not-complicated-but-messy drive to the location's front door.
Marketing does it. With at least 3,500 cars on-site virtually all the time, US Airport has more cars on the lot than the total number of spaces in either of its competitors. The question is: how?
Karl Kelman marketing guru for the operation, says it's because of how and where US Airport advertises. It's also because, he says, the company offers good service at a fair price. Once he gets them there, they keep coming back.
Frankly, DIA is difficult to navigate in a personal vehicle. There are numerous shuttle lots and a monster 13,000-space garage adjacent to the terminal. Merely finding parking on the 52-square-mile airport can be a bit intimidating. Signage is good, but then who reads signs?
Kelman says it's much easier to simply drive into the airport location, park and take the shuttle. And it's cheaper, too!
But you still have to get the parker to come to the lot. Kelman's two major avenues are television and the Internet.
What, television? For a parking lot? Yes, says Kelman. TV is important in two ways. First, it provides immediate impact. He runs quite a bit of advertising during the holiday season. Second, it provides long-term branding. "TV can be expensive, but I don't buy on a long-term contract," he says. "I call up and ask how they are doing on a particular show like the "10 p.m. news." If they have no advertisers, you can get the spots fairly inexpensively. I do have a TV budget that I must keep within. But within that number, I select and run the spots."
The Internet is his favorite. Many people coming to the airport simply key in "Denver Airport Parking" or something similar on their search engine. When they do, US Parking's link is listed at the top of the page, either first or second (see sidebar).
Kelman uses a variety of other approaches -- newspapers, coupon value packs, travel agencies, billboards -- and a couple of unique approaches.
Chamber of Commerce. Chambers of commerce love to give away gifts to people who renew their membership or become new members. Kelman makes sure that coupons for free parking are included to all members of local chambers.
Charity Auctions. All types of charities and service groups have fund-raisers and auctions. He is happy to have them auction off free parking.
In all these cases, of course, the driver pays for the first day or two, and receives the free days on the back end.
US Airport sees its "best" customers as frequent travelers. "They understand that it is easier to park in a shuttle lot than in the structure at the airport," Kelman says. "They don't have to schlep their bags, and they are delivered right to their car."
He is extremely excited about the new covered parking that will be offered beginning this month at US Airport Parking at DIA. It will go for $5 a day more. He expects people who travel a lot will use it. "Hail is a big problem in Denver. It can do a lot of damage," Kelman says. "Plus, we are at 5,500 feet. The UV up here can wreak havoc on a paint job. That extra $5 a day can be an inexpensive insurance policy."
Side Bar 1
Advertise on the Internet - Cheap
Karl Kelman, head of marketing for US Airport Parking, signs up with the search engines such as Google or Yahoo, and through an auction-like process, bids to get his company listed at the top. It works generally like this:
You pick the key words you want (such as "Denver Airport Parking"). Then you tell the search engine company that
you will pay it a certain amount for every "click-through" that you receive. That amount can vary from a few pennies to much more.
A "click-through" is a computer user who found the listing at the top of the search engine and actually clicked on it and went to US Airport's Web site. the search engine company keeps track and bills your credit card once a month. If you bid, say, five cents a click-through and you get 100 per day, you would be billed $5 a day.
The numbers can add up,
especially if you are listed with two or three search engines
(Kelman says that's all you need, because many home pages of MSN or Comcast or the like use one of two or three) and you are getting 1,000 click-throughs a day. You could be spending $50 a day for these responses.
But think about it: If only 10 percent of these people actually use your service and you average $35 from each ... well, you get the idea.
You can sign up for this online today. You can change your bid or your keywords as often as you like. If you see your company name dropping on the list, up your bid, and it will be back at the top.
Article Abstract from March, 2004