When the parking industry was still in its infancy in the 1950s and 60s, just a handful of companies worked to manage demand for spaces, and business in general tended to be done through relationships with a handshake. Little thought was given to marketing beyond taking prospects out to dinner and putting together proposals.
Over the years, as the automobile came to represent part of the American dream, the parking industry grew to unimaginable heights; today, the parking industry is estimated to bring in more than $35 billion per year in revenue alone. Factor in the revenue that’s generated from the design and development of new parking facilities, the creation of parking equipment, and the introduction of new parking technologies just to name a few significant influences), and it’s clear that parking is no longer the insular community of the past.
However, while parking has evolved into a vital, lucrative industry, the marketing strategies of most parking organizations haven’t evolved in an equal fashion. Many parking organizations—from municipalities to private parking owners to consultants to parking equipment suppliers—still approach marketing as if they are living in the 1960s.
According to Brent Robertson, a partner with Fathom, a marketing consulting and web design firm in West Hartford, Conn., in today’s economy, marketing is essential to the success of any business.
“With the rate of change, the parking industry is getting more competitive and will continue to get more competitive," says Robertson. “There are a lot more players in the space, and parking organizations need to know how to stay ahead of the competition."
According to Robertson, the key to staying ahead is having a strategic marketing program. He says leaders need to understand the challenges their organizations face and build their marketing programs to overcome those unique challenges.
“You need to be able to reach your most important audiences, whether they are customers or parkers or strategic partners," says Robertson, “and you need to be able to communicate effectively to those audiences to differentiate yourself from your competition."
The Digital Age
Robertson says the digital revolution that has seen substantial advances in web design and exponential growth of social media platforms is good news for parking organizations looking to get the word out about their products or services.
“Having a web presence is really important," says Robertson. “Ultimately, before customers or clients will hire a company, they want to see what that company is all about—what its values and experiences are. A good website will demonstrate a company’s expertise, accomplishments, and approaches, but more importantly, it will also convey the values of the organization and its people."
Robertson points to the website of Fuss & O’Neill (fando.com), a civil engineering firm in Manchester, Conn. In addition to offering examples of the firm’s projects and introductions to its people, the Fuss & O’Neill site focuses heavily on answering the questions, “Who are we, and what do we stand for?"
“If you looked at a number of civil engineering websites and stripped the logos off them, you’d find that they are pretty much all alike," says Robertson. “They only talk about what the firm does—what services they offer and what projects they have done. They don’t talk about who they are, what they stand for, and how they strive to make a difference in the world."
“Fuss & O’Neills website works because it takes a completely different approach. Its theme is, Our dedication to our work is connected to our desire for a better life. We are committed to helping create a better world, and this is how we do it. It’s a message that resonates with municipalities, developers, and other potential clients.