Getting people into the zoo seems like it would be easy. You are offering the chance to see and (in some cases) interact with animals from all over the world. You are giving visitors an experience they won’t find just anywhere. But somehow that isn’t always enough to get visitors through the entrance gates. Lack of awareness about your zoo and its programs, as well as high entry fees, can make a lot of people back off visiting unless it’s a special occasion.
Luckily marketing your zoo and reaching a wide audience doesn’t have to be difficult. In this day and age there is more than just traditional print and television advertising opportunities available. By taking advantage of creating a great website experience for your zoo, and executing a best in class digital, social media, and search marketing campaign, you can find your target audience and get them to your zoo. Here are seven marketing ideas to help you get more visitors into your park.
Everyone seems to have their phones with them these days. They use them to stay in contact with friends and family, as well as take pictures and videos to remember memorable moments. That means when they come to the zoo, chances are they’ll have their phones with them. And if their phones are with them, that means their social media accounts are with them. You can utilize this to your advantage.
Throughout the year hold giveaways exclusively through social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. Do a scavenger hunt around the zoo and require participants to check in on Twitter when they reach each point along the hunt. Create a hashtag that can be easily followed, and offer a great prize to those that complete the scavenger hunt. Also make sure to ask the winners to post about their prize on Twitter so other users will see how much fun they had. This will encourage them to come to the zoo in the future so they have the chance to play the game and win a prize.
With Instagram you can hold “cutest picture” and similar contests. Put up signs when entering the zoo that encourage guests to take pictures around the animals and as they enjoy the park. Give them a couple of hashtags to use when posting to Instagram, and offer a fun prize to whoever takes the cutest picture each day. You can let other users vote on the best pictures, or include everyone who participates in a random drawing. As long as you are using a hashtag that includes the name of your zoo, followers of both Twitter and Instagram users participating in your contests will see that you not only have fun giveaways, but a zoo that’s great to visit.
Live Animal Cams
Some people live in areas where they don’t have easy access to a zoological park. Or the zoo in their area doesn’t have the same animals that you do. To attract the attention of these people, and encourage them to visit you in the future, you should set up some live-animal cameras.
Cameras can be placed in enclosures where animals sleep at night, or in exhibits where the animals are located during business hours. Many zoos have hooked up cameras when animals are about to give birth, so viewers can experience the special event. Others place their cameras in dens or nests, so viewers can watch baby animals sleep, play, eat, and grow.
Pick the animals that are the most popular or the most unique for your zoo. Set up the cameras where you think they will capture the best moments for your animals. Then provide a live feed through your website and share it on social media as well as signage in the zoo. Viewers who become attached to the animals they are watching on a regular basis will most likely want to come and visit them in person.
Baby Naming Submissions
The birth of a new baby animal at the zoo is a cause for celebration. Guests will love the chance to be apart of the special event and help choose a name for them. You can hold a contest online and/or in person to allow one lucky person to name an animal. They can submit ideas through email, comments, direct messages, or physical entry forms.
If you hold the contest at the zoo itself, you can advertise it through digital, print, and television advertising. It will encourage people to visit the park so they can participate in the contest. Be sure to offer a fun prize, like their name on a plaque with the exhibit, or pictures with the baby animal (when it’s old enough).
If you hold the contest online you can open it up to more people, as you don’t have to just aim it at the people in your local area who visit the zoo. As part of the winner’s prize package you can include free entrance to the zoo and a naming ceremony when they come to visit. This will encourage them to travel to your location and perhaps bring other (paying) guests with them.
Animal Birthday Parties
Tortoises, turtles, and some types of birds live for a long time. This gives you a great opportunity to celebrate their years and decades of life by throwing birthday parties for them. You can make an event out of it, by discounting admission on the special day and offering giveaways, coupons, and events throughout the park.
If you have specific animals your zoo is known for, you should also celebrate their birthdays. Guests love to get involved in showing their appreciation for their favorite animals. Sell specialty items like t-shirts and souvenirs based around the birthday animal. And offer discount coupons for the next visit if people attend on the special day. This encourages them to return to the zoo in the near future.
Who doesn’t love a discount? Advertise special days where visitors can get a percentage off of their admittance fees. Pick one day a month, or special anniversaries, or slow days where you have trouble getting people through the gates. If you have discount days on a regular basis you could gain return guests who might not otherwise be able to come to the zoo more than once or twice a year.
TV Show Tie-in Campaigns
Cable networks are full of zoo-based television shows right now. Capitalize on that trend by creating campaigns around them to tie your digital marketing to a TV show. Hold online trivia contests based on certain shows and offer discounts or free admission to winners. You can also offer discounted admission or special rates on food and drinks sold in the park on days new episodes of shows air, or when show seasons premiere or end.
Zoo shows introduce different animals and conservation efforts to the public. Follow their example and create daily events based on similar animals and zoo-based programs. Try a morning meet and greet with popular animals, and afternoon introductions to your zookeepers and staff. The more people know about you and your zoo, the more they’ll want to support you, because they’ll feel like a member of the zoo family.
Targeted Facebook and Instagram Ads
Targeted social media ads are a great way to reach specific audiences. You can aim ads at certain age groups, geographic locations, and interests. You can run ads for a short period of time or over long time periods. And you can use them to promote your website, your social media pages, events happening in the park, and discounted admission rates/days.