Produced by Minnesota Department of Transportation and Explore Minnesota Tourism
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has developed a guide to marketing bicycling along the Mississippi River Trail through the state's 800 miles of the bike route.June 01, 2011
MRT VISION: The Mississippi River Trail Bikeway in Minnesota is an international quality bicycling experience that safely connects riders to natural and cultural resources throughout one of the most bicycle-friendly states in America.
MRT BRAND: The MRT is a bikeway, primarily on the shoulders of low volume, paved roads, that provides the safest and best bicycling experience along the length of the Mississippi River through ten states from the headwaters at Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico
KEY MRT MESSAGES: A great adventure! Visitors and residents can explore America’s cultural and natural heritage and see what tourists in an automobile will never see. Enrichment and social cohesiveness. The trail celebrates important Mississippi River people, places, and stories that have made Minnesota’s communities great. Better health. The MRT encourages healthy and life- extending outdoor activity. Diverse terrain engages diverse riders. The MRT is primarily an on-road bikeway, with some off road trail segments. The right distance for all riders. The MRT is a unique long distance route with opportunities for short rides.
REASONS TO SUPPORT THE MRT: Creating bicycle infrastructure provides significant environmental, health, economic, and transportation benefits. Adds value to existing infrastructure. The bikeway provides new uses for an already maintained transportation network. The road, shoulders, and trails occupied by the MRT are now part of an internationally acclaimed bikeway.
THE MARKETING NEED: According to Explore Minnesota, tourism is an $11.2 billion industry in Minnesota and every $1 invested in marketing Minnesota’s amenities, results in a return of $53 in gross sales. http://industry.exploreminnesota.com/side2/emt-tourism- council/value-of-tourism/
It is not enough to just establish the MRT bikeway; you must also build awareness of the route and promote its value over time. MRT designation and signing alone will not result in use. To justify the resources spent mapping and signing the route, resources must also be allocated for long-term marketing to build a positive perception. It is imperative to communicate with potential users regularly to maximize bikeway use and benefits.
The MRT product is not just the route, but the experience found along the way. Because many factors contribute to the overall experience, from the scenery to the bikeway conditions to the hospitality in each community, it is important to have a consistent marketing effort across agencies, businesses, and people.
CREATE MRT AWARENESS: Unfortunately the motto, “If you build it, they will come,” rarely manifests itself. Defining and building MRT awareness is an important first step to marketing. Route maps and signs, ribbon cutting ceremonies, inaugural rides, social media and press releases announcing the MRT are viable ways of building awareness. Partnering with local businesses along the way will also help build MRT awareness.
CONSUMERS ARE INUNDATED WITH MESSAGES – DON’T NEGLECT YOURS: Consumers have unlimited choices and are constantly inundated with advertising and promotions enticing them to spend their time and money. Don’t let the MRT get lost in the crowd. Web, radio, social media, television advertisements, and events can serve as a reminder to potential users that the MRT is ready and waiting.
BUILD MRT IMAGE, REPUTATION, AND PERCEIVED VALUE OVER TIME: Establishing the MRT as a destination worthy of experiencing will require consistent and long-term branding efforts. It is important to identify target users and define an experience that is attractive to them. Identifying MRT amenities and creating itineraries, websites and brochures are ways to help communicate the experience awaiting bicyclists. However, it is equally important to nurture the MRT image over time. Feature articles, blogs, and op-eds that intimately communicate the experience along the MRT will help demonstrate the route’s value. Sponsoring a regular media-fam ride, will help keep the MRT in the minds of travel writers.
DEFINE YOUR OBJECTIVES, SCHEDULE, AND BUDGET.
DO YOU WANT TO:
IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE AND THEIR NEEDS.
SELECT MARKETING STRATEGIES FOR YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE. CONSIDER THE FOUR P'S (PRODUCT, PRICE, PLACE AND PROMOTION).
IDENTIFY RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO YOU.
OUTLINE AN IMPLEMENTATION PLAN.
We recommend you consider the following procedures while creating your plan: