I recently spent the day at Cedar Point, one of the largest and most renowned amusement parks in America. Nestled on the shores of Lake Erie near Sandusky, Ohio, this park is known as America’s Roller Coast because of its amazing array of death-defying thrill rides.

I find myself viewing every experience with an eye toward marketing. I’m always looking to see what other businesses, both big and small, are doing right and wrong and what I can learn that will help my library marketing.

That's me in the purple pants.
That’s me in the purple pants.

There are huge differences between the inner workings of a library and an amusement park. But I took home more than a sense of adventure and a photo of myself screaming like an idiot while riding the world’s first floorless coaster! Here’s what I learned:

  1. Make your website easy to navigate and put the information that guests want front and center. There are several ways to buy tickets on the Cedar Point homepage…all are in plain sight and are easy to spot. Everything else is divided into categories with headlines that reflect the way real guests would talk. If you have trouble figuring out how to organize your website for the ease of your customers, it’s a good idea to ask your staff to make a list of the questions which guests ask throughout the day. Then turn those into website pages.
  2. Signage should be clear and minimal. Cedar Point has signs marking the entrances of rides… and that’s it! That might seem counter-intuitive. The park is huge and the map is, frankly, not much help. But there was no wayfaring signage anywhere and it didn’t slow us down. In fact, it encouraged us to roam and explore. And we knew when we saw a sign, it meant something. Libraries put too many signs in too many places, making it confusing for customers who eventually tune out all that visual overload. Choose your sign placement carefully and strategically, and when in doubt, minimize. If you’re worried that people will get lost, then remember the next lesson…
  3. Staff members should always be available to help customers! Every staff member at Cedar Point appears to be trained to answer a variety of questions, from how to find rides and restrooms to height restrictions to food booth locations.  If we needed any help, all we had to do was ask. What a treat! This easy, comfortable staff interaction made the day so much better. We knew if we had any problems, the staff would have our backs.
  4. Monitor social media all the time–no excuses. Now we come to the part of our visit that was a little disappointing. My family chose to buy VIP viewing tickets for the fireworks show in the evening. We decided to go on July 3 because frankly I thought the park would be crazy busy on the 4th! We got admission, parking, a seat on the beach for the fireworks and an all you can eat hamburger and hot dog buffet for a great price.  However, the fireworks show was disappointing. It only lasted ten minutes. We had watched the show the night before from our rental cottage and it was at least 20 minutes long. So I tweeted the park’s official account, asking why the show was so short. I got no response. I tweeted again the next day. No response. On July 5, I tweeted one more time, suggesting the social media folks read Jay Baer’s Hug Your Haters. That finally got a response from the Director of Communications.The fact that it took three days to get a response on social media is inexcusable.  Your customers will expect an answer from you in a reasonable amount of time. A recent study by Eptica shows 64 percent of customers who use Twitter to communicate with companies expect a response within the hour. Assign someone to watch social media accounts regularly throughout the day and evening, every day of the week, even on holidays. That’s the only way we’ll be able to compete with, and beat, big-box book and media stores and give our customers with the experience they demand.Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.