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Economy SparksNew, Targeted Re BY RICHARD DECKER

single source. So when we in parking sneeze, the organization feels bad all over. It looks to us not only to recover quickly, but also to help it get healthy, and quickly, too. Does this sound familiar?

A During the fall, winter and spring of 2008-9,MSP experi-

enced the full brunt of a slowing economy. The Twin Cities are home to many national business’ headquarters, so between 65% and 75%of our passengers are frequent business travelers.Aver- age stays are three days,more than twice amonth. When businesses cut back, they cut their

business travel hard. When the economy slowed in late September 2008, our revenue projections were on track and our expenses were below budget. All this changed very quickly and dramatically. Fortunately, we had just proposed a

12.5% ($2/day on a $16 daily rate) rate increase early that fall. It was approved and became effective Jan. 1, 2009. In spite of this, January 2009 sales were 9.4% below those of January 2008.We had fewer customers, and they were parking with us less often. Along withArlie Johnson and Jeff Courteau, I had to quick-

ly create products to retain existing customers and attract others away from our competitors. Our customers were reevaluating all their purchases.We had to understand and thenmeet the newval- ues.We then had to convince themthatMSP parking remained a superior value for their parking dollars. Our 23,000 spaces compete directly with 6,000 spaces con-

trolled by four off-site operators. Their shuttle systems connect withMSP fromtheir, usually, surface parking lots.We also com- pete heavily with passengers being dropped off and picked up (via cellphone) by friends.We have limousine companies, taxis and a SuperShuttle franchise just to keep it interesting. We had to appeal to those trying to spend money wisely in

S WITH HOSPITALS, DOWN- towns, universities and theme parks, parking is a major revenue source for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). In fact, it is the largest

the new “normal” economy.We identified which parking bene- fits theywouldmost value as theymade their choice ofwhere (or whether) to park.We needed to differentiate our services from those of our competitors’. We identified total value as a theme when money matters.

We needed to communicate that our total value – in terms of dol- lars, time, stress level and convenience – was actually greater than that offered by competitors. We highlighted that parking at the airport was not a luxury:

It was a wise choice, and we developed a new parking product to drive that message home.We emphasized that the airport had no shuttle to wait for (both ways); that covered parking saved them time (cleaning off the ice and snow) and protected their vehicle; there was no added cost of tipping the shuttle driver; they could conveniently set their own schedule by driving themselves; and they didn’t need to wait in the cold for a friend to pick themup. We also had to locate this new parking

product where customers could dependably and quickly find a space and just relax as they head- ed for their terminal.We wanted customers to recognize that their needs would be met at a price thatwas lower than other airport alterna- tives and lower than our competition. We had just added 4,500 spaces to the existing 4,500 at the HumphreyTerminal next to the light-rail station. This train connects the HumphreyTerminalwith the LindberghTerminal (a

three-minute underground ride!) every eight minutes. This ramp provides our customers a single, easy to find location with easy access to both terminals. It is lower priced by $4/day and is cur- rently underused. Understanding the increased consumer interest in value, we

createdMSPValue Parking to appeal to the value-conscious cus- tomer. This is the business traveler whose travel budget was reduced or the leisure traveler for whom this is an out-of-pocket expense.Value parking is very different from cheap parking (far away or in an undesirable area) or economy (definitely far away). It speaks to parking that meets the customer’s most important needs at a competitive price. We communicated the benefits ofMSPValue Parking via billboards on important travel routes and on drive-time radio, as



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