Public Transport and Marketing in Small and Medium Sized Cities

Public Transport and Marketing in Small and Medium Sized Cities


M van der Gun, R Jeuring, ECORYS, NL



1. Introduction

Marketing is an important aspect of succesful local public transport operation. In medium and small cities marketing poses special challenges and possibilities. In this paper we will elaborate three topics to show how marketing can be part of daily Public Transport (PT) practice in small and medium sized cities. This will be illustrated by inspiring examples of the EU project PROCEED (High Quality Public Transport in Small and Medium sized cities 2006-2009, In this project, best practises on HQPT in small and medium sized cities have been collected and a set of guidelines for successful public transport operation haven been developed. The guidelines were developed in close cooperation with practitioners i.e. PT-operators and PT-authorities. Marketing was one of the topics.
The topics we will elaborate as illustration of marketing in PT in cities smaller then 250.000 inhabitants are:

- Customer?relation management
- Information management
- Branding and Corporate design

Beside basic information we will provide good examples from cities across Europe.

2. Customer oriented thinking

Marketing (which includes promotional activities) should be part of the overall public transport strategy in a city, also in smaller cities. Marketing requires a shift from supply-oriented to customer-oriented management and operation. It means looking at ?the product? side from the viewpoint of the (regular and non regular-) PT-customers. It is about attracting new customers and keeping the current customers. It comprises in fact all aspects of the local PT-system (including the promotional activities). In some literature it is even argued that ?soft? measures, such as marketing tools, are far more effective compared to ?hard? measures like new infrastructure. In small and medium sized cities though, marketing is not a common feature yet, as the EU project PROCEED showed. The main emphasis is still mostly on creating a self selling product: new material, higher frequencies, dedicated infrastructure etc.

3. Marketing in practise

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for successful HQPT and an accompanying marketing strategy, but there are many good examples showing customer oriented approaches and marketing strategies:

3.1. Customer ?relation management

There are several ways to improve customer relation management. Some good marketing tools as found in the PROCEED project are:

a. Implementing a board of customers
Given the local knowledge and contacts a board of (representatives of customers) can both provide valuable input from the potential)user?s perspective and at the same time communicate and promote the bus transport system to the (potential) user groups they represent. We will illustrate this with good examples in the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands.

b. Customer feedback
Handling and analyzing customer feedback is a very important element of customer relations management. A complaining customer who feels treated in a fair way will most likely stay a regular user. The suggestions, comments and complaints provide valuable information for the operator and the public authority. This will be illustrated by examples like Brighton &Hove: ?Response to customer complaints on the same day?, the city of Groningen (Arriva published the customer feedback protocol on the website) and Helsingborg (Sweden): the operator Skånetrafiken uses a Boomerang customer feedback system.

c. Customer information centres
Being visible and accessible in a central place is an important marketing tool and service. Good examples are found in Brighton & Hove ('Travel Shops', UK), Euskirchen (Urban Bus Shop ?Treffpunkt?, Germany ), Graz (?Mobil Zentral?, Austria).

3.2. Information management

Information is a basic marketing tool. The information needs to be easy to understand, accurate and widely available (before and during the journey). A good website, information centres and real time information are good marketing instruments. In this paper examples of Graz (Austria), Ålborg (Denmark), Euskirchen (Germany), Brighton&Hove (UK), Tartu (Estonia) will illustrate this topic.

3.3. Branding and Corporate design

Creating an attractive, uniform and recognizable PT product is an important aspect of marketing. Beside some background information we will present examples like Chur (the brand ?BUSvCHUR?, Switzerland), Almere (the brand ?MAXX?, the Netherlands), Kristansand (the brand ?BusMetro? national Award for Design Excellence 2005, Norway), and Euskirchen (Germany).


Association for European Transport