Welcome to the National RTAP Marketing Toolkit
This toolkit is designed as a comprehensive and practical guide for rural and tribal public transportation agencies to develop and implement successful marketing programs for their systems. Transit agencies in smaller communities rely on a relatively small staff to keep the wheels turning. Of necessity, transit managers are involved in virtually all aspects of their organization, supervising day-to-day operations, vehicle maintenance, customer service, financial reporting and more. Some even drive the buses.
The goal of this toolkit is to help transit managers when they need to step into the marketing role by supplying them with the information and tools they need in a straightforward way.
The first section of the toolkit is a “How-To Guide” for marketing transit and provides directions for identifying and accomplishing marketing goals and objectives.
The How-To Guide begins with an overview of marketing in general, then takes a closer look at marketing’s role in the transit environment. Transit marketing must pursue a variety of objectives and address diverse target markets. In addition, it needs to be ongoing — a part of the day-to-day operation of the service.
There are many reasons that a transit system should implement an active marketing effort. These include:
- Raise awareness of public transit in the community
- Dispel misconceptions
- Increase ridership
- Influence the community to support public transit
- Satisfy funding requirements
Once a system decides to market, it must determine who it wants to communicate with and what messages need to be conveyed in order to accomplish the system’s objectives.
Target markets for transit marketing include current riders, potential riders, and non-riders (such as local decision makers) who are important supporters of the system.
In communicating with these groups, it is important to speak in terms of the benefits of transit that are relevant to them. Riders and potential riders will be most influenced by the personal benefits of transit, such as mobility, affordability, and convenience. Decision makers and stakeholders will be more interested in the economic and societal benefits for the community as a whole.
Developing a Marketing Plan
This page focuses on developing a practical marketing plan. Like a good road map, a plan will show you the way from where you are now to where you want to be, pointing out different options along the way.
This page explains each step in the process of developing a marketing plan and is accompanied by the following Marketing Plan Worksheets to help you in creating your own plan.
- Assessing Your Situation
- Counting Your Resources
- Goals and Objectives
- Target Markets
- Selecting Marketing Strategies
Strategies used to market public transit are as numerous and varied as the target groups that you want to reach. This final section of the How-To Guide includes a menu of potential marketing strategies. It is not necessary to use all of them. Some are essential for effective marketing, others are important once the essential items are in place, and others are optional, to be selected based on your needs and resources.
Each strategy has been assigned a priority to help you decide which ones to consider —
1. Fundamental, 2. Recommended, 3. Optional.
The strategy menu includes:
- Fundamental Communications — Branding and Passenger Information
- Strategies for Building Awareness, Image, and Support
- Strategies for Generating Ridership
Examples are presented throughout the text to illuminate principles being discussed and to suggest solutions to specific issues that may affect your system.
Links throughout the strategy section will take you to the marketing tools included in this toolkit that you can customize for your system and use right away. These tools make up the second and third sections of the toolkit, Templates for Marketing Materials and Photo and Graphics Libraries.
Templates for Marketing Materials
This section consists of marketing tools that can be used to implement the strategies outlined in the How-To Guide. The following templates, guidelines, and other tools are included:
With map and schedule
Without map and schedule (for Dial-a-Ride)
Legal-Sized (with map)
Tabloid-Sized (for multiple route systems)
Bus Stop Signs
Printed Promotional Materials
Postcard for Direct Mail
Newsletter – print
Newsletter – email
Other Promotional Tools
Radio Script Guidelines
News Release Guidelines
Schedule Maker Template
Customizing Templates in Microsoft Publisher
Letter-sized 3-panel brochure/passenger guide template using a horizontal format.
All of the templates for print materials are designed in Microsoft Publisher and are provided with detailed instructions for adapting them to your individual transit system.
Photo and Graphics Libraries
The toolkit also includes two libraries of copyright-free visuals, which you can use along with the templates to create marketing materials for your agency. Included in the libraries are instructions for editing and placing the visuals in your templates.
The photo library is a collection of photographs that feature a diversity of people who use transit and illustrate how they use the system. These images include:
- People who represent various target groups, such as students, workers, seniors and persons with disabilities;
- Transit-related activities, such as riders reading or using mobile devices on the bus;
- Interactions, such as drivers assisting riders as they board or exit the bus using the wheelchair lift;
- Interior shots of a variety of people seated on the bus.
In addition are images of buses in rural landscapes.
Any of these photos that are appropriate for your system can be used as-is. However, you also are encouraged to use these as references for taking your own pictures. Included in the toolkit is a collection of useful tips for doing just that, as well as a photo release form that the people you want to photograph will need to sign. (See Marketing Tools > Other Tools)
The graphics library consists of line-art images that can be used in color or black and white. These include:
- Simple graphics depicting public transit vehicles — buses, cutaways and vans — side and front views
- Fully rendered illustrations of public transit vehicles — buses, cutaways and vans — side and front views
- Fully rendered illustrations of public transit vehicles — buses, cutaways and vans — with passengers, in varying situations:
- At bus bench/shelter
- At the market
- At a medical center
- With a small-town background
- With a desert background
- With mountains in background
- With pines in background
- Icons and Symbols, including Universal Bus, Wheelchair Accessibility, No Parking, Bicycle, and Social Media.
Put this Toolkit to Work for Your System
As a transit manager, you can cite many reasons for marketing your system — ridership could use a boost, people in the community don’t have a clear picture of what your system has to offer, your grant funding requires that you ”market“ your services. Marketing offers solutions to many of the challenges that public transit agencies face, and it is capable of putting a new face on your system.
The information, design elements, instructions, and examples provided here will help you put marketing to work for you.