When it comes to knowing how to meet customer needs creatively, Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society in Marblehead, Ohio, deserves a toast.
Located on the shores of Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay, the nonprofit organization prides itself on preserving the history of the local village. Attractions include a meticulously preserved lighthouse tower, lifesaving station, keeper’s house and picturesque grounds.
There was just one problem with the attraction: Anyone in need of a drink or a snack had to bring their own with them or go elsewhere.
“During some recent remodeling we had added power for a vending machine,” said Sue Hartman, a member of the board of directors.
The volunteer-led organization quickly realized that although the vending machine was sure to be appreciated, it was also going to make the organization’s task list longer.
“Who was going to haul the water? Stock the drinks? Handle the refunds?” said Hartman. There were also concerns about plastic bottles being left throughout the park, which would have to be collected, cleaned up and recycled. For an organization staffed almost entirely by volunteers, finding people to cover those roles presented a challenge.
Creative brainstorming powered a new solution that would meet customer needs without taxing the organization’s limited resources.
A solution that made a splash
The idea started with a question: Do we need a vending machine?
“At the local school, they have bottle fillers for kids,” Hartman said. “We thought, ‘Let’s put a bottle filler in.’”
A follow-up question quickly emerged: What if visitors didn’t have a bottle to fill?
“Give me two weeks, and I’ll have bottles in the gift shop,” Hartman said.
The station was installed and the organization added Refresh® Clutch Water Bottles and Refresh® Montello Travel Mugs to the gift shop. The promotional drinkware is a win for both Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society and visitors.
“Buying a reusable bottle costs visitors about as much as it would have cost to buy a bottle or two out of a vending machine. And everyone gets a souvenir to take home,” Hartman said. “They’re flying off the shelf.”
For the lighthouse, meeting customer needs was both a financial and an ecological win. “If we were selling plastic bottles, the recycling and trash likely would have become an issue,” Hartman said. “And, like everything else in the gift shop, all the money we raise goes right back into the park.”
The money being raised currently is earmarked for multiple projects throughout the grounds, including a 200th anniversary celebration for the lighthouse. Other projects include building fences and offering programming about the local limestone quarry.
“We want to talk about local industry and pull in some geology,” Hartman said. “Being a state park, we’re always looking to do some local history and some natural history all at the same time.”
A clear solution
For the Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society, knowing how to meet customer needs proved an almost instant win. “A few days before the drinkware arrived, we had a visitor ask when we were going to get bottles for the fountain,” Hartman said. “I told her by the end of the week. She said she would come back. And she did.”
Want to know more about using branded drinkware? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.