This week I am looking at the tourism sector which is one that I have worked in for all my working life from answering calls at what was then the Scottish Tourist Board to graduating to the marketing department of the organisation. And from there working in marketing at Edinburgh Tourist Board followed by a glorious time heading up the marketing of the Scottish Borders Tourist Board. Then it was full circle working again as Area Director for VisitScotland before setting up Bright Light Marketing five years ago specialising in the marketing of rural businesses. I could actually write a book about my experiences in working with and marketing tourism businesses but suspect you are not reading this blog expecting a book so here are five marketing tips for tourism businesses:
1. Communicate with your existing customers – I know I mention this in almost every marketing blog spot that I write. But there is a reason for it existing customers are your bread and butter. They are the ones that are most likley to return to your business and they are the ones that will tell others about your businesss. However like anything out of sight can be out of mind. You need to give customers a reason to return to your business and for them to talk about you. And you will only do this if you communicate with them and you need to do this on a regular basis. I would recommend using enewsletters. There are many enewsletter tools on the market such as basic free tools constant contact and mail chimp to more sophisticated tools like eintelligence and brief your market. Choose one that suits your budget and use it as a way of keeping in touch with your customers. And don’t do this on an ad hoc basis. Stick a date in the diary each month and send out a newsletter. Other means of communicating can be the material you have in your establishment. Make sure that you keep customers up to date with packages that you have available, special offers and forthcoming events. And make sure it looks good so that customers want to take it away with them. Use social media to keep in touch too. Facebook is an excellent way of keeping in touch with existing customers and encouraging their friends to like you too. Facebook allows you tell the day to day story of your business.
2. Offer Great Customer Service – marketing can bring business to you but if you don’t offer great customer service it won’t come back to you. So make sure that you look at ways that you can offer wonderful service. Not just when your customers are in your business but the way you answer the phone, answer email and any other communications. Make sure that you answer quickly and promptly and with a smile. Yes I know they can’t see your smile on the phone or in an email but believe me it will come across in the overall communication. Do mystery shops of other establishments and see what they do and what you can learn from them. Be critical of your business on a regular basis. What can you improve and what could you do better. Though don’t forget to commend yourself for things that you do well. We are good at looking at our faults but not so good at complimenting ourselves. Make sure that you let people know about positive feedback add it to your website and other communications for example your Facebook page and enewsletters. Make sure that you use the owner response page for Trip Advisor too. It’s there for you to use and not just for the negative feedback but also the positive. It shows that you care about your customers and your business.
A focus on customer service will reward you with repeat customers and lots of positive word of mouth including the sometimes dreaded online review websites such as Trip Advisor.
3. Sell your destination and experience not just your business. Too many tourism businesses focus on their particular business and forget that as important as that is no one is going to come to an area and just stay in a hotel for example. They are there to enjoy the overall destination and experience so show case it in your marketing communications. Show photos and sell the benefits of not just your establishment but the surrounding area. And sell things that visitors might not know about a local ceilidh running in the village hall or a local pub with a live band playing. That showcases the best in your area and gives your customers a great experience.
4. Be innovative in your marketing – most tourism businesses don’t have large budgets so you need to be innovative in how you use it. So don’t just do what every one else is doing try each season (i.e each quarter) to not just think about an innovative way to market your business but actually do it. It could be Press and PR by sending an innovative photo to the press showcasing your business. Dinner served up a local hill or children cuddling newly born lambs. Use social media sites like Twitter as well and take part in discussions like #scotlandhour which takes place on the last Wednesday of each month at 9pm to 10pm. This month it features places to stay. Innovate too in the offers that you have and do not just focus on price what can you add that supports local food in your area. For example the Tontine Hotel in Peebles in their short break offers will have a local heroes food menu with food from 50 miles of Peebles. Or one summer they offered a £99 deal which included entrance to a local attraction and an ice cream from the famous ice cream show Caldwells in Innerleithen.
5. Work with others. No business is an island we all need others to work with others. So work with other businesses in your area and see if there are ways that you can market each other and work together. For example the County Hotel in Selkirk sent a voucher to all the local bed and breakfast and self catering businesses. The hotel saw an increase in business over the summer season from visitors staying in local accommodation. Or Lochcarron Visitor Centre also in Selkirk send out a regular enewsletter to local accommodation businesses and offers them free mill tours and a cup of coffee. Why? They know they will get lots of referalls which will bring business to Lochcarron. There are many tourism groups out there across the UK be part of them and work with others it’s not only a great networking tool it can really benefit your business.
I hope this five tip blog spot has been useful. Tourism marketing is no different from any other business you need to have plan, allocate a budget and take time to do it. But if you do like many of the businesses we work with you will see increased customers and profit. Yes even in these tough trading conditions and dare we say it all year round not just in the main tourism season.