This is a lovely story I noticed recently about a low cost way to stand out from the competition, by doing something different.
I keep hearing people ask "how do I get more followers on twitter", "I don't know what to say on twitter". I also see many organisations trying to rein in their employers and being so careful with their tweets, they completely lack any kind of character or real message.
For the last couple of months I've enjoyed tweets from Harrogate Tourist Info (@harrogatetic). They're to the point and promote different parts of the district, without being bland. A couple of weeks ago noticed a new account for a small town in Harrogate district @ripontourism, run by Paul Darbyshire. His followers are steadily growing, thanks to a simple idea - he writes a twitter poem about anyone who follows and about Ripon! As he told the local paper Ripon Gazette, "I'd never seen any poems on twitter before and thought it was a unique way of linking in all the city's attractions with a hint of humour".
In other areas, employees are so bound up with conditions, rules and "twitter strategies", they're scared to write anything interesting on twitter. It's great to see somewhere trying something different. It looks like it's working and has already led to one article in the local paper - and this blog!
Interestingly, my other example of great tweeting also comes from Ripon in the form of @RiponHornblower who "sets the watch every night at 9pm". This ancient tradition is watched by visitors from all over the world but George's influence is now spreading thanks to twitter. As well as tweeting local interest stories, each evening George also tweets reassuring messages about the watch being set, such as "Duty done - The Watch is Set, sleep safe in your beds, to you and yours, good night and God bless".
Ripon has spent a lot of money trying to find ways forward to generate more revenue for retailers and increase visitor numbers. I think the two simple actions of these tweeters may prove to be more successful.
The message is simple: be yourself, do something different and don't be scared to stand out and show your own personality.
Last week I went to a Posh Picnic on the beach at Port Mulgrave on the Yorkshire Coast. Sunny but cold, and not the obvious thing to do in December. It was fantastic!
I spend a lot of time advising clients to focus on local distinctiveness and what makes their place special. We know that visitors look for authenticity, love new experiences and getting an insight into other people's lives. They enjoy meeting locals who have a real passion for their area and true inside knowledge. And yet, very few places really offer this.
Sean & Tricia Hutchinson and their sons Luke and Thomas run Real Staithes
, which is the best example I've ever found of a family-run business offering visitors chances to create magical memories and giving them stories to talk about.
They greet their visitors in a hidden location that only insiders are likely to know about and take them to their hut on a secret shoreline. Visitors are plied with fresh lobsters, mulled wine, delicious cake, and cheese and given an insight into another world. Sean talks fishing and wildlife, pointing out the Peregrine Falcon and Roe Deer that most of us would never normally notice, Tricia shows visitors how to make paints and dyes out of natural products found along the beach. Luke and Thomas scramble on the cliffs and foreshore, bringing back what look like balls of mud, but which turn out to be marvellous fossils. It's all very home-spun, natural, and friendly. Participants can't help but get caught up in Sean and Tricia's enthusiasm for the local area.
Since I've been back, I've shown countless friends the four fossils I found, the photographs of the lobsters and the hut - this is exactly the kind of experience many visitors look for but never find.
So many people profess to love the place where they live but so few actually manage to pass on that passion. It's great to see Real Staithes doing it so well. Some people shout about what they do, but somehow fail to do it properly. Others like the Hutchinson family just quietly get on with it, showing us all the way. Take a look at their website
: they could even solve that last minute present problem with a gift voucher!
- Piggy back. Spend some one else's marketing budget - not literally, but ride in their slipstream. Target the same markets as your local destination management organisation, collaborate, use similar themes so you benefit from their much bigger budgets.
- Jump on a bandwagon. Take note of popular TV programmes & magazines. Their themes could be used as promotional angles for you. Be clear about current trends & capitalise on them.
- Get other people to work on your behalf. Build relationships and provide information for journalists so they can feature you. Make friends on twitter or facebook. If you can cater for groups, make sure group travel organisers know about you – they can act as your unpaid sales force!
- Don’t spread yourself too thinly. If you’ve got a limited marketing budget, it pays to focus on a couple of specific markets and then to ripple your efforts outwards instead of trying to target everyone at once.
- Segment your markets carefully – don’t rely on age or income as determinants. Life stage, life style and personal values are more reliable but remember people change their needs depending on who they’re with & even the time of day.
- Be sure of who you are. What do you stand for? What do you want people to think about you? Make sure that image is reflected everywhere you can – on your stationery, in your brochure, on your website, on signage, staff uniforms or badges etc. Carefully choosing (and sticking to) the right colours and typefaces can help you convey the right message.
- Beat your competitors by knowing them as well as you can. What do they do better than you? Get copies of their promotional materials and study their website. If you can’t beat them…join them – in collaborative marketing.
- Be clear about what you do and do it well. Have a clear and focused identity. For example, you could be the place to take a family, or for stressed city dwellers to relax, or for active breaks.
- Use a strong emotional appeal. How can you do one of these: make people happier, healthier, more beautiful, more loved, or richer?
- Don’t assume budgets are the barrier. They sometimes are, but not always. Remember sometimes people don’t buy because they’re suspicious, especially if the price seems unusually low.
- Often people don’t buy because they don’t understand what you’re offering. Don’t make it too hard or complicated to buy or book. People don’t want to fill out forms if they can avoid. They like to pick up the phone and speak to a real person or send an email and get a quick response.
- Make a strength out of a weakness. Don’t just do a SWOT analysis – use it, by considering how to maximise strengths, minimise weaknesses, capitalise on opportunities and deal with threats.
- Follow through. A customer research survey found that that 19% of establishments didn’t respond to email enquiries. 25% found that phones were engaged or they were directed to unwanted messages. Don’t spend money on marketing and then waste it with bad follow up service.
- Do your customers have a problem you can solve? Are they tired, stressed, in need of a change? Find a problem, offer a solution and you’re on to a winner.
- Write in language real people understand. Get rid of the jargon. Make your sentences shorter. Add a touch of humour. Sound like you’re a human!
- Avoid over-used expressions. How “unique” is unique? What does “something for everyone” actually mean?
- Don’t forget the cheapest, most effective marketing tool – word of mouth. Build a buzz by doing something that’s talked about and exceeding customer expectations.
- Step back and look at all your staff and the people who come into contact with the public. How can you make them happier? Enthuse them? Reward them? Whatever their job, they can help make visitors’ experiences better – and convince them to return.
- Keep up to date with what others are saying about you on sites such as www.tripadvisor.com. Thank people for positive reviews and if you get any negative ones, work to put things right as soon as you can.
- When you say good bye, make it a positive last impression. What can you do to make sure the good memories last? It might be a cheery wave, an email to say “thank you” or a free “I spy” car quiz for the children.
They’re known as “low cost” airlines. They have a reputation for offering cheap prices. But they can be more profitable than many established carriers, and are not necessarily the cheapest. So what lessons can the rest of the tourism industry learn from the likes of easyJet and Ryanair?
Lesson 1 – not cutting prices, but looking at their prices – in detail
They didn’t set out to be simply cheap. Their starting point wasn’t to cut prices. It was to look at their costs, considering each one in detail, and finding ways of doing things differently. Sometimes this meant removing elements of service (some Ryanair planes don’t have seat pockets or trays, cutting down on the cost of planes and the weight of the aircraft which affects fuel consumption), or charging for services such as priority boarding, catering and excess luggage.
In a downturn, many accommodation providers and restaurant owners cut their prices to attract more business. The net result is pressure on service quality. This may lead to losing customers or the demand for lower and lower prices because of poorer quality service. Taking the low cost airline approach of looking at costs and how to improve profitability might be more effective.
For example, a self-catering accommodation cottage owner may offer a lower starting price but charge extra for providing bed linen and towels. This means the holiday maker has a choice – a lower price but they have to make their own beds and wash their sheets or a higher price. I tried this with my holiday let. None of the holiday makers ever takes the lower priced option, but they do feel they’re getting a choice.
Lesson 2 – doing things differently and turning established practise on its head
Low cost airlines set out to do things differently. The established practice was to charge much more for single flights and for flights that didn’t include a Saturday night stay. Low cost airlines sell single tickets, and don’t care how long you are away.
How could this idea be used elsewhere? Guests traditionally pay for overnight accommodation, with evening arrival and morning departure. Bedrooms remain empty during the day time when they are cleaned, although cleaning typically takes less than an hour a room. A handful of hotels have started offering a reduced rate for very short day stays for people wanting a city centre afternoon-nap or brief rest between flights at airports.
Lesson 3 – being expert up-sellers
The “lead in” price for easyJet or Ryanair flights is cheap. However, the final price that flyers pay can be comparable to other established carriers. Cheap prices don’t mean low profitability because the low cost airlines are experts at up-selling. Every element of the flight experience has been costed, from initial booking to final landing.
Up-selling happens at every stage from booking to landing - encouraging fliers to pay for priority boarding, choosing a specific seat, additional luggage, food on board, entertainment, onward travel tickets, and even scratch cards.
How often do we make a real effort to up-sell in the remainder of the tourism industry?
Lesson 4 – straight forward pricing structure
Their pricing structure is very simple, compared to traditional carriers. Fares don’t vary according to flexibility criteria or length of stay. Everyone pays the same price depending on what is available at the time of booking.
Making the price clear and easy to understand is part of making it easy to buy.
Lesson 5 – strong, simple promotional messages and strong brand
Low cost airlines’ promotional messages are very simple. They are usually restricted to a single message e.g. new destination being served or lead in price for a particular destination.
Brand image is very strong. EasyJet’s marketing budget was stretched much further by their outstanding use of an orange colour so vibrant and “loud” that few other organisations have ever used it! This simple idea meant that in branding terms at least, easyJet now “owns” the colour orange.
Design costs are kept low, using a standard and very simple design for all livery, websites and advertisements. The price and destinations are the focus for promotions. Nothing else is used, letting the message stand alone, proud and strong.
Lesson 6 – total commitment to the product and generating media coverage
The owner of easyJet became a brand in his own right. “Stelios” was a key figurehead, acting as personable spokesman for a variety of aviation and business-related topics, keeping the airline in the media through creative PR, in a similar vein to Richard Branson.
I once flew on a London to Nice flight when Stelios was on board. As soon as the seatbelt signs were off, he jumped up and moved through the cabin asking every single person what they thought of easyJet and why they were on that flight. When asked about this, he said he did this frequently as a way of remaining close to the passengers who pay the fares. He joked that he never paid for market research – he did it all himself. So he saved money on research and generated a lot of word of mouth publicity by being on his own flights.
How many businesses have managers who show such commitment to their own product? When was the last time the owner of a prominent attraction was seen being terrified on their rides or directors eating in their own restaurant?
Lesson 7 – never skimping on quality
It would be a mistake to think that low cost airlines skimp on quality. They don’t. Take an easyJet flight and it soon becomes apparent that staff are just as keen on safety standards as BA.
The aircraft are just as new (deliberately so - new aircraft being more dependable, more fuel efficient and cheaper to run). Efficiency and safety are seen as still being key to their success.
Interestingly, there have been many new entrants to this competitive market place and many copy cat airlines. Most of the copy cats (remember Debonair and Buzz?) have long since failed. The market leaders continue to lead.
So if you have a new or good idea, don’t hang back – get on with it, launch it now and become a market leader.
Promoting a market town with a tiny marketing budget is difficult but it's made easier if you can ride on current trends and use the power of word of mouth recommendations as Masham shows
Masham (home of The Tourism Network
!) is an attractive market town in the Yorkshire Dales. Like many places in the Dales, there is a disproportionate number of holiday cottages and second homes. Masham is fortunate in that in addition to the two famous breweries, several pubs and excellent restaurant, it also has two butchers, a greengrocers, bakers, two delis, several galleries and a fantastic old-fashioned sweet shop. Locals support these shops but we also need visitors to use these facilities, to bring income into the area.
Instead, many visitors wrongly assume that there won’t be any shops in Masham and shop at major supermarkets before they arrive. They may not realise it, but by shopping in supermarkets visitors often pay more than they would in the Masham shops and miss out on the “experience” of a little banter with shop owners.Live like a local
Last year, with a small amount of funding from North Yorkshire County Council, we decided to create a new publication that could be downloaded from holiday cottage websites or sent as a .pdf to holiday makers so they would know what to expect and perhaps think twice about shopping in advance. Part of the plan was to show visitors that shopping locally wasn’t simply to increase profits for retailers, but that they’d also get an insight into real life in Masham.We were taking advantage of several tourism trends:
- visitors are looking for less official information, wanting to know more from an “insiders’perspective”
- word of mouth recommendations are highly prized
- visitors don’t want to be seen as visitors – they often like the idea of blending in and doing as locals do
- visitors don’t just want to look at things – they want to experience them at a deeper level. Being able to actually talk to local people and gets tips from them is welcomed.
- there’s a strong interest in what celebrities do – so we used the fact that some of them had shopped in Masham as an important endorsement!
The “Live like a local in Masham” guide was cheaply produced and looked deliberately homespun. We didn’t want visitors to see it as a glossy marketing activity. The idea was to make it feel like a direct communication from people living in Masham. We interviewed and took a photo of every retailer, pub and gallery owner in Masham.
We added two questions, one for PR effect – “any famous customers?” and one to encourage visitors to speak to shop owners “where’s your favourite place in and around Masham?”.
The budget was limited so we needed to find other ways of distributing the guide, preferably that didn’t involve too much printing. We did print out a few to sell in the Masham Community & Information Office. Interestingly many locals bought these and commented on how interesting they were to read. We also had a lot of examples of locals who said the guide had prompted them to ask for things they weren’t sure were on sale locally but which shop owners produced from their tardis-like stocks.
We printed off copies and put them in ring-binders and distributed them to the holiday cottages and other accommodation in Masham, as a reminder to visitors to shop locally once they were here. But most importantly, we provided a .pdf version for accommodation owners to add to their websites and send to visitors once they’d booked.
We also laminated the relevant sheet from the guide and took them round to each of the participating retailers, restaurants and pubs for them to display in their window. The idea here was both to entice visitors in and let them know a bit more about the owner so they could ask more questions about their favourite place so visitors would get more tips for ways to enjoy their holiday – and perhaps to prompt them to tell others and plan a repeat visit to Masham.
Feedback has been excellent and there are now plans for a second edition, with sponsorship from a local company. We also presented the idea at an Action for Market Towns meeting – community leaders in Pateley Bridge, Hawes and Leyburn have since produced similar publications, each with their own twist but based on this simple idea.
What do you do when your funding is limited, you have few staff and want to do more marketing? Get visitors to do your work for you! Not as crazy as it sounds - this is about using social media in a very effective way.
Most businesses know social media is important but feel daunted by how much they have to do to benefit from its power. But it doesn't have to be like that.
One of the best things about social media tools such as twitter and facebook is that if you're clever you can start campaigns but then move out of the way and encourage others to keep them going. VisitBritain
is leading the way in using social media. It's one of only a handful of organisations, (alongside multinationals and big brands such as Adidas) to be highlighted as great examples in facebook’s guide to marketing good practice
, with its LoveUK campaign
On twitter @VisitBritain is seen as the most (we’re talking worldwide) influential tourist board on Twitter. In the latest international league of companies under the “Influencers in Travels” category, @VisitBritain came out ahead of @GoogleTravel, @VirginBlue, and @LATimesTravel. It's one of just two public sector organisations in the travel table.
My favourite aspect of VisitBritain’s social media activity is its superblog. When you consider how many people write about various aspects of Britain on a daily basis, it makes perfect sense to round up some of them and create a superblog with an at-a-glance overview launched an innovative UK travel blog VisitBritainSuperBlog.com
harnessing the social-media power of 20 of the most influential travel bloggers in the world.
Using the free blogging platform WordPress, VisitBritain has brought together the leading travel bloggers from across the globe with the aim to create the UK’s most influential travel blog. Among the 20 bloggers who are providing inspirational world-class UK travel content for free, there are 11 bloggers from the Top 50 Online Travel Influencers including those in positions 1, 2 and 3, bloggers for the New York Times and the Huffington Post, Britain’s Best Travel Blogger 2011 and the third highest graded person in the UK on Twitter- second only to BBC and Guardian News. This “dream team” of bloggers are based in 14 countries around the world and provide VisitBritainSuperBlog.com with an instant, targeted Twitter following of over 400,000 and rising.
But perhaps the best news in this story is the fact that anyone can follow their example. All these channels are available for anyone to use - they're free, easy to set up and if you've got good content and stories to pass on about your destination or business, there's nothing stopping you from telling the world. Or better still, encouraging others to do so because it's the third party endorsements from visitors that are most powerful, not the tweets and "please like us" pleas from attractions and accom
What do you do when you need to promote a destination that isn’t quite perfect? And on a very limited budget?
You know the sort of place – where visitors arrive at a station or entry point and it all looks rather grotty. They may well decide to turn round and go somewhere else but those who persevere are rewarded with some interesting sights. Some towns are split by a busy road that deters pedestrians from visiting both parts of the town. We often work with places just like that. They tend to have very limited budgets, but there is an answer. If any of the following sounds familiar, read to the end for a possible solution.
So, a meeting is called because people think their place is under-rated and under-promoted. People have come together because they want to make things better.
Some one usually starts by suggesting a map leaflet.
Some one else says they need to show everyone that there's lots to see and do (usually said as if no-one ever thought of this before!). That phrase "lots to see and do" often makes it into the final leaflet - just like every other place's leaflet... (HINT: don't use it!)
Some one suggests listing all the shops, attractions, cafes.
There's a bit of a discussion about whether taxi drivers and pubs are part of the "visitor economy" and a grumble that certain businesses are pro-active and others don't ever respond to anything. At some point some one will rant about litter or dog poo. Maybe road signs too.
No one talks about specific target markets. No one mentions the cost and effort of distributing the leaflet to the right target markets so that part never really gets considered properly, despite its importance.
Almost every destination still thinks it needs a leaflet or print material of some kind. The production of the whole thing causes a lot of work, takes forever and costs a lot. It's rarely very effective.
Visitors and residents can't be bothered to read the long lists of shops, attractions and cafes. Even if they do, it’s meaningless without descriptions of each place. And if you add descriptions, it just becomes a longer long list.
Visitors are enjoying leisure time. They’re wandering around. Just looking, browsing and seeing what there is to see. Thet don't want to feel they've got a long list to trawl through. They want to use their eyes to see what's around them. Visitors mostly just want to be given a few insights and then left to their own devices.
Words like “discover” often crop up in promotional print. Visitors are presented with all the answers, treating them like they’re too stupid to find out for themselves, and spoiling all the fun of discovery.
Listen to people when they come back from a trip. They often proudly say things like “we found a great little shop/bar/beach”. They want the fun of finding out for themselves. But at the same time they need to know they’re in the right area. Which brings us back to the problem of an off-putting arrival point or divided place...
Here are a couple of simple techniques we've used to great effect when places really want to use a map leaflet to get visitors moving around.
All we do is present visitors with a map and give them a few clues so they can see that it’s worth walking a bit beyond the grot to make great discoveries. We don’t list anything. We don’t tell them to stay away from anything. But we do guide them. By simply shading areas of a map – and perhaps using different colours for different types of area, we let visitors discover places for themselves. We don’t say that the non-shaded areas are horrible but most visitors are intelligent enough to spot the shaded bits and focus on those areas.
Another technique we’ve used is to highlight “star sights”. We did this years’ ago in Notting Hill, when visitors used to walk up Portobello Road and then as soon as they got to the flyover they turned round and went home again. The ones who continued on to Golborne Road were rewarded with a great bar, London’s best Portuguese custard tart cafe and some very quirky shops.
We used shading but we also added 20 star sights on to the map. These were not detailed: we simply used a star to denote something worth finding and explained that it could be a shop, bar, great architecture, interesting sight or the famous Piers Gough public toilet! We didn't say what each one was - intrigue is a great motivator. We know this worked – you’d often see people walking up and down Portobello Road scrutinising the map leaflet and trying to find all the start sights. People would ask each other which ones they’d spotted and then struggle to decide whether to keep the more hidden ones to themselves or not!
Perhaps that's the mark of a great piece of print - you actually see people wandering around with it. And considering how many leaflets are printed each year, isn't it amazing how rarely you see anyone in a destination using one?
We all have competitors. Many are driven to compete on price, but one of the best ways to compete is to offer something completely different from anyone else. If you create your own niche or product category, there’s nothing to compare – you simply stand out as innovative and different.
Here's an example. There are countless websites offering accommodation. Most of them compete either by trying to offer the best prices, or the biggest choice.Unique Home Stays has created their own new category “boutique micro properties”, extraordinary private homes. Properties include castles, windmills and former rectories. They are capitalising on the trend away from bog-standard rooms to places with character and a sense of story.
So what could you do? Can you create your own mini category, in which you reign supreme? “cosy countryside cottages for chocoholics”? “Paws for thought – get-away-from-it- all retreat holidays for people with pets?” Er, maybe I’ll leave you to come up with your own mini category. Bear in mind that although niches may be small, you can often find a way to give them an aspirational appeal to many.
I think this is an idea that will grow and grow... It’s appealing in so many different ways – the sense of community, sustainability, quirkiness of it. We keep hearing about things like “grass roots sustainable development”, “climate change”, “peak oil” and so on but for most of us such terms are pretty indigestible. The problems seem so big, it's hard to know what to do about them. So we don't do anything.But a couple of years ago Pam Warhurst and friends got cracking to make some real changes in the Pennine town of Todmorden. The idea was simple: to grow food wherever they could and invite any one who wanted to pick and eat it to do so. When I say grow it anywhere, I mean it. They planted seeds on waste ground, in pots outside places like the police station, in tubs in unloved corners where normally only weeds grow. Schools got involved, as have many community groups and social landlords. There are now many other associated activities and events. Todmorden has reinvented itself. The former textile town is changing, becoming increasingly upbeat and aware that it can take charge of its own destiny.Todmorden Incredible Edible continues to grow with a “community driven programme of action around the three centres of community, learning and business”. What makes it work is that it didn’t start with that long description: it began in a simple, grass roots way with a couple of busy women and a handful of seeds.
Visitors now have a real reason to go to Todmorden, to see what's happening, with representatives from other towns visiting to see how they could replicate the idea in their own place. There are other forms of "vegetable tourism", places you can go to see where heirloom vegetables are grown but this version is fresh, fearless and fast-growing.
I think we spend too long commissioning strategies, deliberating about structure and format and vision statements. Why not take a small risk by doing something and seeing what happens, then maybe tweaking as you go? Or procrastinate just a little by taking a trip to Todmorden to see what they’ve achieved in just a couple of years.
Some of the best marketing relies far more on resourcefulness and a quirky idea than cash. Masham Arts Festival
is run by a committed team of volunteers with a tiny marketing budget. It uses PR as its main marketing tool but it can be a challenge to keep coming up with ideas. Just before one of the festivals, I was walking past the old red telephone kiosk in Masham
with my then 8 year old daughter. She asked me what the “red box” was for and I explained it was for making telephone calls.
Not knowing a time pre-mobile phones, Nina assumed it was a place you could go with your mobile phone to make a quiet phone call away from the traffic and Masham gossips! We talked about how it’s no-longer used and before we knew it we had a great PR angle, and a new use for the old phone box!
We scrubbed it up a little, added some Masham Arts Festival leaflets and a bit of bunting and hey presto! An attention-grabbing new place in the centre of Masham to promote the festival, plenty of local and regional press coverage – which then also led to some mentions in the nationals! It took only a couple of hours to clean and decorate the kiosks and send out the release, cost nothing but generated several thousand pounds’ worth of free publicity for the festival. Here’s just one example of the coverage received in the Yorkshire Post.
In the small hamlet of Emery Down in the New Forest locals have also taken over their disused telephone kiosk. It is now a “centre” for local and New Forest Information, history, book exchange and to sell fruit, vegetables and cakes. It’s even got its own website
. And near Settle in the Yorkshire Dales you can find the World's Smallest Art Gallery
which has an innovative and changing programme of exhibitions mounted by local volunteers.