I keep getting asked whether it's worth paying membership subscriptions to a regional tourist board, destination management/marketing organisation - whatever you call it in your area. I'd be interested in your feedback in general but here are a few things to think about:
For most tourist boards/tourism agencies/DMOs etc the membership subscriptions they receive from members are just a small part of their total budget. They receive more from corporates, from local authorities, from govt funding. They need to show they're "engaging" with smaller businesses in order to get some of the bigger funding but your membership subscription is a small proportion of the total.
Bear in mind that in most cases you're paying into a central promotional pot that works for the common good, to promote the whole area rather than individual businesses or smaller areas. If it's important to you to really feel you're being promoted more directly, you'll be better offer getting together a small group of local businesses and paying some one to do some more intensive promotion on your behalf (I'm often asked to do this and sometimes it's the best option but sometimes it's a good idea to pay into a central tourist board pot).
What are the membership benefits on offer? Which are really relevant to you? Do they sound value for money? If you're already a member and thinking about re-joining, what value did you get in the previous year?
Don't re-join if you're simply scared of not being a member (almost certainly nothing will happen) - re-join for positive reasons.
Do they listen? Are staff interested in your business and your area? Does their website and promotional activity demonstrate this? Do they willingly link and promote local area websites as well as their own, or are they mainly interested in their own self-promotion?
Are their marketing themes relevant to you? Do they give advance notice of their marketing activity so you can piggy back on it? Just as importantly do they feedback with meaningful information on what they've done?
If you do join up/remain a member, you will probably be asked to fill in a form describing your services, in a set number of words. Make sure you do so, carefully considering the words you use. This short description is likely to be used in many different ways, going to a wide audience so make sure you stress your unique selling point and key benefits. Make it count!
Remember, your tourist board has many members all competing for attention. You must make sure you are as prominent as possible. The members who shout loudest are most likely to be heard.
If you don't think you are getting value for money, don't just let your membership lapse. Speak to your tourist board and suggest the kind of services you need. As membership organisations, feedback should be important to them.
You're in business. You need to make money. You need to attract guests, visitors, customers.
So do you "ask for the sale"?
You probably think this is a pushy phrase, something that only greasy salesmen do. We are all concerned not to seem too forthright or to over-sell.
If I ask an accommodation owner about the benefits of their place to stay, they'll often say things like "it's in a lovely location". Something they can't really take credit for, so it doesn't sound pushy.
Rarely will anyone say: "we put our hearts and souls into making our guests feel comfortable. We're proud of how we clean every inch so not even the most diligent Hotel Inspector would find dust on their fingertips. Our guests enjoy a really good hearty cooked breakfast so they feel set up for the day".
Perhaps we need to put more of our personality into our marketing? To be braver? To sell?
You're probably worried about being too pushy, too salesy. But people who worry about this aren't too pushy. They're sensitive to other's feelings and self-aware. People who aren't concerned about being pushy, tend to be the over-the-top sales machines. And they still get results, unless they're really awful.
We do need to "ask for the sale" more.
I work with a lot of tourism businesses and at the beginning their marketing is often more akin to mumbling than shouting. You don't need to shout, but maybe speak up a bit?
Much of the time we assume visitors know what we're offering. We give them a few photos (rarely enough of them) and a few words and hope from that short description they'll spare time to imagine how good it will be, and fill in the gaps in the information. We don't even bother suggesting they book/visit/buy - we just present a bit of information!
Perhaps you could use more phrases like "book now so you can...", "visit us soon to see...", "we'd love to show you...don't miss out..." ?
Offer information, build trust, make people feel upbeat, and then they're ready to buy/book. But you have to ask them.
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Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs