Can I trust you? How do I know that you're trustworthy? Does it matter? Yes, it really does - you can't build a business without building trust.
Few of us are ready to pay good money for something that we're not certain of, or don't trust. We may seem to happily hand over our cash for goods and services online but in our sub-conscious we're constantly asking ourselves questions.
Is this really as good as it looks? Is it worth the money? Is the company genuine? Is it too good to be true? How do I know this will live up to my expectations? If I pay now, will my money be safe?
Tourism business owners often ask me how they can make their website or social media more effective, to generate more revenue. There are lots of different ways to do that but one aspect is often forgotten.
You need to build trust. People will only visit you and stay with you if they believe what you say online. They need to be convinced, and building trust is part of the sales process. Quite often people are on the point of buying from you but there's something almost indiscernible in the way. Building trust helps get you over the final hurdle to a sale.
Here are some tips to help you build trust:
We ask questions to find out more, and to reassure ourselves that we're making the right decision. If we're looking online for something, it's harder to ask questions directly so we expect to see all the information we need clearly laid out for us. When we don't see it, or when we need more reassurance, we go to other sites such as TripAdvisor. That's when we often get side-tracked and forget to go back to the original site. One of the most common web mistakes I see is not providing enough information. So long as you layer the information (most important info at the top of the page, less important a click away), and break it up with cross-headings and sub-titles, you'll build trust without overwhelming people with information.
This is one of the most important things you can do to create trust and build your business. Keep a consistent style through out your website, and use the same colours and fonts in everything you do. Think about your public communications - are they consistent, do they build trust? If you post on social media once in a blue moon, and then do a flurry of posts or post about a load of different and random topics not relating to your business, you won't build trust.
If you send out an irregular newsletter and don't say in advance that it's intended to be irregular, you won't build trust. I find that it's much easier to be consistent if I set a day/time when I'm going to do something and let others know, and then deliver as I promised. So for example, I send out a mailing to tourism businesses every Tuesday. Over time, those businesses start to notice that this is something I do every Tuesday, and hopefully they'll trust me and be ready to use my advice.
Be an expert
There is masses of information available on the internet but we increasingly turn to people we trust rather than faceless organisations. You can very easily build a reputation as a local expert by creating content about your local area. This will help build your search engine rankings as well as helping visitors to trust you.
Be real, be visible and have two way conversations
We all want to buy from real people we trust. But it's hard to trust some one if we don't know who they are! Have you got information about you, your business ethos, your interests on your website? When people talk about you on social media do you respond? Do you share their posts and encourage conversations?
Use social proof
We are much more likely to believe recommendations from people we think are like us. Social proof can be very powerful - look out for more information about this in next week's blog.
Imagine if I tried to get you to pay money for something you'd never heard of? Would you pay? For your sake, I hope not!
Would you buy something you knew about, but didn't see how you could benefit from it? I doubt it.
Imagine now that your friend has recommended something to you. They're full of praise and you can see how great it would be for you too. You're thinking about when you can buy it, how you can get it. Your mind isn't even focusing on how much it costs - you're ready to pay what is necessary to have it because you can really see how you'll benefit.
I quite often tell my clients to try to get inside the mind of their visitors and customers. That can be quite hard to do, especially if you don't necessarily get to actually meet them all.
Why do I suggest this marketing mind-reading? If you can imagine what your clients and visitors are thinking, it's much easier to create promotional messages on your website, in your social media and other activities. It makes your marketing much more effective. You tend to stop saying 'we' and start saying 'you', an important transition.
You might say you don't know how your potential visitors think, yet hopefully you know your own mind, and can distance yourself a little from your own marketing, to see it from the visitor's perspective.
My example above illustrates that it's much harder to get people to part with their money if they don't know what they're buying. Most of us don't spend money until we've got a good answer to the essential question, 'what's in it for me?'
If someone you know has made a recommendation to you, and you can see how you'd benefit, (you've mentally answered 'what's in it for me?') you're ready to pay money.
So, it's worth bearing in mind the five stages we all go through when deciding to buy something.
When people haven't heard of you at all, it's much harder to sell to them. At this stage you need to stand back a little and consider how to get them interested in the first place. Promoting your local area and telling potential visitors about the destination will be more important than simply telling them about your business. You need to use some kind of hook - such as the beauty of your local area - to attract them in the first place.
At this stage, media coverage, general social media messages and local collaborations work best. Messages need to be repeated quite frequently to have an impact. It's best to vary them, and try to think about your business through the eyes of someone who's only just finding out about it. What do they most need to know to become more interested?
Once people have heard of your area, or maybe even your business, your promotional work isn't over. You now need to help them think about what you offer, and to start to show how it's relevant to potential visitors. This is when you need to start to show what's in it for them.
Once some one can positively answer the question, 'what's in it for me', everything changes. They start to imagine themselves spending time in your area. They can see why it's worth considering your business. They start to need more detailed information, becoming more interested as you enhance their understanding of what you have to offer. But remember, they may still also be considering other places too so you need to keep promoting to them, to show how your business is special, better or different from others.
This is where potential visitors have moved beyond understanding the answer to the question 'what's in it for me?' to actually wanting to come to you, buy from you or make a booking. They're convinced. You could still fail to give them the right information, upset or irritate them in some way, but if you get it right, these visitors are yours! This is also an important point when if you impress, they may start to tell others about you.
Response means they're now booking, buying, visiting, and actually paying money! We used to see this as the end goal but that would mean ignoring the power of recommendations, reviews and social media. You can't quite rest yet - you still need to impress and encourage the people who like what you do to tell others....
There are certain questions that I'm asked over and over again. One of these is:
Social media takes up so much time, and I don't even know if I'm doing the right thing or if it's working. What can I do? Sound familiar?
Let's deal with the first bit first. Does social media really take up so much time? It can certainly be a time sink if you spend ages reading everyone's post but if you've got a proper content plan and you have a real purpose to everything you post, it only takes a few moments to add your contribution, and create some engagement online.
So when we talk about how effective it is, what do we really mean?
Most people want more business, more visitors so I think what they're really asking is whether social media can help them achieve that?
The quick answer is 'yes' but... it works in different ways.
A quick way to know a little about the effect of your social media is to look at your Google Analytics and see if social media refers 'traffic' or visitors to your website. If you use more than one social media tool, you'll quickly see which is the most effective.
However, social media works in other ways too. Some people will hopefully see your social media and come straight to you, not necessarily looking at your website.
You can't get more business or visitors if people don't know about you. Social media can help you reach out to more people, raising your profile. It can help you to make sure potential customers understand what you offer and why it's special and different. You can use social media to build trust in your business, which is fundamental to encourage anyone to spend money. It can help journalists find out about you, and give them ideas for features. It can remind people about you, or act as a trigger to get people talking about you. You can use social media to develop your mailing list and to create collaborations with others.
Marketing isn't about one single activity - it's about layers and layers of smaller steps that collectively persuade people to book or buy. Social media can help with many of those layers of activity.
So when you ask whether your social media is effective, perhaps you should instead be asking yourself if you've spent enough time deciding how you want it to be effective and what you want to achieve? What are you trying to use social media for?
This is not for everyone.
That phrase sounds a little off-putting doesn't it? But also intriguing? It's a bit like when you put up a curtain - people instinctively want to peer behind it.
The opposite is something for everyone which might sound more open but somehow manages to turn people off - it's too bland, too vague.
Humans like intrigue. They like to be on the 'inside track'. Say you have a secret and people want to know what it is. Say you have something that's in short supply, demand increases. Imply something is restricted, perhaps by rolling out a red carpet and rope barrier, and people wish they could be part of whatever's happening.
Telling people that you have something that's "not for everyone" might sound off-putting but actually the reverse is true.
Years ago, I was asked to help promote an area of London that estate agents might describe as 'up and coming'. It was quite a poor area but the local authority wanted to use some of their (well-) hidden charms to attract people to spend money in the area. It had some really interesting, beautiful spots but a lot of ugly areas too. As you arrived at the tube station and looked up and down the road, there were a lot of dilapidated buildings. It's a hard task to make that sort of place attractive.
Contrast that with other areas of London at that time - lots of glitzy promotion of sparkly new buildings and attractions, smart bars and restaurants. How could our area compete? I decided it was far easier to be different, and take the opposite approach.
We didn't use the glossy images that you most often see in tourism promotion. We used honest pictures that did show the beautiful historic buildings but within their context, next door to slightly more dilapidated ones. We also set out to say 'this area isn't for everyone. It will really only suit more intelligent visitors who can look beyond the obvious to see the hidden gems.'
Some people thought we were brave. Others considered us odd or mad. But the honesty and direct approach paid off.
Most people think deep down that they’re quite intelligent and open-minded so we didn’t really put off that many people. Most people are also curious. We started to see a steady upturn in visitors, who were more than willing to explore the lesser known corners, to feel they were the first to discover a hidden gem, to take pictures of the quirkier, less obvious cafes, buildings, and attractions and to share them with their friends. They enjoyed the kudos of being the first to appreciate that corner of London, and happy spread the word to others.
How might this help you promote your business?
By being really specific about the kind of people who're most likely to enjoy what you have to offer, you'll find three things:
1. It's much easier to promote your business and write appealingly about it if you can picture the people you're targeting. You'll use the words they're more likely to use and be more attractive to them. Search engines will love you too.
2. You'll have happier visitors because the ones who come to you are the right ones for your business. They will also tell other people about you, talking to others in their 'tribe' so they'll spread the word on your behalf.
3. You might think that being really specific will restrict opportunities but it does the opposite. You get fewer difficult customers because you've been more specific. Interestingly though, it can help to attract new and different people who don't fit exactly into your target category and market, but who would like to be in that market, people who aspire to be like the people you're attracting.
It can take some courage to move away from something for everyone into not for everyone or only for very lovely people who will be truly appreciate of what you offer but it's well worth it. I challenge you to try right now. Define the people you want, and change the words and images you use in your marketing to appeal directly to them.
Question: what's the quickest, easiest, cheapest way to improve your marketing?
Answer: I'll tell you once you've read a bit more.
OK, I'll tell you now, in case you haven't already guessed from the words above?
Words are powerful things, and cost absolutely nothing.
Choose the right words on your website, in your phone conversations, on social media, in any kind of promotional activity and you'll instantly add power to your marketing.
Many people tell me they're 'not good at writing'. But they never tell me they're not good at speaking. Writing is just making a note of the words you'd like to speak. If you really think you're terrible at writing (few people really are), try using the dictate mode in Word or on your phone.
I'll offer a few tips to help improve your writing in a moment. First, let's consider what I've written above as there a few tips in there.
Question: what's the quickest, easiest, cheapest way to improve your marketing?
Tip: use a question to which the answer is likely to be 'yes' as a headline and to encourage people to read more. Don't overdo it though!
Tip: Trigger words like 'quick, easy, cheap' grab attention. Think about the words you could use to grab attention among the visitors you want to reach. Everyone's trigger words will be different. They might include words like 'peace', 'child-friendly'... What are yours?
Answer: I'll tell you once you've read a bit more.
Tip: Short sentences are more powerful than long ones
Tip: You can use words to engage people and get them to pay attention. If you directly ask people to do something, often they will
More writing tips:
1. Before you start to write anything, think: what is your key message for that piece of writing? What one thing do you need to get across? Start from that point.
2. Just write. Write rubbish, write the wrong words, but keep writing. Any writer will tell you that they almost always write more than one draft. Write, refine, write, refine. Once you've started to write, the words will flow. Once you've written them, you can decide which words really matter.
3. Keep it short. Shorter sentences have more impact. Which are the most important words? Keep them, then look at how you can cut down everything else you've written.
4. Get rid of over-used, meaningless words. These bland expressions should be banned from your marketing:
5. Be memorable. I know that the points listed under no 4 sound bossy. I also know that over the next few weeks I'll bump into readers who will tell me they're stopped using those words and that they've remembered what I've said. You also need to find a way to be memorable and distinctive.
6. Use the words and style that get the most attention. Which would make you book?:
“All our bedrooms are individually designed and have en-suite facilities” or “You’ll be able to relax and unwind in one of our comfortable bedrooms".
'You' is much more powerful than 'we'. Turn sentences round to make them stronger.
7. Remember FAB. FAB stands for Features, Advantages, Benefits. Features tell, benefits sell. Most people write more about the features than the benefits. That's the wrong way round! Let's take the example of a play area.
Features: adventure playground, maze etc. Features are the components of the product or service.
Advantages: making this product/service better than another. E.g. safety award for playground, novel design
Benefits: what the features and advantages actually mean for the person buying or using the service or product.
If we were trying to promote this play area to a stressed parent we might write something like: 'sit and relax for a few moments while your children use some of their surplus energy on xx, enjoying the aaa, bbb, ccc.
8. And another thing. Remember those rules you learnt at school? Don't start a sentence with And or But? Every sentence needs a verb? You're allowed to break the rules. No one will arrest you. And breaking the rules can be really effective and attention-grabbing. But you knew that anyway!
I'll be back with some more writing tips in another post soon.
Do I have special magical powers? Am I a witch? These were the questions a young girl asked me around this time last year.
Her eyes were shining and her face was a picture of wonderment. She thought she was too old to believe in magic but as far as she was concerned I'd just performed a trick that involved mind reading, persuasion and making money. A powerful combination.
Yes, once again you're wondering why I'm telling this odd story. Bear with me - there's a lesson here for all of us, that could really change your business for the better. You don't need to believe in magic spells, just the power of a good target.
Every year at the end of September I spend 2 days volunteering at the Masham Sheep Fair, selling programmes & beautifully designed, themed t-towels in aid of local charities such as Yorkshire Air Ambulance. It's usually cold. It can get a bit boring. Last year I was helped by Ellie, a 12 year old I hadn't met before. She was keen but dispirited when we still had 1/3 of the t-towels left on Sunday afternoon with only 2 hours of the show left. We hadn't sold anything for half an hour.
To cheer her up I said, "I'm going to sell 2 t-towels to one person in 10 minutes, I'm sure of it". Within 10 minutes a woman had come over to buy a t-towel. She hesitated and then decided to get a second one for her sister. Ellie was amazed.
I then said, "next, we're going to sell 3 separate t-towels in 10 minutes to 2 women and 1 man". Exactly that happened.
"Ok", I said, "I'm clearly a witch. So this time I'm going to sell 3 t-towels (unheard of at the show) to 1 person in the next 2 minutes". Along came a woman who bought 2 t-towels. Ellie looked surprised, then pleased then disappointed when she remembered I'd promised to sell 3. We were just about to turn to each other and commiserate when the woman turned round and said, "I've just thought of some one else who'd like one so I'll have a third one please". You can imagine Ellie's face.
At that point, we were starting to get excited. I let Ellie set the target and the time limit for each little milestone. We set a target, we sold, we laughed, we set a target, we sold, we laughed... and with 20 minutes to spare before the event closed we sold the last t-towel, even the dirty ones that had been on display.
"I'll never forget that", said Ellie. I was feeling pretty stunned too. In 32 years of the Sheep Fair, it's very unusual to sell every single t-towel, especially when the weather isn't great.
So what happened? Am I a witch? Possibly, but I think it might be less exciting than that and it could work for you too.
When you set a tangible goal, and then set some milestones and time targets, it's much easier to be successful. Most of the time we just drift. When we really set our minds to it, we can truly make a difference.
I often ask business owners if they've set a revenue target (or any other target) for the coming year. I'd say only around 30% ever do. When I ask why not, there are several reasons but one of the underlying ones is fear. Setting an ambitious target might sound boastful (even though no-one else need know!). You might not feel very good if you don't reach the target (but by setting one you'll at least be able to aim higher than usual?). Some businesses set targets but don't review them. Very few actually set targets, break them down by month or week, and then set themselves mini targets with milestones for action, reviewing activity each month. Can you guess what happens to those businesses that do exactly that?
Yes, it must be magic because the businesses I've worked with that do set targets, break them down into more achievable mini-goals with concrete action points are most successful. They're focused and motivated. There's even more magic in the air - I've noticed those business owners don't even necessarily work harder, but they focus on what's worth doing and have real clarity for their actions, not bothering with time-wasting activities.
Are you ready to say 'Abracadabra!' to make your business better? Join me in the Tourism Knowhow facebook group or add comments below, and motivate yourself and others, setting some public goals (you don't have to give full details) to make yourself more accountable - and more successful.
This doesn't just have to be about setting financial targets. I know that I have some weeks when I'm much more productive than others. The thing that makes the biggest difference to me is having a very clear plan for the week/month with definite goals I want to achieve. And I'm more likely to achieve them when I've told others about them.
So I'll tell you about my goals for the next six months. Over the coming few weeks I'm going to be adding more and more content to this website. I'm creating a series of business support tools, workshops and packages which any tourism business will be able to access - a combination of free and paid versions. In a couple of weeks I'll give more details about what these will include. Over to you...
My husband and I used to own an imaginary dog called Wilbur. He was very much part of our life: we had some lovely daily walks with him and took it in turns to let him out and feed him first thing in the morning and last thing at night. We knew he didn't exist but we talked and acted as if he did. We could even picture his sad little face if we failed to walk him.
Obviously this sounds a bit bonkers, and you'd be forgiven for wondering what it's got to do with tourism marketing? The answer is: walking Wilbur was the same as brushing your teeth.
More nonsense? No, it's about habits. We didn't want to get a dog if we weren't convinced we could fit him into our busy lives, and get into the habit of walking him regularly. There was no point in just thinking about it. We had to do it.
The same applies to tourism marketing.
Back to the toothbrush. Most of us are in the regular habit of brushing our teeth, morning and night. We barely think of it during the day and when it's time to perform this simple task we don't have to think about it in advance, or build up to it. It's just automatic. Brushing our teeth or going on a daily walk with a dog isn't onerous. It's part of a daily routine and 'just happens'.
If you want to make money from your tourism business, you need to make sure people know about it. You need to market it. Marketing is a bit like walking Wilbur or brushing your teeth. It doesn't have to take all day. It might just take a few minutes every day. It should be something you automatically do (not without thinking about the actual activities). It should be a habit.
"Not enough time". What does that really mean?
I can already hear you saying, "but I don't have enough time". When I ask people what they struggle with most in their marketing, the most frequent response is "not enough time". But what does this really mean?
Of course we might struggle to accomplish all we have to do in our daily lives. We have to make choices between what's essential and what's just nice or good to do.
When you say you don't have enough time to do any marketing, you're likely to mean something a little different, probably one of these:
1. I don't think my business is important enough to find time to do any marketing. I don't really care enough about it. More marketing might mean more income or an easier life, but that's not really want I want. I'd rather spend time doing other things.
2. I tend to do 'urgent' things, before important things. I'm more reactive to situations and don't really get round to planning my marketing.
3. I don't really know what to do to market my business. I probably need some kind of structure and more of a habit and direction to be able to make it part of my routine. If I had these, I could spend just half an hour on marketing much more frequently and make more of an impact on my business, without faffing about and wasting time.
4. I'm not very organised or good at planning my time. If I had some help to do this, I could definitely achieve more.
Which of these do you think applies most to you?
Over the next few months I'm going to help tourism businesses who have answered 2,3, or 4.
Can Eisenhower help?
If you answered 2,3, or 4, you might like to think about Eisenhower's Matrix. Most tasks can be described as falling within one of the squares in this grid.
Obviously tasks that are urgent and important need to be prioritised. Ones that are neither could be left undone. Many of the tasks we spend time on feel urgent but are not really important.
Some activities are actually very important but we don't do them because they don't feel urgent and don't have a time limit on them. Many people would put marketing into the "Important but not urgent" box, which means it just doesn't happen.
One relatively easy way to solve this is to plan and make your marketing part of your daily routine. Just like brushing your teeth, incorporating small periods of time undertaking some marketing activities can reap fantastic longer term rewards. The key is to make it into something you do more frequently so it feels like a habit, instead of something you push off into the future.
Why not try a little experiment? Put an appointment with yourself in your diary.
Block out a 30 minute session at least 3 times a week, when you promise yourself you'll do some pre-planned marketing for your business. If you're less likely to keep an appointment with yourself, why not write "Don't let Wilbur down" in your diary instead!!
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Use a strong emotional appeal. How can you do one of these: make people happier, healthier, more beautiful, more loved, or richer?
6. 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, or sometimes they just need to know more about what you're offering.
7. Often people don’t buy because they don’t understand what you’re offering, or more importantly, don't see what the benefits are to them.
8. Follow through. A customer research survey found that that 19% of businesses didn’t respond to email enquiries. 25% found that phones were engaged or went to voicemail. Don’t spend money on marketing and then waste it with bad follow up service.
9. 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.
10. 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!
11. Avoid over-used expressions. How “unique” is unique? What does “something for everyone” actually mean?
12. 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.
13. What is memorable about your business and what you offer? What do you do to help people remember you and recommend you to others?
14. We say first impressions count, but last impressions last. What do you do to create a positive lasting impression that encourages recommendations?
If you're in the UK, you'll have noticed a cooler breeze and sense that Autumn is on its way. This is when many tourism business owners and managers decide to hibernate, to collapse in an exhausted heap and be glad they don't have to put on their happy face for visitors until next Spring.
Others take the time to wonder what they could have done to generate more business over the past few months and how they can make the off-season more profitable.
A question: who do you think is most likely to walk furthest, in the fastest time and get fittest?
a) the group with the right walking boots, a planned route, a proper map and a really good lunch; or
b) the group who decide to set off on their walk on the spur of the moment with little else other than enthusiasm, and willingness to see where their path will take them?
The spontaneous wanderers might enjoy their outing but they're also likely to get hungry en route, waste time getting lost and meet barriers on the way - and they're not really sure where they're going.
The better prepared group have done everything they can to increase their chances of arriving at their final destination and being able to celebrate their achievement.
Why am I using this analogy? I meet a lot of business owners and managers who tell me they want 'more business'. When I ask them how much more, the answer is 'more'.
When I ask when they want more business, the answer is often 'all the time, but especially off-peak'
When I ask what they think they need to do to get more business, their answer is usually 'more marketing', often with the proviso that they don't want to spend too much. There's nothing wrong with these responses, but they're so vague the chances of these businesses owners ever celebrating reaching their chosen destination is slim. They haven't really decided on their destination. Like the spontaneous wanderers, they're basing their business plans more on hope than a carefully chosen route.
I've found that after three decades working in marketing, I can help almost any business to find new ways to market themselves or find new markets or make their business better in some way. Most of the time they can achieve quite a lot simply by implementing practical advice I give them. That's one of the great satisfactions of doing what I do. But is it enough?
A few tweaks may be enough for some businesses but I don't think it's enough for most.
I feel increasingly frustrated by how many businesses are effectively leaving money on the table, running themselves ragged and actually restricting their income. Why?
It's not because they don't want to earn more, or make their marketing more efficient.
It's because they're not brave enough to set targets for their business.
Some will claim it's down to lack of time, but the reality is that they've not taken the decision to invest a couple of hours to plan the future of their business to make life easier later.
Why do you need to be brave to set targets for your business? For many it is bravery that's required: it's making quite a dramatic step forward. It's making a commitment to yourself, saying you believe your business will still be here in years to come. It's being a proper grown up, daring to believe in yourself and the dream of your business.
A couple of weeks ago I had an email from a business owner outlining all she'd achieved over the past few years and suggesting what she'd like to do next. She ended her email asking, "am I being too ambitious? Do you think it's right to think I can do this?" Of course she wasn't being too ambitious. Unless you're planning to trample over others, is it really possible to be too ambitious for your business?
For some reason a lot of business owners doubt their ambition. It's almost as if someone somewhere has set out some rules about what we're allowed to believe about ourselves and we're scared of breaking them. There are no rules! You're allowed to think big. It's good to identify what your'e trying to achieve.
Occasionally I meet someone who tells me exactly what they'd like to achieve, by when. They've determined a clear target for success, and just need advice on what to do to reach it. Such business owners are not only more successful, they tend to spend less time agonising about what they're doing and they don't waste money on the 'wrong' marketing. I've often found the only difference between them and other less successful businesses is that they've actually taken the time to think about their business and their targets. Seriously, it can be that easy.
So now's your opportunity. Use these quieter months to give your marketing and business some oomph, by being much more intentional about what you'll do to improve.
It's easy to get started. You can do it right now. Just answer a few questions:
Don't just think about them, spend a bit of time thinking about your answers and write them down. Then all you need to do is work out what actions you'll take to reach those targets.
I'm hoping to be able to help you with that too, and am currently working on a step-by-step 'system' to help you reach those goals. More on that later...
I love September. It's a fresh new start after the summer, full of promise. A bit like January, but with better weather!
When I come back to my desk in September I feel refreshed and full of ideas. It's a time when I make sort-of-resolutions, making plans for the coming months.
But there's often one key frustration.
How can we make progress, when there are so many jobs to be done, and we barely have time to think?
Over the Summer I did have time to think and I hope I've got some answers to this perennial problem for small tourism businesses.
Most of us have something we want to do to make our business better. It might be improving our marketing, developing new products or making some physical changes. The problem is there's always something else claiming our attention. When you run a small business, you probably find that you focus on the 'must do' jobs before the 'want to do' or the 'do now for an impact later' jobs. There's always something that's urgent and needs your attention. Some of the jobs we feel we have to get done aren't particularly important but there's a sense of urgency about them. They so easily distract from making any real progress and taking our business forward.
I think I've found an answer!
In fact, I have three solutions to the problem of not making progress when you barely have time to think. I've tested each of them over the last year or so and they've really worked well.
Before I tell you, think of a project you want to undertake, something you want to achieve or make better and keep it in your mind as we go. I'll refer to this below as your 'progress'. Read to the end for details of how I'm putting all this into practice.
Running your own business is wonderful. In theory you get to be in charge of your time and exactly what you do. The reality is that we're all accountable to our clients so we bend over backwards to please them and that doesn't leave any time left for us to make progress. Making progress on our big project is always in the future, never something we work on right now.
At the same time most of us like to do what we say we'll do. So the first thing we need to do is announce our project. What are you planning to do to make progress in your business? Who can you tell? It's helpful to set a date and give some details as part of the move to make yourself stick to your plan.
I have a concrete example of this. For years I've planned to write a blog but other things got in the way. At the beginning of the year I announced online that I was going to write a daily blog, which I also share via a facebook page. I was quite specific, telling people about what I was going to do, when and where. Since then I've been extremely busy with other work and there have often been times when I struggled (writing a blog next to a family member in hospital was a low point) but I've kept going. I'm not sure what I think would happen if I didn't do this but now I've announced it, I feel accountable so I keep doing it.
It takes guts to announce what you're planning to do, but the courage you'll need is far less than the frustration of not making progress month after month!
I have another announcement to make at the end of this article!
2. Create a habit
An important part of making progress in your plans is to keep moving forward by doing something. Even doing something small but consistently is worthwhile. Thinking and planning aren't enough. You have to create a habit, and focus on taking tiny steps that together add up to real progress. You might think that you need to clear a big chunk of time to make progress but that's rarely feasible.
It's much more effective to create a habit and to do something for less time, more frequently. This is why the daily practice of writing my blog works. Over time I'm building thousands of words of new content which is satisfying and has already reaped rewards in terms of web traffic.
Doing something consistently is important to build credibility and generate rewards that spur you on to greater efforts. I have found that whether it's writing a blog, consistently posting on social media, or sending out regular (with emphasis on regular e.g. at set times) mailings really makes a big difference. I don't have any more time than before but since I've established regular habits to do certain things I've found I'm somehow found time by becoming much more focused on the achievement of the regular habit. In turn each of those regular activities has paid dividends by building followers, response rates and sales conversions which has encouraged me to keep going towards my goals.
Running a small business can mean that you need to keep a firm handle on costs. I've often hesitated to invest in my business, whether it was buying time-saving software or going to a conference where I might learn something useful.
Making a concrete decision to invest both time and money in my business has been fruitful. I've wasted hours downloading free software or templates etc that I've never used properly but when I've spend money it's forced me to follow up and use the advice or software I've bought.
Over the past few years the combination of public funding and the internet has meant that there is no shortage of free courses and information. But this hasn't led to significant improvements in marketing or business success.
I think this is because there has to be a little pain, in terms of investment, to make you think about what you're doing and really leap forward. If you really want to make progress, you know you need to invest time, money or both. It can be worthwhile taking advantage of free advice, going to free workshops and events. But the ones you pay for will be much more effective - once you've opened your wallet, you'll be much more willing to put advice into action, to make real progress. Commitment, in terms of money or minutes, makes a big difference.
Look out for...
At the beginning of this article I said I'd made some decisions and some sort-of-resolutions. By setting them out below, I'm using my own advice. You'll be able to see over the following weeks how effective it is!
Here's my new announcement:
Every week I will write a tourism marketing blog on this site. Over the next six months I'm investing my time and money to launch a series of new ways for you to invest your time and money in your business. Watch this space for details of online and live workshops, advice and business support packages! My ambition is to create the UK's best source of tourism marketing advice and support.
The first step will be to offer a sample online marketing workshop. It's a sample session which sets the scene for others so this initial one will be free, but you'll need to invest some time to complete it. Details will be available next week!
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Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs