Most tourism marketing advice deals with promotional tools and marketing methods. I don't think we focus often enough on getting the message right for our target markets or on understanding their mindset.
If you've ever unsure what to say in your social media, on your website or in a blog, a good burst of optimism and positivity works really well.
Everyone loves to feel good. Who would you rather spend time with: someone who moans about life or someone who bursts with enthusiasm about their area or what they do? We're drawn to people with energy and sparkle - the same is true on social media and in marketing.
The internet has been flooded (oops) with photos of floods and bad weather. Of course everyone is fascinated by the extremes of weather but after a while they all resemble each other. I recently saw one popular post that illustrates the way optimism works. It was a bookshop in Hebden Bridge. They showed the flood waters in their shop, with an 'after' photo a couple of days later once the shop was cleaned up and ready to re-open. It gave a real sense of hope, a burst of optimism and actually showed that they were ready to welcome visitors, instead of just the usual 'open for business' message that convinces no-one.
During the winter months at some point everyone feels down-hearted and thinks Spring will never come. Short messages of hope and optimism work wonders. Photos of Spring flowers and posts looking forward to Spring can be really effective.
We don't need to pretend bad things never happen but putting a positive spin on things can help everyone feel better and more hopeful. The more you look forward, sound optimistic, believe that things will get better, the more your potential visitors will want to do the same. When they see plenty of positive messages about Spring and Summer and photos reminding them of how it looks and feels, visitors will be enthused and ready to book and plan a visit.
You do need to be careful of sounding overly Tigger-like and too bouncy. Your marketing messages need to sound authentic and genuine so don't gush if that's not your normal approach. Just focus on the positives instead of the negatives.
Talk about things you're looking forward to. Sound optimistic. Show positive change. Be upbeat. Be positive about your business, your area, other businesses.
You might also think about being positive by being generous in your marketing, talking about other local businesses and why you love your area. You might like and share posts by others more often, or comment on people's blogs. Once you do this, there's definitely a sense of reciprocity. Most people will notice when you're being positive about them and want to reciprocate in some way.
The goodwill gradually builds in power. Others will see your positivity and join in too.
I've got Bob Marley's words singing in my head: let's get together and feel all right.
It really does feel like it's time for us all to work together. Tourism can be affected by so many different factors (Floods, Brexit, Coronavirus) which we can't control. We can however make everything feel better.
Community. Collaboration. Kindness. None of them cost anything, yet they have enormous power. Visitors love to be in places where these qualities are strong. Everyone likes to feel a little uplifted and more positive.
If there was something you could do to benefit your business at no cost, and make others happy, would you do it?
I hope your answer is 'yes'?
Amazingly, most people don't do it. Their marketing is very 'me, me, me'. It's often uninspiring, static and unsuccessful.
There's a very simple way to make your marketing better, and benefit others. Be generous.
Relax. You don't have to splash the cash. It's about an attitude of mind, not emptying your wallet. Changing the way you market your business, being more generous, can actually generate better profits for you.
What do I mean? I'm talking about generosity of spirit. Looking outwards instead of inwards. Talking about other businesses, not just your own. Showing visitors that you're not just a lone body.
Here are a few simple examples:
It doesn't cost anything, and makes people happy.
The businesses you recommend will be happy.
Visitors will be happy because they find out about new places to go and things to do. Visitors want insider tips and recommendations, and to feel like they've found a local expert - that's you. Most of us want to buy from people who are good people, so anything you can do that's positive and generous will help.
Generous marketing can work to your benefit in other ways.
Most people want to visit places that have plenty to offer - things to see, good food, interesting activities. If you talk about your area and other businesses, your website will be enhanced, potentially with higher search engine rankings. Talking about other businesses can make your social media posts more interesting, building your reputation as a local expert.
Reciprocity is important. If I invite you to my party or sponsor you to run a mile, you're more likely to invite me to your party and sponsor me to swim a mile. The same applies to recommendations and generous marketing. It won't happen immediately, but your neighbours will gradually reciprocate. By working together and making genuine (just linking to each other doesn't work as well) recommendations, more and more people will notice and perceive your area as welcoming and positive.
You have to put real effort and meaning into your generous marketing though. People can tell when you're just going through the motions.
There's power in an unexpected generous gesture or kindness. It makes everyone feel good. And it can benefit your business. Even better, it's easy to get started with more generous marketing. Nothing is standing in your way. So you can start right now. Let me know what you've done or will do next?
I know first hand how it feels to be adversely affected by bad weather: our house floods and this time it was particularly bad. Nature can be beautiful and brutal.
How easy is it to actually promote off-season, especially after floods, storms and other weather 'disasters'?
My heart goes out to anyone affected by bad weather incidents and their need to gain back business. It's natural to want to put out 'open for business' notices on social media and in the media as soon as possible. But before you do so, please consider a slightly different perspective...
Some suggestions for promoting your area and business in the off-season and immediately after a bad weather incident
Sharing images of floods, high water levels and bad weather on social media is a normal thing to do. We're fascinated by the power of nature. But try not to overdo it. Those images will be picked up by the media and used in articles, mentioning your area by name. They'll stay online for a long time, coming up in searches. The positive side of that interest is that it can help everyone feel like they're part of a community working together against the elements and secure aid from others.
The darker side is that those images may stay in the minds of potential visitors for quite a while, and put people off visiting. Most people have only a hazy grasp of geography and when they read about bad weather in one location, they assume it means half the country.
Don't say 'Open for Business'. Show it.
Once the bad weather subsides and businesses re-open, the next obvious step is to tell people. This is when 'open for business' messages start to circulate. Of course it's important to tell people you're open again, but the way in which you say it is key. During the normal course of events we don't say 'we're open for business' because it's taken as a given. It's become a phrase that's most used after something bad has happened. Many will associate it with a problem that's only just resolved. They may wonder what's happened or focus on the incident, instead of on the positives.
'We're open for business' can convey the image of needy people standing on the threshold of their business anxiously looking for customers. Some visitors will want to support by offering their custom. Others will wonder if it's really safe to visit, if the area will still be attractive, if they'll still be able to enjoy it.
If you sound confident and upbeat, visitors will be more likely to come... Show that you're open for business. Post as many positive images as you can, not mentioning the clear up or what's happened, but focusing on how visitors can enjoy the area or your business. You don't need to deny what's happened, but there's no need to focus on it either. Social proof works very well. People are more likely to believe they'll have a good time and enjoy visiting you if you show others already doing the same.
Give reasons to visit. Show why you're worth visiting. Make your positive messages the ones that people remember.
Optimism and ideas before discounts
This is often the point at which people panic and try to lure back visitors with discounts. That might work, but discounts can also focus visitors minds on the wrong thing. They either subconsciously realise you're discounting because you're desperate (which isn't attractive), or think about the price and whether it's worth it. It's better to focus first on reasons to visit, and use added value offers.
Optimism works well. After bad weather it's easy to feel downhearted and hard to imagine how attractive places can be in better weather. Yet small details like daffodils starting to bloom, snowdrops peaking out from a blanket of snow can cheer and help us all look forward and feel more positive. Look on social media as the first buds bloom and Spring starts to show, and you'll see how much people like to share those positive signs. Add your own, and you'll benefit from the human need to look forward and feel better.
Promoting your business during the off-season
What can you do to promote your business during the quieter months? Here are three important things you can easily do:
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Do you feel frustrated when no one responds to your marketing?
Isn't it a fantastically uplifting feeling when you send out a mailing or post on social media and people instantly respond?
When most people read sentences like these, they can't help but identify with at least one of them. It feels someone understands them. And when they sense that, they're more ready to listen or read the next sentence.
Those two sentences are examples of a sure-fire way to encourage potential visitors to take notice of what you're saying in your promotional activities and get ready to buy, book and visit. Use an emotional appeal.
Anyone can do it. It's free, and it's very effective.
You can get started right now and make a positive change very quickly. You might need to switch round or change the words you use.
Can you think of something you often say or write to promote your business that could be expressed differently to make it more compelling?
Perhaps there's a sentence you often use that you could make better?
I love this sign.
Instead of a bald "keep off the grass", it actually makes you think of the grass as a lovely living thing with feelings!
How to use a stronger emotional appeal
An easy way to get started is to decide what emotion you want to evoke and then chose some 'magic' words accordingly.
Here are some examples:
If you want people to feel curious and keen to read more, you might use words and phrases like what no one tells you, behind the scenes, insider, or secret.
If you want to evoke a sense of urgency you might use words like instantly, quick, remarkable results.
Sometimes it's helpful to show people what they're missing out on, or how you could help them. Then you might use words and phrases like unsure, tense, or stressed as in 'are you feeling tense, like the world's getting on top of you? Time for a break...'
When you want people to feel they've made a good choice by choosing to book, buy from or visit you, you can use words that make visitors feel safe and secure such as easy, guaranteed, safe.
Tourism marketing often depends on helping visitors to feel happier, less stressed, and calmer. Words like delight, relaxed, thrilled, exhilarated, serene, at ease, glowing, healthy would work well.
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Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs