I can hear your outrage! You've spent time making sure you're "Good to Go" and Covid-secure and now I'm telling you that's not what you need to do?
Accreditation and reassurance schemes like "Good to Go" and "Safe, Clean, Legal" are definitely a good idea. They'll help you work out what you need to do to operate safely and reassure visitors.
It's definitely worthwhile participating in one of the schemes.
But once you've done that, how are you going to attract visitors and encourage them to return to you?
Visitors aren't asking about safety or cleanliness
I did a quick straw poll of tourism businesses yesterday to find out whether people are asking about cleaning or Covid-secure protocols when booking or making enquiries. 70% of businesses said they were not being asked about them at all, 25% said a few visitors were asking, and 5% said yes, all their prospective visitors had asked.
So what are visitors asking about? Cancellation and refund policies seem to be right at the top of the list of things visitors want to know.
What messages should you use to attract visitors, if 'safe' isn't the right selling point to use?
Have you noticed a flood of posts on social media, using the VisitEngland kite mark, "We're Good to Go"? It's great that so many businesses are participating and using the reassuring logo. It's natural to want to tell people you've successfully gone through the hoops.
But when there's a flood of similar posts on social media, you need to find an additional way to stand out.
Research has shown that visitors really want to have some fun, they want to escape the confines of their home, to meet up with family. They do want to know places will be clean but don't want an overly sanitised experience, or to feel like they're visiting a laboratory.
So make sure you stress your usual key selling points, then offer a reassuring safety message.
We know people want to know about cancellation policies and refunds so make sure that information is clearly available. Show prospective visitors what it will be like to visit you, with a short video walk-through. It doesn't have to be polished, just authentic and clear.
Tell visitors about the fun they can have in your area, what's open and what they'll be able to do when they visit. Show them how they can escape the daily grind, and offer inspirational ideas. Safety and cleanliness are important, but most visitors will see those as givens, so you need to stand out in other ways.
We keep talking about the 'new normal' and life is going to be different but humans are still humans and a strong emotional appeal is always important.
Competition is tough so you need to stand out.
Visual impact is important to grab attention and get people to read your website, posts on social media or information within your business.
Here are some quick design tips to help people notice your business:
Keep it simple. Cluttered designs are less impactful.
Stick to a simple colour scheme with two or three colours. Use similar colours in all your marketing so you gradually build a brand awareness.
Choose a couple of fonts – one for headings, one for main text – and stick to them. Don’t add in extra fancy fonts. Avoid handwriting fonts like Comic Sans unless you’re a school teacher.
Use white space. It’s free and it makes it easier to read what you have to say. Your headings and information will stand out more. Pages are easier to scan if you space out information.
Don’t centre text. It’s harder to read than left-aligned text.
Don’t use all capitals. Capitals are fine for headings but don’t use them when you write more than 4 words. They’re harder to read and the message is difficult to absorb. And many people think of capitals as shouting.
Make your call to action (‘book now’, ‘visit today’, ‘call us’) as visible as possible. Buttons with bold text work well on websites.
Show priority text by using strong colours and larger fonts.
You don’t need an expensive designer for simple design jobs like creating social media posts or posters within your business. There are some brilliant free online design tools. I love Canva.
I often write about how to improve your tourism marketing, even on a low budget. What about the things we might be doing wrong? Could we save time and money just putting right a few mistakes? The answer is a very definite ‘yes’.
These six marketing mistakes are all really common. I find myself making some of them too, and have to make a conscious effort to go through them from time to time to make simple, no-cost improvements.
Marketing mistake 1: Making it too hard for your customers to find you, to know what you offer, and want to buy from you
We want people to spend their money with us. They’ll do that if they 1. know about us, 2. know what we do, 3. like what we do, 4. trust that we’ll do what we say, and 5. really want what we do. Your marketing needs to be geared to achieve all this. Often very quickly. In competition with many others.
So bland statements like ‘we’re open’ or ‘we offer a unique product with something for everyone blah de blah’ just won’t work.
You need to make it much easier for people to buy from you.
Here’s an example:
If I tell you about my marketing consultancy, the books I wrote years ago, the destination strategies I’ve developed, the online marketing workshops you can buy, the workshops I run, you’re unlikely to immediately see the benefits of what I offer to businesses like yours.
It’s all too long-winded and vague.
However, if I sum all that up with just one sentence that shows that I might be able to help you, you’ll be more interested.
For example: I help to make businesses - like yours – better and more profitable.
So, you definitely need one strong, clear message.
Luckily, that’s an easy thing to put right. You can do it now. When you re-write it, make sure you include the kind of key words your guests search for, so that you can help improve your search engine rankings at the same time.
Marketing mistake 2: Too much information, not enough inspiration
Remember, you’re promoting a tourism business. Not toilet rolls, not machine parts, not baked beans, but something that people can get excited about. You’re promoting an opportunity to escape reality, to do something interesting, to enjoy the beauty of your area, to relax…
Take a look at your website and other marketing. Have you just spewed out information, instead of offering any inspiration? Of course you need to offer information, but inspiration is really important too. It’s what will make people feel excited and happy to book or come to visit you. Inspiration can trigger action, and differentiate you from other businesses.
Marketing mistake 3: Not enough repetition
Once you’ve put 1 and 2 right, you need to do it again and again. We used to say that people need to see marketing messages at least 3 times before they take action. Now it’s more like 7 times. So you need to repeat your key message much more frequently than you probably think.
I talked about this in a recent blog. It’s one of the easiest things to improve on, as it also saves time and effort. Remember, there are lots of different ways to repeat marketing messages, so it doesn’t feel too repetitive.
Marketing mistake 4: Far too few photos
This is a really common, and important mistake. We’re asking people to commit to coming to see a place they might not have been before. We’re asking them to make an effort to travel to places they might know but have forgotten. That can be hard to do. Words can offer information, inspiration even. But most people want to see pictures of your business and local area. I’d say only 5% of all businesses have enough good, varied photos on their website.
If you don’t have enough images of the right kind, showing potential visitors everything they want to see, they’ll look for them on other sites. Which means they may get side-tracked and not bother to come back to your site.
I hope you’ll agree that so far these marketing mistakes are easy to put right?
The next two are easy to deal with too, and are the ones that make the biggest difference to any business.
The final one is the one that will have the strongest impact on your profitability.
Read all about them in the Tourism Network Online Community - it's free to join
As regular readers of this blog know, l’m a fan of small, almost effortless, low cost marketing tweaks that can make a difference very quickly. Some may sound odd or flippant but those who try them, often email me to tell me they worked. Today’s suggestion is no exception.
Are you feeling blue, in a black mood? Seeing red or green with envy? Is life a little grey, or maybe it’s not that black and white?
Yes, you’ve guessed, I want to talk about colour.
You may think this is something you’re more likely to hear your home-schooled off-spring discussing, but it is a proper grown up topic. It’s even a research topic for psychologists.
Using the right colours at the right time could help make you more money.
This might sound a bit ‘woo woo’ but it’s true. Whatever you want to promote, you need your target markets to feel positive about you, to understand and like what you do, and react positively. Colour can help.
Choosing the right colours can help make your activity stand out. It can make your content more readable.
It can make people feel warm and positive about you. It can help reassure, calm, persuade.
I’ll get on to how and what you can do in a moment.
First of all, let’s look at an example of the power of colour when your marketing budget is miniscule.
I learnt about this it was during a conversation with Stelios, the owner-founder of Easyjet. It was about 25 years ago, when the first low cost airlines started. I've never forgotten it because of the impact it had.
It might sound crazy to compare your small business with an airline - bear with me. I'm guessing you think your marketing budget is small? When he first started the airline, Stelios spent all his money on buying planes. There wasn’t any money left over so his marketing budget was also tiny, in comparison with all the giants like British Airways.
I met Stelios* on one of the first flights when he systematically went from seat to seat, talking to every passenger. He thanked everyone for flying with him. He didn't say 'thanks for flying with EasyJet'. Instead he said, 'thanks for flying with me', presenting it as his very own business so everyone felt glad to have met the owner, and felt like they were part of a club, instead of customers. At that time corporate, faceless airlines like British Airways were the norm.
Then Stelios asked everyone some questions about themselves. Being nosey, I listened to his questions and their answers**. He had several ways of basically asking the same questions in order to profile his passengers and find out their reasons for travel.
When he got to me, I asked if I could ask him some questions instead. He grinned and agreed. I asked him why he was on his own flight and asking so many questions. He pointed out that he didn’t have a budget for research but needed to know as much about his customers as possible. So he frequently travelled on his own flights and just talked to people. “And people can see how lovable I am so I hope they’ll talk about me to their friends”***.
Then I asked him why he’d chosen that bright orange colour. It was everywhere – on the outside of the planes, on the seats, the uniforms, the marketing. Everywhere. He asked what I thought of when I saw that exact orange colour. The answer was obvious – EasyJet. He said he’d looked at other airlines and they all used a combination of colours. None of them were particularly memorable. He needed to use a colour that no-one else used. Even if it looked brash, it needed to be unforgettable.
He’d also considered how the colour orange makes people feel. It’s considered a fun, friendly colour. Not quite as hot as red, not quite as cool as yellow. It can feel energetic and positive. So orange became ‘his’ colour. EasyJet practically owned the colour orange. When they first started, Stelios barely had to do any marketing – he just painted everything orange and people thought about EasyJet.
You might not want to do this but the lesson is the same for any business - be consistent with the colours you use, for maximum impact.
So back to your business, presumably with a smaller marketing budget.
I’ll explain the connotations of some colours in a moment. First some things to think about.
Here are some examples of how colour can make people feel, from Oglilvy. Search for 'colour psychology' and you'll find many more.
Scroll beyond the image for some more marketing lessons from Stelios.
More marketing lessons from Stelios
*When he launched Easyjet, Stelios Haji-Ioannou insisted everyone use his first name. Otherwise he said people wouldn’t talk about him because they were scared of getting his name wrong.
But more importantly, he positioned himself as the cuddly, smiley, cheeky chap who was the face of the airline. He instantly differentiated his airline by using his personality. This was at a time when British Airlines was a major competitor and their marketing was always very corporate. Stelios immediately positioned his airline alongside Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, feeling more fun and approachable. Are you the front person for your business? How good is your 'about' page?
** Stelios lesson number 2. Market research is important but doesn’t have to be expensive. Ask people questions. Use the answers.
*** Stelios lesson number 3. People buy people. Be the face of your business. Tell your story. Be human.
*** Stelios lesson number 4. Think of a way to make people talk. It’s the cheapest, most effective marketing method.
Are you neglecting one of the most important pages on your website? Do you have a really good 'about' page, or is it perhaps a bit of an after-thought?
You might be surprised at the increasing number of people who can be convinced to book, visit and buy by a good 'about' page.
Here's why it's worth spending some time crafting a really good 'about' page:
How to create a really strong 'about' page for your business:
Even if you feel a little uncomfortable writing about yourself, or don't think you're very good at writing, there are some straight-forward things you can do to create a strong 'about' page. Read more about the elements to include and how to make your 'about' page more powerful in the Tourism Network online community (free to join).
A man once came up with an idea that could double sales of an already popular product.
According to advertising legend, he told the business owners that he could vastly increase their profits with the addition of just one word - in return for an enormous fee for himself of course.
Eventually they agreed to pay him, perhaps because the idea was just so intriguing. What was this incredibly powerful word?
I'll explain: he worked for a shampoo company who used the words, 'lather and rinse' on the back of every bottle of shampoo. His great idea was to simple add the word 'repeat' so it became 'lather, rinse and repeat'. The instruction to 'repeat' remained on shampoo bottles for years and years. It might not have doubled sales but it certainly increased them significantly.
What has this got to do with your tourism business?
I was speaking to some one recently about a promotion we did a while ago that was really popular and successful. But we made a mistake. We did it once. That was it. It worked really well, yet we didn't do it again. All it would take was a simple leaflet reprint, or even just another social media push for the online .pdf version. Yet we simply moved on to the next thing.
We do that a lot in tourism. We post something on social media that gets loads of engagement. We feel pleased. Then we move on to the next thing.
We often assume we've 'done' something and don't repeat it, not wanting to bore people or assuming everyone has already seen what we do. Yet we're continually trying to attract new visitors, so there's a constant stream of new people we need to convince.
Think about the best promotional activities you've ever done. Which could be repeated? Which social media posts got great engagement? Can you make a note to repeat them at regular intervals, maybe just adapting images and words a little so they don't become dull?
It's said that most of us need around seven touch points - maybe a mention in a magazine article, a few social media posts, recommendation from a friend, perhaps an email - before we respond and actually buy something. If that's true, then saying something brilliant once just isn't going to do the trick.
You not only need to repeat yourself, but to also use similar messages in different ways.
So sometimes you really don't need to reinvent the wheel - just to do what you've done before, again - and possibly again. And again.
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Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs