There’s a very easy, powerful and effective way to market your business. Forget the rule of six (for this moment at least...) and think about the rule of three.
Once you’ve read this, everywhere you look you'll notice a triplet of reasons, ideas and thoughts. See what I just did?!
Humans can count five objects by just glancing at them. When there are six, we have to count them. We can absorb three ideas or words easily. When there are four, each becomes less memorable.
So if you want to make a point or write some compelling reasons to visit your business, three is the magic number.
Our brains just feel comfortable seeking out and absorbing a list of three. There’s a natural rhythm and pattern we instinctively like. Research has shown that a list of four makes the reader more cynical and less ready to believe. Perhaps it’s just overload. A list of just two things feels incomplete. A list of three can persuade.
Listing three things is an easy way to create a powerful and memorable message. You can do this either by putting them into a sentence e.g.
Here's a quick, easy, and powerful way to persuade.
Or you could use three bullet points e.g.
Here are some good ways to improve your marketing:
There are some examples of speeches that use this to great effect.
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen” was so good, we’re still repeating it hundreds of years after William Shakespeare wrote it.
Winston Churchill was really skilled, using similar but different sentences and related words about the Battle of Britain: "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
If you’re a similar age to me, you might remember marketing slogans such as “Stop, Look & Listen” to help you cross the road. Or "A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play". Australians "Slip-Slop-Slap" to guard against skin cancer.
Speaking of threes, VisitEngland's Escape the Everyday campaign launches this week. They're encouraging everyone - visitors and businesses - to tell everyone about your three favourite ways to #EscapetheEveryday. They are also using three themes: Discovery, Freedom to Explore and Treat Yourself. It's free and easy to join in - more details here.
Could you be saying the wrong thing on your website, in your social media, and other marketing activities? I doubt you're actually upsetting anyone, but potential customers may be ignoring you.
Why? Simply because you're saying the wrong things at the wrong time, or even the right things at the wrong time to the wrong people.
Most tourism businesses need to promote to three different kinds of people:
- people who are already customers
- people who have heard of you but not yet become customers, and
- people who have never heard of you or don't know what you do
Some marketing messages - whether by email, website, social media etc - will work regardless of who you're targeting. But many don't.
This used to be a problem. If your main marketing choices were paid advertising, posting out information or printing leaflets you had to choose limited messages as space was limited. There was a temptation to be all things to all people, to use bland and useless 'something for everyone' marketing.
Thanks to digital marketing, space isn't really an issue so you can use different messages at different times to appeal to different markets. Yet many don't take advantage of this free and easy marketing technique.
People who are already customers may just need to be reminded to buy from you or visit, perhaps through the right message on social media or through direct mail. An image of the view from your window, or something happening near by might act as a trigger for a repeat visit.
Those who have heard of you but not yet become a customer need several different types of message at different times:
If some one has never heard of you, or doesn't really understand what you do, then you need to go back to basics. For example, on social media you might need to use simple explanations (this could be through an image) about what you do from time to time, or to make information clearer. You're probably not stating the obvious, but you sometimes need to.
A quick example: let's say you offer accommodation. You might talk about the quality of your welcome, or show images of your rooms but potential guests need to know where you are and the benefits of your location. I often see accommodation providers posting on social media without ever mentioning their location, missing out on a valuable and easy selling point.
When you do this to attract new customers, you don't put off existing customers - you remind them about why they like you so there are double benefits.
So take a look at the marketing messages you use, consider the different types of people you need to reach and consider how you can 'layer' information and messages to cover more information, as persuasively as possible. Are you stating the obvious? Perhaps you need to?
There's a Japanese expression and approach that many Western business leaders have started to use: Kaizen*. I think it's also invaluable for small tourism business, especially those with tiny marketing budgets and no time.
The Kaizen approach is based on the idea that small continuous steps and tweaks build up to more substantial improvements over time.
KaizenGood news for all of us for three reasons:
1. Small steps are easier, especially when you don't have a lot of time;
2. It costs practically nothing to make small changes and tweaks to your marketing;
3. If you'd like your business to be around for a long time, you need marketing activities with longer term impact.
Over the years I've seen so many flashy, expensive marketing campaigns that may grab attention for a short while but once the advertising disappears so does most of the impact. I've seen some businesses be really 'shouty' and pushy and they might grab the limelight for a short while but then don't follow through. Others waste large amounts of marketing money by splashing their cash on all sorts of scatter-gun activity.
When you run a small business it's easy to feel a bit inadequate watching these flashier activities, wondering if you should do the same. Sometimes the step-by-step, one tweak-at-a-time approach feels lonely and insubstantial. 'Plodding along' isn't seen as a particularly positive thing to do. And yet...
I'm often asked 'what one marketing tool can I use, or what one thing should I do to make my business better?' The answer is that there isn't one. Tourism marketing is about building a profile, building understanding of your visitors' needs, building their awareness of what you do, building activities and experiences that please people, building a reputation. It's about small reminders, frequent little steps and activities that you need to repeat and repeat to get attention and build credibility.
It's about being consistent and just moving forward. You might think that marketing is something only larger organisations can do, and that larger companies are the only ones that can gain traction but that's not true. Small simple steps, constant little improvements eventually build a business. Each action layers over the one before, layer upon layer of experience, knowledge and small activities that lead to a more successful future.
When you think that you're not doing 'enough' or taking big enough steps forward or not being loud enough when your competitors seem to be constantly shouting 'look at me', remember Kaizen. It's the small constant actions that make the difference in the long run.
Think about how children learn and develop. They don't go into school one day and come out the next as rounded adults ready for the world. They take tiny steps forward, tripping up and making mistakes along the way. And gradually, step-by-step improvements add up to a strong foundation ready for the future. Most sustainable businesses aren't so different from children.
*Kaizen is a bit more complex than this, but taking the Kaizen approach, this simplistic explanation is just a start..and is something I'll come back to in more detail in a later blog.
Free tourism marketing advice
Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs