I'm often asked how to decide who your target markets should/could be, and how to get new visitors.
If your business is relatively new this can be a tricky thing to decide.
If your business is better established, you hopefully already have a good base of people who like what you do, but probably want to expand your markets.
Many people describe their target markets in traditional terms such as "empty nesters", or "people aged 35+ from up to two hours away".
The trouble with this is it's hard to actually imagine them as real people and individuals. So the words you write on your website might sound a bit stilted and less enticing. It's hard to make social media posts really engaging when you're not really sure who you're writing for.
I've got an easier suggestion to try.
It's worth starting with the easiest and most obvious people you could attract: those who will like what you do. Doing this can also help you improve your search engine rankings because you'll use the kind of key words your potential visitors search for.
People like to feel you understand them and know what they're looking for (even when they're not always sure themselves!).
They don't want to work too hard to make a decision. Anything you can do to make it easier for them to choose you is good!
This is partly why Amazon* has been so successful. When you search for a book, they then present other options with a few 'people who chose this also liked...' suggestions. They take away the hard work and make you feel like they know your needs.
Amazon uses expensive personalisation software. You don't need to. But you can help people make a decision in favour of your business.
It's easy. Here's how:
All you need to do is complete this sentence (you could make it a paragraph or list) starting:
"we're perfect /x name of your business is perfect for people who like..."
For example, if you run a camp site with limited facilities, you might write:
We're perfect for people who love camping and like the idea of getting back to basics in a wonderful open space with amazing views and a pub only a mile away.
If you have a holiday cottage in a village, you might write:
Cosy Cottage is perfect for people who want to stay in a beautiful self-catering cottage in the heart of x village, with a small shop, church, lovely village green and pub.
Or if your accommodation is miles away from civilisation, you might write:
We're perfect for people who want to retreat from the world and enjoy the peace and quiet, knowing the nearest village is x miles away.
Whatever you're promoting, you can use a sentence like this to help people feel they've found the right place for them.
It's most powerful when you use a combination of something specific plus a reason for visiting
A specific aspect could be something like a pub (give the name so it's more credible) only a mile away.
The reason for visiting could be some one who wants to retreat, who loves to discover lesser known spots, who wants to enjoy the hustle and bustle of...
*PS. I don't like Amazon. If you'd prefer to support small independent businesses (like yours?) who pay their taxes, try Bookshop.org - they'll deliver directly to you and you can nominate your local bookshop as well so they still get some commission.
Almost every day someone tells me they don't have any time for marketing.
I may have said it myself more than once.
If this is 100% true, then the only option might be to close the business.
Tourism is a competitive industry and it's unlikely any business will last without any marketing at all. So what are we really saying?
What does "I haven't got time to do any marketing" really mean?
Do we mean we don't have any time for any marketing or just certain aspects of it? Responding to bookings, sending emails, talking to visitors are all marketing activities but we don't always 'count' them because they're everyday business essentials.
For some people 'marketing' means anything that seems a bit more effortful - posting regularly on social media, writing blogs, re-vamping your website, considering new markets and how to attract them.
We all complain that we're too busy. We have many different claims on our time that we have to juggle, making choices about our priorities. If you say you don't have time to market your business, you might be suggesting your business just isn't a priority? Because you don't take it seriously or just lack confidence?
Or maybe you really don't see marketing as a priority, because you're bound up with the daily grind of running a business? What if I tell you certain marketing activities could mean more higher income, fewer demanding guests, more time off?
Some people feel they don't have time for marketing because marketing feels a bit fluffy and frivolous, not 'serious' or such 'hard work' as servicing rooms, welcoming visitors or taking them out on activities.
For the majority though I think there are four common issues:
1. You have every intention of finding time to market but somehow other things get in the way.
2. It feels like you need a big block of time to 'do marketing', as if it's a big job that can only be done when you have the luxury of hours and hours of free time - which never happens.
3. Marketing feels never-ending and vague - there are so many things you could do, how do you choose and prioritise? The sheer range of things you could do is enough to cause indecision and lack of action.
4. You're just not sure what to do, how, or when. It's hard to know what works and what's worth doing. Again, if you only have limited time, how do you choose?
If any of these sound familiar, I have two solutions that might help.
First of all, the most effective marketing isn't one big (expensive) thing. It's step by step, small consistent actions that build over time. Anyone can find 15-30 minutes a day to do something purposeful and to make it a habit that you just do, again and again, your marketing activities will soon become effective.
It's massively easier to do that, or to find more time for marketing if:
a) you have an outcome or goal in mind (e.g. if I do this now, I'll attract more visitors and earn £1000 more so I can buy...) and
b) you know exactly what to do. An action plan broken down into smaller, easy-to-achieve steps makes this much easier.
I'll be covering both of these solutions in more depth in the marketing challenge starting this Thursday. It's free! Make sure you sign up here before 9.00 am on 14th January.
Another lockdown, another period of uncertainty and lost revenue.
Hibernation seems like an attractive option. Many of us feel powerless and want to retreat from the world.
Living in the moment and being mindful can be calming and good for mental health. But not always.
I'm not sure that focusing on the horrible reality of what's happening right now is the best way forward.
Taking the long view - thinking more like a butterfly than a chrysalis - can make you feel better, survive and eventually thrive.
During the Winter do you contemplate the desolate bare earth in the garden and hope something will eventually grow? Or have you already planted bulbs and perennials so you know you'll soon see colourful blooms?
When lockdown ends and visitors can travel again, will you tentatively emerge, nervously looking around to see what's going on around you and re-start your business?
Or will you make a joyous 'ta dah' appearance, arms wide open, leaping out of lockdown, secure in the knowledge that you're ready to recoup lost revenue, and ready to welcome visitors with some new ideas and a better, stronger business? Perhaps with the added advantage of knowing you've made your business more efficient, with systems that stop you feeling too exhausted?
Some people are good at sitting still and waiting for the storm to blow over. I'm not. I like to watch which way it's blowing and get ready for the clear up. During difficult times I feel better when I look ahead to clearer skies, armed with a plan which fuels my optimism. I'm using this enforced lockdown to make my business stronger and more effective.
We have gained some certainties from the last lockdowns:
So we do know that there's a strong market for what we do. There's pent up demand.
We also know that there are many businesses waiting to welcome visitors when it's safe to do so.
Some of those businesses are about to close and retreat, to stop their social media and forget about their mailing list until they can re-open. They're the ones who'll take a while to gear up and generate more revenue. Some are actively planning how they can bounce back better and stronger. Which are you?
If you'd like some help to put together a plan to make your business stronger, I hope you'll join me for the free Profit Programme Challenge. The idea is to help you work out what you can do in the coming year to overcome some of the losses of the last year. It's free and easy to participate - sign up here. If you're worried you might not be able to stick to a plan or lack motivation, there's something in the programme for you too!
I've already started to work on my own business plans for the future, and hope you'll be part of them. Over the last year I've noticed that many tourism business owners really need two things.
One is to feel more supported and nurtured. Most feel pretty battered and bruised so I'd like to help you feel less alone.
The other thing I've noticed is that many feel there are just too many things to do to market their business, too many different skills to learn, too many claims on their attention. This means that so many are trying to do everything at once, not necessarily successfully, and possibly wasting money.
If this sounds familiar, I have a plan! More on this soon...
What’s the longest you’ve ever waited for something to pay off?
If you've ever felt like what you're doing isn't working, or questioned whether you should keep going - read on...
Marketing is really all about planting seeds and ideas.
Like seeds, some marketing activities grow instantly, rapidly sprouting and growing, capturing attention like a tall showy sunflower.
Others take a while to get established, perhaps growing slowly and only flowering when the circumstances are exactly right.
We don’t always know which seeds – or marketing activities - will flourish but if you plant them well in the right place, you’ll increase the chances of success. Each seed or marketing activity adds an extra layer and dimension so there's always something blooming.
Sometimes you just have to be patient. It will pay off...
Yesterday, a TV producer called me to talk about ideas for a possible TV series after he’d read an article I wrote. I assumed it was something I wrote last month, or the month. He quickly corrected me. It was in 2016. We talked about making an award-winning documentary together (everyone needs a dream…). That conversation wouldn’t have happened without that article.
It reminded me of a call I received a while ago, from someone who acted as if I knew them well. “Hello Susan, it’s Andy.” I answered in a bright jolly voice, and asked Andy how he was, while I played for time, trying to remember his voice and how I knew him.
It eventually turned out that Andy came to one of my marketing workshops fifteen years earlier. At the time he was a young inexperienced office junior and I wasn’t even sure what I’d taught on the workshop was relevant to him. Something must have struck a chord with him because when he took on a senior job at the BBC and wanted to promote their studio tours, he called to ask me to do some work for the BBC. Whatever you do today, could have a massive impact on your future - you just don't know which action will reap the best returns!
Seth Godin has written a lot about the 'Dip', the time when you just feel like you're in a deep dip and are not sure whether to continue doing what you're doing. Many people do give in at that point.
Yet this could be the very moment just before you start to be really successful, If you can keep going beyond the dip, maintain your enthusiasm, learn as much as you can, apply all the lessons, you'll forge ahead.
There'll be less competition because others fail at that point. You'll have faced challenges head-on and hopefully come up with some new ideas and different ways of doing things.
Businesses that go through the dip are stronger for it. They're no longer relying on the initial enthusiasm of establishing a business, they're taking what they do seriously. They're considering what works and what doesn't, what they really need to do to positively affect the future. Of course some businesses do need to change or are not viable, but if you can face the challenges and adapt, you're set for greater success.
I’m ending this year in a more positive frame of work because I have a very concrete (££!) example of the power of patience and plodding on.
During lockdown my paid projects were paused and I wasn’t eligible for any of the government support. It was really frustrating to see that businesses needed support, advice and encouragement, but there was no funding for me to provide that help. I decided to just keep offering it, together with the free marketing recovery programme and was buoyed along by my very supportive online communities and really positive business feedback (thank you if you were part of this).
During this time a man called Darren noticed what I was doing (through social media) and got in touch. He worked for NFU Mutual and we talked about how they attract new tourism & hospitality clients by providing support and advice rather than doing the usual hard sell. He asked me to write an article for distribution to their clients. Something told me not to charge for that first article, to just let the advice in it prove its worth. Darren told me later that they'd gained business from it, which led to more conversations when we realised that we both value relationship building and share similar business ethics. Fast forward a few very enjoyable discussions and NFU Mutual announced that they would like to sponsor some of the work I do to support businesses like yours! This means that in 2021 I’ll be able to offer some additional services, effectively subsidised by NFU Mutual.
Patience has been a bit of a theme for 2020.
For much of the time we’ve had to be patient, to just keep going and looking forward to better times. Hopefully 2021 will be a different, better year. But whatever happens, we all need to just keep planting those marketing seeds, making sure they’re in the right place at the right time and nurture them so they can grow and your business can flourish.
If you want to be certain you're starting 2021 in the most effective way possible, do join my free Profit Programme Challenge
It's cold. You're busy. The rules keep changing. It's been a hard year. If we had to list all our moans we could probably come up with a top ten within a few minutes.
Could you manage an equally long list of positives? Some ideas for things to look forward to? Why you think 2021 is likely to be really good? What's exciting you?
Scribble down every positive you can think of, and keep adding to the list whenever you can.
This isn't just a Pollyanna approach to life: it's good marketing.
Years ago I worked for a specialist tour operator and incentive house. Every hotelier wanted to sell us their rooms, to convince us to pay top prices for their luxurious places to stay. A steady stream of sales managers came to tell us about their hotels. I remember we were looking forward to meeting the representative of one upmarket hotel chain as we were planning to send a large group to stay with them. It was a rainy day and the sales manager came into the office, shaking off her wet umbrella, moaning about the weather, talking about the terrible traffic. Within five minutes she'd delivered so many downbeat messages, we struggled to show any enthusiasm for the hotel, despite it previously being the forerunner for a lucrative contract. It might have been wrong to judge the hotel by that miserable woman but we couldn't help it - they employed her.
A couple of hours later - by which time it was raining even harder and there was a puddle outside the office door - in bounced another hotel representative. She grinned as she came into the office, and presented us with a bunch of bright yellow flowers, saying "I thought these looked so lovely and cheerful you might like them in your office". I still remember her name and the name of the hotel she was promoting. It wasn't quite so well-known as the other one, but we all agreed we instinctively felt her hotel would offer better service and gave her the contract. We continued to use that hotel for several other groups too.
Of course, we all make decisions based on more than just a bunch of yellow flowers. But the fact remains that we all want to feel better. We judged large hotels based on one of their employees. If you run a small business, then inevitably you're responsible for your business 'brand' and how people respond to the business.
If your social media posts are full of moans about the weather, comments about how glad you are that 2020 is nearly over, what does that tell potential visitors?
Let's start a list of all the positives we can think of, the reasons why we think 2021 will be brilliant, what we're most looking forward to, why we're excited about the year ahead.
Find images to go with these ideas and include them on your website.
Write a blog and share it widely on social media.
Post upbeat and enthusiastic messages and images on social media.
Send emails full of passion and positivity.
I promise it will pay off. And you'll feel better.
Amanda Brown specialises in PR and deals with journalists every day. Competition for column inches is fierce so it's frustrating when we have an opportunity to get media coverage for our clients but they miss out because the basics aren't in place.
Here's what Amanda says about photography:
If you read the travel sections of national newspapers or online features, you’ll find you gravitate towards the stories where there’s a cracking photo next to the article. Good images get people to read more, buy papers, and stay online for longer.
Such is the importance of good imagery that many newspapers and magazines like The Times or Country Living will have a specific team or desk dedicated to sourcing pictures. These teams don’t have any hand in writing the stories as their sole remit is to ensure the publication looks good and the words zing off the pages with high quality, appropriate pictures.
This week I was reminded how much time I spend sourcing photos when the picture editor of The Times asked me for a selection of photos to go with a piece on UK wildlife adventures. What should have been a two-minute job took two hours once I’d spoken to the experience and accommodation providers, discounted the poor quality images as well as those taken in summer, despite it being a winter theme...
So why am I sharing my woes with you? Well because irrespective of whether I’m sourcing the pics (when the time I spend on the task eats into a client’s fee) or you are asked directly for images, not having the right pictures could result in your story being dropped from the feature.
The quality of images needs a whole separate feature to do it justice but a few things to bear in mind:
Note from Susan Briggs: I'd definitely echo all Amanda says above. Similar tips also apply to websites. I once had a double page spread in Conde Nast travel magazine ready to go - a huge amount of free publicity for a tourism business - but the editor decided the images were not good enough, and said their readers would click through to the business' website and when they saw the lack of decent images would click out again. The feature was spiked, dead and forgotten. Don't let it happen to you!
It's glib of me to suggest you can actually make money while you sleep. But...
You can. Even if your business is closed, you can generate some essential revenue through gift vouchers. You might be surprised at how much you can make - I'll come on to that in a moment - and the additional benefits.
If you already offer gift vouchers, do you actively promote them through-out the year?
How enticing do your vouchers look? Are they available as a digital download so people can buy with confidence and be automatically sent a professionally-produced voucher (while you sleep...) ?
There are some very reasonably priced services that are easy to use and can help you do this - more on that later.
What are the benefits of selling gift vouchers?
You might be surprised to know that as many as 30% of vouchers are never redeemed, so you may even pocket more cash.
When using vouchers, many people trade up, spending well above the voucher price.
Gift vouchers can introduce new guests and customers to your business.
They are excellent last-minute present suggestions, which you can promote even when you're closed.
High Street shops have offered gift vouchers for years but they can seem impersonal, More and more people want to shop local, to support independent businesses and to offer more personal gifts. That's where you come in, being able to offer something much more interesting and thoughtful.
Everyone likes to have something to look forward to. This year that's truer than ever, so gift vouchers are likely to be big business.
If you're looking for a company to help you integrate good-looking vouchers into your website as an easy-to-buy-easy-to-sell service, GIft Voucher Brilliance can help - email Clare Bushby. They provide the set up of the voucher 'shop' without charge and then charge commission (from 6.5% +VAT) on the value of vouchers sold online, and can arrange for postal versions too.
Clare says the service has been incredibly popular, particularly as it means owners don't have to worry about the technology or fulfilment service.
If you needed to carry some water and had a bucket with a hole in it, would you just keep re-filling your leaky bucket? Probably not?
It doesn't make sense to just keep filling a leaky bucket, yet many tourism businesses are like a bucket with a hole in the bottom...
They spend a lot of time and money attracting new customers, over and over again. They need to do that to build their business.
But there's a hole in their marketing.
What about the visitors you already get? What are you doing to encourage them to come back again, or to tell other people about you?
If you have happy customers, it makes total sense to remind them how much they enjoyed their time with you and give them good reasons to return. Even when we have a brilliant time and plan to go back somewhere we forget. We need a reminder.
Sending out enticing mailings is the best way to encourage visitors to return, to stay longer, to spend more, and to tell others.
It's easy, it's fast, it's cheap and you can monitor its effectiveness so sending out good mailings make sense.
Most people don't have a good mailing list. Or they have a list but it's out of date.
Many only send out mailings now and then, usually with a special offer, when they're desperate for business. It doesn't work very well.
Some people have a vague idea that they might one day start doing more consistent mailings but they're worried about being pushy or bothering people or doing something that's against the GDPR law.
Many send out a couple of mailings with really good intentions but then run out of steam and ideas for content.
Some people do send out more regular mailings but don't get the response rates they want.
If any of this sounds familiar, it's time for a change! Mailings can be incredibly effective if you:
It's easy to learn how to do all this. If you'd like to build your business without a hole in your marketing, join me on this practical marketing workshop.
Have you noticed how many of the travel pages in the national press are covered in lists and top tens, fives, twenties?
Often known as 'listicles', these articles ca be very powerful.
If your business is mentioned in one of the lists, thousands of people will read it.The article is likely to stay online for years. You can increase the reach by sharing a link to the article on social media.
It may even improve your search engine rankings because they use media mentions as part of their ranking algorithms, even when the publication doesn't offer a direct link to your website.
I work with Amanda Brown on PR projects. She's excellent at getting coverage for our tourism and hospitality clients because as an ex-journalist herself she knows how they think.
Here's her tip for getting a mention in one of those listicles.
There have been many lucky times when I’ve sent travel journalists information and it’s been one of those lovely moments when the timing ties in perfectly with a piece that is being written so they can feature my client.
However there are even more moments when the information is useful but not for ‘right now’. This is why it pays to be a bit savvy and think about the way a journalist might work.
Journalists will often put emails into saved folders which they can search to find content at a later date. When they do so, they'll be looking for information in a hurry. Few travel journalists have the product knowledge that enables them to write 'Top ten secret places for a romantic rendezvous' or 'Top twenty places to walk with llamas and alpacas in the UK' without doing a little research. Yet they are probably working to a very tight deadline and scrambling for the right information.
This is where your information comes in. If you have sent the right kind of useful content to the journalist, they'll have saved it 'just in case'. They'll hurriedly search their inbox, looking for relevant emails.
The best thing you can do is to think carefully about the subject line in your email, just as you would when thinking about the right key words to write on your website so the search engines can find you. For instance, it could be 'new walking holidays, Yorkshire' or 'treehouse accommodation, Yorkshire Dales'. The first two paragraphs of your email will be equally important so don't waffle, be factual and make sure you include the kind of keywords that are essential to your business.
Journalists writing themed round-up features or listicles want a good spread of locations so when they delve into the saved folder they’re likely to search their emails by geographical area as well as the theme - don't forget to indicate your location and region.
Are you feeling a little exhausted?
Like you’re treading water, just about staying afloat but without any real rewards?
You’re not alone: I work with hundreds of tourism and hospitality businesses and whether it’s due to the Covid pandemic or Winter, many feel exactly the same.
Fortunately there are some really simple actions you can take right now, to feel like you’re making progress, and getting ready for easier times.
I have five suggestions for must-do marketing to help you bounce back better.
Each will work equally well after the pandemic or during a ‘normal’ off-season.
Each of these activities are straightforward and either free or low cost. Surprisingly few businesses do them properly. So the good news for you is that with only a little effort you’ll be ready to move from survive to thrive…
Read the full article here in the Tourism Network online community - it's free, quick and easy to join.
Please note: all articles are copyright Susan Briggs 2021
Build your business, using my tourism expertise, energy & enthusiasm
All articles on this site are copyright Susan Briggs, The Tourism Network Ltd 2021
Email Susan Briggs
The Tourism Network Ltd, The Old Mill, Millgate, Masham, HG4 4EZ
Tel: 07768 365591