When it's mid-season and you're (hopefully) busy, it's hard to find any time to do any marketing. Yet this is the time when you can stimulate recommendations and repeat business.
If they've had a good time, most people want to talk about it, and will tell others. But... they often forget. Or they get busy and only tell a couple of people.
That's where 'talk triggers' come in. Small gestures, or things that remind people to talk about you. Memories are wonderful, and I keep saying that people value experiences more than 'stuff' but small physical reminders are still very useful talk triggers.
Here are a couple of examples, followed by some other ideas you might use for your own business.
I took my mum out for afternoon tea at the splendid Grantley Hall yesterday. As we left, she was given a doggy bag containing the remaining scones and pastries. She would have probably told others about the excellent afternoon tea anyway, but the doggy bag meant she had something to show as well. It was a simple cardboard box, but printed on shiny green with the hotel's crest on it - all very much on brand, looking smarter than the average doggy bag. We'd already paid for the cakes and the box would cost little to print but it had a huge impact.
By the evening my mother had invited a friend to sample the left over treats, decided to invite some other friends to go for afternoon tea another day (using her smart doggy bag to show them why). She sent a photo of it to my daughter who declared it looked very 'instagramable' which of course means she now wants to go too. I told some friends about our afternoon tea, showed them the doggy bag and its contents and we all decided we'd like to try lunch there another day. That's a lot of additional business stimulated by just one cardboard box.
Speaking of doggy boxes, I hit on a very simple way to get repeat businesses for my dog-friendly holiday cottage. Lots of people say they 'accept dogs' but dog-lovers don't want their doggy darlings to just be tolerated. Genuinely welcoming dogs can have a big impact. The first times I 'accepted' dogs in the cottage I offered a couple of items to off-set potential damage: dog bowls so guests didn't just use my 'human' dishes, large towel to encourage owners to clean their canines, a couple of dog chews to distract any furniture nibblers, and some poo bags. It was funny how many dog owners left me thank you cards written by their dogs. When I added some suggestions for dogs-off-the-lead walks as well, they were ecstatic. And most dog owners know plenty of other dog owners...
Another example comes from a long time ago when I worked for a small tour operator. When visitors arrived in England from overseas we used to give them small welcome packs including a pre-stamped postcard to encourage them to write home about the destination. Postcards are now even more of a novelty so perhaps that's something you could offer? Adding a stamp puts up the cost but is much appreciated.
The key to getting more recommendations is to be remarkable, or offer a physical memento. Travel mints or sweets with the name of the accommodation and website on the lid is a good touch. I know of accommodation owners who use small touches like cleaning guest car windscreens before they leave to make themselves more memorable. Actions can be small and cost-free but must be remarkable to ensure word of mouth recommendations.
It's worth thinking about any niches you target to consider what might be most appropriate for your markets. For example, walkers might appreciate maps or small guide books (make sure you stamp them with your business name), parents will love little pocket puzzles for children to enjoy on the journey home.
Activity providers might offer ideas for post-experience exercises or more activity suggestions for another time. Many accommodation providers offer cake on arrival which is a lovely touch - is there something you could offer to make a lasting impression on departure? One B&B I stayed in had a novel touch in their room - they had a tray with two glasses, a cocktail shaker, small bottles and recipe to make a cocktail on arrival. They'd thought of every detail including a tiny jar containing the two blackberries to garnish the cocktails. They'd cleverly not mentioned this on their website or in any of the booking information so it was a complete surprise. I couldn't help but take a photo and post about that place on social media...
Many restaurants serve homemade fudge and chocolates with coffee at the end of every meal, but by that time most diners are already full. Offering a tiny box (bearing the restaurants name and number) of chocolates after the bill has been paid will have more impact and memorability.
Do you already offer some kind of 'talk trigger' or have your got an idea for one? I'd be interested to hear your ideas, and how they work for you.
Free tourism marketing advice
Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs