If you're in the UK, you'll have noticed a cooler breeze and sense that Autumn is on its way. This is when many tourism business owners and managers decide to hibernate, to collapse in an exhausted heap and be glad they don't have to put on their happy face for visitors until next Spring.
Others take the time to wonder what they could have done to generate more business over the past few months and how they can make the off-season more profitable.
A question: who do you think is most likely to walk furthest, in the fastest time and get fittest?
a) the group with the right walking boots, a planned route, a proper map and a really good lunch; or
b) the group who decide to set off on their walk on the spur of the moment with little else other than enthusiasm, and willingness to see where their path will take them?
The spontaneous wanderers might enjoy their outing but they're also likely to get hungry en route, waste time getting lost and meet barriers on the way - and they're not really sure where they're going.
The better prepared group have done everything they can to increase their chances of arriving at their final destination and being able to celebrate their achievement.
Why am I using this analogy? I meet a lot of business owners and managers who tell me they want 'more business'. When I ask them how much more, the answer is 'more'.
When I ask when they want more business, the answer is often 'all the time, but especially off-peak'
When I ask what they think they need to do to get more business, their answer is usually 'more marketing', often with the proviso that they don't want to spend too much.
There's nothing wrong with these responses, but they're so vague the chances of these businesses owners ever celebrating reaching their chosen destination is slim. They haven't really decided on their destination. Like the spontaneous wanderers, they're basing their business plans more on hope than a carefully chosen route.
I've found that after three decades working in tourism marketing, I can help almost any business to find new ways to market themselves or find new markets or make their business better in some way. Most of the time they can achieve quite a lot simply by implementing practical advice I give them. That's one of the great satisfactions of doing what I do. But is it enough?
A few tweaks may be sufficient for some businesses but I don't think it's enough for most.
I feel increasingly frustrated by how many businesses are effectively leaving money on the table, running themselves ragged and actually restricting their income. Why?
It's not because they don't want to earn more, or make their marketing more efficient.
It's because they're not brave enough to set targets for their business. They may compare years of revenue or bookings but that's not the same as setting stretching targets, and identifying a structured plan to achieve them.
Some claim it's down to lack of time, but the reality is that they've not taken the decision to invest a couple of hours to plan the future of their business to make life easier later.
It can be a brave step. If you set a target and don't achieve it, that's not a good feeling Some don't set targets because they're scared of failing. Setting targets means making quite a dramatic step forward. It's making a commitment to yourself, saying you believe your business will still be here in years to come. It's being a proper grown up, daring to believe in yourself and the dream of your business.
A couple of weeks ago I had an email from a business owner outlining all she'd achieved over the past few years and suggesting what she'd like to do next. She ended her email asking, "am I being too ambitious? Do you think it's right to think I can do this?"
Of course she wasn't being too ambitious. Is it really possible to be too ambitious for your business, assuming you don't do anything untoward to fulfil your ambitions?
For some reason a lot of business owners doubt their ambition. It's almost as if someone somewhere has set out some rules about what we're allowed to believe about ourselves and we're scared of breaking them. There are no rules! You're allowed to think big. It's good to identify what your'e trying to achieve.
Occasionally I meet someone who tells me exactly what they'd like to achieve, by when. They've determined a clear target for success, and just need advice on what to do to reach it. Such business owners are not only more successful, they tend to spend less time agonising about what they're doing and they don't waste money on the 'wrong' marketing. I've often found the only difference between them and other less successful businesses is that they've actually taken the time to think about their business and their targets. Seriously, it can be that easy.
So now's your opportunity. Use these quieter months to give your marketing and business some oomph, by being much more intentional about what you'll do to improve.
It's easy to get started. You can do it right now. Just answer a few questions:
Don't just think about these questions. Spend a bit of time thinking about your answers. Write them down. Writing down targets can be a much more powerful motivator than just vaguely hoping.
Then all you need to do is work out what actions you'll take to reach those targets...
I'm planning to be able to help you with that too, and am currently working on a step-by-step 'system' to help you reach those goals. More on that later...
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Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs