The weather is awful - or the forecast says it will be, which can be just as bad for business.
Many businesses panic and start offering discounts to attract visitors, but that's not really the answer.
What can you do to prevent your tourism business being ruined by bad weather?
Here are a few ideas that really do work: click here to read more.
You’ve put everything you have into making your business as good as it can be. You’ve poured in blood, sweat, tears, money, your heart and soul. And then like a slap in the face, you suddenly get a bad review or negative feedback.
I’ve spoken to many tourism business owners who feel really demoralised when this happens. It’s so easy to focus on one bad review, even when all your others are excellent.
It’s even worse when the reviewer is being dishonest or unreasonable. So, what can you do?
Everyone has off-days and it’s unrealistic to believe you can please everyone all the time. Sometimes bad reviews are nothing to do with what you’ve done, but more to do with how the reviewer was feeling at the time and what’s happening in their life. Think about it - if you go out for a meal with a partner in a bad mood, you’re far less likely to think the meal was good. You might be readier to find fault, because that’s how you’re feeling. As a business owner, you have little control over the attitudes of others.
But don’t get too demoralised – the odd bad review can actually be good for business! Really? Yes!
Click here to read more, and find out what to do about bad reviews.
"Buy one, get one free!".
Sound familiar? Of course it does.
20%, 50% discount... price led promotions are everywhere.
Don't show your desperation
There's a place for them, but more often than not, price-led promotions are lazy marketing, a not very imaginative way to show the world that your business isn't doing so well and you're desperate for trade. Years ago marketing tactics like this were less usual. They had more impact. Now they're the norm. No matter how big the discount they don't stand out so they have little effect.
Some people think they raise awareness of particular products but how can they do that when the market is saturated with them? When they need more business, many business owners use a price-led promotion without considering other marketing methods. Far better to try everything else first and maintain your prices, then discount when absolutely necessary. Click here to find out how to avoid using discounts - and when they work
I've had a lot of conversations recently with business owners and managers who don't want to be too 'salesy'.
They worry that if they talk up their business too much, and describe all its benefits in great detail, they'll sound like they're boasting. They don't want to be 'pushy'.
Does this sound like you?
Are you good at telling people about your business? How good are you at selling what you do?
I'd say that out of every 100 businesses I work with, fewer than 20 are actually good at selling themselves. Even those that are good at selling could do it more. So there's huge scope for growth of your business.
Here are some suggestions, and responses to frequent comments and concerns about selling and promoting your business, whether you do it in words on your website, in your social media or in person. Read more here:
Can I trust you? How do I know that you're trustworthy? Does it matter? Yes, it really does - you can't build a business without building trust.
Few of us are ready to pay good money for something that we're not certain of, or don't trust. We may seem to happily hand over our cash for goods and services online but in our sub-conscious we're constantly asking ourselves questions.
Is this really as good as it looks? Is it worth the money? Is the company genuine? Is it too good to be true? How do I know this will live up to my expectations? If I pay now, will my money be safe?
Tourism business owners often ask me how they can make their website or social media more effective, to generate more revenue. There are lots of different ways to do that but one aspect is often forgotten.
You need to build trust. People will only visit you and stay with you if they believe what you say online. They need to be convinced, and building trust is part of the sales process. Quite often people are on the point of buying from you but there's something almost indiscernible in the way. Building trust helps get you over the final hurdle to a sale.
Here are some tips to help you build trust:
We ask questions to find out more, and to reassure ourselves that we're making the right decision. If we're looking online for something, it's harder to ask questions directly so we expect to see all the information we need clearly laid out for us. When we don't see it, or when we need more reassurance, we go to other sites such as TripAdvisor. That's when we often get side-tracked and forget to go back to the original site. One of the most common web mistakes I see is not providing enough information. So long as you layer the information (most important info at the top of the page, less important a click away), and break it up with cross-headings and sub-titles, you'll build trust without overwhelming people with information.
This is one of the most important things you can do to create trust and build your business. Keep a consistent style through out your website, and use the same colours and fonts in everything you do. Think about your public communications - are they consistent, do they build trust? If you post on social media once in a blue moon, and then do a flurry of posts or post about a load of different and random topics not relating to your business, you won't build trust.
If you send out an irregular newsletter and don't say in advance that it's intended to be irregular, you won't build trust. I find that it's much easier to be consistent if I set a day/time when I'm going to do something and let others know, and then deliver as I promised. So for example, I send out a mailing to tourism businesses every Tuesday. Over time, those businesses start to notice that this is something I do every Tuesday, and hopefully they'll trust me and be ready to use my advice.
Be an expert
There is masses of information available on the internet but we increasingly turn to people we trust rather than faceless organisations. You can very easily build a reputation as a local expert by creating content about your local area. This will help build your search engine rankings as well as helping visitors to trust you.
Be real, be visible and have two way conversations
We all want to buy from real people we trust. But it's hard to trust some one if we don't know who they are! Have you got information about you, your business ethos, your interests on your website? When people talk about you on social media do you respond? Do you share their posts and encourage conversations?
Use social proof
We are much more likely to believe recommendations from people we think are like us. Social proof can be very powerful - look out for more information about this in next week's blog.
Imagine if I tried to get you to pay money for something you'd never heard of? Would you pay? For your sake, I hope not!
Would you buy something you knew about, but didn't see how you could benefit from it? I doubt it.
Imagine now that your friend has recommended something to you. They're full of praise and you can see how great it would be for you too. You're thinking about when you can buy it, how you can get it. Your mind isn't even focusing on how much it costs - you're ready to pay what is necessary to have it because you can really see how you'll benefit.
I quite often tell my clients to try to get inside the mind of their visitors and customers. That can be quite hard to do, especially if you don't necessarily get to actually meet them all.
Why do I suggest this marketing mind-reading? If you can imagine what your clients and visitors are thinking, it's much easier to create promotional messages on your website, in your social media and other activities. It makes your marketing much more effective. You tend to stop saying 'we' and start saying 'you', an important transition.
You might say you don't know how your potential visitors think, yet hopefully you know your own mind, and can distance yourself a little from your own marketing, to see it from the visitor's perspective.
My example above illustrates that it's much harder to get people to part with their money if they don't know what they're buying. Most of us don't spend money until we've got a good answer to the essential question, 'what's in it for me?'
If someone you know has made a recommendation to you, and you can see how you'd benefit, (you've mentally answered 'what's in it for me?') you're ready to pay money.
So, it's worth bearing in mind the five stages we all go through when deciding to buy something.
When people haven't heard of you at all, it's much harder to sell to them. At this stage you need to stand back a little and consider how to get them interested in the first place. Promoting your local area and telling potential visitors about the destination will be more important than simply telling them about your business. You need to use some kind of hook - such as the beauty of your local area - to attract them in the first place.
At this stage, media coverage, general social media messages and local collaborations work best. Messages need to be repeated quite frequently to have an impact. It's best to vary them, and try to think about your business through the eyes of someone who's only just finding out about it. What do they most need to know to become more interested?
Once people have heard of your area, or maybe even your business, your promotional work isn't over. You now need to help them think about what you offer, and to start to show how it's relevant to potential visitors. This is when you need to start to show what's in it for them.
Once some one can positively answer the question, 'what's in it for me', everything changes. They start to imagine themselves spending time in your area. They can see why it's worth considering your business. They start to need more detailed information, becoming more interested as you enhance their understanding of what you have to offer. But remember, they may still also be considering other places too so you need to keep promoting to them, to show how your business is special, better or different from others.
This is where potential visitors have moved beyond understanding the answer to the question 'what's in it for me?' to actually wanting to come to you, buy from you or make a booking. They're convinced. You could still fail to give them the right information, upset or irritate them in some way, but if you get it right, these visitors are yours! This is also an important point when if you impress, they may start to tell others about you.
Response means they're now booking, buying, visiting, and actually paying money! We used to see this as the end goal but that would mean ignoring the power of recommendations, reviews and social media. You can't quite rest yet - you still need to impress and encourage the people who like what you do to tell others....
There are certain questions that I'm asked over and over again. One of these is:
Social media takes up so much time, and I don't even know if I'm doing the right thing or if it's working. What can I do? Sound familiar?
Let's deal with the first bit first. Does social media really take up so much time? It can certainly be a time sink if you spend ages reading everyone's post but if you've got a proper content plan and you have a real purpose to everything you post, it only takes a few moments to add your contribution, and create some engagement online.
So when we talk about how effective it is, what do we really mean?
Most people want more business, more visitors so I think what they're really asking is whether social media can help them achieve that?
The quick answer is 'yes' but... it works in different ways.
A quick way to know a little about the effect of your social media is to look at your Google Analytics and see if social media refers 'traffic' or visitors to your website. If you use more than one social media tool, you'll quickly see which is the most effective.
However, social media works in other ways too. Some people will hopefully see your social media and come straight to you, not necessarily looking at your website.
You can't get more business or visitors if people don't know about you. Social media can help you reach out to more people, raising your profile. It can help you to make sure potential customers understand what you offer and why it's special and different. You can use social media to build trust in your business, which is fundamental to encourage anyone to spend money. It can help journalists find out about you, and give them ideas for features. It can remind people about you, or act as a trigger to get people talking about you. You can use social media to develop your mailing list and to create collaborations with others.
Marketing isn't about one single activity - it's about layers and layers of smaller steps that collectively persuade people to book or buy. Social media can help with many of those layers of activity.
So when you ask whether your social media is effective, perhaps you should instead be asking yourself if you've spent enough time deciding how you want it to be effective and what you want to achieve? What are you trying to use social media for?
This is not for everyone.
That phrase sounds a little off-putting doesn't it? But also intriguing? It's a bit like when you put up a curtain - people instinctively want to peer behind it.
The opposite is something for everyone which might sound more open but somehow manages to turn people off - it's too bland, too vague.
Humans like intrigue. They like to be on the 'inside track'. Say you have a secret and people want to know what it is. Say you have something that's in short supply, demand increases. Imply something is restricted, perhaps by rolling out a red carpet and rope barrier, and people wish they could be part of whatever's happening.
Telling people that you have something that's "not for everyone" might sound off-putting but actually the reverse is true.
Years ago, I was asked to help promote an area of London that estate agents might describe as 'up and coming'. It was quite a poor area but the local authority wanted to use some of their (well-) hidden charms to attract people to spend money in the area. It had some really interesting, beautiful spots but a lot of ugly areas too. As you arrived at the tube station and looked up and down the road, there were a lot of dilapidated buildings. It's a hard task to make that sort of place attractive.
Contrast that with other areas of London at that time - lots of glitzy promotion of sparkly new buildings and attractions, smart bars and restaurants. How could our area compete? I decided it was far easier to be different, and take the opposite approach.
We didn't use the glossy images that you most often see in tourism promotion. We used honest pictures that did show the beautiful historic buildings but within their context, next door to slightly more dilapidated ones. We also set out to say 'this area isn't for everyone. It will really only suit more intelligent visitors who can look beyond the obvious to see the hidden gems.'
Some people thought we were brave. Others considered us odd or mad. But the honesty and direct approach paid off.
Most people think deep down that they’re quite intelligent and open-minded so we didn’t really put off that many people. Most people are also curious. We started to see a steady upturn in visitors, who were more than willing to explore the lesser known corners, to feel they were the first to discover a hidden gem, to take pictures of the quirkier, less obvious cafes, buildings, and attractions and to share them with their friends. They enjoyed the kudos of being the first to appreciate that corner of London, and happy spread the word to others.
How might this help you promote your business?
By being really specific about the kind of people who're most likely to enjoy what you have to offer, you'll find three things:
1. It's much easier to promote your business and write appealingly about it if you can picture the people you're targeting. You'll use the words they're more likely to use and be more attractive to them. Search engines will love you too.
2. You'll have happier visitors because the ones who come to you are the right ones for your business. They will also tell other people about you, talking to others in their 'tribe' so they'll spread the word on your behalf.
3. You might think that being really specific will restrict opportunities but it does the opposite. You get fewer difficult customers because you've been more specific. Interestingly though, it can help to attract new and different people who don't fit exactly into your target category and market, but who would like to be in that market, people who aspire to be like the people you're attracting.
It can take some courage to move away from something for everyone into not for everyone or only for very lovely people who will be truly appreciate of what you offer but it's well worth it. I challenge you to try right now. Define the people you want, and change the words and images you use in your marketing to appeal directly to them.
Question: what's the quickest, easiest, cheapest way to improve your marketing?
Answer: I'll tell you once you've read a bit more.
OK, I'll tell you now, in case you haven't already guessed from the words above?
Words are powerful things, and cost absolutely nothing.
Choose the right words on your website, in your phone conversations, on social media, in any kind of promotional activity and you'll instantly add power to your marketing.
Many people tell me they're 'not good at writing'. But they never tell me they're not good at speaking. Writing is just making a note of the words you'd like to speak. If you really think you're terrible at writing (few people really are), try using the dictate mode in Word or on your phone.
I'll offer a few tips to help improve your writing in a moment. First, let's consider what I've written above as there a few tips in there.
Question: what's the quickest, easiest, cheapest way to improve your marketing?
Tip: use a question to which the answer is likely to be 'yes' as a headline and to encourage people to read more. Don't overdo it though!
Tip: Trigger words like 'quick, easy, cheap' grab attention. Think about the words you could use to grab attention among the visitors you want to reach. Everyone's trigger words will be different. They might include words like 'peace', 'child-friendly'... What are yours?
Answer: I'll tell you once you've read a bit more.
Tip: Short sentences are more powerful than long ones
Tip: You can use words to engage people and get them to pay attention. If you directly ask people to do something, often they will
More writing tips:
1. Before you start to write anything, think: what is your key message for that piece of writing? What one thing do you need to get across? Start from that point.
2. Just write. Write rubbish, write the wrong words, but keep writing. Any writer will tell you that they almost always write more than one draft. Write, refine, write, refine. Once you've started to write, the words will flow. Once you've written them, you can decide which words really matter.
3. Keep it short. Shorter sentences have more impact. Which are the most important words? Keep them, then look at how you can cut down everything else you've written.
4. Get rid of over-used, meaningless words. These bland expressions should be banned from your marketing:
5. Be memorable. I know that the points listed under no 4 sound bossy. I also know that over the next few weeks I'll bump into readers who will tell me they're stopped using those words and that they've remembered what I've said. You also need to find a way to be memorable and distinctive.
6. Use the words and style that get the most attention. Which would make you book?:
“All our bedrooms are individually designed and have en-suite facilities” or “You’ll be able to relax and unwind in one of our comfortable bedrooms".
'You' is much more powerful than 'we'. Turn sentences round to make them stronger.
7. Remember FAB. FAB stands for Features, Advantages, Benefits. Features tell, benefits sell. Most people write more about the features than the benefits. That's the wrong way round! Let's take the example of a play area.
Features: adventure playground, maze etc. Features are the components of the product or service.
Advantages: making this product/service better than another. E.g. safety award for playground, novel design
Benefits: what the features and advantages actually mean for the person buying or using the service or product.
If we were trying to promote this play area to a stressed parent we might write something like: 'sit and relax for a few moments while your children use some of their surplus energy on xx, enjoying the aaa, bbb, ccc.
8. And another thing. Remember those rules you learnt at school? Don't start a sentence with And or But? Every sentence needs a verb? You're allowed to break the rules. No one will arrest you. And breaking the rules can be really effective and attention-grabbing. But you knew that anyway!
I'll be back with some more writing tips in another post soon.
Do I have special magical powers? Am I a witch? These were the questions a young girl asked me around this time last year.
Her eyes were shining and her face was a picture of wonderment. She thought she was too old to believe in magic but as far as she was concerned I'd just performed a trick that involved mind reading, persuasion and making money. A powerful combination.
Yes, once again you're wondering why I'm telling this odd story. Bear with me - there's a lesson here for all of us, that could really change your business for the better. You don't need to believe in magic spells, just the power of a good target.
Every year at the end of September I spend 2 days volunteering at the Masham Sheep Fair, selling programmes & beautifully designed, themed t-towels in aid of local charities such as Yorkshire Air Ambulance. It's usually cold. It can get a bit boring. Last year I was helped by Ellie, a 12 year old I hadn't met before. She was keen but dispirited when we still had 1/3 of the t-towels left on Sunday afternoon with only 2 hours of the show left. We hadn't sold anything for half an hour.
To cheer her up I said, "I'm going to sell 2 t-towels to one person in 10 minutes, I'm sure of it". Within 10 minutes a woman had come over to buy a t-towel. She hesitated and then decided to get a second one for her sister. Ellie was amazed.
I then said, "next, we're going to sell 3 separate t-towels in 10 minutes to 2 women and 1 man". Exactly that happened.
"Ok", I said, "I'm clearly a witch. So this time I'm going to sell 3 t-towels (unheard of at the show) to 1 person in the next 2 minutes". Along came a woman who bought 2 t-towels. Ellie looked surprised, then pleased then disappointed when she remembered I'd promised to sell 3. We were just about to turn to each other and commiserate when the woman turned round and said, "I've just thought of some one else who'd like one so I'll have a third one please". You can imagine Ellie's face.
At that point, we were starting to get excited. I let Ellie set the target and the time limit for each little milestone. We set a target, we sold, we laughed, we set a target, we sold, we laughed... and with 20 minutes to spare before the event closed we sold the last t-towel, even the dirty ones that had been on display.
"I'll never forget that", said Ellie. I was feeling pretty stunned too. In 32 years of the Sheep Fair, it's very unusual to sell every single t-towel, especially when the weather isn't great.
So what happened? Am I a witch? Possibly, but I think it might be less exciting than that and it could work for you too.
When you set a tangible goal, and then set some milestones and time targets, it's much easier to be successful. Most of the time we just drift. When we really set our minds to it, we can truly make a difference.
I often ask business owners if they've set a revenue target (or any other target) for the coming year. I'd say only around 30% ever do. When I ask why not, there are several reasons but one of the underlying ones is fear. Setting an ambitious target might sound boastful (even though no-one else need know!). You might not feel very good if you don't reach the target (but by setting one you'll at least be able to aim higher than usual?). Some businesses set targets but don't review them. Very few actually set targets, break them down by month or week, and then set themselves mini targets with milestones for action, reviewing activity each month. Can you guess what happens to those businesses that do exactly that?
Yes, it must be magic because the businesses I've worked with that do set targets, break them down into more achievable mini-goals with concrete action points are most successful. They're focused and motivated. There's even more magic in the air - I've noticed those business owners don't even necessarily work harder, but they focus on what's worth doing and have real clarity for their actions, not bothering with time-wasting activities.
Are you ready to say 'Abracadabra!' to make your business better? Join me in the Tourism Knowhow facebook group or add comments below, and motivate yourself and others, setting some public goals (you don't have to give full details) to make yourself more accountable - and more successful.
This doesn't just have to be about setting financial targets. I know that I have some weeks when I'm much more productive than others. The thing that makes the biggest difference to me is having a very clear plan for the week/month with definite goals I want to achieve. And I'm more likely to achieve them when I've told others about them.
So I'll tell you about my goals for the next six months. Over the coming few weeks I'm going to be adding more and more content to this website. I'm creating a series of business support tools, workshops and packages which any tourism business will be able to access - a combination of free and paid versions. In a couple of weeks I'll give more details about what these will include. Over to you...
Free tourism marketing advice
Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs