I’ve got a challenge for you. It could be the one thing that changes your business or your life. I hope you’ll join in. First an explanation…
Most of us have one thing that stops us from moving forward. We can get by without doing it, but once we master the skill or get over our fear, our businesses can be significantly improved. What is it?
The One Thing is different for each of us. For some it’s the belief that you’re not ‘technically minded’. For me it’s seeing or hearing myself on video. Some people say it’s facebook. Whatever the One Thing is, it’s getting in the way.
We’ve told ourselves a story: that we can’t do something or don’t like something and that’s it. We can work on our business in all kinds of different ways but we keep coming up against that One Thing.
It becomes a bit of a dead end in a maze that you’re permanently wandering.
You might have decided that installing Google Analytics is just too hard or not something you’re interested in doing. But when you ask me how you’ll know which key words your visitors use to find you, or how to rank higher in the search engines I'll talk about Google Analytics. You might listen to everything I say but those two words are like a halt sign. You can take all the advice except for that bit.
Or you might have heard of people talking about getting bookings through facebook, and finding useful information in a facebook group. You want the bookings and you want the information but you repeatedly say ‘I don’t do facebook’. Another dead end.
You might know that video is now an essential video tool and something really worth adding to your website, and sharing on social media but you just can’t bring yourself to learn how to use it. It’s just another nagging Thing at the back of your mind, lurking there like a disapproving shadow.
You know you should do it, but you just don't. Almost every day someone tells me about something they can’t do – use zoom, use facebook, use Google Analytics. Or they say they don’t like doing something – writing, social media etc.
You can do it. You will like it.
Through-out my childhood my mother repeatedly said, ‘there’s no such word as "can’t”. My sister and I used to clench our teeth at her and wanted to disagree but we knew what the next sentence would be. ‘You don’t know until you’ve tried’.
That’s my point really. If we haven’t really tried doing the One Thing, how do we know we can’t? How do we know we don’t like it if we’ve not given it a chance. Whatever the One Thing is, chances are that many others are doing it and they’re not super human. We can do it if we try. You might think you're 'rubbish at technical stuff' but is that a reality, something you've tried and failed at many times?
Usually we avoid doing the One Thing until suddenly we don’t. For some reason we start to do it. We realise we’ve just told ourselves a story, and believed we can’t do it, or don’t want to. And almost always we kick ourselves when we accept it’s easier or less horrible than we expected. We wish we’d done it earlier.
In my head I don’t have any wrinkles, baggy eyes or chewed lips. In fact I look exactly as I did when I was 25. But when I see myself on camera it’s a different matter. Somehow the camera adds 30 years to my face and videos remind me that my skin is sagging at the same rate as my energy. I know that I could save time and help many more people if I just recorded some brief video clips and marketing tips. But videoing myself is my One Thing. I just can’t bring myself to do it.
Until now. I’m promising myself that this can’t go on. I will do the One Thing.
So, I’m challenging you. What’s your One Thing?
What difference would it make to your business or your life if you did it? How would it feel?
If you think it’s something you can’t do because you don’t have the knowledge, google ‘tutorial on how to…” and I guarantee the answer will be there. No excuses. It helps if you just start – then you quickly realise that whatever it is, there’s a process to the One Thing and it’s easier than you think.
Let’s make a positive out of Covid and turn this time to our advantage. Let’s do our One Thing. Let’s move forward.
There’s one way to make it more likely that we’ll achieve our One Thing. Tell someone what you’re going to do. As soon as you do so, it massively increases the chances of completion. Adding a public deadline works even better.
I’m still cringing in advance at the idea of filming myself. In fact, it’s even worse now because I know when you next see my face you’ll look more closely at my sagging cheeks and remember these words. But I’ve said I’ll do my One Thing and I’ll do it. By this time next week.
What’s your One Thing? When will you do it by?
To increase your chances of success, please tell me in the comments on here, or in the facebook group or Tourism Network online community, or by email and we'll help keep each other accountable.
When we talk about marketing, most of us think about websites, social media and so on - tools that aren't necessarily expensive but do take effort.
There's one marketing method that happens naturally, and is free. It's easy to trigger and amplify it, and it can stimulate masses of word of mouth publicity. Yet few use it. It's anticipation.
Go to the hairdressers, have a chat with friends, family and colleagues and there's one topic that often comes up in conversation. Got any plans for the weekend? Where are you going on holiday this year?
We love to look forward to our trips and happily discuss them with others, giving them ideas for their own leisure time and picking up recommendations for ourselves too.
During Covid-19 we can't use calls to action that ask people to visit us right now. But we can build anticipation for later, and it's never been more important to do so. Effort invested now will be rewarded later. Many people have more free time than usual so their minds are open to the small nuggets of pleasure you can provide.
Planning, research and looking forward to a trip are all part of the enjoyment. We love to anticipate. And because we love to anticipate, we're happy to talk to others about our anticipation. It doesn't stop with the trip itself. We continue to talk about our experiences afterwards and share our memories.
As tourism marketeers all we need to do is provide triggers for anticipation and our visitors will do some of our marketing for us. And then we can amplify their marketing activity, through social media and other channels. Anticipation is a natural form of marketing so it's not contrived, and therefore more authentic and credible.
NOW is the best time to start really thinking about anticipation and how to use it. Here are some tips, angles and ideas.
1. Ask questions to stimulate comment and engagement. What are they most looking forward to doing when lockdown ends? What are the activities they're missing? Who would they like to visit with? Which places will they visit first and why?
Show images of what visitors can expect, stressing 'when the time is right'
2. Think about what people need and what they enjoy, to consider what is most likely to pique their interest. Is it fun, or factual, images or words? What kind of images and words? Maybe now is the time for more restful images and information rather than exciting, urgent messages? It helps to know your own audience so you can get this right.
3. Paint a picture and help people to imagine being there. You might need to keep stressing that it's good that people are staying at home but you can still write about what's happening where you are. You might use an angle that is related to what you do and shows a different aspect of your business so you can tempt without directly calling to action.
For example, a small hotel or bed and breakfast might show the results of some baking experiments. This won't get everyone leaving home right then and there but it will give them a taste (sorry!) of what they might be able to enjoy eventually.
If you enjoy spotting wildlife on your daily walks you might write about your sightings and then go into more detail about particular creatures. This reinforces what people could eventually see but is more informational than a direct call to visit right now.
4. While you're trying to build anticipation, don't forget the people who have been to you before. Can you ask them to share their memories and photos? Talk about some of them? Satisfied previous guests should be some of your most powerful advocates so do ask for their help.
5. This is a good time to really build engagement with your potential and previous visitors on social media. Ask them about the information they'd like to know, what they'd like to know about your area - and then provide it. You could even invite people on your daily walk with you - virtually - recording short films of what you see, or using Facebook Live. You don't need to be polished: natural, straight-from-the-heart is often more effective.
All these activities may sound small and relatively insignificant in the face of so much turmoil in the world. Yet tourism marketing isn't about one big expensive action. A series of small, intentional steps like building anticipation are what will start to open minds, persuade people, and form a virtual queue of visitors outside your door ready for when you re-open.
Think of what you're doing like a teaser for a new TV series. They often run trailers for a programme for a little while without giving the schedule timings, just to get everyone interested. When the programme airs, viewers are ready and waiting.
During these odd times we're all finding different ways to cope and use our time.
Anyone with a tourism business has two options right now:
1) hope for better times or
2) do what you can right now to strengthen your marketing so your business is poised for recovery.
Since hope isn't a very reliable marketing strategy, the second option is likely to be most productive.
So what do you need to do? Many of us have been clearing out our cupboards and using our free time to make our homes feel good. Now's the time to give your marketing a good spring clean too.
Assuming money is limited but you have a little more time than usual, here are my recommendations. They focus on three essential marketing tools: your website, social media and direct mail.
Your website almost certainly needs a bit of a refresh, or at the very least a few new pages, some more key words, better images and a general freshen up. For one thing, it will help your search engine rankings if you pay it some attention. You need it to stand out from others, ready for when recovery comes. So, pretend it isn't your website. Step back from it.
Take a look at every single page. Pay most attention to your home page. Ask yourself:
As you do this, write done all the improvements you might need to make. Now is also a really good time to think about re-writing some pages to make them more search engine friendly. If you'd like to undertake a deeper audit to look at every aspect of your site and how you might like to improve it, email me for a free checklist to help you do that. If you'd like to know more about how to improve your website, you might enjoy this practical short online course.
Your social media
Are you using the right social media, often enough, with the right messages? You might feel most confident using twitter but if your target market are all on instagram, you're not fishing where the fish are. Now would be a good time to get to grips with your social media, to improve what's you're doing and really understand the tools you're trying to use.
Many people use social media but don't plan out their messages or think about their engagement. Engagement is what really makes the different, and it's what generates bookings and visits. Don't be tempted to think that because places are closed to visitors, now isn't a good time to be on social media. It is. Journalists are still looking for stories. Visitors are still planning trips even if they can't go on them immediately. You can always build awareness, which is one of the foundations to any successful business.
Your direct mail
Direct mail is probably one of the easiest, lowest cost and most effective, yet under-rated forms of promotion. It means sending out carefully written, targeted mailings to people who've chosen to receive them, whether by post or email. It is often mis-used or under-used, but with a few simple rules and knowledge it can be very powerful.
Social media is excellent for raising awareness of what you do. But you can't control it and you're reliant on people seeing your posts and taking action. Ideally you will combine social media with direct mail - using social media to encourage your followers to join your mailing list, so you can decide when to write to them, about what messages to send.
Building a good mailing list is a really good way to build a relationship with your visitors and customers. It enables you to create trust (by mailing when you say you will, with relevant information). Success relies on three factors:
If you don't yet use direct mail, now is the time to start. If you already use it, now would be a good time to think about the emailing software you use and learn about its advanced features, consider how you can build your list, and plan out some really good content. If you'd like to learn to do all this, now is the time - see the online courses here.
Wondering how the Coronavirus will affect your tourism or visitor-focused business? What can you do to secure your future?
Read on for some reassurance and practical marketing advice.
We're living through very difficult times. It would be easy to give in to sheer panic. But that won't solve anything. We need to stay calm, and focus on what we can actually do.
I still remember the terrible dread I felt when the first Gulf War was declared, then 9/11, Foot and Mouth, the floods... but over the 30+ years I've worked in tourism I've learnt one thing...
The market goes down, we feel battered and bruised. Then it gets better again. Not everyone will survive, so it's essential you take the right steps now to make sure you're a survivor. The only way to move forward is to believe in the future.
The best thing you can do now is to use the time to improve your marketing. Everything you do now will have an impact on the future, and give your business a boost the minute everyone decides to travel again. It will happen, and you'll be better prepared. I'm always amazed at how many fantastic ideas, and even new businesses emerge after difficult times. It pays to use the time to think differently.
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I know many of you are feeling very anxious about the future. I feel better when I have a good plan so I’d like to share a possible way forward, and try to support you.
It’s clear that tourism businesses are in for a very tricky time. We do need to remember that even this horrible time will pass, and recovery will eventually come. We can be ready, by working together…
We need to accept the lack of visitors, and expect it to continue for several months. We can save energy wondering what will happen by assuming the worst and planning how to make things a little better. Some of our worries can be temporarily put aside through activity. The announcement of the government’s financial support package will hopefully provide some additional reassurance.
Recovery may be some time away but we can use that time productively. Here's how:
I’ve yet to meet a tourism business whose marketing is 100% effective (mine included). We all have plenty of marketing improvements we can make, all no cost or low cost.
Step 1 – plan and be open to future opportunities. I’ll be outlining some of these in a free online marketing workshop, available from this Friday. You need to register now to get access.
Step 2 – improve your skills. I’ve already seen lots of people planning to learn a new instrument, do something creative or re-decorate. Next week I’ll offer details of the online marketing workshops I’ve created, focusing on different aspects such as social media, building a mailing list, improving your website etc. They will all help you be ready for recovery. Stay tuned for many more support tools and suggestions.
By the end of the Coronavirus, I’m determined to have helped everyone to really make their marketing the best it can be so you can leap forward with confidence into a more positive future.
Step 3 – build collaborations, share experiences, ask for help. I’ll send some more ideas about this next week so you can develop your own initiatives. A good place to talk to each other and ask questions is in the supportive Tourism Network online community – please do join us, and post your questions and experiences. Take a look at the Marketing articles in the section under Topics.
Step 4 – this is something you should do all the time. Keep communicating, keep marketing.
We may need to accept that we’ll receive few visitors for a while but that does not mean your marketing should stop. People don’t want to just read about the virus – they want to see beauty and feel uplifted, to see some tantalising ideas so they can make future holiday plans. I’ll offer some more ideas in the online marketing workshop so do make sure you register.
As I’ve said before, I still remember the panic I felt during all sorts of crises over the past 30+ years – Gulf War, recession, floods, Foot & Mouth, 9/11. Yet, afterwards we bounced back. Some brilliant businesses were born. Some did things differently. There will be some positives, and I plan to point them all out!
Just remember – business will get better!
You're an expert every day, probably without even knowing it. You almost certainty take your expertise for granted and don't realise how valuable it actually is.
Your taken-for-granted expertise can really make a big difference to your tourism business.
What sort of expertise am I talking about? It could be anything, from managing a large house and serving breakfasts every day, to your local knowledge, your ability to spot and name birds and other wildlife, your historical knowhow, keeping a gorgeous garden, your cooking skills, balancing farming with running a tourism business... the list goes on.
Every day you do things that you consider simple tasks but which many visitors find fascinating and incredible.
Your taken-for-granted skills are valuable, and you're more of an expert than you realise. Your skills make your business successful.
Could you make more use of your expertise in your promotional activities and attract more visitors? The answers is almost certainly, 'yes'!
Think about everything you do during the course of a 'normal' week and compare it to how many of your visitors live.
Some people avoid cooking full English breakfast at home because they get flustered about getting the timing right for all the different ingredients for two people. You may effortlessly cook breakfast for a dozen people.
Many people don't have a clue about the names of birds, flowers, trees and can't recognise one from another. You know all their names, what happens in each season and have lots of nature anecdotes to tell.
Most people fling a duvet on their bed and their room never ever looks like the instagram photo shoots they love. They run out of loo rolls and resort to eating cornflakes instead of a proper meal because they haven't been shopping. You take care of a large building, make perfect beds and produce flawless meals for many people.
Visitors gaze in wonder at the scenery and love the walks when they come to stay with you but don't know the area very well. You've got a long list of fantastic places to go, and can point visitors in the direction of some hidden gems they wouldn't otherwise discover.
I'm sure you can think of many more examples. The next step is to consider which areas you like to be 'expert' in, and how you can use your knowledge to build awareness and trust in potential visitors.
Read how to use your expertise, what it means for visitors, and some practical examples in the Tourism Network online community - free to join.
I've been asked this question several times lately, so let's take a more in-depth look at what advertising is and what it can achieve.
This article could save you a lot of money!
Just to be clear: 'advertising' is sometimes used interchangeably with the term 'marketing', which isn't correct. Advertising is paying to promote a specific message in a specific way, whether it's an ad in a newspaper or a big budget commercial before the main film at a cinema.
Advertising can be very powerful but can also be an expensive mistake. Maybe you need to consider other options first? How good is your website? Your social media? Your PR? Do you blog regularly? Use direct mail consistently?
If you're uncertain about any of these it pays to get them right before you start to advertise. When some one sees your ad they may well come to your website and if that's rubbish... And you'd ideally want to capture their details for follow up, and continue to raise awareness via social media.
Read on to find out more about advertising and for some tips to avoid wasting money
Advertising is good for creating and building 'awareness' but this is not necessarily the same as building sales. Back in 1925, Daniel Starch said ”to be successful, it must be seen, must be read, must be believed, must be remembered and must be acted upon”. The same is still true today.
Before you spend, think...
Why are you advertising? What are you main reasons? For example:
Advertising has either tactical or strategic objectives. Strategic advertising is concerned with creating an awareness of products, of developing an organisation's identity and image. Strategic advertising takes a longer term view, having a wider impact than tactical advertising – but it will cost more.
Tactical advertising is aimed at specific market segments and persuading them to go to a particular place or buy a certain service, sometimes at a particular time. Tactical advertising takes a more short to medium term view.
Target markets must be clearly defined. Don't be reactive and simply advertise where a sales person asks you. Think about your markets and what they read/see.
One strong, clear message
Most advertising works best with just one key message. This is especially important if you can only afford to buy a few lines or small space. Faced with a small budget and only a couple of centimetres to fill, it can be tempting to get the greatest value for money. Don't cram a small space with loads of detail. It won't have any impact. It's more likely to confuse.
Choosing one main message will help give even the smallest company a stronger identity. This comes back once again to selling benefits rather than features, and stressing what makes you better or different.
How to handle those random advertising sales phone calls
For more tips on how to negotiate brilliant advertising rates, what to say to pushy telephone sales people, and advice on how to make advertising work for you, please see the full version of this article in the Tourism Network online community (free to join).
Most tourism marketing advice deals with promotional tools and marketing methods. I don't think we focus often enough on getting the message right for our target markets or on understanding their mindset.
If you've ever unsure what to say in your social media, on your website or in a blog, a good burst of optimism and positivity works really well.
Everyone loves to feel good. Who would you rather spend time with: someone who moans about life or someone who bursts with enthusiasm about their area or what they do? We're drawn to people with energy and sparkle - the same is true on social media and in marketing.
The internet has been flooded (oops) with photos of floods and bad weather. Of course everyone is fascinated by the extremes of weather but after a while they all resemble each other. I recently saw one popular post that illustrates the way optimism works. It was a bookshop in Hebden Bridge. They showed the flood waters in their shop, with an 'after' photo a couple of days later once the shop was cleaned up and ready to re-open. It gave a real sense of hope, a burst of optimism and actually showed that they were ready to welcome visitors, instead of just the usual 'open for business' message that convinces no-one.
During the winter months at some point everyone feels down-hearted and thinks Spring will never come. Short messages of hope and optimism work wonders. Photos of Spring flowers and posts looking forward to Spring can be really effective.
We don't need to pretend bad things never happen but putting a positive spin on things can help everyone feel better and more hopeful. The more you look forward, sound optimistic, believe that things will get better, the more your potential visitors will want to do the same. When they see plenty of positive messages about Spring and Summer and photos reminding them of how it looks and feels, visitors will be enthused and ready to book and plan a visit.
You do need to be careful of sounding overly Tigger-like and too bouncy. Your marketing messages need to sound authentic and genuine so don't gush if that's not your normal approach. Just focus on the positives instead of the negatives.
Talk about things you're looking forward to. Sound optimistic. Show positive change. Be upbeat. Be positive about your business, your area, other businesses.
You might also think about being positive by being generous in your marketing, talking about other local businesses and why you love your area. You might like and share posts by others more often, or comment on people's blogs. Once you do this, there's definitely a sense of reciprocity. Most people will notice when you're being positive about them and want to reciprocate in some way.
The goodwill gradually builds in power. Others will see your positivity and join in too.
I've got Bob Marley's words singing in my head: let's get together and feel all right.
It really does feel like it's time for us all to work together. Tourism can be affected by so many different factors (Floods, Brexit, Coronavirus) which we can't control. We can however make everything feel better.
Community. Collaboration. Kindness. None of them cost anything, yet they have enormous power. Visitors love to be in places where these qualities are strong. Everyone likes to feel a little uplifted and more positive.
If there was something you could do to benefit your business at no cost, and make others happy, would you do it?
I hope your answer is 'yes'?
Amazingly, most people don't do it. Their marketing is very 'me, me, me'. It's often uninspiring, static and unsuccessful.
There's a very simple way to make your marketing better, and benefit others. Be generous.
Relax. You don't have to splash the cash. It's about an attitude of mind, not emptying your wallet. Changing the way you market your business, being more generous, can actually generate better profits for you.
What do I mean? I'm talking about generosity of spirit. Looking outwards instead of inwards. Talking about other businesses, not just your own. Showing visitors that you're not just a lone body.
Here are a few simple examples:
It doesn't cost anything, and makes people happy.
The businesses you recommend will be happy.
Visitors will be happy because they find out about new places to go and things to do. Visitors want insider tips and recommendations, and to feel like they've found a local expert - that's you. Most of us want to buy from people who are good people, so anything you can do that's positive and generous will help.
Generous marketing can work to your benefit in other ways.
Most people want to visit places that have plenty to offer - things to see, good food, interesting activities. If you talk about your area and other businesses, your website will be enhanced, potentially with higher search engine rankings. Talking about other businesses can make your social media posts more interesting, building your reputation as a local expert.
Reciprocity is important. If I invite you to my party or sponsor you to run a mile, you're more likely to invite me to your party and sponsor me to swim a mile. The same applies to recommendations and generous marketing. It won't happen immediately, but your neighbours will gradually reciprocate. By working together and making genuine (just linking to each other doesn't work as well) recommendations, more and more people will notice and perceive your area as welcoming and positive.
You have to put real effort and meaning into your generous marketing though. People can tell when you're just going through the motions.
There's power in an unexpected generous gesture or kindness. It makes everyone feel good. And it can benefit your business. Even better, it's easy to get started with more generous marketing. Nothing is standing in your way. So you can start right now. Let me know what you've done or will do next?
I know first hand how it feels to be adversely affected by bad weather: our house floods and this time it was particularly bad. Nature can be beautiful and brutal.
How easy is it to actually promote off-season, especially after floods, storms and other weather 'disasters'?
My heart goes out to anyone affected by bad weather incidents and their need to gain back business. It's natural to want to put out 'open for business' notices on social media and in the media as soon as possible. But before you do so, please consider a slightly different perspective...
Some suggestions for promoting your area and business in the off-season and immediately after a bad weather incident
Sharing images of floods, high water levels and bad weather on social media is a normal thing to do. We're fascinated by the power of nature. But try not to overdo it. Those images will be picked up by the media and used in articles, mentioning your area by name. They'll stay online for a long time, coming up in searches. The positive side of that interest is that it can help everyone feel like they're part of a community working together against the elements and secure aid from others.
The darker side is that those images may stay in the minds of potential visitors for quite a while, and put people off visiting. Most people have only a hazy grasp of geography and when they read about bad weather in one location, they assume it means half the country.
Don't say 'Open for Business'. Show it.
Once the bad weather subsides and businesses re-open, the next obvious step is to tell people. This is when 'open for business' messages start to circulate. Of course it's important to tell people you're open again, but the way in which you say it is key. During the normal course of events we don't say 'we're open for business' because it's taken as a given. It's become a phrase that's most used after something bad has happened. Many will associate it with a problem that's only just resolved. They may wonder what's happened or focus on the incident, instead of on the positives.
'We're open for business' can convey the image of needy people standing on the threshold of their business anxiously looking for customers. Some visitors will want to support by offering their custom. Others will wonder if it's really safe to visit, if the area will still be attractive, if they'll still be able to enjoy it.
If you sound confident and upbeat, visitors will be more likely to come... Show that you're open for business. Post as many positive images as you can, not mentioning the clear up or what's happened, but focusing on how visitors can enjoy the area or your business. You don't need to deny what's happened, but there's no need to focus on it either. Social proof works very well. People are more likely to believe they'll have a good time and enjoy visiting you if you show others already doing the same.
Give reasons to visit. Show why you're worth visiting. Make your positive messages the ones that people remember.
Optimism and ideas before discounts
This is often the point at which people panic and try to lure back visitors with discounts. That might work, but discounts can also focus visitors minds on the wrong thing. They either subconsciously realise you're discounting because you're desperate (which isn't attractive), or think about the price and whether it's worth it. It's better to focus first on reasons to visit, and use added value offers.
Optimism works well. After bad weather it's easy to feel downhearted and hard to imagine how attractive places can be in better weather. Yet small details like daffodils starting to bloom, snowdrops peaking out from a blanket of snow can cheer and help us all look forward and feel more positive. Look on social media as the first buds bloom and Spring starts to show, and you'll see how much people like to share those positive signs. Add your own, and you'll benefit from the human need to look forward and feel better.
Promoting your business during the off-season
What can you do to promote your business during the quieter months? Here are three important things you can easily do:
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Please note: all articles are copyrighted Susan Briggs