No-one could have foreseen the closure of the tourism industry, but restrictions are lifting and consumers are eager for a change of scenery. Many businesses in this sector have experienced significant challenges, but it comes with an unprecedented opportunity to grow market share.
The industry has changed, big time, and every tourism business is starting from zero. Customers will be looking to travel differently than they did before. Local trips will be popular as the public emerges from isolation, as will experiences that provide genuine human connections.
It’s important to start working on your marketing plan now.
Yes, it’s still quiet, but tourism will rebound. You can bet your bottom dollar that as soon as each state gets an all-clear, every tourism office and every brand will be competing for guests. Marketing is the key to staking your claim in the “new normal” of tourism and protecting the future of your business.
Here, we’ll run you through the essentials you’ll need to be ready.
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Embracing the new normal
Has anyone else found themselves strangely craving the airport? Just us?
Standing in long lines, removing your shoes for the TSA, drinking questionable airport coffee and racing to make the gate change on the other end of the terminal used to be annoying. They’re still annoying, but now they come with a dose of nostalgia. How easy it is to take things for granted!
Jet-setting is temporarily on hold, and it will continue to be that way for a while yet. That means there has never been a better opportunity for small businesses to market to their local communities. People will ease out of isolation gently, which means they’ll be looking to start with short, regional trips – for example, road trips, outdoor adventures, local lunches, that sort of thing.
If you live in a state that typically sees a high volume of international travelers, like Alaska or Nevada, it means you will have to adjust your strategy to appeal to a different target audience.
Who are your ideal customers in this new normal? What are their names? Where are they from? How old are they? What are their interests? Do they travel solo or as a couple or family?
It might sound strange, but creating a buyer persona will help you customize your marketing to ensure you’re sending exactly the right message to the right people. That’s the best thing about digital marketing – we can use customized bait instead of casting a wide net and hoping for a bite like traditional marketing methods.
Here’s an example. The way you market to Bill and Jean, a retired couple from Milwaukee aged in their 60s, will be very different to the way you market to Ben and Jessica, a professional couple from Los Angeles who will be traveling with their two young kids. Knowing the difference will help optimize your strategy.
Want to learn more? Click to read about best practice in digital marketing.
Trading on genuine connections
Isolation is tricky, and while some people have thrived, most of us have found it to be incredibly challenging. You know it’s getting bad when shopping for groceries is the highlight of your week.
Once the tourism industry re-opens, people will be looking for genuine human connections. The days of racing from landmark to landmark, snapping a quick selfie at each site, are behind us – at least, for a little while. That means your strategy needs to have emotion at its core.
The best way to do this is through StoryBrand marketing. The driving thought is this: your customers don’t really care about your business (sorry!), but they do care about themselves. They want your business to solve a problem and make them feel better about something.
In this case, most is feeling lonely and unmotivated. They want to get to know new people and find inspiration. Inspiration is a powerful motivator. Rather than focusing on the features of each of your products or services, focus on the benefits. How will it make them feel if they choose you?
It doesn’t matter exactly what your business is. Stand-up paddle-boarding on Lake Tahoe? Inspiring. Fishing on the Kenai River? Inspiring. Shopping in Reno? Inspiring. Eating handmade chocolates in Homer, Alaska? Inspiring. The key is to find an inspiring angle to share with your customers.
Don’t be afraid to show your face. People like doing business with people, and if they feel like they know you, they’ll be more likely to work with you. If you’re passionate about what you do, whether that’s guided backcountry hikes or action-packed ATV tours, share it. It’s part of your story.
Once you’ve found the right angle to appeal to your target audience (remember Bill and Jean, and Ben and Jessica?), it’s time to develop a content marketing strategy. At a basic level, this includes three arms: SEO, social media and blogging. However, we strongly recommend adding video. If a picture tells a thousand words, a video shows a whole chapter. Adding this to your tool box will help people get to know you quickly, while creating an impression that will influence their purchase.
Now is not the tame to take a conservative approach. If you want to claim your part of the market share, you need to be strong, clear and consistent. This means posting regularly, developing a clear process by which customers will find you and engage with your business, and creating a consistent messaging theme and style that you will share across your website and social channels.
Want to ignite your content marketing strategy? Here’s how storytelling can help.
Making the most of the news
The past few months have hammered home the fact that we need good information. Rules and restrictions are changing all the time, there’s been a lot of confusion about what is and isn’t allowed, and the status quo is constantly being updated. Keep this in mind when things re-open.
This is important for a few reasons, which we’ll break down below.
Make sure the information on your website and social channels is up to date, such as your opening hours and your special offers. This will ensure you start your relationship with each customer on the right foot and saves you from having to make any awkward clarifications or cancellations.
An important aspect of this is your Google My Business profile. Every business has a listing, based on publicly available information, which means your profile already exists. It’s up to you to claim it and manage it. This is a really powerful tool, because it makes it easy for people to find you. Today’s customer is well-educated and tech-savvy, and they’ve probably spent a lot of time daydreaming about all the fun things they’ll do when isolation is over. Keeping this updated means you’ll spring to the top of the list when people search for business types like yours. Your website will win them over.
Address customer needs
Hygiene and cleanliness will continue to be hugely important once this blows over, because customers will want to know they’re in safe hands.
The best way to address this is to be transparent and proactive. Add a section to your website or share a message on social media giving a quick overview of your new protocols and assuring customers you’re complying with CDC recommendations.
The same goes for any other topical concerns that pop up. Address each issue quickly and calmly, remembering that all customers are going to be a little skittish to start with. The main thing is to be reassuring while reminding them of the benefits we discussed above.
Share what’s new
Finally, keep customers posted with the latest things going on in your area. The experience of the whole trip is just as important as the experience you provide. It’s symbiotic, because every local business will benefit when tourists have a good time in your area. Lift each other up and don’t be afraid to collaborate or cross-promote. The rush is coming and we’re all stronger together.
Feeling inspired? Schedule a consultation and let’s talk about sharing that with your customers.