For the second consecutive year, Bellmont Partners was thrilled to attend and present at the Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference, hosted by our client Explore Minnesota. The conference was appropriately named “The Next Big Event,” as Minnesota is poised for an exciting couple of years – specifically with U.S. Bank Stadium hosting the X Games in the summer of 2017 and 2018, as well as the 2018 Super Bowl.
Reflecting on the conference, our team identified five key learnings from the tourism industry that could apply to any PR and marketing program – regardless of the industry:
1. Goals and values should be at the center of every. single. decision.
Before you decide on your key advertising or PR strategy, think about who you really are as an organization and let that be your guide. Tim Miles, founder and CEO of Miles & Co., challenged conference-goers to consider this question – and it’s something we all must keep in mind. Specific messaging and the platforms to disseminate those messages should come after considering your goals, values, strategic plan and customer experience.
2. Experiences are king.
Experiences are where the magic happens. Instead of talking about what your destination (or product, for you non-travel folks) offers, focus on the experiential connection people create when visiting. For example, a destination could invite visitors to harvest or stomp the grapes – not just sample the wine. Immersing the end user in your culture is going to yield authentic and effective brand connections. So what unique experiences – to create or test your products, come to your events or meet your clients – do you have to offer influencers, the media and customers?
3. Be your own publisher.
The social/digital revolution has made it easy for companies and organizations to focus on marketing owned content that best tells their unique and genuine stories. Conventions and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) and Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) are doing more with written and visual content through digital marketing and social media than ever before, acting as their own publishers – and any company or organization can do the same.
4. Connect and converse.
Peter Greenberg – Emmy-winning travel editor for CBS News – would argue that human conversations are 100 percent underrated. Did you know that just more than 50 percent of flight inventory is available online? That means, if you pick up the phone and talk to a travel agent, you’ll discover twice as many options – and many of those will be better than anything you see online. Conversations, he would say, are largely missing from our modern-day marketing strategies. Talk – and listen – to your customers, stakeholders, experts in your industry and others to not only connect but also uncover a treasure trove of insights that can be applied to everything from improving or developing products and services, to finding out who your customers are and how they heard about you.
5. Marketing should be a mix.
Marketing is a key expense for tourism organizations – and rightfully so. But they, along with every company and organization, should take a hard look at where they are spending resources. While advertising is considered supreme, everyone would benefit from assessing results and determining if the marketing mix is netting the desired results. If not, return to #1 – 4 above to retool your marketing mix and determine the best approach to reach and activate customers, and ultimately drive results.
How can you apply one or all of these principles to your company or on behalf of your clients in 2017?