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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Caldwell

The Importance of Marketing and Engagement

It’s stating the obvious when I say that every tourism business has been affected by Covid, come catastrophically – and even those few businesses that had very little reliance on the international market have felt the effects of border closures. Some of them just due to the fact a lot of their skilled staff come from overseas – think the ski fields for example.

It’s been really surprising to me though just how many businesses have offloaded their sales and marketing teams during this time. Now obviously, it’s each business’ prerogative to make these decisions for what they feel is best for them at the time – and let’s face it, it also helps businesses like ours! But in times of crisis, marketing really comes into its own to help your business pull through.

So what is marketing exactly?

Marketing is a tool used to create and maintain demand, relevance, reputation, competition and more. But tourism marketing is all that and so much more – we are selling experiences and inviting our customers to interact with our businesses in a real world situation. It’s participatory, hands-on and tangible and this provides us with a very unique opportunity to show our customers not just what we offer, but also what we stand for.

Think back to when you started your business - what was your ‘Why?’ – most of the time when I ask my clients this, it comes down to passion – a real desire to make a difference to people’s lives by offering a memorable experience that they can hold forever whilst also having a bit of fun doing what they love themselves.

So this is what we’re doing right? Bolstering long lasting connections between customers and our brands. But if done right, it also allows you to collect vital data about your customers which will then help you improve your strategy. Are you doing this in your business today?

The key here is have your customers experience your product/brand in a very tangible offline way, but you’ll still want an online conversation around it right? You want people to go away raving about your product, but you want your potential customers to see that too! Do you have a branded hashtag for your business? Do you ask your customers to use it? Do you promote this in your marketing material so your potential customers can search for others’ real experiences and feedback?

Now more than ever Word of Mouth marketing is super important for your business. And let’s be clear – this doesn’t just happen by default. Kiwis are very discerning when it comes to their recommendations. We all know how small New Zealand is, and the 2 degrees of separation that exists here (well maybe a little more but you know what I mean). We’ve seen the huge rise of Facebook groups such as the NZ Travel Tips, Explore Local, NZ Made Products since lockdown started and kiwis are sharing their experiences and feedback more than ever!

We’re seeing a shift online like never before and it’s time now for marketers to focus on connecting rather than just collecting. How many times have you heard businesses talk about how many ‘likes’ they get or how many ‘fans’ they have on social media? It’s been a vanity measure for too long. I know I’d much rather have a really happy and engaged handful of fans vs a whole lot of names who just signed up to win some free stuff because I ran an acquisition campaign.

It’s like real life right? If you have to buy your friends, are they really your friends?

I talk a lot with my clients about LOVE – we don’t want our customers to like us, we want them to LOVE us. But how do you do that?

There is no doubt that they need to have a great time in your business, but it is possible to get them to love you before they even step foot inside your operation.

Every marketer learnt about the 4 P’s of marketing, product, price, promotion and place, but there is a new focus and that’s the 3 E’s. So here’s the interesting thing – it seems that everyone has a different definition of those 3 E’s – which makes life somewhat confusing for you I know.

So here are the words I’ve found online for the 3 E’s.

Engage, Equip, Empower, Entice, Enchant, Educate, Entertain, Earn and Execute

Which ever three you decide is okay, but at the heart of every version of the '3 E's' is engagement.

If you’re a small tourism operator, you have a very unique opportunity here as it’s your heart and soul in your business. You can give your fans or customers, the gift of you! Engage with them. Listen to what they are telling you. Be part of the conversation about your brand. Be a presence in your fans’ lives. Respond to their feedback, good or otherwise in an authentic way. Let your personality shine through.

Give them reasons to talk – through offering amazing experiences, great service, inside tips or knowledge, incredible stories. If you take the time to get to know your customers, you’ll start to understand what they respond to and give them what they want!

And give your customers different ways to talk and share. Let them know that they are important to you and that sharing their opinions is important to you. Help them find ways to share within their circles and find ways to help move their conversations around. Do you have referral system in place?

Content is at the heart of successful marketing. It comes in many different shapes, sizes and formats: blogs, videos, surveys, polls, infographics – you name it.

Content’s popularity and impact on marketing in the Digital Age means every business on the block has launched some type of content strategy. This means the competition for audiences’ attention is extremely tight. And if you don’t have a content strategy in place, you need to give me a call!

But if you’re following the tips I gave earlier, you should start seeing the cut through you’re looking for.

So how does Sales fit in with marketing?

Sales and Marketing are both working towards the same goal: securing business and helping your company grow.

But how they do this differs significantly.

Marketing and Sales are both really important in their own right. No one is going to argue with that. In tourism, there is a wide variety of how we do this – smaller businesses tend to have one person covering sales & marketing and the larger organisations tend to split the teams.

That said, they are far, far more powerful when united.

The nature of sales means that salespeople are able to gain first-hand knowledge of customers and their sales objections – much of which would be difficult, if not impossible, to gain any other way.

Marketing is likely to have hard data that shows what sort of information, content, or language customers and potential customers respond to.

Most tourism sales people are focussed on the trade, with some also covering local accommodation and i-sites. Whilst the borders are closed, it seems that a lot of businesses have written off inbound operators. This is my little tip and plea to you – don’t do it! Inbounders are hurting more than any of us at the moment with literally zero revenue, but they are still busy! Yes, they are still working on programmes for future years, reorganising and shifting itineraries, liaising with their offshore clients and looking for rates and updates from you!

So what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone, organise a zoom or book in a time to go see them today!

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