Category Archives: Marketing

‘sō shəl (verb) people engaging with each other

We all know the social media statistics: 198 google billion posts on Facebook, 55 quaple million tweets, 127.4 hoople billion pics on Instagram, and more pins than all of Oklahoma and Iowa’s wrestling programs combined. Social media is today what websites were in the 90s meaning if you’re not on social media, well, you’re not in business. But social media is, well, social.

Social Media

Try this: ‘sō shəl (verb) to design activities in which people engage with each other for pleasure – or in your situation – commerce! You won’t find that in Websters but we should. I have noticed a few practices or in some cases, lack of practices, that really doesn’t help social media be social. Bottom line – we’re not engaging! Here’s some thoughts on engaging through Twitter. (Next month, Facebook.)

– If someone comes into your welcome center or business, you greet them right? You thank them for visiting and/or becoming a new customer, yes? When someone follows you on Twitter, thank them!

“@traveler123 – Thanks for following us @VisitAnywheresville.” Keep it simple!

Toss in the hash tag #loveourcustomers for added appeal. If you’re a destination, perhaps use #loveourvisitors.

– Someone mention you on Twitter? Favorite the tweet! If someone took the time to search for @VisitAnywheresville and mention you in their tweet, you have to, HAVE TO, HAVE TO acknowledge them and engage!

I am shocked at how many times I mention someone, some place or some entity and don’t get a favorite. I went to the OKC Energy (semi-pro soccer) game a week ago. Took a picture and mentioned @OKCEnergy. Nothing. Crickets. You think I want to do that again? You think I believe they care that I attended and want me back? Not so much.

I’ll pick on my friends in Branson. We visited Branson over spring break. Seven tweets about our activities. Mentioned @ExploreBranson each time. Only one was favorited.

The mentions should be easy to know about. Log into Twitter and check your notifications. If you’re mentioned, it’s there. Hash tags require a little more searching but if you’re promoting a hashtag and someone uses it, a favorite is required. I only run in Saucony shoes. Every ad of theirs includes #findyourstrong. As I come back from a hamstring injury and begin running again, when I tweet about a run and include #findyourstrong, I’m surprised, nay, shocked Saucony doesn’t favorite the tweet to encourage me to keep using the hashtag and their shoes.

– Don’t just favorite a tweet, reply.

“Really enjoyed the @AnyZoo in @VisitAnywheresville! The monkeys were especially lively.”

Reply:

“@traveler123 Glad you enjoyed your visit to @AnyZoo and @VisitAnywheresville. See you again soon!”

Heck, suggest another attraction to them.

“@traveler123 Glad you enjoyed your visit to @AnyZoo. If you like animals, you may like the @AnyPettingZoo.”

Or (dare I say) send them to your website

“Find out information about @AnyPettingZoo at http://www.VisitAnywheresville.com/AnyPettingZoo”

If I ever get the chance to hike I do. I hiked my fourth location in the state. Tweeted “Hiked Roman Nose, Beaver’s Bend, Wichita, Quartz Mtns & T-bird. What’s next @TravelOK.” They responded with a link to their webpage describing five beginner, five intermediate and five expert hikes in Oklahoma. Just added 15 more destinations to my list!

Hey social media isn’t easy! It’s not just posting or tweeting something, checking it off your to-do list and moving to the next task. Yes, it takes time and we’re all super busy – especially in the one man/woman offices. Perhaps it’s time to consider getting some help. Please let me know if we can help in any way. At the very least, the above can help you engage with visitors and potential visitors!

The Fifth P of Marketing

A colleague at a recent tourism function was sharing how her DMO was getting in a “turf war” between the City and the Chamber – both trying to take over the management of the organization. She concluded by sharing ‘I’m staying out of it. I’m not in politics.’ A few of the glancing looks from others at the table communicated that we were thinking the same thing, “Oh yes you are like it or not!”  (And you’d better engage now or you may find yourself in a place you aren’t going to like!)

 

I thought going from a DMO to an attraction I’d find less politics. Boy was I wrong. On the heels of her statement above, I thought I’d dust off this post from April, 2011. Still as timely today! 

 

Remember the Four Ps of Marketing?  Product – Price – Placement and Promotion.  It’s Marketing 101. It’s the core of what we do – destination development (Product), drive hotel rates (Price), advise on the location of the attractions (Placement), and of course advertising and media relations (Promotion.)  But the longer I spend in destination marketing, the more I realize there is indeed a fifth P of marketing.  That fifth P is Politics.

 

I once read that destination marketing professionals are “politicians with marketing skills”.  And while I don’t like to consider myself a politician, I recognize more and more frequently that we do a lot of politic-ing.  Consider that…

 

– The CVB was active in recent City Council elections.  We assisted with candidate profiles and submitted questions for the candidate forums.

 

– Recently we’ve monitored and spoke on City issues related to business lighting and storm water runoff.  Further back, we took a stance on a state education issue and supported both a parks master plan and funding for a business park. (Following this post, we monitored and spoke on high density housing near a popular shopping district and engaged in the passage of a bond issue to improve one of the main corridors into the destination.)

 

– I accompanied our Chamber of Commerce on a ‘fly-in’ to DC to meet with our five representatives and Senators. We also met with NOAA as weather is big business in Norman! (Delighted to see my successor continued the practice!)

 

– In the near future we’ll discuss raising the transient guest tax and the split of that tax to maximize it’s economic impact on the local economy. (It passed increasing the DMO budget by $250,000.)

 

US Travel Association has long recognized the fifth P of destination marketing.  DMAI is engaging more and more in advocacy.  A committee is developing a tool kit for a community to utilize.  Not soon enough as we spend less and less time on the Promotion side of our jobs and more time on the Politics of our job. Update: that tool kit has been developed. It and many other resources can be found here.

 

It’s not the customer interaction we crave. It’s not the full conference hall corridors we like to see. And it’s not the dynamic new advertising creative we like reviewing but politicking has become a vital part of our jobs. Again, like it or not.

 

I’d love to hear success stories or best practices.  Please share those below.

We work in the NOW world

I live in Norman, Oklahoma.  There’s a small university here and the University of Oklahoma is pretty good at football.  The Sooners played Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two weeks ago.  (A Thursday evening.)  While friends were relishing the upset victory, a video starts popping up on social media.  An Alabama fan goes crazy on an OU student.  Friday afternoon a story is posted – Bama Sugar Bowl mom ‘sorry’ but would ‘do it again if I had to’.  Okay, sympathy for the mom?  Wait… have you seen this video – the Crazy Bama Mom BEFORE attacking OU student?  All of that played out through social media within 36 to 48 hours.  Anyone pay attention?  The first video has been viewed nearly 3 million times.  The Yellowhammer story has more than 2,000 comments.  Who knows how many views?  And the third video has been viewed 391,000 times.  (Warning: videos and comments contain offensive images and language.)

So what?  What if the headline is “attraction GM goes crazy on family” or “restaurant owner goes crazy on diners” or “salmonella outbreak after banquet at Yourville convention center”?  We never know what is going to set something off or when a mobile phone is recording.  What could it be that potentially embarrasses the destination?  Maybe it’s not even an embarrassing situation.  Perhaps it’s a hurricane that hits the Gulf or massive flooding in the east or ice storm just before the Super Bowl?  Welcome to your job in the NOW World!  What do you need to prepared to work in the NOW World?

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1. You need to be ready… ready now… ready now for anything!  You need to have an emergency public relations plan.  The next chance you get, lock yourself away with your staff and imagine the 20 worst scenarios.  Just scan the headlines: water poison, bed bugs, salmonella, tornado, hurricane, scandal… Then think of the 20 you’d never think of – Crazy Bama Mom.  Doubt the Alabama Alumni office wasn’t prepared for that one!  Talk through what your response should/would be for each situation.  Type them up and store them away.

2. You need to realize we’re not in an 8am to 5pm job any longer.  Tornadoes don’t strike during business hours.  Videos of drunk fans go viral at any time!  If you’re the PR / Communications person for your office, you need to understand that you may be called back in even though it’s after 5pm or it’s during the weekend.  And if it needs reminding, comments on Facebook don’t end at 5pm, people don’t clock out and quit posting and watching videos on YouTube, and tweets are tweeted 24/7.

3. You need to understand that you can’t be passive any longer.  We are not in control of the message any more!  They are and they can post, tweet, pin, comment anything they want – and they do.  It’s as Dan Patrick said numerous times on Sportscenter: You can’t stop him.  You can only hope to contain him.

4. For the messages you are trying to control, you need to understand social media is not posting something once a day and never going back to view the comments or looking at it the next day when you sign in to post another message.  Social media is not loading up Hootsuite on Monday and never participating in the conversation.  (And if Hootsuite is your only portal to social media, I’d suggest shutting it down now.)  Social media is monitoring 24/7 or if you’re a small office, 16 to 18/7.

5. You need to understand you don’t have a private life any longer.  Can you cringe with me just imagining if that Crazy Bama Fan was your employee?  No, this isn’t a case of bad press is good press!  The press would love to run “Executive Director of CVB is Crazy Bama Fan”.  And your personal social media accounts aren’t personal either.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask Justine Sacco.  We have a cool job that allows us to experience a lot of cool things but the bad news is we don’t have a private life any longer.

Those are my initial thoughts of our working now in a NOW World.  Did I miss one or two?  Leave your comments below and thanks for reading!

Reminder: Tourism IS Economic Development

Another community leadership group has asked me to speak about tourism and it’s impact to the businesses and entities the classmates represent.  No problem.  Do it all the time and am happy to do so!  What shocked me was the coordinator’s request for me to share how tourism works WITH economic development.  In response I replied I would be more than happy to share how tourism *IS* economic development.  She seemed startled at the response and concept.

While CVBs / DMOs are fighting for our relevancy and possible existence, here we are still with some at square one: what we do impacts the community economically and thus, we – tourism – IS economic development.  I know I am preaching to the choir but for the sake of reminding us, here’s in part what I plan to share with them…

1. Even Economic Development defines tourism as economic development!  In the definitions on EconomicDevelopment.net, Economic Development isabout increasing the flow of capital through the community.  They define tourism’s focus as providing services to pleasure travelers and increasing the flow of capital, especially in the form of money, into the places (the communities) they visit. By definition, tourism IS economic development.

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2. DMAI’s CDME courses puts it this way… the temporary movement of people (TOURISTS) to destinations outside of their normal place of work and residence, the activities undertaken en route to an during their stay at these destinations and the facilities / services created to cater to their needs (TOURISM), which leads to economic impacts generated by these activities (TOURISM INDUSTRY).

3. It ain’t just hotels, restaurants and attractions… plumbers fix the toilets at hotels… restaurants deposit money in banks, dry cleaners clean uniforms worn by attraction associates, the gal that cuts my hair has to make someone in the tourism industry look good, printers print promotional material, real estate agents sell houses to hotel employees, car dealerships sell cars to amusement park employees… need I go on?  Those are just the easy ones!  Those amusement park employees put gas in their cars – gas comes from oil – all you oil drillers and refinery workers, we welcome you as members of the tourism industry!

4. Just look at the numbers…  Domestic travelers spent $7.2B in Oklahoma in 2012 making tourism the 3rd largest industry.  Kansas boasts $8.3B in expenditures in 2011.  Your state probably has similar reports to Oklahoma and Kansas.  The US Travel Association has numerous research reports outlining travel’s impact on the economy.

5. But sometimes a simple statement can summarize points better than all the above…Chris Thompson, President and CEO of Brand USA put it this way at the DMAI Convention this past July: There is nothing about economic development that doesn’t begin with a visit.

Take pride!  What you do is important to the community!  You / we ARE economic development!

Thanks for reading!

Kansas Tourism Conference Summary

Tourism-Conference-logo-2013

The Kansas Tourism Conference theme was Capitalizing on Tourism.  (The conference was held in the Kansas capital Topeka.)  The sub-theme might as well have been Getting Back to Basics.  Roger Brooks opened the conference with a two-part full morning general session sharing Deadly Sins and the New Age of Tourism, Jerry Henry provided guidance on doing research on a shoestring budget, representatives from the state revenue office gave a transient guest (hotel/motel/bed) tax 101, and the state tourism office shared their research and strategy the next fiscal year.

No fireworks.  No glamour.  “Just” a back to basic conference packed with information.  The top nuggets are offered in this month’s 5 in Five:

1. Arguably Roger Brooks’ key takeaway was the command to “jettison the generic”.   All too often we want to present our destinations as attractive to every audience – young, old, rich, poor, family, single, etc.  What we wind up with is a very generic ad that doesn’t attract anyone.  While he didn’t present them, I reflected on Roger’s 40 Overused Words and Phrases to Avoid in Destination Marketing.  Review the list here and then count how many of them are in your ads and publications.

2. Roger suggested 80% of people use the internet before they buy.  While I have seen that number as low as 60% and as high as 95%, regardless it’s a reminder that consumers are using the internet more and more.  Based on that, Roger suggests 45% of a destination marketing budget should be spent on the web/digital/social.  (In case you’re wondering about the other 55% – 20, PR/media; 20, traditional advertising; 10 collateral; and 5 outdoor or trade shows.)

3. Did you know 70% of all spending takes place after 6pm?  I’ve never heard this but Roger sharing it opened a lot of eyes and changed a lot of paradigms as we were challenged to thing about how we should create – or reschedule – events to after 5pm.  Sure it means retail outlets and workers of the events don’t get home to 9pm or later, but want to attract the most spenders?  Start after 5pm.  Our communities’ farmer’s markets are Wednesday mornings.  Yep, a lot of people working at that time.

4. Clearly a testament to the quality of Roger Brook’s presentations when four of the five aha’s are from him, but I appreciated when he stated cities and towns should not hang their hat on a festival or event.  What about the other 364 days (or 51 weekends) of the year?  I reflected on a time I was driving to a meeting in beautiful southwest Oklahoma.  Outside Idabel was a billboard welcoming travelers to the Home of the Dogwood Festival.  The festival is the first Saturday of April.  I was passing through weeks after.  I instantly thought “there isn’t any other reason to visit for the next 50 weeks!?”  (When in fact there is a lot to do in Idabel and McCurtain County.)

5. The last takeaway isn’t going to help your marketing plan or provide any ROI.  It’s merely professional development.  Developer Jack DeBoer welcomed the attendees at the Statehouse and provided sage advise from his book Risk Only Money.  The best was he shared if he had it to do all over again, he would listen more.

Thanks for reading.

Five Things You Should Be Doing on Social Media But Aren’t

Social media… the marketing world never paid attention to it in the late 90s when GeoCities and SixDegrees were starting.  We didn’t engage with MySpace in the early 2000s.  But then Facebook happened.  It hit 200 million users.  Then 400 million.  (Now 900 million.)  YouTube became the second largest search engine.  Twitter reports 1 billion tweets.  Okay, you’ve got marketer’s attention!

Conferences began offering breakout sessions on social media.  Then keynote speakers.  Now full conferences.  (How Dave Serino’s SoMeT didn’t make the list I’ll never know.)  Books, consultants, reporting standards, even it’s own awards.

Marketing departments and DMOs are hiring New Media Managers.  We’re cutting out print ’cause we can post and tweet for free.  Some are doing it well, some are, well, doing it.  While I don’t profess to have the silver bullet to conquering social media, might I suggest Five Things You Should Be Doing on Social Media… But Aren’t:

1. Using LinkedIn… while LinkedIn’s 225 million users pales in comparison to Facebook’s 900 million, LinkedIn is still nothing to push aside.  Most conference sessions tend to discuss Facebook, YouTube and Twitter for attracting the leisure visitor but LinkedIn can be valuable at attracting conferences and meetings.  I have more than 850 LinkedIn connections compared to nearly 500 Facebook “friends”.  Professionals on LinkedIn tend to connect quicker than those on Facebook so you’re able to grow your network quicker.

How do you use it?  Post.  Your office probably has a company LinkedIn page but do you ever post?  If a DMO, post new features or the TripAdvisor rankings of your convention center or a new hotel.  Sales person has a new certification?  An attractions’ new exhibits.  (Off site functions remember?)

Engage… comment on posts so meeting planners keep seeing Joe Gesortenflort, VisitAnywhereville.  Join groups and again, comment on posts.  When you finally call that meeting professional, they’ll be familiar having seen your name numerous times.

If you have significant news, personal message your connections.  We’re focusing on Facebook and not using LinkedIn.  Try it.

2. Monitoring… what are meeting planners and visitors saying about your destination?  Here’s an idea – create a dummy account on Facebook.  Like the association pages.  Then monitor the dialogue.  “Oh crap!  We’re going back to Anywhereville!?  The 2010 conference sucked!”  Engage your PR department and manage a poor perception.  See what the meeting planners are posting about working with caterers, convention centers, or, gasp – your staff!  Social media allows us the opportunity to hear the chatter!

3. Prospecting… Just went on Twitter.  Typed in “Oklahoma Conference” and before the song on the radio ended, I identified 15 conferences that someone could target.  “Association”, “Convention”, “Summit”, “Conclave”, prospect other states business… search LinkedIn too.

4. Engaging… Social media is not a ‘to-do’ each day.  “Posted on Facebook.  Next task.”  Never to look at Facebook again until the next day when you post again.  (Or worse, you use Hootsuite and schedule all of your posts for the week and never look at Facebook.)  If your posts are truly engaging, people are commenting and asking questions.  They’re posting on your wall and sending personal messages.  All which needs to be responded to in a timely manner.

5. Monitoring (2)… especially on weekends.  An office posted about a parade one Saturday morning.  A prospective attendee inquired about the time.  The account wasn’t being monitored and thus, wasn’t seen until Monday morning.

In an experiment, I picked on the Des Moines and Wisconsin Dells CVBs and the Wisconsin state tourism office this July while on vacation.  While driving through Des Moines my tweet inquired about lunch options.  Albeit it was a short time frame, but I didn’t get a response until after lunch (and we had found some awesome BBQ.)  I tweeted over and over about the water slides, cheese and week in Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin Dells CVB and state tourism office only responded once.  “Looks like you had a good week.”  No alternative suggestions, no engagement, no customer service.

Social media isn’t easy.  But it isn’t overbearing either.  These are but five things you should be doing on social media but aren’t.  Is there a sixth or seventh?  What successes are you having?  Comment below and let me know.

Thanks for reading!

DMAI Convention Summary

If you weren’t able to attend the annual gathering of destination marketing professionals at DMAI’s international convention, that’s okay. I have a summary for you. It seemed like last year’s DMAI convention had a recurring theme or two strung between all sessions – mobile and video. Perhaps it was the diversity in sessions I attended this year but there wasn’t a recurring theme it seemed. Instead five or six good takeaways that I’m sharing with you this month:

1. Motivation… DMAI started the convention with this video…

Very motivating as a destination marketing professional. Throughout (and before in the CDME course) there were a few great motivating quotes:

Destination marketing organizations make people’s lives better! We give visitors experiences and memories. We help people learn about other cultures and how to become tolerant. And of course we make the industry and the community money! Gary Sherwin, Visit New Port Beach

Be courageous. Don’t be timid. Do what you need to do to grow the community. Be thoughtful and politically mindful but lead! Gary Sherwin, Visit New Port Beach

There is nothing about economic development that doesn’t begin with a visit. Chris Thompson, BrandUSA

Create demand for the destination. No one else does that holistically like we do. That’s our core purpose – to tell the destination story. Gary Sherwin, Visit New Port Beach

(Of course we needed the inspiration since this was posted days before the convention: Why the DMO model is broke)

2. Social Media… of course there were sessions on Social Media. The biggest takeaway came from the ROI on a Budget session. In it Charlottesville VA CVB’s John Freeman presented their Facebook approach: Beautiful pictures every time 3 times a day – 820a, 250p and 750p. Don’t have pictures? Ask to repost pictures from Flickr, Instagram, etc. The CVB has never had a no. Force the interaction: Can you caption this? Like if you agree that… Share if you think… Hit like if… Results? 44m impressions in 3 months.

Another session speaker said: We need to be human in our real-time communications. Time to loosen up and have fun.

And an attendee tweeted 5 levels of social media sophistication

3. Data Analytics…Think you have the whole reporting thing figured out? Know what to look for in Google Analytics? Don’t get comfortable. Last year’s data analytics methods are likely out of date this year. Wes Nichols, Marketshare.  His session wound up being an infomercial for a program DMAI will probably roll out soon but I really liked this quote. Tends to remind us that we can’t always be making decisions about the future based on the past – at least today’s quickly changing technological days.

4. Group Sales… Didn’t catch who said this or which destination but one attendee in the shirtsleeves shared: We give a bonus to our sales staff AND award the hotels that send the DMO leads. If the hotel can’t book it, keep it in the destination. Brilliant! Although the award probably needs to be more than a free nights stay at a hotel huh!?

5. Crisis Management… Patrick Tuttle shared wonderful insights from their tragedy in May, 2011 when a tornado ripped through Joplin, MO. His best quote: Be proactive. Don’t wait for the media to call you. They may find another source and you may not agree with the choice. Brilliant!

6. Travel Trends… The greatest increases in how travelers get information? Gave you a hint in the opening paragraph – traveler review sites on their mobile device. Couldn’t go through this summary without mentioning mobile could I? We have four months until more people on the planet own a mobile device than a toothbrush. Today, most people keep their mobile device no further than three feet from themselves-they’re that attached to them. And back to the first nugget – more and more travelers are getting their information from travel review sites on their mobile device. That’s why we need to be thinking Web Presence not just website!

And there you go… a few takeaways, aha’s or nuggets from this year’s DMAI convention.  Need more?  I’ve seen this one.  Thanks for reading!