4 Tips to Help You Shift Your Vision Online

Everybody has some sort of big marketing idea. For DMO’s this is part of the structured effort that is part of the daily life of the organization. And for decades this has focused on how marketing worked in the old world, off line.

How is your destination telling the digital story?With online now a part of every destination marketing plan, and continuing to grow and become ever more important in the whole marketing milieu, I have been having strategy discussions with DMO’s large and small that boil down to this: The organization, the people who fund you, the people who advise you and the people who work for you need to open your minds a bit.

Change your thinking.

Don’t abandon your core principles – but those are more about what kind of story you tell, and what your core messages are, rather than how you distribute them.

Instead, it’s time to embrace the maturity of the Internet as a communications tool. This is still exciting, but it is not new anymore. There are clear patterns of behavior, paths of better use, and response data that are years old, and you should be taking advantage of them. To do that, however, requires some change in thinking.

Here are 4 tips to help you do just that:

1. People behave online differently than they do while using every other medium.

These differences are not subtle. The Internet is the world’s only 100% active participation medium. It’s ingrained in it’s architecture. You can’t just turn on the Internet to turn it on. You can’t wait for it to come to you. This means it is 100% behavorial, so the old guessing games (okay the demographics look good, but are they actually travelling) are an unnecessary use of time. Don’t fight this fact, it is indisputable. Embrace it and bend it to your advantage.

2. Ditch the demographics.

Okay, so you have reems of surveys and data that tell you your average visitor is a married woman with 2 kids and a household income of $100,000 or more. Guess what? So is everybody else’s visitor. Online this means little more than background noise.

In a world where you can actually find and target people who already know your destination, people who have always wanted to go, people who are looking for travel information now – not to mention people who like to golf, ski, swim, spa, shop, eat, etc. – in that world a demographic portrait of your visitor is too broad to help you message or to target that message.

This is destination marketing nirvana. You can actually talk to people based on what they want, and there is no better way to tell your story.

3. Your potential visitor could be anywhere.

I’m actually stunned by the number of destinations that tell me they want to do this amazingly creative online initiative – but then only focus on the people online who happen to live in the same target markets they have been buying print, radio, television and outdoor in for the past 50 years.

That’s more demographic stuff really.

Offline you don’t have a choice (unless you have unlimited advertising and PR resources) – you have to hone in on some markets somewhere. And there is still a place for that on the top level online (you know, talking to the Japanese in Japanese, making sure the offer with your airline partner actually goes to the places where the airline is, etc.).

But, let’s look at that behavioral thing again for a moment: If I am an eastern Canadian city, and I market to the big cities in the northeastern US offline (pretty logical), and I move to match that online – I have effectively cut off my ability to expand my potential market share. In reverse, why wouldn’t I want to message to somebody who is sitting in the western part of the US but is looking at other parts of eastern Canada, or other big eastern cities in North America?

They are just as likely to come and pick me as the person in that old target market – and they’ve told me that based on what they are interested in, not where they live. Focus on getting your most likely visitors based on what you’ve got – not where they live.

4. You are not in this alone.

The beauty of social media is in the word social.

Individuals aren’t the only way social works.

Industries can take advantage of it, too.

If you use this content to connect the dots between DMO content, product and stakeholder content, and advocates’ content (people who have already been there), you will be telling a complete story.

Unlike offline marketing where this is always co-op advertising and that’s it, this can be part co-op program, part partnership with other websites to use their content, and part links out to user-generated content like Flickr, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

You will create a more robust message, with more layers of content for potential visitors to absorb, which they will use to bring your brand message and “sense of place” down to their individual comfort zone.

And I cannot think of a better way to get people to decide to come visit you than that.

Editor’s Note: Our sincere thanks to Jim for sharing this perspective.  You can catch up with Jim on his blog, Sense of Place.  Thanks Jim.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.