One of the many reasons I love my job is the thrill of navigating the ever-changing landscape of marketing. From the tools we use to communicate to the paths taken to deliver the message, trends and technology make new ideas tried and true, then passé very quickly.
What doesn’t change is the need for destination marketing organizations to attract visitors. For a long time this meant top of the sales funnel image-building ads placed in publications with wide appeal. But as travel marketing professionals, stakeholders and DMO board members increasingly expect more of their budget invested in strategies with measurable ROI, what has been tried and true, is becoming passé very quickly.
Content and Context Marketing
With the rise of digital and social media, it has become increasingly possible to craft targeted content and harness data to deliver that content to potential visitors at crucial points in the trip planning process. These strategies are referred to as Content Marketing and Context Marketing. Both efforts rely on knowledge and insights as to what motivates travelers and an understanding of where the targeted potential visitor is in their decision making process. The goal is to establish a connection that resonates with your target at the right time so they convert into a visitor (or a booked meeting, for that matter).
How all of this occurs is complicated. Inbound marketing efforts via Calls To Action (CTAs) on your website, digital ads and social posts driving visitors to landing pages with other CTAs and personalized messaging created by a response to data gathered are just a few means of creating targeted, personalized, relevant messages. And with GDPR shaking up the data scene, even more hurdles are presenting themselves. Nevertheless, digital and social media present numerous opportunities for reaching target markets with timely, relevant information about all your destination has to offer.
As effective as all of these tactics can be, a marketing 101 understanding of the relationship between context marketing and content marketing is fundamental to persuasive communication. For DMOs, knowing who visits, why they visit and what a potential visitor needs to believe about your destination in order to plan a visit should shape every piece of content distributed in every channel chosen. While it’s important to know the demographics of your visitors, it’s equally as important to know where they are in their life cycle to ensure you target them with the right content at the right time. This information helps you determine the context for your content (Say that 10 times fast! “Context for your content”). If you don’t get that right, your program, no matter how sophisticated from a technology standpoint, can derail, leaving you with sagging numbers across the board. And getting it right is work.
Plan For Success
Prepare for your next marketing effort with primary research, measurement and planning. A Marketing Action Plan (MAP) will create a road map for advertising, website and digital marketing, and PR efforts. A comprehensive MAP begins to inform your content strategy, define context marketing and steer both creative direction and media buys. During the Marketing Action Planning process, tourism marketing professionals will list Target Groups (New Visitors, Returning Visitors, Travel Media, Meeting Planners, etc), define the Role of each Target Group in the success of your plan and describe the Beliefs each Target must have to perform that Role. ONLY THEN should you can begin to propose what action will make the process happen for each target group. Think of it this way: if you know where you want to get to but don’t know how to get there, what are the chances of you arriving where you want?
If you have external marketing partners, include them in this plan development process. When complete, this in-depth exercise becomes a living document that should be updated and revised as your marketing tasks are accomplished and results are measured and evaluated for success.
Using the knowledge gleaned during your destination’s Marketing Action Plan development, you can better harness the power of content and context marketing as well as traditional methods. Your media mix and message will line up to your goals, you will know what they need to know about your destination, and your CTAs will be smarter. Then you measure and adjust according to the data, updating your plan. And remember: automation and data are wonderful, but they don’t take the place of your insight as a seasoned tourism professional. Combining their power with your insight and experience will set you on a path for success.