In 17 years of being in the marketing business, I've seen a lot of interesting strategies used to promote destinations and a heck of a lot of missed opportunities. It pains me to watch, so I'm here to tell you how to avoid a few of these pitfalls and spend your money and time more wisely.
MYTH 1: You have “something for everyone."
It's the age of information overload. People want the best of whatever that thing is you do best. Got amazing local fishing? Capitalize on that. You will spend a lot of money trying to reel in (sorry for the pun) too many demographics. Pick an audience and focus on and budget for it for 2 years at minimum. I can't tell you how many campaigns I have seen that were discontinued prematurely. Once you've got your hook (sorry, not sorry), then you can expand but trying to cast a wider net (I'll stop now) to just get bodies there never works.
MYTH 2: “If you build it, they will come."
No one cares. It's one of the few things GenXers and Millennials have in common. Boomers may still have a bit of loyalty but it's becoming passé as more options for events, vacations and experiences flood their inboxes. So how do you get them to care and most of all to come? Stop building new stuff for a lot of people and make the old stuff cooler for a few. Retire your old and tired FAM tour and invent a new angle on the same spaces. Time is money and pretty soon competing for people's attention by paying or rewarding them directly will become standard procedure. Start rewarding your “influencers" (people who have an online following or voice within a niche community) and if the rewards keep flowing, they'll be a life-long loyalist.
MYTH 3: “The more likes the better."
Let's say you paid to exhibit at a vacation show and you told people to “like" you on Facebook. On the surface it looked successful because you got a ton of “likes," but now you're going to have to pay for advertising all your Facebook posts (Twitter and Instagram soon to follow) to reach a mere fraction of your whole audience – an audience that you spent time and money (and a show fee) to acquire. And those rates keep going up. Unless you're either getting their actual email signups to your newsletter or tagging people on the spot from your iPhone so their friends see your brand, you might as well have thrown that exhibit fee in the trash. Own data, don't just rent it!
MYTH 4: “Reciprocity means liking the post you are tagged in."
Let's be honest, shall we? The only reason someone tags you in a post is that they are hoping to leverage your reach with you re-posting it to maximize exposure. Now, that's reciprocity. If all you do is “like" the post, I can guarantee the only thing your tagger is doing is rolling their eyes. “Likes" accomplish nothing. They may as well be trees falling in the forest for no one to hear. If you don't re-post, your followers don't actually see the original post – and that was the intention. If someone tags you and you don't want to re-post, that's totally cool. We can't re-post everything, it's not feasible. Just please don't only “like" it. It's soooo patronizing. (Eye roll) ;)
MYTH 5: “Travel is fun for all New Yorkers."
Again, just trying to be real here! The actual act of traveling, especially for New York City residents, is physically demanding and downright grueling most days; the dreaded packed subway cars, the endless underground mazes to transfer trains, the steps, and the more steps, the hot putrid air in the summer, the cold bus stop benches in the winter … not to mention the cost! If you want to appeal to New York City visitors, most of which are car-less, you will make the act of traveling to you actually pleasant – the anti-thesis of our travel in everyday life. That could mean reimbursing or discounting travel costs, offering free or low-cost bikes to get around, having a fun and informative mobile app we can consult on the way there, or funding a looper shuttle for craft beverage trails. No one wants to worry about drinking at your distilleries and how to get back to our lodging at night. Keep these things in mind the next time you reach out to NYC residents. We definitely want to visit you but the easier you make it getting to you and around your destination might make the difference in whether we actually do and come back.
Caylin Sanders founded EscapeMaker.com 17 years ago to promote local weekend getaways and day trips within a day's drive or train ride of NYC. After winning an Emmy Award for producing a local food & travel web series, she went on to open an agri-tourism pop-up shop at the South St. Seaport and to operate the Dutchess County Farm Fresh program with Metro-North Railroad under the EscapeMaker brand. Recently, she produced a 2018 farm animals fundraising calendar to benefit GrowNYC Greenmarket farmers and producers and launched a local tasting event series at Fulton Stall Market. Find her on the interwebs at www.escapemaker.com, on email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media @escapemaker. Photo credit: Dan Phiffer.