Online Marketing Lessons from a Tourist Town
Top travel destinations devote a lot of resources into convincing tourists to spend their vacation time and dollars in their towns. As with any business, it’s highly competitive and takes a lot of work and creativity to continually draw in the crowds. And there are plenty of good marketing lessons from these tourist hot spots that can be applied to your online marketing strategies.
On a recent trip to one of my favorite get-away towns in the mountains, I was surprised by some of the changes that had been made in an effort to attract and keep visitors. For decades I have enjoyed walking the bustling strip of this small family-friendly mountain town. Previously, the biggest draws were the locally-made fudge, the craftsmanship of area artisans, like potters and wood carvers, and a few quirky but popular kid-centric attractions, all set against the scenic backdrop of huge, lush mountains. Over the years, the town had added larger attractions and well-known branded restaurants to keep new crowds pouring in to the community. But my recent visit revealed the most interesting change: free wine and liquor tastings along the main strip (located in the heart of the Bible belt, this is a pretty big deal). All were locally made spirits such as those from the winery with muscadine and blackberry wines; the distillery that featured Cooter Brown Whiskey and Chokin’ Chicken Vodka; and the very popular moonshine distillery featuring standards like White Ligntnin’ and flavors such as apple pie and lemon drop.
At each tasting, it was a rather efficient process and the regulars knew the drill. Belly up to the bar, show your I.D. and let the pourings commence. At each stop, bands kept the music flowing and the tempo upbeat. I quickly realized there were a lot of very happy tourists, quite talkative and eager to interact with their fellow travelers. It was also apparent that there was lots of spending going on – not only in the areas of the tastings but at restaurants, gift shops, and other nearby attractions, big and small. Maybe it was my imagination, but there seemed to be fewer disgruntled kids and short-tempered parents, too.
It became clear that adding these tastings was an inspired marketing strategy. And there are some lessons that can be applied to your own online marketing strategies:
- Offer a hook: Like tourists, online consumers have lots of choices of where and how to spend their dollars. Having a hook – a special offer or a unique attraction (like a mobile app, for example), is sometimes needed to attract visitors to your site and set you apart from competitors.
- Give them a reason to stay: Once your online visitor gets past that first few seconds of viewing your site and decides it’s worth a deeper look, make sure you provide a reason to hang around longer and explore the site and your products. Provide information, images and offers that lead your visitors through one part of the site to the next, eventually guiding them into the actual buying process.
- Get them socializing: There’s something to be said for getting customers chatting with other customers or prospective customers. While a congenial atmosphere will do the trick offline, online it’s a matter of making it easy to share and chatter via social media. Make your social media icons visible and encourage visitors to share information, leave comments, pin photos, and Like your products.
- Let them sample the goods: Offering an unexpected perk is a good way to help decision makers get off the fence and spend money with you (or at least transition to that next level in the sales funnel). If you sell B2B, free samples can include such things as a complimentary download of an ebook, a product demo, or a free trial. In the B2C space, a free sample of the product is great, but if it’s not feasible to do so online, you can also offer something like a free guide or video with tips on how to use the product and offer a coupon code good for the next purchase.
- Entertain them: Having a live band play music certainly helps keep customers happy and lively, and you can extend the same feeling to the online experience. You may not want to pump out loud music to your website visitors, but you can add other engaging activities such as: polls that allow your visitors to vote on interesting topics; post funny videos to watch; add a quick game or app to download (gamification is a growing trend to increase online engagement); or run a contest that solicits and rewards your customers contributions.
- Make it easy to buy: Getting visitors to your site and convincing them to buy something is only part of the battle. To convert a visitor (or prospect) to a customer, you have to remove any barriers from the purchasing process. Whether you have an ecommerce store with a shopping cart or you require customers to buy offline through a salesperson, make the process as quick and painless as possible. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to abandon that shopping cart and head over to a competitor.
- Be clear about what is expected: Just like the wine tastings had rules about showing proper I.D., you want to spell out the online expectations for your site visitors, too. This includes everything from your privacy policies and rules for exchanges or returns to knowing how to setting expectations for shipping timeframes and other customer service issues.
- Treat them well and invite them back: Perhaps one of the biggest take-aways is about creating happy, loyal customers who will want to come back and see you, again. Often, building loyalty online is the same as offline – that means providing great customer service, offering competitive pricing or a unique value, and providing a terrific product or service. In addition to creating a good experience for your customer, you also have to ask for their business again – give them an incentive to come back to you and stay in touch with special offers and sneak peeks of new products or services. Don’t be afraid to ask for their business!
Have you provided a unique experience for your customers? Or, have you been inspired by an offline event or location to do something different with your online marketing? Be sure to leave a comment and share your ideas!
About the Author
Shannon Belew specializes in online marketing and social media strategy & and is the author of the best selling book, “Starting an Online Business For Dummies All-in-One” and the soon to be released, “The Art of Social Selling.” She is founder of OnlineMarketingToGo.com.