5 Marketing Lessons from 5 Years in Business
Published on November 27, 2017
December 2017 marks 5 years since Paige and I met over a coffee and Tim Tam at my house, and came up with the idea of Tourism eSchool!
To mark our 5th birthday, we thought we’d share with you some marketing lessons we have learnt that have helped us grow our business organically to a sustainable business that provides a decent income and fits around our family commitments.
While our business model is different to locally based tourism operators and destination marketing organisations, each of these 5 marketing lessons can be applied to both types of tourism brands.
We are our strongest brand asset!
Interestingly, over the last 5 years, we found our most important brand asset in our business is actually Paige and myself.
It hasn’t been our logo, website or the outcomes we delivered for our customers.
While there are other consultants and trainers who offer similar products and services, they aren’t Paige and I.
We both have our own personalities, training and communication style which sets us apart from other businesses who offer similar products. It has also helped us to see we don’t actually have competitors, as there is only one of Paige and I!
While it hasn’t always felt comfortable, we’ve stepped out of our comfort zone and made ourselves get up on stages, in front of videos and cameras and been a human and connectable face of our business.
What you can do
- Tourism Operators: Give your business a human face! Tell the story of how your business came to be, and be brave and get in front of a camera or video to share your story of your business and region through social media and your content marketing.
- Destinations: Tell the stories of your local tourism legends and tourism businesses in your marketing, to again, put a human face to your destination and build trust and consideration for your region!
Advertising hasn’t worked for us
We have invested in different types of advertising over the last 5 years – trade booths, event sponsorship, printed flyers, print advertising and digital advertising in trade eNews.
However, apart from easily spending $$, we have seen very little return on our investments.
Instead, our most successfully marketing efforts has been our content marketing: our regular blog writing, which we share via social media and a regular eNews.
Regularly writing articles, that help and solve the problems of our tourism business and destination customers, has been a cornerstone of growing our business. Benefits of blogging we have found include
- Blog articles have helped us build trust over time with potential customers and industry colleagues.
- When they have been shared online, this has helped grow the awareness of what we offer to new potential customers.
- They demonstrate our expertise in the area of tourism and destination marketing.
- They have contributed to our very strong organic search rankings in search results around tourism marketing training courses!
Plus other than our time, blogging has cost us very little $$ to do!
What you can do
- While there is usually a place for strategic advertising for tourism businesses or destinations, make sure you ONLY invest $$ in advertising that is relevant to a touchpoint of your Ideal Customers. Also make sure you measure it to ensure it is providing you a positive return on investment.
- Profile and Journey Map your Ideal Customers through the steps and feelings they have in the lead up to and during their time with you.
- Work out where and what influencers them on or offline, before spending any $$ on advertising.
- Definitely make sure you invest in writing regular, helpful and inspiring blog articles on your website!
Our website is our third business partner
From day 1 of our business, our website has been our most important business asset.
When we first launched our business in December 2012, we built the first version of our website ourselves (Thanks Paige!) using a WordPress template.
From there, as our cashflow permitted, we saved up and invested our profits into a new consumer website in 2014, and then as we outgrew that one to deliver our programs, we invested in our membership website in 2016, which you can see below.
For us, our website is absolutely the third “person“ in our business.
It’s our “shopfront” of our business. It shows and explains who we are and what we do and how we can help our potential customers.
It is also our Operations Manager, as it is where we process our enrolments, collect customer feedback and deliver our online learning and training.
It is also our Business Manager, as combined with our Google Analytics, it tells us what is and isn’t working in our business marketing.
What you can do
Ensure you review your website every year to ensure it is helping achieve your business or organisation goals (eg growing bookings or growing destination awareness and interest) and invest in keeping it updated and relevant.
- Review your visitor engagement date on Google Analytics data to see what is and isn’t working on your website, and fix it!
- Keep your product pages up to date.
- Invest in new photos or videos to better tell your tourism experience story.
- Check your booking or conversion process to ensure it is simple and easy for customers and all optimised.
- Regularly add fresh new content in the form of a blog.
Working with Influencers has been key
Working with Organisations who are trusted by and influence our Ideal Customers has been hugely important in our marketing.
Other than our content marketing, the last couple of years have been about building relationship with Influencer organisations.
Tourism Industry Councils + Bodies, State and Regional Tourism Organisations and Local Government have been incredibly supportive and important partners in helping spread the word about Tourism eSchool.
This has been achieved through being paid up members of their organisations (where relevant) and supporting their members with marketing training through their live conferences or online events. It has also enabled us to have information about our Mentoring products shared to their members.
These organisations have provided a platform for us to share our brand story and products to their members who don’t know about us and were our Ideal Customers. They also helped us build trust more quickly through their endorsement of our brand.
What you can do
- Brainstorm a list of who influences and is trusted your Ideal Customers?
- Think about your regional, state or national tourism organisation? Trade partners? Local residents? Customers? Visitor Information Centre staff? Other local businesses in your region? Online media influencers?
- Now brainstorm ways you could connect and work with them to get the message out about your destination or product experience?
Word of mouth marketing is our #1 marketing tactic
We track exactly where all our business has come from over the last 5 years.
A large part of our sales over the last 5 years has come from referrals from happy customers or advocates of Paige and I who knew us in our prior work lives. This is often supported by the content marketing they have seen us produce (#2) or see us speak at an event (#3).
We also follow-up all our customers, to see how we could improve their experiences next time and implement what they suggest.
We also ask them for a testimonial, which we can then use on our website to build trust with new customers looking at our products.
By focusing on looking after our customer needs in our mentoring programs and delivering a great consulting outcome for our destination clients, we have grown our business sales, year on year, with minimal investment in advertising (see #2)
What you can do
- How can you listen to your customers/visitors and evolve your tourism or visitor experience to deliver a better experiences they then rave about?
- How can you encourage online advocacy of your tourism brand online, such as through TripAdvisor or Google?
Over to you!
- Which of our five marketing tips could you focus on in your tourism experience now?
- Do you have any other top marketing tips you have found valuable in your tourism marketing you would like to add to this list?