Making The Most Of Your New Media Budget, Part 1

Part One: Narrowcasting Your Target Audience For Optimum Results

Knowing that much of today’s travel planning occurs online, it can feel impossible to sort through myriad available communications channels -- pay-per-click, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, e-mails, banner ads and branded content. With limited marketing funds, what’s a travel marketer to do?

This article is the first in a three-part series designed to develop a results-focused media plan for 2013.Today, this post addresses who you’re targeting, what you’re trying to accomplish and the best message to attract the right consumers.

So often when we ask clients to identify their target audience, they say, “Everybody!” Families, Baby Boomers, Millennials, foodies and outdoor enthusiasts -- of course, most marketers want them all. When we ask where the primary target audience lives, we’re told “visitors come from all over the world.”

For most destinations, hotels, resorts and attractions, this is all true. People do visit from around the globe, and you may want “everyone” as customers. But a one-size-fits-all media plan is probably not going to attract them. Most marketing budgets do not support worldwide reach to all interests, so let’s dig a little deeper and identify the closest geographic and demographic markets delivering the most potential visitors.

It may be counter intuitive, but focusing on one or two market niches will produce better results than marketing to a mass audience. Given a choice of targeting narrow and deep vs. broad and shallow, tight segmenting will win the day. Why? Because it prompts more word-of-mouth, fosters deeper relationships and creates more sharing and storytelling opportunities -- the Holy Grail of tourism marketing. Focusing on an audience niche also makes it easier to prioritize your media spend, providing enough frequency to make an impact.

Here’s a two-pronged approach for identifying the most important consumers with whom to communicate:

  • Find out who is already visiting and why so you can recruit more like them.
  • Find out who is not visiting and why so you can reach new audiences.

Step 1: Collaborate with other tourism partners in your area and take a look at the free data available about people who have traveled to or are interested in traveling to your destination over the past year. 

Step 2: Comb through hotel check-in info, newsletter registrations, visitor center guest book info, website analytics and Facebook analytics to determine what you can learn. 

  • Where do they live?
  • What’s the predominant age group and gender?

Look for the largest groups, and identify the top geographic and demographic targets for 2013. 

Step 3: Next, study what type of content attracts them (web traffic and email click-through data will provide clues) and engages them (see Facebook analytics) to see why they are visiting and what they are most interested in about your destination. 

You may also want to survey your e-newsletter readers or conduct a Facebook poll. The purpose of this step is to ascertain:

  • Why did they visit?
  • What kind of content did they click on or interact with?

Step 4: Identify whether there any important geographic or demographic audiences that are missing. 

  • Who is not visiting?

Step 5: Once you’ve identified the obvious missing segments, research why they aren’t visiting. If you’re having trouble getting information and you want more, partner with a media outlet popular among the desired demographic and, through a paid sponsorship, conduct a survey to identify how your hotel or destination is perceived by this group. Offer an incentive, e.g., a chance to win a weekend getaway, to all survey participants, and pay attention to the findings. 

Step 6: Determine one new goal for the upcoming year. For example, you might determine that 2013 is the year you focus on:

  • Attracting a new audience segment;
  • Reclaiming your heritage in a certain experience area; 
  • Deepening your relationship with a specific visitor type; or
  • Inspiring repeat visits from people living in a nearby market or those interested in a specific type of vacation.

Don’t try to be all things to all people. Here are some examples of clear objectives that can help focus a program for greater success: 

  • Position our region as a culinary destination to consumers ages 25-40 living in the three largest major metropolitan areas in neighboring states.
  • Inspire repeat visits from weekend warriors living within a two-hour drive from our resort.
  • Make it easy for West Coast Millennials, the next generation of wine tourists, to learn more about adventures in our region.

Step 7: Audit what you have to offer this audience niche and what makes your destination unique to help you focus your message.

Step 8: Craft the right offers and messaging to attract your target audience. Review the findings from Step 3, select the most popular concepts and run multiple options via Facebook and Google ads. Then optimize the message based on the test results and roll it out across other content and media channels.

Now, having identified your target audience, goal and messaging, you’re off to a good start on your new media plan for 2013. But there’s more to figure out! 

Next month, tune in to my Marketing:Travel post for the second article in this series to get tips on when and where to apply the message across other content and media channels.

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