Five Focus Factors for Destination Marketers in 2014:

It seems EVERYONE is publishing lists this year. One of my Facebook friends even shared that he was making a list of people he was going to cull from his group of friends at the start of 2014. I’m still waiting to hear back on whether I made the cut.

Destination marketers (and their publishing suppliers) also love to make lists. Some long. Some even longer. I read many of them and I have to tell you…there are lot of opinions and perspectives out there on what 2014 is going to hold for the world of destination marketing and travel in general. The lists I read are far from comparable and the diversity of opinion is true testament to how complex destination marketing has become and how high the stakes are. Or maybe we just make it that way to feel like masters of our own domain.

I too want to publish a “key focus” list for destination marketers in 2014. So…I waited and gathered as many lists as possible. I read. I curated. I combined. I synthesized. And I simplified. All so you can quickly and easily grab a couple of gems of information while waiting for your mochaccino latte at your local Starbucks and deploy at your convenience…or just write-back and say its all BS.

My Five Focus Factors for Destination Marketers in 2014:

1. Destination Advertising Needs to Be Re-Thought:

ImagePrint and broadcast media placements should not be the core of your advertising strategy. Nor should banner ads. They don’t work. They are a waste of money unless you have money to burn because audience trust and recall of traditional media executions and channels are at an all-time low. There are plenty of other powerful options (check out interactive print).  While you’re getting really innovative with your plan I also suggest you develop an advertising “stop-doing” list.  And then have the courage to follow-through on both of them.

2. Destination Marketers Need to Become Expert Content Marketers:

ImageDestination marketers are great story-tellers. We know and love great stories about our destinations because we are experts on them. Stories need to be thought of as content that drive engagement, not “strategic messaging” that drive transactions. We need to be focused on ways to develop and showcase them (HINT: the best ones are in our own backyards) to customers. . Marriott recently announced a series of content marketing partnerships for this very reason. But content marketing for destinations cannot be just about our destinations. We need to develop content around the needs of our customers, not our stakeholders. So if we’re a beach destination and our customers are scuba-divers, we need to be creating and sharing remarkable content relevant to scuba-divers regardless if its about our destination or not.  Its not sell-sell-sell. Its engage-engage-engage-pitch. (Or as Gary Vaynerchuk says: “Jab-Jab-Jab-Right hook”.) DMO’s need an internal staff team or outsource partner focusing exclusively on this.  (Here’s some great tips on effective content marketing.) And…yes, you can afford it because you’re going to be spending a whole lot less on print and broadcast media.

3. Mobile. Mobile. Mobile.:

ImagePC and laptop sales continue to plunge while smartphone sales (and now wearable tech) are booming. If your marketing initiatives aren’t developed to be mobile-centric (mobile website, apps etc) you need to have a serious conversation with your agency and/or advisors. Over 70% of leisure travelers use their smartphones to engage with social media while on their trip. For business travelers and convention attendees its even higher…which explains why the biggest growth area in advertising is for mobile platforms. Meeting professionals now design their programs for mobile engagement by attendees which means you can never have too much bandwidth in your community. If your choice is between printing something and creating an app or a mobile function, ditch the print.

4. Get Serious About Social Media Or Else:

company_socialmediapieSo much has been written about this, I’ll be blunt: Social media is not another advertising channel in which to sell tickets or packages. Its about conversations and engagement with your customers and communities. Destination marketers need to think about it as an outbound content platform and an inbound service platform. That means dedicated management and expertise – 77% of F500 companies already do. And for DMO CEO’s: resistance is futile. You need to do this. It gets you closer to your real customers.

5. Measuring Success Beyond Transactions:

This one is not easy because it involves a multi-level culture change. DMO performance has typically been measured through transactional metrics: room-nights, delegate days, visitor service numbers – measures that people outside our industry cannot relate to). This made sense when the DMO was the major domo in transaction and relationship channels. Technology has disruptively changed all that and the DMO is now regularly bypassed in both channels by technology platforms that manage buyer-seller transactions faster and more effectively than any DMO. Find new strategic measures of success. For example: Collaboratively decide on the 10-20-30 strategic events (forget the transactional ones) that can drive economic development (according to the community strategy) in your community and develop plans to go get them. And for the strategic ones you’ve already secured be their partner in story-telling to drive attendance and visibility. This is what Tourism Vancouver and the Vancouver Convention Center did when they convinced Chris Anderson to move TED to Vancouver. Start a destination development plan and co-create a vision of success with your industry, your community and your customers. Then go make it happen.

BONUS for 2015: Envisioning Destination Big Data 

ImageI published a blog posting in 2013 about this as a huge opportunity for DMO’s to enhance their value proposition in their ecosystems. Other industries (e.g. healthcare) continue to make this a cornerstone strategy yet, beyond a few inspired start-ups, credible destination-level big data on tourism and meetings/events is scarce.  DMO’s should use 2014 to think about their role in becoming THE Big Data enterprise for their destinations. Consider how it could be structured. Consider partners and investors. Talk to experts. But do it now because 2015 might be too late.

2014 is going to be an awesome year for destination marketers. Business is strong and there are more opportunities than challenges…a perfect year to make something remarkable happen.

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