Tourism Enterprise Opportunities: Creating a Marketing Plan
* Landowners considering tourism enterprises consistently identify marketing as the area where they need the most information and assistance.
4.1 What is Marketing?
Marketing, Advertising and Promotion, are terms that are often used interchangeably, however there are some subtle but important differences.
Marketing is the combination of product design, price, advertising, and promotion used to sell your product and fulfill your business's mission. This includes marketing directly to customers and also to suppliers and potential market partners.
Other activities that support your marketing effort include the following:
Paid advertising: is when you spend money to have your product/activity promoted through television, magazines, newspapers, billboards, and the internet, etc,
Promotion: Marketing activities such as special contests, coupons, trade show displays that you would use to demonstrate your products and services to the general public or special groups.
A marketing plan should clarify how the product is going to “meet a need or desire” or provide a service for the guest. Each market segment may have a different need (or problem to be addressed) and therefore require a different form of marketing, or they may overlap. In the examples below we illustrate some potential needs and desires:
* Where can I get a reasonably priced hunting lease
* Where can I see a Pygmy Owl?
* Where can I go where there will be someone to tell me about the wildlife and history of the place, I want to learn something without a book
* Where can I go to do something really fun
* Where can I go do something different for the weekend
* How can our family all find a way to enjoy a trip outdoors
* How can I have a great vacation without having to fly somewhere?
Your marketing plan should include meeting the needs and desires for each target market. This may take time and will change over time as your business evolves. Your marketing plan should draw on the interpretive plan for guest interaction, which was discussed in more detail in Section 2.5.
One of the best and most commonly used methods for learning about your markets is to survey your guests. Knowing where they come from, when they want to visit, and why they visit is important for addressing their needs and desires. We have provided an example of a survey that was developed by experts at Texas A&M University. We will be expanding on materials about how to develop an effective survey in the future.
Whether or not you conduct formal surveys, we highly recommend that you develop a strategy for gathering information about your customers. Creating a marketing plan without information about your customers is like the chicken before the egg question. In order to develop an effective marketing plan you must have this information. There are ways to get around this dilemma initially, however, in the long run we believe it is very important to start gathering information about your customers in the very beginning stages of the business. There are more resources on this topic available that are outlined in the last section of this Online Resource.
4.2 How Do I Create a Customer Profile?
Understanding your typical customer (market) can help you build your business successfully. Gathering basic information to understand your customer is easy to get by asking some questions. Marketing seminars and marketing publications often focus on the following groups of information for understanding tourism customers.
* Demographics (age, sex, income, etc.)
* Point of origin
* Features of previous destinations
* Spending patterns
* Season of travel
You don't have any customers yet so how are you going to create a customer profile?
In the beginning you may not have much information about your potential customers, but you probably have an idea of the type of customer you would like to attract. You also have asked similar business owners (comparables) about their customers when you gathered customer information for Worksheet #3, question 13. To get started with your marketing efforts you can use that information, but soon you can input your own information into your marketing plan as you begin to gather information about your customers.
4.3 How Do I Describe My Ideal Customer?
Answer these questions to begin describing your preferred customer.
Is your average customer married?
What is the average age range of your customers?
What is the approximate average income level of your customers?
What size of groups will your guests be coming with?
What will be your average group's composition?
- #children ___ #teenagers___ #adults____ #families ____ #other (_____)_____
What are your guests' hobbies and interests?
Use adjectives to describe your average customer:
(Ex. relaxed, adventuresome, luxury seeker, etc)
How far do you expect your average customer to travel to get to your place? (miles)
Season of Travel Characteristics
What times of year do you expect your customers to travel to your destination? This information can be taken from your operating schedule on Worksheet #4, where you specified the timing of your business activities on a month by month basis. You can use this information to determine when to place an ad or when to conduct other promotional activities. Place an X in the months that guests will be coming to your place.
Components of Your Marketing Strategy:
Information pieces include materials such as maps, description of amenities, description of landscape and wildlife, interpretive materials, etc. Information may not specifically be designed to bring customers in, but provide information that may attract them to your place or at least catch their attention.
Press/media releases are information letters/videos that you send to TV, Radio, Newspaper or other organizations to let them know about something special happening at your site—or simply that you are special. It needs to be something newsworthy so that they will actually use it. You have no control over whether or not they use your release. This is where creativity can go a long way to get significant free advertising.
Sponsorship is where you pay to support some special event or activity in order to be a good community member and to have your operation gain exposure to potential customers.
4.4 Marketing Methods
Typically landowners want to know how much it is going to cost to promote their place, however, some of the best promotion can be free.
Type - (Cost*) - [Advantages & Disadvantages]
*Average Cost Range: Free =no cost, $= <$100, $$=$100-$500, $$$= $500+
Internet website ($$/month) [24hrs/day, world wide access but people need to be online and you still need to advertise site in other media]
Internet advertising ($$) [Can be useful for target audience, limited exposure to some markets but great to targeting special interest groups]
Brochure placements ($$$) [Very common and expected, generally low per brochure customer purchases, i.e. you need to distribute a lot of them in the right places.]
Mail outs ($$) [Good for existing customers, repeat business or special audience, too expensive for general audience usually too expensive of general audiences.]
Sponsorships ($$) [Can be great exposure, generate good will, usually slow pay off.]
Yellow pages ($$$) [Probably not useful for rural operation, expensive.]
Special event booths ($$) [Great for direct contact but time consuming.]
Coupons ($$) [Generates interest but be careful to maintain profit margin.]
Word-of-mouth (Free) [Great when positive but you cannot control, encourage referrals.]
Television advertisement ($$$) [Most effective for mass tourism destinations, very expensive.]
Radio advertisement ($$$) [Good for target areas but you can not select exact audience.]
Newspaper advertisement ($$$) [Great exposure but time limited and expensive.]
Articles in newspapers (Free) [Very good exposure when positive, you cannot control.]
Magazines/journals ($$$) [Useful in special interest magazines but expensive.]
Press/media release (Free) [Great way to get coverage, but useful only for newsworthy topics.]
Special interest stories (Free) [Great way to get coverage, but you have no control over publication and hosting travel writers takes planning & work.]
Public Service Announcement (Free) [Can be good but only useful for true public service activities.]
*Average Cost Range: Free =no cost, $= <$100, $$=$100-$500, $$$= $500+
Reviewing this list of options answer the following question in the space below.
How will my customers find out about my place? (In other words, how will I advertise?)
Example Media Story Excerpt (part of a press release)
Our goal is to reach a point that when people around the state and beyond hear the name X Bar Ranch they think of a self-catered nature retreat. That nature retreat includes clean and comfortable accommodations with plenty of charm, quiet and peaceful settings full of rugged West Texas beauty, wildlife observation areas complete with bird and wildlife feeders and water, miles and miles of hand-made nature trails for hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding, beautiful backdrops for scenes just waiting to be painted, photographed or written about, a cool swimming hole for a hot summer day, a crisp and blinding star-lit sky, and plenty of critters looking for new friends. Come join our family of friends at the X Bar Ranch.4.5 Better understanding where your customers come from
In order to reach potential customers and inform them about your place, you must first know where they are (geographic region). Once you have customers, this information can be most simply acquired by asking them for their Zip codes. You should also gather Zip codes from those who inquire about your place.
My customers will come from my:
* Other Nations.
Which one of the above best describes where you would have to advertise to reach 50% of your market, i.e. 50% of the people who will visit your place? This question can be answered simply by getting your customer's Zip code (see the map and discussion).
Most tourism destinations are dependent on customers who are located closer to home than most people expect. The map presented below shows actual results of our analysis of Zip codes of participants in a Game Dinner hosted in Sonora, Texas.
According to the Texas Department of Economic Development –Tourism Division, 80% of visitors to rural Texas travel less than 300 miles.4.6 How Do I Evaluate the Plan?
Marketing plans are constantly adjusted and updated so that customers can be reached most effectively. Sometimes the type of customer that we assume we will attract is not what we were expecting; therefore being flexible in the market plan process is essential.
It is important to evaluate your success monthly, annually, and by each marketing tool (brochure, website, magazine article, etc.). Constantly collect information about your customers and people who inquire about your place.
Zip codes are the simplest to collect, and a survey will provide much more information about your customers and your overall business. Evaluation is a very important part of your overall business operation.
You should constantly be aware of how you can better serve your guests. That is the name of the game in tourism. In regards to your marketing strategies and plan, you should always be gathering information about your customers. This information will help you know how to better reach and satisfy them.
Marketing is a big topic and there would be no way to provide a comprehensive discussion here. However, we have developed other resources to assist you to be more effective.
Refer to the last section of Tourism Enterprise Opportunities for references to these and additional information about Marketing.
The usefulness and power of a Web site for marketing and other purposes is so great that it should be given important consideration if you decide to start a tourism/recreation enterprise. Of all of the ways to promote a business, the Internet provides some of the most useful and cost effective ways to inform and attract your customers and answer their questions.
A well developed Web site can answer most questions that customers, and potential customers, might have. You can give directions, provide pricing, as well as stimulate interest in your place through a well designed and attractive web site.
In addition, by employing some basic Web marketing techniques the Web can enhance your ability to reach your market. Recent research in several states around the nation shows that 65%-80% of travelers are using the Internet to help them gather information before they travel (State Benchmark Survey, Recreation, Park & Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University). They gather information about their destinations.
Another way to leverage your marketing efforts is to identify other businesses and community organizations (e.g. chamber of commerce, regional tourism groups) and create links to their Web sites and cooperate with them to promote your region as a tourism destination. These linkages then create new doorways for people to find your business while on the Web. These doorways can be a valuable asset to smaller businesses that are just getting a start.Getting a Web site hosted can cost as little as $5.95/month, and you could very likely get a Web site developed for a few hundred dollars (or for free if you can find a sharp high school or college student familiar with Web programming). In recent research about small nature tourism businesses with Web sites, the owners recommended that people should learn to manage their own Web sites. A Web site does not need to be fancy or sophisticated to be effective. Simple is Best. Here you can see more details about the importance of having a Web site. Look for more information to be added soon.
Create a Brochure that Sells!
1. The top front 1/3 must Hook the reader. This is often the only part that shows in a brochure rack. This must be the exiting part.
2. How do customers describe you? Use testimonials.
3. Make an emotional connection. Use text & photos that include people enjoying what you are selling.
4. Now tell them highlights and specifics, price, times etc. How much detail is required? Remember the brochure is meant to get them to 1) call 2) attend 3) buy/pay to attend.
5. Use design to strengthen your message. Use fresh, updated photography that tells a story. Choose a typeface that is distinctive and easy to read against your background color/image. Make sure the size fits the rack!
6. Maps. Maps. MAPS! Where are you! In the world, state, county, city, etc. Include a map to your site, meeting point etc. Include a reference to something they can see from the road.
7. Tell them how to get additional information. Phone, email, Web address, mailing address.
8. Create a complete package so it is easy to say yes. Consider where people can sleep and eat.
9. Inquiry (flyers etc. intended to stimulate calls for information) and fulfillment pieces (intended to complete payment/reservation, what they get when the call in for more info) should be consistent in style and information.10. Your text and photos should sell the experience! Sell the enjoyment of riding a boat, Not the ticket, sell the enjoyment of eating a steak, Not just a piece of meat.
Index Page - Introduction - Getting Started - Section 2 - Section 3 - Section 4 - Section 5 - Appendixes