There are few common pieces of advice given to tourism marketers facing recession than “do more with less”. It’s a saying that never really goes away but it’s heard far more frequently when the R-word is flying around. It simply means:
- Increasing the efficiency and output of existing resources (staff, software, finances, vendors).
- Cut tourism expenses that can be viewed as non-operational (i.e., marketing).
- Maintaining or, worst case, reducing your internal headcount without bringing on additional internal or outside help.
In theory, it’s a great idea: organizations are more profitable and operations are more efficient. In practice, it’s a recipe for exhaustion, hastily and poorly executed plans, and depleted morale. It just doesn’t work in the real world if you don’t make some significant changes. There are some things that a DMO can do to streamline and even grow in shaky economic times like these without burnout or all-out mutiny.
Tip #1: Skill-Up Your Team
Your most valuable resource is your team. The more skilled that team is, the more effective your operations will be. I know you don’t need to be told that so let’s get right into ways you can provide that professional development based on your current financial situation.
Option #1: Sufficient Training Budget
If your DMO has the means, then go for some of the industry’s best: Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College or Destination International’s PDM program. There are also other continuing education programs in local colleges that focus on marketing, and business management for more broad learning.
I’m guessing that many destinations are trying to cut costs right now, so here may be the most practical approach.
Option #2: Very Little Training Budget
There are countless online courses available for destination marketing teams. The first and most obvious is probably SkillShare. There are classes on marketing, business management, and more with most courses running less than two hours. Google, MailChimp, and HubSpot also offer free certification programs to help further cut tourism expenses.
Your team won’t gain any new acronyms after their names for taking these courses but that’s not the goal at this point. Instead, it’s working to build their skills so their output is more optimized.
Tip #2: Optimize Your Visitor Journey
Every tourism marketing plan should have a Visitor Journey: a series of steps that a visitor takes from initial awareness of your destination to reflecting on their visit. For each of the steps of this journey, there are certain tools for promotion and metrics (KPIs) for measuring their effectiveness. Here’s an example in its simplest form:
For each of the big blue dots, you should have at least 1-2 tools or channels (email marketing, out-of-home, programmatic display ads, social media, PR, etc.) to speak to the visitor as if they are in the appropriate state of mind. Social media channels should be looked at as unique since platforms can affect potential visitors at different stages in the journey. It’s a lot to get into in this post but I have a few podcast episodes that explain the concept further.
By having goals and metrics for each of these stages, you can quickly find the stage or channels that are underperforming. You can then either swap the channel out or work to improve it. Awareness is where CVBs are commonly focused at the expense of the rest of the journey, so see what could be taken from that stage and given to others.
Tip #3: Alternative Revenue Streams
Relying on heads in beds is not the only way to impact the bottom line of your organization. Among the many communities I’ve visited, I’ve seen so many creative ways to generate funds outside of lodging taxes. Here are just a few:
- Hosting a weekly Farmer’s Market. Often, you only need a part-time facilitator and an empty parking lot one day a week. Set pricing relative to your local market.
- Open an online gift shop — an example is our Company Store. With tools like Shopify, WooCommerce, and print-on-demand companies like Printful or Printify, you can be up and running in a few days. This is also a great way to reconnect with former residents.
- Sponsorship programs. If your organization is a non-profit as many CVBs are, then a quick way to raise funds is by offering visibility sponsorships. You’re already using social media (and perhaps light on content at times) and email marketing. Use those channels as promotional platforms for your local hospitality partners.
Now, I know I’ve just covered three things that add to your workload when the goal is to do less. Here are a couple of ways you can cut tourism expenses and get some of your existing time back.
Tip #4: Partner Up
Speaking of non-profits, chances are that your local chamber of commerce, industrial development authority, neighboring CVB, etc. are non-profits as well. Find ways to go after any grant funding available through partnership since expanded capabilities often result in expanded opportunities.
Next, look for redundancies in your outreach since reducing redundancies can be a great way to cut tourism expenses. If your local chamber of commerce is also working to increase visitation, see where they’re killing it and where you can dial some efforts back to focus on others. Look at it that way and vice versa — where you’re doing well and they’re struggling. This can reduce departmental resources so your team can focus on other things (new programs, new promotional channels, up-skilling – you get the idea).
Tip #5: Automate or Repurpose Anything You Can
With modern tools like MailChimp, Active Campaign, and HubSpot (you know, tools you’re probably already using), you can create a more personalized visitor experience in your outreach and on your website with little extra effort.
You can personalize the greeting message on your landing pages based on what’s in the visitor’s browser (creepy but it works). You can have visitors sign up for specific email topics (dining, outdoor adventures, etc.) and automatically receive a scheduled series of pre-written, emails based on their interests. Set pre-determined chat questions and answers in Messenger for your Facebook page.
There’s always new stuff coming out; I’m currently geeking out on ChatGPT if only it wasn’t down all the time.
Then, look at what can be repurposed. Share posts from your hospitality partners and local destinations. Look back at past articles on your website and re-share them when appropriate either by season, holiday, or any other trend. The goal is to reduce the time you’re spending on things you really don’t have to do anymore.
Doing more with less seems ridiculous and in many cases, it is. If one tries to go about it without increasing efficiencies, building your existing team, and reducing unnecessary or underperforming tasks, it’s likely impossible. Hopefully, these tips will help you regain time and put it toward the things that accomplish more.