Destination Think first published this post in April 2016, but as we navigate these new times together are there elements of the article still relevant today?
Managing industry stakeholders is one of the biggest challenges every destination marketing organization faces. Dealing with politics, while proving value and relevancy, is almost always an issue. Even with the best intentions, some industry stakeholders may not understand that their own actions can impact the efficiency and effectiveness of their destination marketing organization (DMO).
If you operate a tourism business, here are six things you should know about your DMO:
1) A rising tide lifts all boats
Although your business might compete with other businesses in your destination, the reality is that when more people want to visit your destination, everybody benefits. Ultimately, it’s the marketing job of the DMO to attract more people to your destination, inspire them to stay longer and spend more money. To do so, your DMO needs to focus on the things that make your destination unique and make people want to visit. These unique aspects aren’t always equally weighted, as some experiences or businesses serve as more critical drivers for tourism than others.
This means that sometimes, the largest and most recognizable attractions in a destination do need the additional exposure they often receive. The Eiffel Tower, for example, makes people want to visit Paris, while the lesser-known café down the street probably doesn’t have the same draw. In this case, Tourism Paris needs to promote the Eiffel Tower over the café, lovely as it might be.
What you should do: Let the DMO work more effectively by focusing on the things that will make business better for everybody, even if that means giving more exposure to certain products more than others.
(While we’re on the subject: if your hotel/restaurant/tour etc. is fully booked when a visitor enquires, why not recommend a trusted partner business? It doesn’t necessarily mean losing business to a competitor, but gaining a satisfied visitor and working together to raise all boats.)
2) A DMO isn’t responsible for your sales
With a few exceptions, your DMO should focus their time and effort outside of selling things. It can be a waste of resources, as there will be a number of places to buy tour packages, flights and hotel rooms once someone makes the decision to visit. Since the existing organizations are often much better at local sales than your DMO, it’s better left to them.
What you should do: Don’t expect your DMO to be a sales channel for tickets or reservations. Instead, empower them to focus on selling the destination experience.
(Note that while some city DMOs do operate very successful booking systems, ticket services and city card programs, these tend to be exceptions rather than the rule.)
3) DMOs need to take a long-term view
As a tourism business, you likely worry about next month’s sales and, if they don’t look good, you might find yourself looking to your DMO for help. In some cases, seeking their support is a valid approach (during the BP oil spill, for example), but this is the exception to the rule. In most cases, it’s more important that your DMO implements a long-term perspective (especially your state, provincial or national DMO) toward building your destination’s brand, reputation and demand over the long term. If they don’t, they risk losing visitors to other, more established destinations in the end.
What you should do: Let your DMO take a long-term view for the ongoing growth of tourism in your destination.
4) DMO employees are passionate about the success of you and your business
Because DMOs are often publicly funded, they face specific complications and tend to fall under a lot of political and press scrutiny. Any perceived mistakes made by the DMO can be highlighted by opposing politicians or lead to negative press. Both of which can have detrimental effects on funding.
This situation can be frustrating for you, but the staff at your DMO are also often frustrated by bureaucracy – they just won’t tell you that. DMO employees are unwaveringly dedicated to their destinations. As professionals they understand their responsibilities, and, more important, they love where they live, what they do and will strive to see their destination become as successful as possible, which includes you and your business.
What you should do: Avoid being skeptical of your DMO’s strategy. Instead, learn to collaborate with and support the staff. They’re doing their best work to support you and can always use encouragement, especially when facing the pressures of politics and press.
5) Stop evaluating marketing based on how it looks
It’s all too easy to form an opinion about marketing based solely on what it looks like. For example, you might say, “I like this ad/I don’t like that one,” or, “I like the colour of this website/I don’t like that one.” Often these opinions are based on what the competition is doing. You could hear, “Those TV ads from Destination X look much better than ours.” Or worse, “Why don’t we advertise on TV, the way the DMO next door does?”
If industry stakeholders pay too much attention to how campaigns look, a DMO will often follow suit instead of implementing the most effective marketing for the potential visitor. They might even ignore opportunities with digital ads, email marketing or social media to save the budget for TV or something costlier. These decisions are not necessarily made intentionally, but because stakeholders, whether directly or indirectly, have influenced their decision-making process.
What you should do: Avoid judging your DMO’s marketing tactics based on their appearances. Focus instead on their objectives and the results. Instead, be open-minded about where and how the organization markets your destination.
6) Embrace failures
You might think embracing failure is nonsense. It’s true that in order to grow, you need to win, but you also need to lose. Basketball legend Michael Jordan, who also missed a lot of shots, once said “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Marketers frequently need to experiment in order discover what works and what doesn’t. Unfortunately, many DMOs are afraid to try something different or innovative because they fear the outcomes. They’re concerned that if a new strategy doesn’t work, industry stakeholders, media or politicians will criticize their efforts, jeopardizing their funding or their jobs. As a result, DMOs can often be risk-averse and resort to safe, old-fashioned methods that yield mediocre results.
What you should do: Accept failures as lessons for making better efforts in the future. If things don’t go as planned, remember to support your DMO in the face of critical media and politicians.
How is your local visitor economy recovering together and working to ‘raise the tide’ in your region?
Let us know by leaving a comment below.