Marketing your small tourism business in the 21th century: #5 Find your target audience and join the conversation

By William Bakker | 04.05.08 | 2 Comments

In my last post in this series I wrote about encouraging your customer to share their experiences online. Now lets take that concept one step further. You can participate in the online discussion. Some call it “joining the conversation”. By joining, you can make new people aware of your business, but also learn a great deal about your target audience. You might even get a new idea about how to make your business more remarkable.
This is really part of #3 Monitor and Respect Tripadvisor. But I consider Tripadvisor a must-do, while this is a nice-to-do. I understand that the operational side of running a business takes up time enough already so you’ll have to monitor if your efforts are paying off. Maybe there’s a creative way. Use a family or a staff member. Starwood Hotels has somebody employed to answer questions on Flyertalk, a frequent traveler community.
An important aspect of engaging in online communities is that you can’t use traditional marketing tactics. In most cases it’s completely inappropriate to advertise your business. And in Europe, there’s talk about making it illegal. Here’s an bad example from the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum:

Hi every one
We are looking for two more people to join a 4 days Camping Safari to Ngorongoro and Serengeti starting from 24th May 2007 to 27th May 2007.
Please Contact us USAP ON xxxxx

This sound like a group who are looking for some people to travel with. No, it’s not.

“Us” meaning ‘our company.’
Stop advertising here Shidolya. You’ll get a bad name.

It’s very easy to destroy your reputation and credibility. Don’t be tempted but play by the rules. The risks of getting caught and getting a bad name are too big.
It’s a very delicate line. The best thing to do is to be genuinely helpful. The opportunity you have is to be seen as an expert. An experts of the area where you live, and the secor you represent. If you run a eco touring company in Parksville for example, become the eco expert of the Parksville area in a relevant online community. If you’re helpful, people might seek your services over others as a reward. If you do say something that’s related to your business, stay in context of the conversation and offer full disclosure. The best thing to do is add your website URL in a signature and let people decide for themselves. Here’s a good example:

You can visit Tambunan Rafflesia Reserve whn you are at KK, by taking a minivan to Tambunan that only cost your around RM 10. Journey will take approximately 30 to 40 mins only. Note that visit to Tambunan Rafflesia Reserve doesn;t guarantee you that you will spot the blooming rafflesia…
Your ultimate Borneo Longhouse Adventure & Homestay Program:

So find the right community for you and join in. It’s fun, you’ll learn a lot, and hopefully drive some customers your way.

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