I’ve worked at a destination marketing organization for 11 years, and have spent the last 4 years at Think! where I’ve worked with more than 100 DMOs from all around the world. And a big challenge for every DMO is managing their industry stakeholders. The politics. Proving value and relevancy.
Even if well-intended, I don’t think industry stakeholders truly understand how their actions can impact the efficiency and effectiveness of their DMO.
If you’re a tourism business, this is what you should know about DMOs:
1) A rising tide lifts all boats
You might compete with other businesses in your destination, but the reality is that when more people want to visit your destination, everybody benefits. That’s the marketing job of the DMO. To get more people there, get them to stay longer and spend more money. Your DMO needs to focus on the things that make your destination unique and the things that make people want to visit. You might not like it, but some experiences/businesses are more important drivers for tourism than others.
Don’t take the view that that big attraction doesn’t need additional exposure, because you’re completely missing the point. The Eiffel Tower makes people want to visit Paris, while the café down the street probably doesn’t. Tourism Paris needs to promote the Eiffel Tower, not the cafe, lovely as it might be.
What you should do: let the DMO work by focussing on the things that will make business better for everybody, even if that means giving more exposure to certain products than others.
(And while we’re on the subject: if your hotel/restaurant/tour etc is booked out when a visitor enquires, why not recommend a trusted partner business? You’re not losing business to a competitor, you’re gaining a visitor to your destination and working together to raise all boats.)
2) A DMO isn’t responsible for your sales
With the exception of few cases, your DMO shouldn’t put their time and effort into selling things. It’s a waste of resources. Once someone makes the decision to visit, there are legions of other places where people can buy packages, flights, hotel rooms, etc. These organizations are much better at it than your DMO. Your DMO doesn’t need to do this.
What you should do: Don’t see your DMO as a sales channel. Your DMO sells the destination experience, not tickets or reservations.
(Note: some city DMOs have very successful booking systems, ticket services and city card programs, but these are the exceptions.)
3) DMOs need to take a long-term view
As a tourism business, you worry about next month’s sales. And if they don’t look good, you might look at your DMO to try and fix it. In some cases, that’s valid (think the BP oil spill). But in most cases, it’s not. Your DMO should take a long-term view (especially your state/provincial/national DMO) to build your brand, reputation and demand for the long term. If they don’t, other destinations will win in the long run.
What you should do: Let your DMO take a long-term view for the ongoing growth of tourism in your destination.
4) People working at the DMOs are passionate about you and your business
DMOs are often publicly funded. That comes with specific complications. They’re under a lot of political and press scrutiny. If they make a “mistake”, it can be used by politicians in the opposition, or result in negative press. Both can have very bad impacts on funding.
This situation can make things frustrating for you. But guess what, your DMO people are often very frustrated by bureaucracy…they just won’t tell you that. I’ve worked at, spoken to and worked with hundreds of people working for these organizations and they’re almost always the most dedicated professionals who understand their responsibilities. They love where they live, what they do and want to make you successful.
What you should do: Lose the scepticism, and learn to collaborate and support the staff of your DMO. They’re good people who need your support, especially when they’re impacted by politics and press.
5) Stop evaluating marketing based on how it looks
It’s very easy to have an opinion about marketing based on what it looks like. “I like this ad/I don’t like that one/I like the colour of this website/I don’t like that one.” Often this involves the competition. “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?”
Because industry stakeholders pay so much attention to how things look, a DMO will often pay more attention to what their industry might think instead of what is most effective for the potential visitor. They’ll even ignore marketing such as Google Ads, email marketing or social media because they need the budget for TV or something. It’s often not because they want to, it’s because you make them, directly or indirectly.
What you should so: Don’t judge your DMO’s marketing based on how it looks. Focus on objectives and results. Be open minded about where and how they market your destination. The world of marketing has changed.
6) Embrace failures
That doesn’t make sense, right? Actually it does. In order to learn, you need to win… but you also need to lose. Michael Jordan missed a lot of shots and once said “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
As a marketer you need to experiment in order find out what works and what doesn’t. There are too many DMOs out there afraid to do anything different or innovative because they’re afraid. Afraid that if it doesn’t work out, industry stakeholders, media or politicians will criticize the efforts, and their funding (or jobs) could be in jeopardy. As a result, DMOs are often very risk-averse, resort to being safe and old-fashioned, with mediocrity as a result.
What you should do: accept failures as long as they’re used to make things better in the future. Also, defend your DMO from media and politicians when things don’t work as planned.
Any other suggestions, or examples where your businesses have supported your DMO? Share them with me here!
Destination Marketing is storytelling. And by now every DMO is generating content and distributing it through their own channels. Content is shared, people engaged, fans, followers and engagement is measured and reported. Social Media is firmly established as an important channel.
But if you want to start thinking like a level 4 DMO, one of the first things to do is look beyond storytelling through your own channels. The stories people share with each other in their own networks (often private and invisible to marketers) is more credible and trusted than any story a DMO creates.
At #SoMeT13AU, Carl McCarthy from Facebook shared that over 70% of travellers update their status and/or share photos while on holiday. Let’s look at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a populair tourism attraction in Vancouver. The public stats for their Facebook page show a respectable 12,401 fans with 1,275 people talking. But look at an often overlooked little statistic; 449,930 photos have been tagged with this tourism experience.
Let’s look at ten of the more populair attractions in Vancouver (selected by myself from memory).
|Capilano Suspension Bridge Park||12,404||449,930|
|Grouse Mountain Resort||22,597||148,824|
|Vancouver Art Gallery||20,631||64,857|
|Museum of Anthropology||6,766||26,146|
|The Vancouver Lookout||3,003||17,747|
|Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden||2,446||29,980|
Collectively, these pages have 146,819 fans. More than 3x the fans of Tourism Vancouver’s page. The total number of photos shared is almost 2 Million! If we consider that the average Facebook user has 150+ friends it means that those 2 million photos probably reached tens of millions of people. And those are just photos of attractions where people geotagged the photo. The true number of tourism related photos shared online for Vancouver is exponentially larger. That’s the real Facebook marketing.
There’s also plenty of research that demonstrates the effect of somebody posting a Facebook picture has on their network for example. Anywhere from 20% to 52% of consumers have taken a trip to a destination as a direct result of seeing a photo posted by a friend.
And that’s just Facebook.
The implication is that a DMO marketer needs to look beyond their own channels. Most of the conversation is happening elsewhere and often invisible. But as you can see in my examples above, that doesn’t mean you can’t measure it. The success of growing tourism in your destination goes beyond the activity the DMO manages. It’s a collective effort.
[By the way, I only used Vancouver as an example because I live there, no other reason]
Imagine you had to start a DMO. Your DMO. You have been given the same budget and must start from scratch. Would your DMO look exactly the same as it does now? The same departments, same positions? The same budget allocations? The same marketing tactics?
The internet, and social media in particular, have completely changed tourism marketing. Forever. People might not talk on Facebook about which fabric softener they use or which soft drink they prefer, but everybody talks about their travels. Social media sophistication is crucial to modern marketing. Yet the tourism industry is way behind.
We have worked with dozens of DMOs around the world, ranging from very small to very large. And we have spoken to hundreds more. Based on our conversations and experiences we have identified the following levels for social media adoption and integration into the organization.
1) Ignoring social media
This level represents DMOs who are not active at all in social media. Social media is seen more as a threat than an opportunity.
Characteristics you can find at this level are:
Two years ago, there were many DMOs at this level, but by today most have moved on. Most DMOs that remain here are tied to very restrictive government policies.
2) Experimenting with social media
DMOs experiment with social media without a specific strategy through random tactics.
Characteristics you can find at this level are:
There are still a lot of DMOs operating at this level. It often takes a noticeable event to move them to the next level. This could be spurred by a social media success internally or by the DMO next door. For example, a rival’s viral YouTube video or growing number of Facebook fans.
3) Social media supporting marketing campaigns
Due to a lack of strategic knowledge, DMOs incorporate social media in paid, outbound marketing campaigns. Often this is an add-on to traditional marketing campaigns, such as a YouTube channel showing videos originally made for TV or using Facebook and Twitter to broadcast campaign messaging.
Characteristics you can find at this level are:
Most DMOs operate at this level, sometimes with some additional effort to keep Facebook and Twitter going year-round. Often the level of success depends on the sophistication of one or two staff members.
DMOs at this level want to succeed but cannot break out of the traditional way of doing business. Getting to level four is usually achieved by having a strong social media success as part of a bigger initiative or having an epiphany that social requires a different way of thinking. Usually, level two experiments continue alongside level three activity.
4) Following a social media strategy
This level is typified by a DMO having a social media strategy in place or having social media integrated into its marketing strategy. The DMO still believes that it is in full control of the destination brand.
Characteristics you can find at this level are:
Leading DMOs have entered this level. Over the next few years we expect a rush of DMOs moving here. DMOs that enter level four first are the ones with less restraining operating environments (such as funding) with innovative leaders and marketing managers.
5) Embracing the social business model
The level five social business recognizes that the destination’s story and reputation are based on visitors’ experiences at every touch point during their trips (see point 1 in “Top 5 Wrong Assumptions in Destination Marketing”). This DMO knows and accepts that it is no longer in control of the destination story. It recognizes and acts on the need to collaborate closely with its industry, residents, influencers and visitors, and that it must change the way success is measured.
The level five DMO starts with the core of the passions that make a destination relevant and leads all partners that have an impact on those experiences. The sole focus is on delivering outstanding visitor experiences that are unique to the destination, and then making it easy for visitors to share these experiences in their own voices.
As painful as it may be, the DMO re-organizes, ending much of its old way of doing business. Staff is re-trained and assigned to new activities.
Characteristics you can find at this level are:
We’re not aware of any DMOs at level five. We have spoken to many DMO executives who know they need to get here and want to get here. Often, their funding models or destination-specific politics stand in the way.
The DMO closest to a level five we are familiar with is Visit Sørlandet in Southern Norway. As a newly created regional DMO, this organization quickly realized it would be impossible to build a Southern Norway brand the traditional way. By creating a strategy based on collaborating with local DMOs and industry members to improve the visitor experience and elevate the collective digital marketing efforts, Visit Sørlandet is building it’s brand through every touchpoint while growing repeat visitation and encouraging word-of-mouth.
For many DMOs that have not reached level four, level five may seem pie in the sky. But the further you move your DMO through the levels, the more you realize just how much the world has changed and the true impact this has. Once you enter level four, you can see level five. It is no longer pie in the sky. It is tomorrow.
At what level is your DMO?
Your DMO’s current level is not a sign of success or failure. Every DMO is different. Politics and funding models have a big impact. So does the size and scope of a DMO. A country DMO is different from a city DMO. This affects specific marketing strategies and tactics.
It is also not a race. It is a process that organizations need to go through. Some might skip a step. For others, the levels could overlap. But in order for DMOs to stay relevant and effective, they need to climb up.
We have worked with DMOs in all shapes and sizes at every level of this process. We enjoy helping DMOs make the climb.
We have conducted audits, started Facebook pages, trained staff, implemented social media as part of bigger campaigns, run social campaigns, created strategies, helped to define entire business plans centered around social principles and much more.
Inventing the future
Alan Kay, the inventor of the GUI and object-oriented programming once said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Instead of all DMOs trying to invent level 5 independently, we think the best future is that we all invent it together and collectively stay relevant. Please share your thoughts in the comments.
As always, thanks for all my Think! coworkers for their contributions in creating this post
Conferences are inherently social. People gather to learn and discuss topics that they are passionate about with people who care as much about it as they do. Yet the way conferences are created and promoted are incredibly traditional.
There’s a better way: bake social into the conference.
A good example is the Social Media Tourism Symposium Think!’s very own Dave Serino started in 2010. The mission statement describes what the conference is all about:
The symposium is a combination of destination marketing organizations, hotels, resorts, attractions and any other tourism related entities sharing ideas and learning more about how social media is effecting promotion within the travel industry.
What makes this conference unique is the involvement of attendees throughout the entire process. Attendees will have a voice in everything from the location to the session topics and presenters.
By involving the people who care about the subject matter in the planning process, Dave creates a conference that is more relevant and, therefore, more likely to be attended by the people who helped create it. Because all of this happens in social media, people who care are also promoters of the event.
For example, the destination selection process is driven by the SoMeT Facebook community. DMOs respond to an RFP and the Facebook community votes where the conference is going to be held. The 2012 selection process is entering the final stages.
In the process, people also get to know each other. They make friends online and want to attend the conference to meet those new friends.
This is what conferences are all about. Going to a cool place, learning relevant things and meeting new friends. By baking social media into the conference itself (instead of looking at it as an advertising vehicle) you make conferences more relevant with attendees who feel strongly connected and want to help make the event a success.
I think it was Michele McKenzie who said at Online Revealed Canada that people in the tourism industry should realize they’re in the business of making memories first and putting heads to beds second. I agree.
If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s TED video below, you really should. His book is a worth a read as well.
Simon’s hypothesis is simple. Businesses communicate wrong. They communicate WHAT they do, then HOW they do it. Instead they should communicate WHY they do things, then HOW they do it, then WHAT they do. When you inspire people about WHY you do things, the how and what makes more sense.
At Think! we believe we can make people’s lives better by making tourism experiences better, one destination or product at a time. We do this by working with DMO’s and tourism product operators, helping them create remarkable products and market them to the niche audiences that truly love them. We have a methodology and we offer strategic development, training, products and delivery services to achieve this.
Why should somebody visit your destination or business? Don’t tell me because you have the best food, the best golf, best art scene or the cleanest rooms. That’s WHAT you do. And everybody else claims the same thing.
Disney themeparks are in the business of making “magical” memories for families. Vegas is in the business of making memories that “stay in Vegas” to anybody but families. They both know their WHY and so does everybody who works there, and their customers who visit know it as well.
What’s your WHY?
People don’t make a travel decision on a national tourism board website
Justin said: “Our research told us that the majority of long haul travelers visit a national tourist board after they’ve already made the decision to visit”
VisitBritain’s rightly concluded that in order to target people in the decision making process, they need to engage in other places like third party websites. A content partnership with Yahoo is working very well for them for example.
The future of CRM/eMail Marketing is under threat
Justin said: “Where previously you might have focused a lot of CRM activity we learned that the inbox is no longer a happy place. People want to clear it out as fast as possible. So we now want to focus on finding places where people are in the mindset of making decisions about travel [social media].”
I wondered about the same thing about a year ago in this blog post. As people become overwhelmed with email, they pay less attention to marketing messages, even when they opt-in. This kind of change won’t happen overnight but social media is an environment where people are easier to engage, two-way dialogue is possible and content is easy to share.
Social Media’s network effect has incredible reach
Justin: “10,000 followers is amazing. But we followed the traffic of some of our tweets and each of our tweets reaches a potential audience of about 325,000 people”
Through re-tweets on Twitter, and by tagging and sharing on Facebook, a message can travel far and wide in a very short period of time. And the content itself is much more credible because it’s endorsed by a friend who shared it.
Tourism Australia’s fanpage with over 600,000 fans is a good example. Every message they posts could be read by that many people. And for every person that comments on the post, the post gets published to their friend network, extending reach with the potential to organically grow their fanbase.
And as a side-effect, “Facebook is now the third largest referrer to VisitBritain after Google and Yahoo, and we’re not even seeking to push people to the website.”
Content is far more important than a website
Justin: “Our website is not the most important marketing tool for us, our content is. We’re just as happy if somebody reads our content on Yahoo as on our website.”
VisitBritain is agnostic about where content is being consumed and as a result, more of VisitBritains content is being consumed on third party websites. A partnership with Yahoo produces an exponential amount of views, for free. More videos are viewed than some market websites receive visitors.
Producing or gathering the right content, and pushing it out into place where you add value for the publisher and the consumer, preferably with easy sharing opportunities is much more effective than trying to generate website visitation through advertising alone.
User Generated Content is an easy and cost-effective way to publish content
Justin: “95% of VisitBritain’s photography comes from user generated content” and “when somebody’s photo appears on a national tourism boards site, you can bet on it they will send a link to all their friends to check it out.”
VisitBritain set-up a Flickr group called Love UK and is using it as one of the sources for its photos on VisitBritain.com. And because most people are happy to see their photography used, they will tell everybody about it.. on social media.
Brilliant. This is something I’ve advocated for years but I could never get it going. Well done VisitBritain.
Thanks for sharing Justin!
I’ve covered what we’re doing with Olympic related websites and how we drive interested people to our websites. To make sure the traffic we receive during the games is maximized we’ve worked for a long time on making the website the best it can be. The next few days are dedicated to it these activities.
Purchase cycle (well, the one we use)
HelloBC typically receives a lot of visitors who already know something about BC. In the purchase cycle, they are beyond the awareness stage and are already considering or intending to take a trip. What we’ve learned over the years is that these people are in planning mode and need information first, inspiration second. That’s why content is a huge priority for us (more about content later this week).
During the games, a lot of people will learn about BC for the first time. We call these people the newly aware. People earlier in the cycle need to learn about the destination and be inspired to visit. Everything related to the Olympics will provide a lot of inspiration and when they visit HelloBC, we’d like to continue to inspire and educate the consumer about everything BC has to offer in the process.
Katrine Mosfjeld has been the Manager of the Tourist Information Division at VisitOSLO for 8 years. She manages online and offline information delivery to consumers ranging from Tourism Information Centres, to digital strategies, visitOSLO’s Twitter account and a booking system. She works closely with industry in Oslo and even delivers an eLearning program.
I met Katrine in Amsterdam at the ENTER conference last year where I was really impressed with the tremendous success of their Advergaming strategy. When I started to play the game I immediately understood the success. It’s super addictive! She just released a second version and I thought I’d catch up with her.
You’ve been executing an advergaming strategy with the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. What gave your team the idea to use an advergaming strategy?
I wish I could say it was my idea, but it wasn’t. The supplier, an Oslo based little firm called Agens, got the idea and first contacted our colleagues at VisitNorway to see if they were interested. They were, and the Manager, Hans Petter Aalmo, invited us at VisitOSLO to discuss the idea and potential. This was back in the summer of 2006. As you can imagine, this was pretty new 3,5 years ago and the project group was not sure if it was going to work. But we liked the idea and we had a good feeling about it. So we decided to try something brand new… The stakes were high, but then the gain is good as well if you succeed right?
When did it first launch and what were the objectives?
We launched it December 21, 2006. You can still play it online. We decided to measure our success in numbers of games played (profiling the ski jump, Oslo and Norway each time) and visitors to the sponsor websites. But we never even dreamt about the results we got. Or all the other stuff that happened…
What were the results and what was all the other stuff that happened?
The numbers we got were incredible! And they are still growing every single day. At the moment, 138,800,000 games have been played, which means 277,600,000 jumps because every game has 2 jumps :). It has also generated more than 3,000,000 visits to our websites. How great is this??! Neither VisitOSLO or VisitNorway has ever done anything more efficient when it comes to marketing and results. And the other things that happened, but never thought of while planning…
You just launched a new version. What’s new and how are things going so far?
It’s a pretty tough act to follow because the first game was so successful! But we’re building a new skijump in Oslo, the new fantastic Holmenkollen Ski Jump, designed by JDS Arcitechts and wanted the game to reflect the new ski jump and brand. We launched it December 16th 2009 and you can play it here. It has been played 9,6 million times on the website already, with great viral effects in Facebook-posts, tweets, etc!
We also launched a Facebook app where you can play against your Facebook friends to see who’s the better jumper ;-). It has been played approximately 1 million times on Facebook since we launched December 21st. An advanced version of an iPhone app has been sold over 2000 times since December 24th.
The game has been tweeted a gazillion times, received TV coverage on the news, sports, papers, blogs, Facebook and YouTube… It has generated 66,500 visitors to the sponsor websites.
The results look very good so far, especially considering it was launched only a few weeks ago. We expect it to deliver results for many years; the old game is more than 3 years old, and still delivers. Yesterday there were 342,000 games played in the OLD game Pretty efficient, eh?
What advise would you give to destination marketers who’re thinking about advergaming?
We’ve experienced that it is extremely efficient – but it has to be a good idea, and done professionally. We also think that our success partly comes because it is fairly addictive :). It is a bit difficult to play, but not too difficult. You quickly understand some of the things that makes you better, so you want to try again. And it doesn’t feel to commercial – even if its marketing, you feel that it’s a game, and it is a game. Only it has some messages attached, and provides some links when the interest is created
Thank you very much for sharing your insights Katrine and congratulations with the success of the game.
Traditionally, DMO stands for Destination Marketing Organization. But would consumers and industry be better served if the ‘M’ stood for Management instead?
Consider my destination brand definition from a few posts back.
It’s clear that the visitor experience is the best form of destination branding. It will generate great memories people will relive, lead to repeat visitation and word of mouth referrals.
And when you read Ana Pollock’s Reputation, Reputation, Reputation post you will understand how actions by others can dramatically effect a destination brand.
Some will argue that all of the above is part of marketing. But semantics aside, changing the ‘M’ in DMO to Management would broaden the traditional focus and increase the scope into things that also matter.
I’m not talking about a visitor centre or a training program. I’m talking about generating a vision for the destination, looking at all aspects of the destination experience and working with extended groups of stakeholders to truly manage and deliver an end-to-end world class experience.
And when you satisfy your visitors, wouldn’t a destination be a better place to live for its residents as well?
Perhaps the most annoying thing you can tell me is that some DMO is re-branding their destination.
A destination brand is:
To re-brand a destination, you need to change the stories people tell when they get home. In order to do that you need to change the experiences travelers have. Changing your story doesn’t mean anything if yours is different from the real one.