One major topic of discussion at Think! is whether a client who ask for strategy really wants a strategy or wants a list of tactics.
Here’s a guide to strategy and tactics.
A strategy is a long term approach to achieve a big goal. It spans a longer period of time and describes an approach to achieve that goal. It’s often complex and muli-layered. A strategy allows you to set priorities and focus your resources. It should also define what success looks like.
Tactics are smaller, short term actions to deliver on the strategy. Tactics need to be evaluated and adjusted constantly based on what is learned along the way. But a strategy needs time and typically stays in place for a longer time unless the goal or other macro variables changes.
Some people are focussed on doing. Strategy to them looks nebulous and intangible. It doesn’t contain specific tasks. But random tactics without a strategy leads short term actions with unpredictable long term results. It’s like driving a car around without knowing how to reach your destination. And everybody on your team is driving their cars around in all directions hoping to eventually get there.
That’s why every tactic needs to deliver on a strategy. “Running ads to grow a Facebook page” is a tactic. But why are we doing it? What purpose does it serve? Why is it more important than anything else? And once we have more fans then what? And how does Facebook fit in with everything else?
I wrote this post as a guest post on the TBEX blog.
Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) have hosted influencers for a long time. It used to be the exclusive territory of travel journalists. They were courted, invited and hosted in order to generate awareness and consideration for a destination.
In order to measure this PR most DMOs used the “Advertising Value Equivalency” (AVE). You take the size of the produced piece, use the equivalent cost of running an ad of the same size in the publication, apply a multiplying factor because editorial is more credible and there’s your equivalent value of “free” advertising.
Most people in the PR industry agree that AVE is significantly flawed. But for years, it’s all we had. It was simple and easy to calculate – and at least it was consistent, something we could monitor over time, and benchmark against the competition. At least that was something.
There’s no such direct measure for blogger-based campaigns at the moment. Keith (Velvet Escape) and Melvin (Traveldudes) presented a first draft of a method calculating the value of a blog at a TBEX session in Girona. It was loosely based on AVE and an attempt to quantify the value of a post in dollars.
I applaud the attempt because at least it will provide DMOs with some guidance and offer benchmarking possibilities. But I’m not a fan of trying to use an old-media method that’s already shaky at best and applying it to a new world model in order find a social media equivalent for it. It assumes a specific blogger will provide equal value to all destinations and that’s simply not true.
There are a multitude of travel blogs out there, and with careful research, we can unearth a blog and a writer who has the best fit with a specific destination and its objectives. Often we end up bringing bloggers who have a specific skill or niche. And when we bring a group of bloggers together, the composition of that group, the mesh of personalities, matters.
It’s not just the size of a blogger’s audience that’s important, but the likelihood of delivering a relevant, credible, and authentic message to their network. Passion speaks volumes. We need to believe that their message will influence a reader’s travel decisions.
At Think! we love working with bloggers because they are, generally speaking, very passionate and excellent creators of content. We work with dozens of DMOs around the world, helping them arrange blog trips, and we involve bloggers in many of our campaigns. We tie the way we measure a campaign involving bloggers to the specific marketing objectives.
We research, identify, and approach the right bloggers for the campaign, assist with the trip planning, and provide consultancy to clients on how to make these travel (or cultural) writers feel most engaged or valued.
Through our work we know many bloggers and we hope we have developed a good reputation amongst them. Because we have these relationship it makes it easier and easier to find the right bloggers for our projects.
Happy New Year everybody! Here are three things off the top of my head that are important things to consider for 2013. Do you have any more?
1) PUT SOCIAL AT THE CORE
I think it’s pretty clear by now that social media has a major impact on the travel decision making process. If your tourism business or DMO hasn’t realized this yet you better catch up. You should be at level 3 or higher by now.
Most marketers think of social media as an add-on to a traditional campaign, or at least start with traditional thinking. It’s time to flip it around. Start with a social idea and support it with traditional methods. Or do traditional things in a social way. For example, we recently worked with a DMO who let it’s Facebook community vote on what photos would be published in it’s visitor guide.
2) START USING SERVICE DESIGN
Mitigating a mediocre experience with brilliant marketing doesn’t cut it anymore. The experience IS your marketing and the stories your visitors tell each other is what it’s all about. You have two choices. First choice is to join the race to the bottom and keep offering specials, discounts and special offers. The second one is to create remarkable experiences people love and want to be part of, regardless of what it costs.
If your choice is the latter, you need to start thinking about service design. When you’re an operator you need to start thinking about the end-to-end experience you offer your guest. When you are a DMO you need to think about the end-to-end destination experience. Service design is gaining a lot of momentum in Europe, especially in Austria where destinations are starting to take an active role in the design of the destination experience.
3) MOBILE: THINK DEVICE PLUS CONTEXT
I was on a panel at a conference in Barcelona recently and somebody asked about mobile. Before I could even think about it I said “it’s not about mobile, it’s about device + context”. I probably heard it somewhere before but I have never really thought about it like that. But it’s true. Whether you build a desktop site, a mobile site, an adaptive site or an app, it’s not the device that’s important. It’s the context of use.
When you search google maps, it takes into account your device, where you are and what date and time it is. That’s the context of your usage and the information you get back takes that into account. You need to so the same thing. A consumer accessing your content at home is looking for very different things than a consumer walking down the street in your destination.
Now here’s the kicker. Often that means people use another website than yours. Somebody walking down the street looking for a restaurant is going to use Google Maps, Yelp or Tripadvisor, not a DMO website. Even a consumer planning as trip might never even make in onto your website (hello travel bloggers). Your content online strategy needs to include content on third party websites. From inspiration to transaction. Just like we used to do it in the 90s with travel guides and tour operator brochures.
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
I was watching a keynote from Gary Vaynerchuk the other day and in his special style he basically said that people shouldn’t jump to fast to conversion in social media but work on building relationships first and business will follow.
Building trust is about integrity, telling the truth, being transparent, helpful, reliable, unselfish and fair. Whether you’re a big brand or a small operator, if you and your staff behave in the ways above, you’ll be one step closer to social media happiness.
Billions of people watch the games on TV. And the games are the biggest commerical a destination can wish for. Because besides the stories about sports and athletes, the destination plays a lead part.
TV viewing has changed. People watch TV together even if they’re not in the same location using laptops and phones. Research conducted almost 3 years ago during the NBC finals shows that people multitask while watching sports.
It’s one thing to read research about people texting, IM-ing, tweeting and posting on Facebook. But when I came home one night and I saw my wife Sheri watching Americ’s next top model, while texting her friend and chatting with her sister on Facebook it became real to me.
People also watch TV online. During the Beijing games, 52 million people in the US watched a video stream on NBCOlympics.com. In Europe and China even more people streamed the games online.
The point us that it’s easy for somebody to research something that catches their attention on TV. When somebody is intrigued by the destination story, a laptop or other mobile device is close by. That means a big opportunity for us to follow through on the initial awareness created through the games and encourage consumers to start the trip planning process.
Our strategy to drive people to our consumer websites during the games involves using refering links from high traffic Olympic related websites, Search Engine Otimization and Marketing, advertising and social media. I’ll highlight each one in the next few days.
The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are starting today! It’s been a crazy few years and I’ve learned a lot. It’s been a good ride and a good time to share some of our activities and learning. Let’s start at the beginning.
Our marketing objective to leverage is to turn games interest into destination interest and action. Our online strategies are:
Over the next two weeks, I’ll share how we’ve executed against these strategies. Stay tuned.
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.
In travel technology, I’m keeping an eye on these trends. These trends are at the front of massive change in the way we conduct our business.
66% of the global internet population is using social networks. For many around the globe, Facebook is the primary way of staying in touch. It has over 350 million users. Tripadvisor reported over 25 million visitors in November and WAYN has built a network over 15 million members. Building your network of friends or followers, leveraging your brand advocates, encouraging word-of-mouth recommendations and listening and interacting with your customers through social media channels is going to be a must. Instead of marketing to encourage people to visit your channel, bringing your content and services to where the people already are is going to be more effective.
And social networks can add value to your own channels as well. OpenID, Facebook Connect, Google Friend Connect, Sign in with Twitter are all tools that allow third parties to use a user profile as part of their website or application. This makes it easier for users to sign-up and provides opportunities for website operators to leverage a user’s profile and social graph while integrating content and services into social networks.
In 2010 mobile will explode. Apple will release it’s tablet, Google’s Android is gaining momentum and others like Nokia and RIM are still strong contenders. Competition drives innovation and therefore devices and operating systems will get better and better. Travel is already the third most popular mobile app category but we’re really only scratching the surface.And connected to the first trend, more and more people use their mobile to access social networks, Facebook already reports 15 million active mobile users.
Somebody at home, in transit, or in a travel destination has different needs and this is where the real opportunity is. Mobile devices know your location, and even what direction you face. This allows for targeted information and services. Augmented reality might be novelty today, but it demonstrates the potential. Enhancing the tourism experience, providing customers service, upselling and cross-selling based on location and time will soon become expectations rather than novelty.
If you combine the previous 3 trends, you end up with real time information and services. Twitter is the new news ticker. Somebody will break news seconds after it happens on Twitter and the network distributes faster than any traditional news media can. This will enhance the tourism experience as well. How long are lineups for an attraction? Where is a cool band playing? Where are my friends doing or recommending right now?
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?