Creating a strong marketing plan is an important part of planning for your destination’s year-to-year growth. Writing such a plan should be a collaborative team effort, pooling your team’s knowledge and resources to make sure everyone is on the same page and everyone’s ideas are heard. Breaking down the plan into actionable steps can help a large document seem more approachable. Whether you are finalizing your vision or just starting out, here are 7 steps in creating a marketing plan.
1. Do Your Research
Get a hold of data to inform your strategy all the way down the line. This could be primary research, like a survey to gather data from your customers/visitors. It could also be secondary research, performed by another company, that you find online. There are lots of great resources out there start with some of our favorites in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry:
- Destination Analysts
- Family Travel Association
- Longwoods International
- MMGY Travel
- NYC & Company
- US Travel
2. Write a Brand Summary
Start from the beginning. A clear understanding of your brand will strengthen your ability to differentiate your company from the competition. Understand the following questions: Why & how did the brand start? What need did it fill? What are its values?
Consider where your company and brand are today. Where are your major markets? What are your feeder markets? What markets would you like to expand into? Are you seasonal? How many customers do you have? What is your 12-month goal?
In creating a marketing plan, also consider what channels you currently use to market. Do you forecast an increase, decrease or status quo in your marketing budget in the next 12 months?
3. Define Your Target Audience
Who is your target audience? Understand who you are talking to, what is important to them, what their wants and needs are, and how your brand can fill them. Consider demographics, psychographics, lifestyle, brand perception, and beliefs of your audience.
Understand the perceptions in the marketplace about your brand. By tapping your current customers, you can gain valuable insight to help identify growth markets, pinpoint new product offerings and make marketing decisions easier. Year-end is a great time to conduct an online survey of your customers to collect new information.
4. Add a Situational Analysis
Strategic marketing plans must consider what is happening in the world around your organization. Consider trends, current issues, competitors and the competitive environment when preparing your plan. Strengthen this section of your plan with a SWOT analysis.
5. Outline Marketing Objectives
Good marketing objectives or goals will drive your marketing plan. These are obtainable goals that are set after you have identified problems and opportunities. They are the highest level of your strategic thinking and each plan may have more than one. A strong marketing plan will have measurable goals.
Sample Marketing Objective: Increase hotel occupancy during off season of November – February by 3% over the next 3 years.
6. Create the Marketing Strategy
The strategy is how you will achieve your objectives. It’s the big picture game plan on how objectives will be reached. The strategy includes audience(s) to be targeted, desired positioning, allocation of resources and marketing mix. A plan may have multiple strategies.
Sample Marketing Strategy: Promote winter activities to reach winter-minded audience.
7. List the Tactics and Implementation
A tactical marketing plan is an actionable marketing plan. These are the tasks; the detailed action plan that includes timing and details of all major steps. Tactics include collateral, digital marketing, social media, websites, public relations, and trade shows. Other tactics include conferences, email marketing, word of mouth, direct sales, and lead generation. These are all the things that you will do in order to accomplish your objectives. This section includes a tactical implementation strategy and/or timeline.
Increase photography library with shots of destination during November – February
Develop relationships with tour operators specializing in winter tours
Host 2 winter-activity focused influencers
This section needs to include your marketing budget and you will need a detailed budget for each tactic. We have seen many businesses create fantastic marketing plans that sit on the shelf because they did not have adequate funding for the implementation. Consider your existing resources and capacities against your dream tactics. Be realistic with the amount of tactics and your timeline. A solid strategic marketing plan is one that clearly identifies the objectives, strategies and tactics and includes the resources to get it done!