A successful destination marketing plan starts with strategy and is chock full of targeted tactics from social media to video, content marketing and more. The goal is to reach travelers and inspire visitation, the strategies and tactics are in place. But then what are the tools to accomplish it all? We’re going behind-the-scenes to look at some of the marketing tools for tourism promotion that can help DMOs of any size make the most of their time and efforts. Better yet, we’re looking at our favorite tools that are free or relatively inexpensive.
1. Collaborative Marketing Tools
Tourism marketing is collaborative. Very often, multiple regions and assets work together on projects big and small. Working together in real time over distances doesn’t have to be difficult.
Google Drive is host to several tools you may have heard of. These tools make for easy sharing and even working together in real time! Our team favors Google Docs (word processing) and Google Sheets (spreadsheets) for working together. Up to 15G of storage is free, and anyone can create an account (even with a non-Gmail email address).
Our team uses Microsoft Office 365 internally to work collaboratively together. Tools like Sharepoint and OneDrive bridge our remote work for live editing and streamlined file sharing. If you already use Outlook for your email, you may already have access to many of these cloud-based sharing abilities. Sharepoint even allows you to create shared folders for documents with other organizations. (This one will need some IT support to put in place.)
Slack is a messaging tool that frees up your inbox from little questions and giant threads, and supports two kinds of messaging. Public “channels” can be seen by anyone on your team and private direct messages go between a group of any size. It also has lots of great tools for sharing, including link previews, drag-and-drop file sharing, playing videos and lots of integrations. The free plan only limits a few things, like searching and history past 10,000 messages (chronologically across all channels). Upgrading unlocks the full history. Our team has been using the free plan for 2 years and loves it.
Of course, everyone is familiar with the most popular tools for video calls, meetings and webinars now. Zoom, Teams and Google Meet are the ones our team sees most often, and there are many more out there.
2. Automation for Tourism
I often feel like I am championing certain concepts and lately it’s been automation. Why spend hours on things that computers can do for us? With just a little bit of forethought, we can save ourselves so much time throughout the year – especially in the busy season.
Automation goes beyond scheduling an email on Constant Contact or MailChimp. It’s about connecting all the tools you use together. This does get involved on the setup side, but once it’s set up and tested and working well, it is a huge lift for the work at hand.
The connector tool we use for ourselves and our clients is called Zapier. It has affordable entry pricing that you can actually use. It connects with the majority of cloud-based apps and programs I’ve ever needed. And it has a guided setup tool with testing built in that makes everything go smoothly.
What do I use Zapier for? Most often, contacts are being moved from one system to another, actually. Whether they’re coming in from Facebook ads or Google ads or webinar sign ups – then they move to the email marketing channel. It can send an email or alert – our website contact form feeds directly into a Slack channel, and we also have alerts in Slack when a video is recorded in our Zoom account. Another great use is moving data from a system into a cloud-based reporting tool. I love automating as much as possible, making things easier for our clients and my coworkers.
3. Creating Visuals
Everyone needs visuals, especially when it comes to inspiring travel. While you can’t get away with stock photos for everything, there are great free and royalty-free photos available for free on sites like Pixabay and Pexels.
Using a photo isn’t just about having the right one, though. It often needs to be a certain size, or you’ll need to use it for something on a website or other promotion. Very few offices have a dedicated graphic designer who has the time to make a ton of little graphics for social media on the fly. And not everyone knows how to use fancy editing software, let alone the time/energy/know-how to make it look beautiful within minutes.
Enter Canva, or design-for-dummies as I like to call it. It’s a great tool for creating your own graphics. You start by selecting the size of your project. Use a pre-made size like a poster, Facebook post or email header – or type in a custom size. Then choose from pre-made layouts complete with fonts. The free version will take you far, they have integrations with Pixabay and Pexels, or you can upgrade for more collaboration and more stock photos. The best way to understand it, is to see it in action:
4. Social Media Tools
When it comes to social media, there are a few tools that can make life easier. We outline content calendars in a spreadsheet to align messaging with strategy, and then schedule out the posts. Facebook’s algorithm penalizes posts (read: lessens the reach) scheduled through other tools, but their new Creator Studio tool has all the features we need to schedule posts in advance for Facebook and Instagram.
Tailwind offers scheduling for Pinterest. This channel has been left out or underrepresented in scheduling platforms, so we were thrilled to find this. It allows you to schedule posts out months in advance. Once you have posts scheduled, Tailwind automatically uploads them to Pinterest for you, taking away all the hassle and time of planning and uploading. The platform has a free forever plan that could be workable most destinations, and the next step up (Pro) is only $10 per month.