Transcript 106: Your Guide for Marketing in 2019, with Nicole Mahoney

Hello listeners, this is Nicole Mahoney host of Destination on the Left. Thank you for listening to this podcast. My hope is that you get as much inspiration and new ideas out of these episodes as I do.  I love sharing my interviews with guests from the travel and tourism industry with you. If you enjoy them too, I would greatly appreciate you writing a review. Ratings and reviews help our podcast show up in search results so that more people can benefit from the information sharing that happens here. Click the itunes or Stitcher link on the Destination on the Left website and leave a rating and review. It only takes a minute and your support means a lot. Thank you!

We are ending the year with another solocast episode. Recently I created a 5 part video series on planning for 2019. Today’s show is a recap of the ideas that were shared in the videos with the intention of providing you with motivation and inspiration to tie up your 2019 marketing plans.

I believe that planning is the most critical thing that we can do for our organization if we want to continue to grow and be successful at whatever we are trying to achieve. It is a basic foundational rule at Break The Ice Media that we always start with a plan. I like to say that planning is in our DNA.

That said, we are not perfect, as a matter of fact, life gets really busy, our time is stretched thin between the day to day work that we must accomplish and the added activities of the holidays this time of year. It is easy to push planning aside. You may be thinking the last thing you have time to do right now is slow down, focus and write a plan. I get that!

I want you to ask yourself though, what are the top goals that you have for your organization next year? How are you going to accomplish those goals? Maybe you have this all thought out in your head already, that’s great you have a jump start. If it is in your head, how will you make sure you actually take the steps necessary to accomplish your goals? How will your team or your stakeholders know what the game plan is? It is imperative to slow down, carve out some concentrated time and get it down on paper.

You may also be thinking that you don’t have all of the answers yet so you can’t get it down on paper. That’s ok. Plans are fluid documents, they provide a roadmap to where you want to go but it is ok to tweak them and change them as you start down that path. It will be easier to make adjustments once you have the roadmap in place. Making them on the fly without tying changes to goals and outcomes will not get you to where you want to be.

You may be suffering from the imposter syndrome – a phenomena that happens to all of us where that little voice in your head tells you that your ideas aren’t good enough. If you write a plan, what if your ideas are wrong or what if others don’t agree with them. Get over it! We all suffer from this syndrome, the fact that you are listening to this podcast and thinking seriously about your 2019 plans puts you ahead of most.

As Tony Robbins has said, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”

Your plan should start with your goals for the year. Making those goals visible is the first step in accomplishing them. When thinking about marketing goals, we like to apply the principles of SMART goals. Your goals should be specific, increasing visitation is not specific, increasing visitation from 400,000 to 450,000 annually is specific. Goals should be measurable – increasing brand awareness is not measurable– adding a qualifier such as increasing intent to visit of our target audience by 25% can be measured before and after a campaign. They should be attainable, having a lofty stretch goal is good and motivating but in your one year plan focus on what is practical and attainable, be sure to consider the additional resources you have available to you to positively impact your goal. Your goal needs to be relevant – make sure your goals relate to current industry trends and what is happening in the economy.  If we are in the middle of a recession, increasing sales by 1000% might not be relevant. Finally, goals should be time based – they need a time line associated with them. For example, increase attendance from 400,000 to 450,000 in the next 12-months.

So, start your plan by answering this question: What are the top 3-5 goals that you want to accomplish in 2019? Make sure that you follow the SMART goal format – your goals should be specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-based.

Once you have established your goals, take a step back from thinking about next year and focus on the insights you already know. In a marketing plan we call this the situational analysis.

Start to think about everything you know about your brand. What are the key attributes of what you offer, what types of visitors do you attract, what is the brand experience, who is your competition, what are trends in the industry.  Collect as much data and research as you can as you explore the answers to these questions. If you have research that you have conducted recently, take a look at that, look for other free resources of information. Some of our favorite resources are the US Travel Association, they offer lots of free market research on industry trends and market growth projections, Destinations Analysts offers several research papers in their series called the State of the American Traveler including a traveler segment edition, mobile edition, technology edition and destinations edition. They also offer research on the State of the International Traveler if that is part of your target market. The Family Travel Association has some great research on the family market including a 2018 US Family Travel survey. You can also access research from your local or State tourism office and in NYS the Campground Owners of NYS recently published research on camping visitors and the Erie Canal recently published a visitor profile study.

When we approach research, we collect everything we find into a folder and then as we comb through it, we look for common themes or high-level findings that relate to the goals that we are trying to achieve with our marketing plans. It is possible to feel overwhelmed as you comb through the reports. As Neil Armstrong said, “research is creating new knowledge.” Approach this as a learning experience and see what floats to the top.

At this point it might be helpful to sketch out what you know about your customer, your brand, the competition and the industry or market. As you review what you know, look for places that your brand intersects with what your customer is looking for and what the market is saying – look for places where you can solve a problem for your customer that your competition cannot solve. This is where you start to find your strategic insights and your key differentiation.

As you work on writing your situational analysis, try to answer these questions: What is the one truth that can elevate my brand? What makes our brand relevant and differentiating?

Next focus on your target market or your audience. It is important to know who your audience is when formulating your plans. You may have several audiences or target markets and understanding each one is a must for creating a successful plan. Too often we see marketers lump all of their audiences into one general group. For example, men ages 18-54. The problem with doing this is that when you craft your tactical plans and key messages to reach your target audience, you don’t have enough information to create the strategic messages that will resonate and motivate your target audience into action. You will be stuck talking to them in a very general sense and will not get to that true motivating message that will convert them into a customer.

Our team has spent a lot of time diving into audiences for our agency and our clients this year. For Break The Ice Media, we have two specific client personas that identify not only who we are targeting but what makes them a good fit for our company and what motivates them to hire an agency like ours. These buyer personas are important to understand, they make our marketing and communications more specific which in turn resonates with the buyer and makes them more likely to become a customer.

We explored this topic even further on episode 96 with guest Susan Baier from Audience Audit. In that episode we learned from Susan that getting beyond the who, what and where and getting into the why is the most important piece of understanding our customers and providing the insight needed to tailor our communications to speak to them.  Susan suggested taking time to think about the audiences that you want to reach without thinking about their demographics. Think instead about what they’re looking for, what they might find appealing about you and why. And see whether that gives you some additional ideas for content, or programming. Because we tend to lean on demographics and check off the box because it’s easy, but it doesn’t get us very far. If you force yourself to avoid looking at that and instead assume that every single person that you could talk to looks exactly the same on paper, what would you say about what you do and what promise you’re fulfilling that might set you apart in their eyes from somebody else? It’s a good exercise for all of us to do.

We are reading Brand Now by Nick Westergaard, in our company book club and at our last meeting we talked about audiences and how the concepts in the book apply to our clients audiences. Nick calls it your community and he identifies 5 concentric circles that make up the community. In the very center are your employees, followed by your vendors, partners and stakeholders, followed by your best customers – your raving fans, followed by your transactional customers – those who visit you or transact with you only occasionally and finally your prospects. When you start to think about your audiences in this way, you can start to find ways to move people from the outer circles towards the inside. Turning prospects into customers, transactional customers into raving fans and so on.

As Peter Drucker says, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well, the product or service fits them and sells itself.”

Write down your target audiences and then ask yourself, are these targets too general? If you take away the demographics, how would you describe these audiences? Do any ideas come to mind on how you might reach each of them differently?

Now that we understand each target market is different and the importance of getting specific about who your audiences are and why they interact with your brand. It is time to develop key messages for each target audience. It is important to remember that one message does not fit all.  

For each audience you need to think about what is most relevant to them. What messages will pique their interest or motivate them to interact with your brand? Does the targeted audience care about what you have to say? Will they be better off for having the knowledge that you are sharing? How will this knowledge help meet your marketing objectives?

Put yourself in the customers shoes, think through how they might perceive your content. You want to make sure there is something in it for the customer. Old advertising tactics of shouting your message at the audience – think used car salesman approach – no longer work in today’s world.

Next consider if your message is timely? You need to know where your target customer is in the buying journey and what they need to know at that time. For a travel destination, if the buyer is in the dreaming phase, they are most interested in inspirational messages that appeal to their emotions. If they are in the planning phase, they need more specific information like where to stay, eat and things to do. You can craft the best message for the audience but if it is delivered at the wrong time it will fall on deaf ears.  Thinking through the timing and hitting the timing right makes the difference between marketing success and failure.

Nick Westergaard explains this best in his book Brand now, “Effective, stand-out content is both business-centric and customer-aware.”

Write down some key messages for each of your target audiences. To help get you started, think about where they are in the buyer’s journey? Is there a problem that you can help them solve? Are there questions that you can help your customer answer?

Next you will get into the meat of your plan, the stuff that will help you achieve your marketing goals. The tactical plan which includes timelines and budget.

Now that you have put the hard work into identifying our goals, understanding and defining our audiences, and developing key messages, it is time to pull together all of the tactics that are going to help you achieve your goals next year.

A tactical plan is your actionable marketing plan. These are the tasks; the detailed action plan that includes timing and details of all major steps.  Tactics could include collateral, digital marketing, social media, websites, public relations, and trade shows. They can also 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 timeline.

When we work on tactical plans, we start by identifying the tactics that will support each objective and reach the identified target audience. The plan might start as a bulleted list of those tactics. Once we have identified the tactics that support the objective and we have established that we have the resources to execute each (both time and money resources), we dive deeper into each tactic by expanding on how we will effectively execute on it. This could be a full-blown PR plan with its own set of objectives, strategies, tactics and timelines or it could be a social media calendar identifying key messages, posting times and channels or it could be a content marketing plan detailing out how we will produce and distribute content across multiple channels. The important thing to focus on in this section is identifying the tactics that will get you to those goals and then following through with a detailed plan of how you will implement each tactic.

 

When building your tactical plan you should also include how you will measure the effectiveness of the tactic. In order to make sure that our campaigns are meeting our client’s goals, we use metrics such as: Impressions & Reach, Website traffic, Followers and Follower growth rate, Clicks, Opens, Reactions, Comments and Shares, media placements and actions taken such as; sales conversions, downloads and newsletter sign ups.

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!

Write down the tactics that will support your marketing goals, under each tactic, identify which target audience that tactic will reach, the objective of that specific tactic, the messages that you will communicate through this tactic, how you will measure it and what the next step is in the buyer’s journey – basically where do they go from here.

Once you are done with the list of tactics, plan out the year month by month detailing which tactics will take place when. Some tactics might be on-going and happen every month such as social media or email marketing, other tactics might occur only during certain times of year based on seasonality of your brand or timing of a trade show. The more detail you can put into your timeline the more likely you will be to stay on track with your plan. Finally, establish your marketing budget, identify how much money you will need to implement each tactic and verify that it is in line with your overall marketing budget. Now you should have a workable plan to get you through the following year. Remember this is a breathing and living document, it’s not written in stone and it can easily be changed and adapted as you move through the year. Just having the plan is a huge step in helping you to achieve your goals in 2019.

As Dwight Eisenhour said, “plans are nothing. Planning is everything.”

I wish all of you a prosperous 2019 and look forward to bringing you many more interesting and inspiring guests in the year ahead. Thank you for listening, we will be back in the New Year!