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destination marketing

  • Five reasons why you’re wasting 97% of your advertising budget and what to do about it. see more

    Ninety-seven percent of destination marketing is ineffective, and it isn’t because of the medium you’re using! The reason isn’t because of National Geographic Traveler, Leisure +Travel, or Southern Living Magazine. It’s NOT a reflection on your digital advertising, television, radio or billboards. The reason is the content you’re giving them! 

    Here are the five reasons why you’re wasting 97% of your advertising budget and what to do about it.

    Reason #1: Trying to be all things to all people
    We're going to keep harping on this subject until you change your ways! Look at your ads. If your headline and the photography (or art) you use could fit just about anyone in your market, toss it and start over. Readers, viewers or listeners will give you four seconds to pull them in. If your message is generic, you will lose them instantly. If your ad starts with “One of the top 5 mountain biking destinations in the world,” and that quote is attributed to Biking Magazine, it may not draw us in if we're not a mountain biking enthusiast, but if we are, you just got our attention, big time. NARROW YOUR FOCUS!

    What to do: Join our association and download our “Words & Phrases to Avoid” poster and give copies to your marketing agency, graphic design agency and anyone charged with marketing your hotel, B&B, community, museum or attraction.

    If your marketing focus can fit anyone else in your market area, toss it and start over.

    Reason #2: Marketing place before experience
    We have the world at our fingertips – every community, lodging facility, and business – in a fraction of a second via the web. But we don’t search for places first, we search for experiences first and THEN the area or city. We search for “Best Italian restaurant, central Pennsylvania,” or “mountain biking trails, Southern Utah.” In your advertising and on printed materials always SELL the experience first, the location second.

    What to do: The name of your community (don’t market counties!), your hotel, your guide service – your business – should be at the BOTTOM of your ad, not at the top. Utah Tourism does a great job with its headlines promoting the Mighty Five (five national parks all located in Southern Utah) with photographic experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. Then at the bottom of the ads you’re informed of what and where the parks are.

    Reason #3: Using mundane text and photography
    There’s nothing more boring than elevator music (video or radio ads), or photos of scenic vistas without a soul in sight. To win you MUST evoke emotion. If your headline is boring or generic we won’t remember it. We are drowning in advertising overload so your ads MUST be memorable. 

    What to do: Make sure you have photos of people enjoying your activities – whether in a spa, or careening down a mountainside on a bike, or reading a book in front of a cozy fire with snow falling outside. Your art should get the reader to instantly think “I want to do that!” And make sure it fits ONLY you in your marketplace.

    Reason #4: Not telling us WHY we should visit or buy from you
    Don’t tell us what you have, where you’re located, or who you are until you’ve told us WHY we should visit you. McDonald’s famous (and effective) campaign, “You deserve a break today” wasn’t about food. It was aimed at moms – they deserve a break today, so get up and get away – to McDonald’s. The most successful tourism campaign, perhaps in North American history, is Las Vegas’ “What happens here, stays here.” It’s not about what they have (entertainment, gambling) but WHY you would go there over other places.

    What to do: This one requires digging deep. Alpena, Michigan is hitting a home run with its “Sanctuary” brand based on the National Marine Sanctuary of Thunder Bay and the 54% of Americans who are dealing with stress in their lives. A water park that asks us “How loud can you scream?” will be more successful than the water park that tells us “The largest water park in Central Ohio.”

    Reason #5: Not creating a call to action
    If McDonald’s had told us, “You deserve a break, so consider heading to McDonald’s sometime,” the ad would have fallen flat. But by telling us, “You deserve a break TODAY (right now), so GET UP AND GET AWAY” (call to action), it became one of the most successful ads in company history. Nothing is worse than “Discover My Town” as the header, then a generic photo (or collage of photos) and then just a website address or phone number. There is no call to action.

    What to do: Always finish your ad with what you want people to do: “Space is limited, so call for your reservation now,” or “Log on now for the complete schedule…” or, as I’ve done in past Weekly What To Do’s: “Download your free Words & Phrases to Avoid poster.”

    What to do: To you we may be preaching to the choir. So how do you get this message to your local businesses? To your graphic design or ad agency? To other organizations also marketing your community? Join the Destination Development Association, where you get access to countless resources, including lots of video content, that go beyond what you’ll read here. Membership starts at just $250/year. You can access our resource center anytime, anywhere, and you can share the resources at meetings as well. This is the best way to get everyone on the same page, pulling in the same direction.

    • Melanie Patterson I am looking for the Words & Phrases Poster and cannot find it. Please help! Thank you!
      1 year ago
  • How is your community marketing evolving to meet the demands of a new era? see more

    Let’s face it. Everything has changed in the world of community marketing. We have the world at our fingertips in a fraction of a second via the web, yet communities still use the same old words and phrases that could fit anyone, anywhere.

    Here are the seven extinct marketing philosophies that communities just won’t let go of, and have led to 97% of all community-based marketing and advertising being ineffective. This is NOT the fault of the medium, but of community messaging – what you’re putting out there.

    How many of these are you guilty of?

    1. The days of strategic plans are going, going, gone.This is the age of Action Plans. Strategies, goals and objectives should take no more than 10 pages of a plan. The Action Plan format is a to-do list. We have short attention spans. Cut to the chase. A fifty-page well-written Action Plan will be far easier to read and implement than a 300-page plan full of fluff and generalities.

    2. The “something for everyone” marketing approach does not work. You MUST narrow your focus so you stand out from the crowd. Check out our list of “words and phrases to avoid.

    3. The shotgun approach of “bring your business here” is dead. There are nearly 30,000 cities and towns in the U.S. and Canada. Virtually all of them want your business. So why you? What makes you so special? Find your niche and then attract businesses – or visitors – that are looking for that.

    4. “Smokestack chasing” is a dinosaur approach and no longer relevant. See number three above. The industrial revolution is over. We still have industry, and it’s starting to see a comeback, but the revolution is over. We are now in a service economy. And most larger companies are consolidating, not expanding.

    5. The days of being only a Destination Marketing Organization are over. All DMO’s must now champion the cause for product development in ADDITION to marketing. The better your product, the more it sells itself. You must get into the product development game, with both feet, if you want to become an outstanding destination.

    6. Issuing Request For Proposals is a dinosaur methodology. Every consultant you hire will probably have their own methodology. So why should you tell them how you want the project done if you’re looking for their expertise? Issue a Request for Qualifications. You can do this in a page or two. Ask them what their methodology is, a sample scope of work, and have them showcase case histories, examples of their work and references. Pick the top three, interview them and if you don’t like their methodology or price, go to the next on the list.

    7. The days of Visitors Guides are slowly dying, yet every community feels they must have one. The new model: Create an Activities Guide. Just the name change says you have lots to do and that’s the reason we want the guide. Make sure its available online for both download and viewing. QR codes can take the visitor right to the guide. NOTE: You still need printed copies! But the quantities are going, down, down, and down.

    How is your community marketing evolving to meet the demands of a new era?

  • There are essential steps in increasing tourism. We can help with all of them! see more

    There are essential steps in increasing tourism. We can help with all of them!

    Step 1. Educate your stakeholders on the importance of tourism (Learn more)

    Step 2. Conduct a destination assessment (Learn more)

    Step 3. Narrow your focus and stand out from other communities (known as your unique selling proposition)

    Step 4. Develop a tourism action plan (Learn more)

    Step 5. Make it happen – tourism plan implementation

    Step 6. Tell the world! (effective destination marketing)

  • Christina Lenkowski posted an article
    Learn 5 important steps for this new age of destination PR see more

    This is a guest blog, written by Christina Lenkowski, DDA Member and owner of Sparrow Travel Media, a public relations portal that is extraordinarily useful for organizations that can’t afford contracting or hiring an in-house PR professional. Here she offers some great advice!


    It used to be that the term “PR” could really apply to two things; public relations or press releases. In fact, just a short while ago, the two were pretty much interchangeable. But times, they are a-changing.

    Nowadays I still see many tourism organizations write up a press release for travel ideas, an event or award, and then send it out to the same old media list and expect a different reaction… what is the definition of insanity again?

    Bottom line: just sending a press release no longer works (and if you’ve been paying a company to send out a press release on your behalf… stop). It’s hard to adjust because many of us were trained in this way, but taking a different view of media relations will yield you so much more of the media attention you crave, and that your destination deserves.

    It’s time to try something different. Take a few minutes and think about what makes your destination unique; perhaps you have an annual event that isn’t your generic “harvest festival” or “4th of July parade”? Or maybe an anchor attraction that visitors just love? Perhaps a niche museum? Whatever that “thing” is, write it down and write why it’s special. Heck, you may find that your area has more than one!

    Now it’s time to do some research on the media outlets you want to tell this story (also known as a pitch) to. Remember that these publications are typically working 6-9 months in advance, so time your pitch accordingly.

    1. Make a list of 8-10 magazines that have the kind of audience you really think you could resonate with, and that you’d love to see your destination featured in in the next year.
    2. Check out their online edition (or head to the library or bookstore) to get your hands on information such as topics/features they have in each issue, as well as editor name (either travel editor or managing editor).
      • Many times, the editor contact info won’t be readily available and you’ll need to do some research. I recommend calling the publication and asking whomever answers for that specific contact’s email address. This yields quicker results than emailing a generic info@ email box.
    3. Find and download each publication’s editorial calendar/media kit (usually housed in advertising section–you may have to email them for it). In the editorial calendar you will be able to see what the magazine is focusing on every edition, and if your destination makes sense to pitch (i.e. “Surprising Winter Getaways,” “Ski Mountains Not on Your Radar,” etc.). If it does, fantastic!
    4. If you don’t feel like there is a direct correlation between your destination and an ed cal topic, you can always generally pitch too. Create a story idea that really makes sense for their readers. You are never bothering an editor if you are presenting them with a well though-out pitch at the right time of year.
    5. Email each publication’s editor with their individualized story idea, and follow up a week later.

    If you follow these steps, you will be well on your way to securing more coverage! Publicity takes time, but is well worth the payoff – I have seen destinations transformed by one or two major media pieces.

    And if you’re a member of Sparrow Travel Media, steps 2 and 3 are taken care of for you with our up-to-date media lists and editorial calendars, saving you a ton of time. We also have sample pitches to make life easier when getting started. Roger and the Destination Development team recently did a whole webinar on how Sparrow can save you so much time and money. Check it out below.

    We even offer a free live training to expand on the tips above, click here to sign up!

    Just remember that the media doesn’t want any more press releases, they want story ideas—and you have them!

    Christina Lenkowski

    Sparrow Travel Media







    Sparrow Travel Media Webinar - A great tool to up your PR game

  • Effectively prioritize how you market your destination's experiences and activities see more

    I absolutely love the Route of the Hiawatha (, a Rails to Trails mountain bike ride that begins at Lookout Pass in the Bitterroot Mountains on the Northern Idaho/Montana state line. I’ve met people there from as far away as New Jersey and during the last visit, I spotted license plates from 18 states and provinces. It’s easily worth the six-hour drive from Seattle. This makes it perhaps the area’s biggest summer “attraction” or “primary draw” to the area.


    Attractions can include ski resorts, an amazing trail system, a great downtown – it’s the primary activity that draws visitors to you. Note that I used the word “activity.” A mountain is an amenity, so are lakes, rivers, prairies, parks, and other “facilities.” The primary activity that draws people would include downhill skiing, fishing, stand-up paddle boarding, boating, river rafting, and other activities that take place at or on your best physical asset.

    Remember, people are searching for activities that cater to them, not necessarily specific mountains, lakes, rivers or trails. Sometimes the trail can be so amazing that it is the attraction, but when you market it, make sure you include the primary draw to that trail. In the case of Ride to Trails, you could say “biking the Route of the Hiawatha,” or “biking the Hiawatha Trail” is the primary draw.

    What I LOVE about the Hiawatha Trail is that you start by biking through a 1.7-mile tunnel (pitch black, by the way, but thank goodness the rental bikes come with a flashlight mounted on the handlebar), and when you’ve conquered that, you bike down the scenic, wide, compacted gravel trail through 10 shorter tunnels and over seven high railroad trestles that are hundreds of feet above the spectacular mountain terrain below. This is the kind of mountain biking I love! You start at the top and for the most part, coast all the way down the 15-mile trail. Then they pack you and your bike into a converted school bus and shuttle you back to Lookout Pass. Yes! Extreme biking without breaking a sweat! That’s my kind of biking!

    During the summer months “Biking the Hiawatha Trail” is one of, if not the, primary attraction in this area of Northern Idaho for families, biking, and even non-biking enthusiasts.

    The average visitor is active 14 hours a day, yet they typically spend only four to six hours with the primary activity. The Hiawatha Trail, including travel time, getting geared up, and enjoying the experience takes three to four hours to complete. Other activities take about the same amount of time.


    What do you do with the rest of the time in the area?

    This is where your “complementary activities” come into play. You always promote the primary draw, the Hiawatha Trail in this case, and then the “while you’re here you’ve got to…” activities.

    The number one complementary activity in the world is shopping, dining and entertainment in a pedestrian-friendly setting. Once we rode the Hiawatha Trail, we spent time in nearby historic Wallace, Idaho.

    Of course, we had to visit the Oasis Bordello Museum (which closed as a bordello in 1981 – that’s not a typo), we shopped the shops, rode the Silver Streak Zipline, and took the Sierra Silver Mine Tour, followed by dinner, the purchase of fudge for a late-night snack, and so on. The complementary activities trigger the decision to make it an overnight stay. Without these complementary activities, the Hiawatha Trail would just be a day trip from Spokane, Washington or a “while passing through” activity along Interstate 90.

    Visitors will spend 8 to 10 hours doing complementary activities – that’s how important they are. And for the mine tours, ziplines, and historic downtowns that aren’t happy being labeled a “complementary activity,” consider this: Eighty percent of all non-lodging visitor spending takes place with complementary activities. Why do you think there’s a Downtown Disney next to each of its parks? Yep, to get that 80 percent!


    Finally, there are the “amenities.” These include the unheralded requirements of public parking, restrooms (or washrooms for our Canadian friends), visitor information, wayfinding signage, sidewalks, downtown beautification, benches, local parks and playgrounds, and lodging. The “amenities” are what enable us to all have an enjoyable experience and are a key contributor to bringing us back.


    In your marketing, always promote your “anchor tenant” – your primary activity. Then add in the “while you’re here, don’t miss this” list of complementary activities. Finally, make sure the supporting “amenities” are in place to ensure a great experience.

    And if you’re ever in the area, be sure to bike the Hiawatha Trail and spend time in nearby historic Wallace, Idaho! You will love it!

    - Roger

  • RBI Clients posted an article
    Here are the five reasons PR should be the top priority see more

    “You build your brand through public relations. Advertising is used to maintain your ownership position.”

    These words, written by the famous branding guru, Al Ries, are more important today than ever before..

    Destination marketing organizations constantly wonder how to successfully tell the world their community exists and that they are worth a special trip. Should they use advertising or Public Relations? Or maybe a combination of both?

    We believe you should do both, but PR clearly takes priority over advertising. Here are the five reasons PR should be the top priority:

    #1 - Your brand is built through PR

    A brand is what people think of you. It is your unique selling proposition. When you tell people where you’re from, what do they say? What is their perception? Whatever their response, that is your “brand”—the perception they have of you. And that perception is formed by what other people say, what they read about your community, and what they see on social media or in the news.

    Social media is a BIG part of public relations. PR includes print (articles written about you), broadcast (what is being said on television or radio), and social media (blogs, vlogs, online reviews, photo sites, and conversations on social media sites).

    Public relations should be priority number one when it comes to promoting your unique selling proposition—what you want to be known for. 

    #2 - PR provides a BIG return on Investment

    For every dollar you spend on public relations you'll see $3 in earned media. Earned media is what it would cost if you were to purchase that space in the form of advertising.

    #3 - Articles versus ads

    Articles are read more than four times that of ads, whether in print, online, or on any other media. People will generally look at an ads for only a few seconds, but they will spend several minutes or longer reading an article about you; particularly when it’s from a third-party viewpoint providing an honest, unbiased opinion. 

    #4 - Social media speeds up the brand-building process

    When it comes to brand building, what used to take 20 years or more can now be accomplished in just three to five years. That is the power of social media in this “always on” world. We can find anybody, anywhere, instantly online, and so you have the power to create widely available content and stories that will build and promote your brand—what it is you want to be known for.

    #5 - People trust third-party recommendations

    The problem with advertising is that it's self-proclaimed. When you're marketing your destination or business, you tell people how great you are. Only 15% will believe that what you say is actually true, but when it comes from a third-party, it’s believed 85% of the time. This is why the third-party reviews posted to TripAdvisor have made it the most used travel website in the world. Travelers want to know what others think of you. That’s PR.

    The bottom line: Public Relations should be your top marketing priority whether you have a staff person dedicated to the effort or you contract it out. And remember, this is “public relations,” meaning both social media AND traditional media.

    All the best with your public relations journey!

  • Do you market your location or the experience your location offers? see more

    The Internet has changed the world. These days if we want a horseback riding experience in Northern Texas, we’ll Google “horseback rides + ‘Northern Texas,’” and within a third of a second we’ll get 74,000 responses. People now search for the experience first, and the general location second.

    If we’re visiting Vancouver, British Columbia we might search for:

    • Best restaurants, downtown Vancouver
    • Greek restaurants, North Vancouver, BC
    • Job opportunities, southern BC
    • Downhill skiing, British Columbia
    • Ferry schedule, Vancouver to Victoria BC
    • Things to do, Victoria, BC
    • Wildlife viewing, British Columbia
    • Apartment rentals, Langley, BC
    • “Best hiking trails” + “Canadian Rockies”

    To be successful, you must market the experience first, and THEN your location. But the key is to make sure the experiences you’re promoting differentiate you from everyone else in your market. Every place has “outdoor recreation” and “unique shops and restaurants.”

    Have you ever gone anywhere because it was a county? And yet, county-wide marketing usually promotes the fact that they are a county, before they ever give you a reason to want to visit.

    To win you must answer this one question: What do you have that the people you are hoping to attract can’t get or do closer to home? Whatever it is, you need to hang your hat on that. You simply can’t be “all things to all people” and win in this new age of branding.

    The surefire way to kill your marketing effectiveness is marketing your downtown, town, city, county or region - your geographic location - BEFORE experiences, the things to do that make you worth a special trip, even if it’s just a ten minute drive to your downtown from the suburbs.

    So QUIT marketing your location first.  And quit marketing your organization—it should be the very last item in any ad or website. Visitors (even local residents) don’t care about the actual organization when they are trying to find things to do, places to eat, and places to stay. Sell the experience first, and then the location.


    1. Google your community name. I’ll bet you’re right at the top of the list.

    2. Now Google your top activity. If you’re an equestrian destination search for “horseback trails” and then the general area “Western Washington.” Do you show up? If not, you have some work to do. Try another primary activity such as “Micro-brew” and “Metroplex” (the Dallas/Fort Worth area and a dozen other communities). Does your website show up on the first page of search results? Try some others as well.

    Fact: 86% of search engine users never go past the second page of search results. Do you?

    3. Look at your introductory text. Does it mention the one, two, or three best activities that really set you apart and make you worth a special trip? This is where search engines get their keywords – that opening paragraph.

    4. Rewrite your introductory text to promote the top one, two or three things that really set you apart. Then reread the previous two articles to make sure you’re complying with those rules. Then post it on your home page.

    5. Consider purchasing a “pay per click” program through Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. If you have to buy your way onto the first page, then do it until the search engines pick up those key words. No one is going to find you if they look for “horseback riding, western Washington” and you’re listed on the 64th page of search results!

  • 7 things you need to know about promoting the “Best of the Best” of your community. see more

    When putting together a marketing plan, we tell communities to promote the best they have to offer. Always. When it comes to print materials, one of the key pieces we recommend is a Best Of guide, promoting the best attractions, restaurants, and retail shops. Putting together this kind of marketing piece can ruffle some feathers, (“why wasn’t I included?”) but there are important reasons to focus your message on the best of what you have to offer.

    Here are the seven things you need to know about promoting the “Best of the Best” of your community:

    1. Always promote your “anchor tenants.” Shopping malls don’t exist without anchor tenants; in fact, they don’t begin development until anchor tenants are signed to long-term leases. We go to the mall for the big stores, but while we are there, we stop at the numerous other stores as well. Similarly, would you go to Orlando if Disney World wasn’t there? Most people say no, insulting 140 other attractions. But those other attractions have no problem with Disney getting all the glory; Disney is Orlando’s “anchor tenant” and all 140 attractions benefit from them being there. And Disney is thrilled they are there making Orlando one of the world’s most visited destinations.

    The same applies to downtowns. Your “anchors” bring people downtown, but everyone around them benefits from the increased foot traffic and spending. This held true in Ottawa, Illinois; when they produced their best of brochure some people complained that they weren’t included. But they soon realized they were getting more business because the anchor tenants brought the customers downtown to their storefronts.



    2. Ottawa, Illinois saw their hotel occupancies increase dramatically as a result of handing out their Best Of brochure at the nearby state park. People at the park chose to spend the night in Ottawa rather than heading back home to Chicago – the major market they were trying to attract. And EVERYONE, not just the anchor tenants benefited. Alpena, Michigan just followed suit with their Best Of brochure to great success. Let us know and we’ll send you a copy or a PDF file of what their brochure looks like.

    3. The vetting process is very deliberate and everyone, if they raise the bar, can and should be included. In Ottawa, non-selected businesses said, “That was the best money I never spent!” When people came into the shops featured in the brochure, they went into their shops as well, even though they weren’t featured. Here’s a sample of the criteria you might use:

    – They must have good curb appeal.
    – They must be open at least six days a week and the day they can be closed is Monday.
    – They must have good curb appeal.
    – They must be open until at least 7:00 pm. (70% of retail spending now takes place after 6:00 pm).
    – They must be highly regarded by someone other than themselves: 80+% positive reviews on TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon, Yelp, and other peer review sites or have been written up in regional magazines and a “must visit” place to shop, dine or see.

    4. Even with restaurants, visitors will choose a variety of establishments; they won’t always eat at the same place three meals a day. If people see there is a good selection of restaurants, and more people are coming downtown, every restaurant will benefit from the increase in visitors.

    5. Promoting anchor tenants brings people into town that might not otherwise go out of their way to visit your downtown. Once people come and get out of their cars, you have a four times greater chance of getting them to spend money. That’s why you promote your anchors; they are the “teaser” to entice people downtown, just as in a shopping mall. Most people don’t head to the mall specifically for Radio Shack or a Hallmark Store, but once there, they will easily stop in. These merchants ride the coattails of the anchor tenants! Think Orlando and Disney World.

    6. No mall, and no downtown, can survive without anchor tenants. We know, we’ve worked in thousands of towns and the ones that are dying have no anchor tenants – a business where people will go out of their way, specifically, to visit.

    7. In your Best Of guide, make sure you ONLY promote your anchor tenants, not everyone in town. It should include your top three to five restaurants, your top three to five retail shops, and your top three to five activities. Each of them MUST be worth a special trip of perhaps 45 minutes or so. Your guide might include anywhere from a dozen Best Of establishments, on up to perhaps 24 or so places. Do NOT include lodging since you want them to hand the guide to their guests and they don’t like promoting their competitors. Remember that the number one asked question at any front desk is “where’s a good place to eat?” Sometimes that’s followed up with “And don’t just hand me a list. Where would you eat?”

  • Article
    We’re exposed to 5,000 marketing messages a day – far more than the mind can absorb. see more

    I was working with a group of people in Wisconsin who really put me to the test. The idea was to create a print ad that would actually get the attention of the reader and would pull them in.

    Our previous two blog posts have listed the words and phrases to avoid in your marketing efforts, followed by a checklist of what ads need in order to “close the sale.” Now it was time to actually put these rules to use.

    The group was tasked to come up with a corny saying, a funny quote, or something just ridiculous, and it was my job to turn it into a compelling ad. It was to be a third page print ad you’d see in a woman’s magazine, or a travel publication.

    After a few minutes one of the gals in the room jumped up and shouted “I’ve got it!” The line she gave me started with “One out of four people in this country are mentally imbalanced…”

    I’ll reveal the rest in a minute.

    I had 15-minutes to come up with something good. This quote was going to be tough to work with and my palms were getting sweaty under the pressure. I decided to use the quote to market a spa that was just down the street in Wisconsin Dells where we were working. I had just seen one of their ads, which featured the boring, overused header “Beyond Expectations.” Would that get you to go online or call for an appointment?

    The first thing I did was put the saying at the top of the ad. Then I went to and purchased a stock photo of a woman who looked a tad unbalanced, which would be the attention-getter. Then I purchased a second photo of a woman relaxing at a spa.

    Here’s the initial draft ad I was working with.















    Using these two photos and the zinger of a headline would certainly get the ad noticed. The famous ad guy, David Ogilvy once said that “on average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents of your marketing dollar.”

    I knew I was on the right track here, particularly since the audience was thinking “where’s he going with this?”. Then came the closer—the body text and call to action.

    Here’s what the ad said, starting with the headline and the rest of the quote I had to work with:

    “One out of four people in this country are mentally imbalanced. Think of your three best friends. If they seem ok, then you’re the one.”

    I concluded with:

    “Perhaps it’s time you found YOUR balance. Book a spa stay at the incredible Kalihari Spa’s “Sanity Retreat” this May. Bring your three best friends and save 30%. Book it right now while you’re thinking clearly. Only in Wisconsin Dells.”

    When the audience applauded, I knew that this was an ad that would get some attention. In fact, several women were ready to make reservations on the spot.















    Sure beats “Beyond Expectations.” Did you notice I mentioned the spa retreat for May, just before Mother’s Day?

    Are your ads getting noticed? Is there a compelling call to action?

    If this was easy, everyone would be doing it but the bottom line is that you must command the reader’s attention. We’re exposed to 5,000 marketing messages a day—far more than the mind can absorb. To win you must reach deep and command attention. Sometimes it takes shock and awe. This one was a tad more subtle.

  • Why should you want to be known as a great destination for multi-generational travelers? see more

    Why should you want to be known as a great destination for multi-generational travelers?

    No traveling family group spends more and stays longer than multi-generational travelers. And this group spreads the word about their plans and experiences via social media faster and more frequently than any other set of travelers.

    By 2020 there will be 90 million ACTIVE grandparents in the U.S. and Canada alone. And, more than ever, grandparents are making time with their grandkids their top priority—including vacation trips, shorter day-long excursions, and weekend getaways.

    Typically, the grandparents and their kids select the destination, and then grandma does the bulk of the planning. You can guess who’s footing the lion’s share of the bill.

    When you cater to this incredible trend (which will be around for the next 20+ years), here are some rules to use in your marketing and product development efforts:

    • Make sure your experiences are kid-friendly. These travelers want unforgettable adventures for the entire family to enjoy together.
    • Outline kids’ activities by age group: age 2-5, age 6-8, age 9-12, and age 13-17.
    • Opportunities to learn something needs to be a key factor in what you offer.
    • Make it easy to plan with customizable, multi-night itineraries, package deals, and most importantly—“All Inclusive” options.
    • Brainstorm itinerary ideas like river or lake cruises, adventure trips—rafting, ballooning, jeep tours, fishing, interactive science exhibits or wildlife safaris. The more detailed the itinerary, the more likely you are to immediately close the sale.
    • Offer different lodging options—grandparents may want upscale resort amenities while parents might need condo or AirBnB type facilities.
    • Provide bikes, rafts, canoes and other recreational equipment at lodging facilities.
    • Create photo and video libraries geared to the kids.
    • Your website should include “while you’re here” itinerary suggestions, links to accommodations/restaurants, and activity duration estimates.

    It takes a lot of effort, schedule managing, and coordination of individual preferences to plan a multi-generational trip. The easier you make it, the more effective your success will be. Check out the Road Scholar website under Intergenerational to get ideas to help create effective itineraries.

    Start your multi-gen marketing efforts by developing these “transformative” experiences and formulating itineraries for each season. Build excitement by developing short videos and photography showcasing the primary activities. Work with your local businesses to develop packages (with a range of options)—make sure pricing is transparent.

    Give those who visit your website a “Chat Now” or “Live Chat” option to assist with travel planning, especially during evenings (at least a few days a week) and weekends when most planning is occurring.

    Multi-generational travelers spend more, stay longer, accommodate more rooms, and tell more people via social media than any other travel group. And, in the process, they also introduce a new generation to you so that when THEY grow up, they can take THEIR kids and grandkids to the places they remember from their youth. A true win-win.

  • Are your tourism ads good enough to close the sale? see more

    If you start your tourism ad with your logo and tag line, who you are, where you are, or what it is you are trying to promote, your tactics are dead wrong. The problem? You haven’t told us WHY we should buy from you or visit you, nor is there a call to action. No wonder 97% of tourism print advertising is ineffective!

    Below are two sample full-page tourism ads with seven numbers on them (Number three is missing on the second one) and each number is in order of importance.
































    #1. The first and most important element is one single signature illustration (or photo) that will evoke an instant emotional response: fear, awesomeness, radical, a “wow” moment, or sublime. It tells the reader “ Wow! I want to go there!” or “I want that!” or, at least, a “What?” pulling them further in.

    #2. The “header,” or primary headline, is next. Here’s how tourism print ads work: the viewer will notice the photo or primary graphic in a second, and if it catches their attention they will read the header next – usually in the following second or two. The header, like the photo, must be enough to grab their attention. You have three seconds to pull them in. Just three seconds.

    #3. Now that you’ve grabbed their attention, you move them to the “sub-head” or follow-up sentence. This is the call to action. The goal: to make the reader want to know more. At this point you’ve held their attention for a whopping four to five seconds. The graphic image, the header, and sub-head MUST be good enough to pull the reader into the body text – your main paragraph.

    #4. The body text must get to the point in the first sentence. It must tell the reader WHY they need what it is you have to offer. Don’t tell me WHO you are, WHAT you are selling, or WHERE you are. Tell me WHY and that will pull me further into the text. The goal is to get the reader to log on or call for more information.

    #5. Now that you’ve pulled them into your ad, here is where you say, “by the way, here’s who we are” – and that’s where your logo is placed.

    #6. THEN you tell them WHERE you are: your location, or how they find you: a website address or phone number or physical address.

    #7. And last on the list is your tag line – the “anchor.” The few words that cement ownership of your brand – what it is you want to be known for. For BMW it’s the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” That’s the tag line that makes up the final exclamation point.

    Are your tourism ads good enough to close the sale?



  • In this new digital age, here is how your marketing dollars should be spent see more

    We are going to hit you with another sad fact: 88% of destination marketing organizations spend more on printed materials than they do on the Internet. Is this you? If so, you have it backwards. In this new digital age, here is how your marketing dollars should be spent:

    45% on digital marketing:
    Your website, social media, online advertising, digital guides, apps, search engine optimization, website updates, e-newsletter, video content, pay per click advertising, etc. When you plan your personal travel what is your number one resource? We’ll bet it’s the web.

    20% on advertising
    The goal should be to drive people to your website, which must be good enough to close the sale.

    20% on public relations:
    You build your brand on PR, advertising is used to maintain your ownership position of your niche in the marketplace. What is said about you is far more important than what you say about yourself. For every dollar you spend on public relations, you’ll see a $3 return in “earned media” – what it would cost if you paid for that space. Publicity is a third-party endorsement, and that carries a lot of weight! Think about the power of good reviews on TripAdvisor.

    10% on collateral materials:
    This includes your Activities Guide, other brochures, maps and printed materials, including distribution costs.

    5% of trade shows and signage:
    This includes trade shows, fairs, billboards and reader boards and other forms of marketing.

    This is a general guideline, and your destination may require some tweaking. What worked in the 1970s doesn’t work today, so break out of that mold.


    1. Take your last year’s budget and categorize your marketing as I have shown above.

    2. Then compare it. What can you do differently?

    3. Redevelop your budget so it fits into these parameters. Of course content is what closes the sale, but this will help you put your valuable resources into the right pots. Over this weekly series I’ll help you narrow these down into specifics. But the big takeaway is to spend your most precious resources on the web, not creating print guides and brochures.

    We’d love to hear from you. How are you doing with your budgets? If you have questions, let us know!

  • These days, consumers are looking for things to do, not just places to go. see more

    We’ve been saying for years, we’re in a new age of marketing. When we posted about The Dinosaur Marketing Tactics Communities Won’t Let Die, we got some questions about “Visitor’s Guides” versus “Activities Guides.” It is definitely something worth elaborating on, and a lot of communities aren’t sure where to go with this type of marketing piece. Do we still need printed guides? What’s the point in calling it an Activities Guide? Is it simply the same thing with a new name?

    These days, consumers are looking for things to do, not just places to go. They want experiences rather than landmarks. Part of the reason for changing to an “Activities Guide” is simply because people respond better to the title. It tells them the guide is focused on things to do, which is primarily what they are looking for. The name tells a potential visitor that this guide is going to answer their question, “What can I DO there?”

    Within the guide, the focus remains on the available activities. Instead of structuring the guide around locations, or listings of hotels, restaurants and amenities, the content should be focused on TYPES of activities. This groups things for people to DO (remember – they want experiences) according to potential categories of interest. Chapters or sections might include:

    – Kids and family

    – Sports

    – The great outdoors/recreation

    – Photography and wildlife

    – Culinary experiences

    – Girls weekends (shopping, dining, spas, nightlife)

    – History

    – Nightlife and entertainment

    – The arts (performing, visual, artisans in action)

    Think like a travel writer! Millions of people subscribe to travel publications because they provide specifics, while communities often market themselves by providing generic lists of “things.” People are looking for experiences – things to do – so provide sample itineraries, with specific places to shop or stop for lunch or dinner, and how much time to spend at attractions. The easier you make it in this age of convenience, the more likely you’ll be to close the sale. Itineraries are huge now – as long as they aren’t too structured and allow for flexibility.

    Do you still need to print guides? Absolutely! Just not as many as in the old days. People do get much of their information online, but still like having a printed piece. We like having that booklet or brochure in our laps while we cruise in the car and explore the area. And there’s nothing quite as fun as getting a requested guide in the mail – something we can look at over dinner, in the bathroom, at a restaurant while we’re not “plugged in.” Most people don’t consume ALL of their content via a computer screen, although it’s headed that way.

    Overall, make the focus of your marketing the experiences people can get in your community (especially those things they can’t get closer to home!) Focus on what there is to DO and you’ll be speaking the consumer’s language.

  • Article
    We want to help you double – even triple – your downtown and/or tourism spending. see more

    My goal is to give you outstanding, useful content and a “what to do” item that can help you double – even triple – your downtown and/or tourism spending.

    Here are the three ways to double the spending locally:

    1. Jettison the generic and narrow your focus. With the world at our fingertips, via the web, in less than a second, we now look for places and activities that cater to us specifically. Phrases like “something for everyone” are totally ineffective. In an upcoming article I’ll give you the List of Words & Phrases to Avoid. To win you MUST make sure you differentiate yourself. If your introductory text can fit anyone else, then toss it and start over. You have only eight seconds to pull me in and it needs to cater to the customer specifically.
    2. Strengthen your product. All successful downtowns and visitor destinations are built on product not marketing. In fact, the days of the traditional destination marketing organization (DMO) is coming to a close. You must now get into the product development game. The communities that have done this are seeing big rewards. Remember, you are only as good as the product you promote.
    3. Tell the world digitally. Most destination marketing organizations will spend at least 80% of their marketing budgets on advertising and collateral (printed) materials. If that’s you, you have it backwards. Forty-five percent of your total marketing budget should now be spent on digital marketing. Your advertising should drive people to your website and it needs to be good enough the close the sale. Does yours?


    1. Go to the home page of your website, grab your marketing brochure(s), grab a local visitors guide.
    2. Now pull up a map of your area and locate a small town a two-hour drive from you – one that’s not really a great destination (I’m sure you can think of several) and that you wouldn’t make a special trip there to visit.
    3. Now go to your introductory text. Take out the name of your town (or business – this applies businesses as well!) and insert the town you found on the map and read it. After reading it would you make a special trip there based on what you just read? Did it still ring true? If your opening text is generic and could fit just about anyone anywhere, then you just lost a sale.
    4. Then rewrite your opening paragraph so it fits no one, in your market, but you. And make sure it’s based on things to do, not the location (city, town, county, downtown). We are looking for things to do, not just places to go.

    My entire career has been to help communities increase local and visitor spending. If there is anyway I can help your community, please let me know.

  • See how Squamish, BC is catching the attention of investors see more

    Located midway between the City of North Vancouver and Whistler Resort in Western British Columbia is a town that, not very long ago, was as red-neck as it could be. Once a home to logging and mining companies, this town of 20,000 residents is now the youngest city in Canada and is on the cutting edge of “recreational technologies.”

    Just ten years ago, most of the waterfront was used for logging operations, but now this land is being marketed to investment firms and businesses for the creation of an incredible mixed-use village.

    To market it, the city produced this video, which is one of the best we’ve ever seen. For the first time in North American history, jobs are going where the talent is – or wants to be. Squamish is one of those places and this video shows that, making it obvious that this is a great investment opportunity.