Photo by Pamela Saunders on Unsplash

There is no magic formula for digital marketing, but there are some simple, repeatable tactics that just about anyone can take advantage of, and others that are just fundamental tools that literally everyone should be using.

Last week we published the results of our study: Digital Adoption in the Tourism Industry and there were some pretty surprising results. Specifically, there is a significant percentage of businesses that are still not taking advantage of even the most basic digital resources. That’s why, this week, we’ve put together for you a breakdown of lessons learned, ranging from free and foundational up to the most effective tactics that seem to scare most non-technical BC tourism marketers away.

Why so specific? Digital marketing is drowning in a sea of generalities. It seems that every blog post, market trends assessment, and whitepaper tries to offer insights that can be applied to any sized business in any industry. The problem is that by trying to be useful to everyone, they end up being valuable to no one.

What we’ve got for you here is a series of insights, observations, and recommendations that are built for one geographic region of one industry and, ironically, by doing that not only will these insights be crazy-useful for BC Tourism businesses, it may just provide a spark for anyone looking to achieve some of the same things that these businesses are working on.

To refresh your memory, here’s a high level recap of our results. To read the full summary, Click here.

Lessons from the Study

1. The best things in digital are free

There is just no good reason that 100% of businesses wouldn’t have Google Analytics installed, and have a well optimized Google My Business listing. If the barrier is just that you don’t know how to get started, here are the links that you need:

2. Pick a channel, and be consistent

It’s not surprising that only 50% or so of the businesses that we studied have active accounts in each of the social channels. What is concerning is the number of inactive accounts. The secret that the best brands know is that when they choose one or two channels, they can focus their energies on delivering excellent content consistently. In a marketplace where guests have literally millions of accounts that they can choose to follow and pay attention to, why would they clutter their feeds up with a brands that’s spreading its already limited resources across too many channels?

The only real difference between the active, thriving brand accounts and the ones that are a drag to everyone involved is focus and purpose. When the brand focuses whatever energy it has on executing a social media channel with purpose, the audience can feel that energy and they’re attracted to it. When posting is a chore, and there’s no real reason for the channel to exist, that’s pretty apparent as well.

To thrive, focus your energy on one or two channels, know what it is you’re delivering there, and consistently show up for your audience. Add some skill to those elements and you’ll beat out a competitor that’s better funded but lacks focus, every time.

3. The most valuable audience is one that already knows you

Remarketing can look intimidating at first.

It requires a bit of code installed on your site, and a custom audience that needs to be created, but when you really get into it the ad platforms make the setup process a walk in the park — you just need to get over that initial barrier. Once you do, a massive opportunity opens up that nearly no one in the market is taking advantage of. That’s the opportunity to hyper-target your advertising budget to show up only for people who are already considering what you’re offering.

It’s easy to write off social advertising in the tourism industry. I hear from business owners fairly often that their guests would never make a booking decision based solely off of a pretty picture or video that shows up in their newsfeeds. And the majority of the time, they’re right.

Let’s consider how people actually do make their booking decisions: First, they start planning for a trip, and when they do they start shopping around. They ask their friends, they search blogs, review sites, and they watch videos about experiences that they might want to try.

Next, they narrow their options down to a small set of options that they’re seriously considering.

It’s in that consideration phase that remarketing really starts to become valuable. That traveller has checked out the websites of all of the options that they’re considering, and only 9% of them are using that information to serve up content that deepens the traveller’s awareness about what the business offers. That means that after they leave the site, the businesses are just leaving it to chance that they’ll remember all of the amazing things that the prospective guest learned from the site.

Your opportunity is not to promote pretty pictures to make people aware of your product. What you can do is take people who already have your brand in the back of their minds and remind them of your amazing features, or educate them about elements that they may not have learned on their own.

That’s why remarketing is our #3 tactic, and the one that’s most significantly under-utilized.

To learn how to get started with Facebook/Instagram remarketing, Click here.
To learn how to get started with Google Ads Display remarketing, Click here.

4. Make it easy to convert

People are on your website. People want to book on your website, or at least take a step in the right direction. Make it as easy as possible for them to do that. There are great online booking tools out there that make it relatively easy to get started – I’ve listed a few here:

Once you have the online booking engine in place, then make it dead-simple for people to use it. Put big, bold buttons on every page of the site, and even link directly to it from key places in your advertising or social content.

But what about if your tour/property can’t be booked online, or if you’d just rather have that human interaction first? Then, make it easy to capture your prospective guest’s interest by offering the same big, bold calls to action, and instead of a booking engine give them an even simpler contact form that will allow you to collect their information, follow up, and customize your responses.

I could go one, talking about all of the opportunities that are out there for BC Tourism businesses, but our study tells us that very nearly 0% of them are currently taking advantage of the four listed here. Keep it simple, use the tools that are available to you, and deliver value in every place that you show up.