The success of your tourism company or destination marketing organization will be mostly defined by the strategic focus of the organization. In this blog we show you how you can create a solid strategy without spending hours on research and writing a document you might never look at again.
Underneath you find tips on how you can quickly create a simple strategy that works.
At the bottom of the article you will find a link to the strategic framework document i used with many tour operators and destination marketing organizations in several countries.
What is a Strategy ?
A strategy defines what you have to do to achieve your set goals. Which destinations, type of experiences and tours to focus on and to who you are selling them through what kind of channels.
Before thinking what you have to do to get to your goal, it helps to visualize and write down what your travel organisation looks like if it reached it's goal, how many clients will you have, how many employees, what will be the role of you, others, with what kind of systems will you work. How will a day in the office look like if you have reached your goal.
Doing this exercise makes it much easier to understand what is needed to reach your goal.
A strategy helps you to stay focused
The reason of having a strategy is to stay focused. There are so many opportunities these days, and with in the internet so easy accessible that its easy to get lost.
To stay focused its important that you and your team are very clear on what you offer but also on what you ultimate want to achieve with the company and or being active in the tourism business. What drives you as an owner, what kind of future do you want to help to create. What niche you are in and what kind of customers you want to serve. To craft a brand that consistently tells your customers what you are, why they should buy with you and how that benefits them.
To start the thinking process you start with your Vision.
Vision & North Star
Weather you can debate on what a vision and north star is and how they work together I like to work with the following principles to create directional clarity for a tourism organization.
Where a vision is a dream state in your ideal future world and defines what ultimately the organizations wants to work to. A vision also acts as a binder for the members of the organization and its customers that ultimately they are working on the same or facilitate that by going to a destination. A vision is an important trust element to bind your customers and team toward the main next goal which is a north star.
A north star is a fixed point, where you want to be in about 10 years, you main point in the future that will bring you closer to realize your dream.
Where a vision might be something that takes generations to accomplish a North Star is a point that should be reachable in the long term.
To create a vision start with having a clear idea about where you ultimately want to be, what is it you ultimately working on to realize with organization ?
Getting to your vision is a matter of keep on asking why are we doing this ? Directed by the strengths and values of your company ?
For a north start define a horizon of about 10 years from now. What do you want to achieve in this time frame?
How do you want you companies future to look like ?
The north star you brake up in goals that are in horizon of your strategic document i would recommend to keep your horizon at max 3 years, so that your big goal is quite dreamy and maybe grotesque but that your first stops are concrete and doable.
Your mission defines what you are doing in the strategic timeline of your document.
Set your Values
What do you believe in ? What do you stand for ? Setting your values helps to communicate what the company believes in, in a consistent way.
Create a Niche
With the help of digital marketing its easy to reach well defined audiences like for example families who love trekking with children from 6 to 12 year while meeting native cultural customs all over the world.
Creating a business around such well defined audiences can be very successful.
Defining a clear niche with products targeted at such defined audiences (persona's) and a clear positioning of your company stands for and why people should choose it over others (Unique Selling Points) creates a solid focus for a successful digital marketing plan.
Especially when you are starting a company, a niche is highly recommend, there are very few successful generalists and being one of them will involve big investments.
In stead of start looking at defined audience, you can also take a certain product as your start and select the right audiences for that product.
I like to start selecting what to focus on from my passion and my purpose (why do i do what i do).
What do i like to do, can i turn this into a product or service that creates value for others.
Focus on the positive side of your business and find the product market fit that suits your travel business.
Select your target markets
You can't target the whole world in once especially if you are small you need to choose. Often if you check your database you will find out most of your customers come from 3 maybe 4 different countries.
Set these as your top Countries, can you even dig deeper ? Can you see top cities in your top countries ? Focusing on cities is easier because this can help you to get know quickly among friends who recommend your company to each other. Stimulating mouth to mouth marketing in very focused areas.
Select your target Audience; a strategic approach
Based on your niche you select your target audience, don't choose many different audience, i even suggest you start with one, do that really good and if things go smooth you can extend it.
The goal of creating a target audience is to select a type of customer that is most easy to sell to, someone that will love your company and is fun to work with. You are creating a target audience to understand what wows the audiences about your destination and experiences and what kind of deals they are looking for.
Define what your audiences like, needs, there preferences, what they want but also what they not want. What are there fears ?
You want to understand exactly what inspires your target audience to purchase your products and services, but also what kind of question they have that need to be solved and or answered before they can buy your experiences and what might hold them back to not buy your products or services, so you can help them overcome these obstacles.
Start with the interests of your persona; for example nature lover, bird lover, mountain lover etc
Then think about demographics - Solo traveler, Family traveler, Budget Traveler etc
You can start by going through previous customers, from which customers did you get most of your turn over.
Defining a persona profile
You can define a persona profile by asking questions like;
- Why do they go on a holiday in the USA ?
- What kind of experiences of do they like ?
- What do they expect / want when going to the USA ?
- What kind of struggles do face when they are going to the USA ?
- What is their fear ? What do they absolutely want to prevent ?
- What do they want to take home ?
- How can you convince them that the USA is their best next holiday choice (no worries you will love it)
To add a demographic perspective, consider specific interests. For example, why do nature lovers visit the USA? They might be drawn to the vast, untouched national parks. What experiences appeal to them? Perhaps exploring long-distance trails, which may be less suitable for families with small children.
Once you've developed a persona profile, the next step is to determine where to find your audience. Where do they spend their time online? What magazines do they read? Identifying these geographic and interest hotspots enables you to tailor your marketing efforts effectively, maximizing your chances of sales success.
Set you Unique Selling Points
What makes you different than other travel companies or destinations. Why should customers do business with you. Define your Unique Selling Points (USP) from your strengths.
Highest customer ratings in the area, biggest choice of experiences, longest experience, most expertise, etc and then flip that to what that means for your customers;
Guarantied a high quality experience, In-depth experience, etc
Set your top experiences and destinations
Define which experiences you will focus on, most money will come from a few cash cows. You want to create a balance in your strategy on promoting your current cash cow and future stars. New created experiences you think can be your future hits. As a b2b travel organization it could work well to put a bit more focus on new products to brand yourself as an innovative travel company, while you give your agencies plenty of marketing materials to sell your cash cows. As a destination maybe you want to avoid people coming to your top destinations because of over tourism and you like to spread tourist more evenly over the areas you promote.
Now you have a rough idea of where and how you want to go in the long term its time to set concrete objective that will lead you to results within the time line of your strategy.
Identify 3 main "pillars" you want to achieve and define them with 3 smart goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound. Which means it easy to measure if you achieved them and if they will contribute to your vision.
The Strategy template can be filled in this google doc (copy to doc to edit, give me suggestions to improve through the comment section.