Coordinate Cooperative Marketing Efforts
Are you hoping to benefit from the influx of this summer’s tourism dollars, yet wonder how your limited marketing budget can reach beyond a regionally based sphere of influence? You’re not alone.
In fact, the majority of San Diego’s local businesses are unable to participate in marketing programs that affect “out-of-towners” simply because these programs cost too much to implement.
Let’s look at San Diego’s overall business landscape. Some 74,000 firms make their home here, and of these, a whopping 42,750 generate revenues less than $500,000 per year. Another 13,000 firms are in the $500,000 to $1 million range, so it’s easy to see that developing a national or multi-state regional marketing campaign requires real imagination. And some cash.
I often tell business owners seeking tourism dollars the next logical step must be to reach beyond their typical marketing “comfort zone,” and that this step ultimately requires funding.
One of the most expedient ways to fund a tourism marketing program is by finding unusual sponsors and unlikely partners. Here’s how it works.
– Package Deals A
To reach the potential visitor, you must take the guesswork and hassle out of destination planning. That usually necessitates bundling your products or services with others.
The package deal achieves economies of scale by spreading the production costs, media buys and public relations expenses over a number of enterprises which all have the same goal , the capture of seasonal tourism dollars. And it provides a one-stop shopping/dining/service/attraction resource for visitors who aren’t necessarily familiar with what the region has to offer.
Putting the package together requires a somewhat creative effort, but let’s focus on what seems to keep most entrepreneurs from ever getting out of the starting gate in the first place , the inability to attract strategic partners.
The key to selling your ideas and obtaining promotional funds from others is to develop a process for sponsor solicitation.
Recently we were faced with the challenge of promoting a large, 70 percent entertainment, 30 percent retail shopping mall , the Block at Orange , to millions of consumers. The center had a number of 91-foot-tall vertical billboards called “stylons” we knew would influence patrons.
To leverage our marketing dollars we sought an unlikely sponsor: AirTouch Cellular. They were sold on the idea of these tall, slender billboards with the caveat that they would also be included in all press materials, special radio events, directory maps, and Web site promotions. AirTouch also received retail opportunities within the mall as part of the deal. Unlikely partners? Yes, but the end result was outside funding for a regional attraction.
– Identify Potential
The San Diego Convention and Visitor’s Bureau 2000 membership directory lists 203 categories with entries like nightclubs, auto rentals and telecommunications, to name a few. The IEG Sponsorship Report, the professional newsletter of sports, arts, event and cause marketing, lists only 22 categories. Narrow your focus and identify the most likely.
Last May, we made a presentation to the marketing advisory committee of the California Travel and Tourism Commission regarding the U.S. Corporate Benefits Marketing Initiative. From there, we were able to put together an employee marketing promotion that had an outreach of 20 million in the United States and Canada.
The end result was an opportunity for all businesses to leverage their tourism budget by participating in a cooperative marketing effort tied to the state’s $7 million Wild Vacations in California promotion.
All told, we produced 2.3 million California Vacation Kits that were distributed to employees via some 22,500 employers.
Locally, National Car Rental, Legoland California, the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park participated, but the deal is structured so any size business can afford to participate.
First, identify the key contacts at each company. This amounts to simple detective work. Resources include the company’s receptionist, Web site and annual report , from there determine the structure of the marketing department and try to identify any outside agency players for added insight.
Second, call to set up meetings. Be creative to get in the door. Tell reluctant prospects you’ll only need 20 minutes of their time. Think in terms of their convenience, not yours. Be persistent.
– Find Firm’s Main
Third, find the hot buttons , those features providing the most bang for the buck and address the firm’s most pressing marketing concerns. By talking to potential sponsors and getting an idea of “where it hurts,” you may be able to provide specific remedies that the prospect is unable to address via traditional marketing approaches.
Fourth, send a targeted proposal. All background information should be present in your proposal, but the emphasis should be made, early on, to highlight the benefits of a sponsorship or partnership. The cover letter serves as the executive summary. If a decision-maker reads nothing else, he or she should still understand the nature of your proposal from a one- or two-page cover letter.
Fifth, structure the meeting, which means devoting 20 percent of the time introducing your opportunity and the balance spent on the unique selling propositions , those items which specifically benefit the sponsor, and which create the fit. Conclude with a timetable and the steps necessary to move the project forward.
Last, revise the package based on the prospect’s needs, initiate the contract and close the deal. Set reasonable deadlines to let prospects know that their time , and your time , is important. Two to four weeks is adequate.
San Diego will be vying for its share of tourism dollars this summer as a prime vacation destination, and it’s likely that those interested in forming marketing partnerships will be looking for penetration beyond our local media markets.
And if that’s what you intend to do, you’ll need to package your products and services with others and tie them to regional or national promotions by securing a sponsor or partner who will help defray the cost.
Remember, your goal is to market outside your immediate sphere of influence, giving visitors the implied endorsement that can only come from riding the coattails of big-ticket sponsors.
Flowers is president of Co-Opportunities, a San Diego-based firm specializing in destination marketing.