Do you want more business from the meeting, convention and visitor market? To paraphrase one U.S. president’s motto for dealing with the U.S. Congress, my advice is communication, compromise and cooperation.
First, have a plan to consistently communicate your message. Second, realize that you can’t be all things to all people, so compromise the notion that “everyone is your customer.” Third, and perhaps most important, leverage your marketing dollars through travel industry co-ops.
Often I am asked to speak to visitor industry groups on creating effective marketing strategies. My advice is to stick to the marketing basics of target marketing, value-added promotions and leveraging budgets through co-op efforts.
Your role model should be Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres. Too many businesses want to find the next big idea, to hit a home run with their marketing. But you can build quite a business by consistently doing many of the little things right, what I would call going for lots of singles. That includes everything from making sure you are staying in touch with current customers to targeting a special niche like the small, high-tech meeting market.
How can you hit lots of singles when it comes to cooperative efforts? The first step is to be on the lookout for all of the opportunities. If you are a hotel, for example, examine what you can be doing with sister properties. Next, check out what is being offered through association and trade groups. You also can find possibilities with noncompeting companies, strategic alliances and event direct competitors.
& #711; Visitor Industry
Businesses Do Better
Getting competitors to work together isn’t easy, but visitor industry businesses do better when they use a cooperative marketing focus. Typically our company, Co-opportunities, links attractions like the San Diego Zoo and Legoland together with area hotels and other businesses in joint marketing efforts.
Recently the California Travel and Tourism Commission signed an agreement with us to create a $750,000 employee marketing promotion, which is tied to the state’s $7 million “Wild Vacations in California” television campaign.
This is an opportunity for any business to maximize its marketing budget by working with Universal Studios, the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Legoland and the Queen Mary as they join forces with more than 30 hotels, car rental companies and smaller attractions to draw attention to vacation possibilities in the region.
The California Travel and Tourism Commission loves the program because for $9,000 it gives a travel business of any size a chance to directly get involved and benefit from the overall state campaign.
To complement the state television blitz, 2.2 million California vacation kits are being distributed to 22,500 companies with a total audience of more than 27 million employees. After seeing the television spots, employees can request a vacation kit at work.
The kits work with the television spots to spur sales by putting offers in the hands of hot “vacation-minded” prospects. The prospective visitors can know exactly how much everything costs, where to stay and what number to call to make arrangements.
While our marketing firm is pleased with the blossoming success of our cooperative marketing programs, as evidenced by our 95 percent client renewal rate, all we are doing is cross-pollinating ideas we learned in retail advertising and bringing them to destination marketing.
& #711; Cultivating Vendors
The Only Way
The idea for my firm sprouted when I became advertising and promotions director for a Southern California-based chain of home improvement centers, where cultivating vendors for co-op dollars became the only way to do advertising.
One of our first clients was Sea World, who liked our ideas for campaigns in other markets but said they didn’t have the money in the budget.
So we asked them, “What if we raised the money, would you do it then?” At first Sea World didn’t think others would pay to be a part of their marketing. Raising co-op dollars used to be a means to an end for us, but now the ability to raise money and create marketing partnerships is our specialty.
Another place to look for cooperative opportunities is through the local Convention & Visitors Bureau. According to ConVis, San Diego will face an ever-increasing competitive marketing environment as other destinations gear up to capture more domestic and international tourists and conventions.
San Diego already is a premier destination, ranking 11th in national surveys of families seeking a great value destination.
While co-op advertising is not a new concept in visitor marketing, its importance is growing. Steve Pelzer, ConVis executive vice president for sales & marketing, points out that for the past 21 years the ConVis Co-op Advertising Program has given members the opportunity to participate in a partnership strategy to reach markets they might not be able to reach on their own.
& #711; Publications Target
The Feeder Markets
This year’s programs include publications that target San Diego’s most productive feeder markets in California, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. These publications have agreed to match the total paid advertising (from both ConVis and participating members) with an equal amount of editorial space.
A schedule of 44 San Diego sections is planned for 2000, including 32 sections in consumer and leisure publications in 28 newspapers and four magazines.
Sadly, however, San Diego is too often just a day-trip market for Los Angeles, Orange County and even international visitors to Southern California. For the convention or business traveler, the goal should be to get them to add an extra day in San Diego to their trip. That translates into more business for attractions, hotels and other visitor industry businesses.
Any business that wants to make their marketing budget go further should stick to the basics of target marketing, value-added promotions and leveraging budgets through co-op efforts.
Flowers is president of Co-Opportunities, a San Diego-based firm specializing in destination marketing.