Dan Cotter on Contemporary Marketing Concepts —
This ongoing pandemic, with its travel and shopping restrictions, has presented some huge hurdles for many of our local businesses. Stores and service providers that accommodate and fulfill the needs of visitors are among the most severely affected by the guidelines that were put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The hospitality sector, as well as boutiques, specialty shops and attractions that typically rely on a steady stream of out-of-town guests who are here for a short stay and plan to spend freely for lodging, meals, personal services, entertainment, recreation, mementos and gifts to take home, are now faced with two mission-critical challenges:
- A need to compete even more effectively for the attention and dollars of the limited number of tourists who still manage to come to our area now (such as in-state visitors), and
- A need to position themselves to take full advantage of pent-up demand once the expected rebound takes place after the vaccine is widely distributed and travel restrictions are lifted.
A big part of the solution on both fronts is to include highly-targeted digital marketing tactics in the promotional plan for your business. Identifying visitors and alerting them that your store is unique and offers X, or your restaurant shouldn’t be missed because of Y, or the best use of their time while here is to attend Z, ought to be an essential part of your marketing strategy.
Years ago, this would have been an extremely difficult marketing objective. People then weren’t all walking around with a smartphone in their hand or spending gobs of their time in front of a computer or tablet screen. Today, people tend to rely heavily upon their devices when they decide where to go and what to do or buy – especially when they are in unfamiliar territory, like on a vacation.
Now, however, businesses that want visitors to become their customers can easily make a connection. For instance, you can:
- Put pay-per-click search ads or attention-getting display ads with links to your website in front of people who are contemplating whether to come here, by targeting people who do online searches using keywords that indicate they’re interested in our area, such as “Vermont getaways” or “Woodstock area activities (or lodging)” or “Skiing in Vermont,” among many others. That way, your business will be on their radar screen if they come.
- Embed display ads or content marketing articles about why your business is a “must do” in our area on websites that directly or indirectly promote Vermont travel experiences. You can also entice potential visitors who see your ads to click through to your website by offering a free promo or coupon. By doing this, you’ll want them to make a stop at your location a part of their trip agenda that they’ll look forward to.
- “Geofence” area hotels, visitor centers, highway rest stops, attractions and recreation venues, and any other spots where visitors to our area are likely to be found, in order to identify tourists who have already arrived, and – via their smartphones — put your display ads about what makes your business worth visiting in front of the people who are currently at or have recently been to those locations. This is how you can connect with the potential customers who are here now and ready to buy.
Of course, even if reaching visitors is relatively easy and inexpensive, it’s the second part of the equation that will really determine your ultimate success in convincing them to patronize your business. Digital ads offer some outstanding creative options for designing a message that truly entices tourists to carve out time to visit your location while in the area – whether it’s a static or animated banner ad with a link to your site, or a native ad or a video. And always remember to include a call to action that prompts visitors to act now – such as offering free samples, a gift, or a discount.
Luckily, it’s quite simple and affordable for even the smallest business to add a visitor marketing strategy to its promotion plans. The Standard now provides these types of digital marketing services for local businesses and organizations, and we can guide you and execute the entire plan for you. Just contact us for more information.
Dan Cotter is publisher of the Vermont Standard. In its effort to provide local businesses with a full spectrum of traditional and contemporary marketing services, the Standard has established a partnership with one of the nation’s best digital marketing service providers. Business owners who would like to have a free, no-obligation discussion to explore whether they could benefit by using some of these digital marketing techniques are invited to contact Mr. Cotter directly at (802) 457-1313 x102 or [email protected].