Marketers and mental health: taming stress triggers in the marketing industry

October 13, 2022

In this article on Marketers & Mental Health, we review how to tame four common stress triggers that marketing professionals face:  Proof of ROI, Rejection, Tool Updates, and Never-Ending To-Do Lists.

The marketing industry is a hotbed of stress triggers, which can put a huge strain on your mental health if you’re not prepared to tame them.

Any good mental health expert will tell you this:  if you can’t change the circumstances, all you can do is change how you react to them.  And lordy, that should be every marketer’s mental health motto.  Get a tattoo, crochet it on a pillow, make it your screensaver.  Just embrace it.

Marketing EVOLVES, every single day, in ways that are often unwelcome.  Things that were once free now have a price.  Platforms that were once popular are now passé.  Tracking and targeting for ads now have fences that can shut you out.  New marketing channels pop onto the scene without warning.  Stuff changes all the time.  And change causes stress.  And the stress is relentless.  I’ve heard marketing compared to a never-ending carnival game of whack-a-mole, and it’s not an outrageous analogy.

But marketing can also be exhilarating, rewarding, and immensely satisfying.  Marketers are entertainers.  We are educators.  We are influencers.  And we possess – if we’re good at our jobs – an insightful perspective into what makes people tick and how to push their buttons.

So why are we, as an industry, generally so unsuccessful about managing how WE tick?  We live in triage mode, crisis mode, gearing-up mode, and launch mode. Why aren’t we more conscious of adding a few modes to our professional lives that are kinder to our mental health?

Here are four of the most common stress triggers in marketing, and some thoughts on how you can tame them to foster better mental health.  And it all starts with awareness.

Proof of ROI

The Stress Triggers

Your resources – both time and money – are precious and finite.  Yet the quest to prove ROI for every marketing dollar spent goes unfulfilled.  Should you put your dollars “here” because you can track clicks and trace sales, at the sacrifice of putting them “there,” which is more important but less or not trackable?  These are constant, stressful choices for you.

But more than that…bosses and bean counters demand to see ROI before approving budgets.  Few of them will equate a rise in sales with successful marketing unless you can show a direct link.  And even fewer of them feel comfy with the fact that “increasing brand awareness” is a worthy marketing spend if it doesn’t lead to instant, tangible revenue.

The Taming Method

You need to embrace The Dark Funnel, and you need to educate all your stakeholders on it.  This visual should hit home for any marketer (and hat tip to The F Company for creating it):

A visual showing steps in the dark funnel of marketing, which is a critical solution for taming a stress trigger.

Faith in the dark funnel is critical for every marketer.  Some people still print out travel articles they see and stick them in a “bucket list” folder.  Two years later they visit your hotel or destination from an article in that folder, and how will you know that article was the origin?  You won’t.  But that sort of thing happens all the time.  Faith in the dark funnel is a stance you must cultivate…and champion.  Marketing is a cumulative endeavor.  You can’t just do ONE thing.  A litany of things must be deployed to penetrate awareness and incite action.  You won’t be able to track them all, but they ALL matter.  So educate your stakeholders.  Show this visual at every budget meeting.  Remind them that the leads and sales they ultimately see are only the final step on a long and necessary runway.

And remember:  you can’t find love on a spreadsheet.  And getting folks to love your brand is priceless.

Rejection

The Stress Triggers

Social posts go unopened.  Emails go unread.  Ads get skipped.  Media pitches get ignored.  Shall I go on or is that depressing enough?  We put our souls and creativity into our work and when it lacks response, the feeling of rejection is deflating.  This is doubly true if you’re an agency marketer:  you face rejection by your clients AND you face rejection by your marketing audience.  Lovely.  Why even get out of bed in the morning?

The Taming Method

Cultivate your resilience.  Marketing feels SO personal to you, but to your audience, it’s just one more piece of noise vying for their attention.  Their lack of response is not personal, and we all know that folks need to be told something around a dozen times before it starts to penetrate their awareness.  And they may not even see 10 of those attempts because of clutter, algorithms, spam filters, and other obstacles.

So your job is to give them that repetition.  The more you get up to bat, the more hits you get.  Learn from your strike-outs.  How could you swing differently next time?  Or adjust your stance?  The point is… change your perspective.  It’s not rejection.  It’s all just data collection and a foundation for opportunities to change what you do next.  One of my favorite quotes about resilience comes from the Harvard Business Review:

 

 

Every bit of so-called rejection is an opportunity.  Now you know what didn’t work.  So get up to bat again and find something that WILL work.  It’s just a necessary part of the process.

Tool Updates

The Stress Triggers

Major software or platform updates.  New marketing channels your competitors are already crushing.  System upgrades.  New boss brings new methods to the mix.  It is beyond stressful to keep pace with the evolution of marketing tools.  Even marketers highly specialized in one particular field face this.  SEO experts blow a gasket whenever Google does a surprise update that requires them to shift their strategy, pronto.  Imagine what marketing generalists feel like in that circumstance?  Stressed, overwhelmed, and frequently…frozen.  These things don’t feel comfortable to us, and change is hard to embrace, especially at the pace it’s thrown our way in marketing.  We often view such things as disruptors (and not in a good way) that are hijacking our valuable time away from being productive.  Learning curves and unfamiliarity drag us down.

The Taming Method

If tool updates are putting a strain on your mental health, you need to recast your thinking on what marketing is all about in order to tame this trigger.  Marketing IS evolution.  By its very nature, it MUST evolve because methods get stale and people get desensitized.  You want to break through all that clutter you know exists?  You won’t do it by remaining stagnant and using the same old tools the same old way.  Annoying?  Possibly.  Reality?  Definitely.

Marketers must not only embrace change…they must seek it proactively.  And this isn’t easy because humans like to stay in their comfort zones, where we feel safe and in control.  In our marketing comfort zone, things are predictable:  the time each task will take, the steps each process has, the results we can expect to see.  But y’all…that might feel comfortable but it’s not successful.  To be successful, you need to get yourself into the growth zone:

A diagram that shows the journey from the comfort zone to the growth zone, which is one way to tame stress triggers for better marketing mental health.

As you progress through the fear zone (hardest) to the learning zone (a little easier transition), that next step into the growth zone is where marketing THRIVES.  That’s where new ideas are born, calculated risks are taken, and the rewards are higher.  Find a way to make peace with journeying from your comfort zone to your growth zone and stop thinking of tool updates as disruptions.  They are the lifeblood of marketing.

And if social media updates are your particular nemesis, here are four tips to conquer your frustration when social apps get an overhaul.

BTW, hat tip to whoever created that comfort zone diagram, which I screen-shotted months ago and stuck in a folder in my phone.  It had no credit listing on it and I have no idea where I stumbled across it. See “Proof of ROI” section above…I rest my case, but I wish they had put their logo on it.

Never-Ending To-Do List

The Stress Triggers

Is this category not self-explanatory?  You’re…never…done.  The work generates itself and never stops.  If you’re in PR, there’s always one more journalist to pitch or one more angle to try.  If you’re in visual design, there’s always one more version you know you’ve got in you to create.  And if you’re a department manager or a solo marketer, it’s even worse.  You put it on the website, but then you have to tweet it, post it, email it, promote it, pay for clicks, share onsite, educate staff…and keep doing it.  Do we have the right video?  Was the photo arresting enough?  Is the copy punchy enough?  If it’s not getting attention, how can you spin it a different way so it sounds new?  It’s exhausting.

And here’s what happens:  burnout, 12-hour days, and really stressful Sunday nights as you look at the week ahead.  Also:  to-do lists that mock you, task management software that dings you so much it’s become white noise, and a persistent, oppressive feeling you could be doing more.

But who sets the boundary on where “more” ends?

The Taming Method

You do.  YOU set the boundary on where “more” ends.  Marketing is – while lives aren’t usually at stake – a lot like triage in an emergency room.  Not everything is a heart attack requiring a triple bypass.  And at some point, patients you’ve tended for a long time need to be released. New projects, tasks, and opportunities fly at you daily and you’ve got to make quick judgment calls on what gets attention now, what can wait until next week, and what doesn’t merit a single brain cell of thought.

Let me be crystal clear and super blunt:  you will never do all the things that “could” be done.  So you need to get super choosy about selecting things that “should” be done.  This is about managing expectations, both for yourself and for your boss/stakeholders.  And this is about TIME, the only non-renewable resource in marketing.

Marketers are often people-pleasers and over-achievers, and that makes us want to do it all.  But that’s physically, emotionally, and mentally impossible.  Yet, setting boundaries for ourselves – hours worked in a week, limits on campaign legs to pursue, tasks we agree to take on – is something that many marketers find incredibly difficult.  So, if that’s you, here are a few resources to help you out:

Learn how to stop chronically overcommitting your time here.

Learn how to recast your time to spend it more productively here.

And learn how to embrace JOMO – the Joy of Missing Out – here.

Overall, there’s no denying that marketing can have a strong negative impact on your mental health unless you learn to tame the stress triggers.  Awareness is key:  what are YOUR stress triggers and how can you tame them?  Of course, the four stress triggers explored above are just a few of the most common. Because if I listed them all, that would make this article way too long to read… and that would only stress you out more.  😉

20 Tips for Tourism PR and Marketing Agency Clients

March 22, 2022

a red colored lightbulb with illumination marks signifying 20 tips to help tourism PR and marketing clients get the most out of their agency.

We’ve been serving PR and marketing clients in the tourism industry for 20 years.  Big global brands.  Tiny obscure companies.  Obscenely huge budgets.  Shoestring budgets.  Individuals with personalities that range from Type A to Zen.  Doers.  Procrastinators.  Screamers.  Huggers.  Savvy marketers.  Marketing agnostics.  Marketing skeptics.  No two clients are the same…and there have been thousands of them in our history.

So, we’ve learned a LOT about what it takes for a client to get the most out of both marketing and its agency.  Here, drawn from our extensive experience, are 20 tips to help tourism clients succeed in public relations and marketing:

  1. Changing marketing goals too frequently, or lacking them completely, can only achieve short term results for your efforts. Either be ok with that or make a solid plan and stick to it.
  2. If you water down a BIG BOLD idea, adjust your expectations down from BIG BOLD results. All too often, circumstances cause a client to dilute an idea’s execution…but then expect the same powerful results associated with the original concept.  That just ain’t how it works.
  3. If you feel you have to micromanage your agency, they’re not the right match for you. Let ‘em go, even if it’s us.
  4. Positivity works magic in PR. If you have faith it will produce…it will.  If you don’t…it won’t.
  5. It helps results tremendously if your entire organization is aware of your marketing plans. Devote resources to educating and engaging them, and you’ll see a greater ROI in marketing.
  6. Make the time to collaborate with your agency. If you skip meetings, miss deadlines, and sit indefinitely on things awaiting approval, you’re only tapping around 50% of their potential.
  7. If your boss doesn’t understand marketing, won’t leave, and remains skeptical about every campaign… dude, find a new job. We’ve seen it.  It never ends well.
  8. Tourists want visuals. Invest continually in photos and videos…every itinerary, every package, every story angle.  Without them, you’re losing marketing opportunities…which means you’re losing money.
  9. If you have “marketing envy” and always wish your organization could do things as cool as your competitors (or your agency’s other clients), learn what it takes operationally to execute such things. Then decide if your organization can make it happen.  You may not be nimble enough, your pockets may not be deep enough, or the concepts may be the complete wrong match for your brand.  If your organization is not equipped for it, stop being wistful.  Invest your energy in what will work best for YOU.
  10. It’s totally OK to put some marketing initiatives on a steady low flame temporarily (or even permanently) while you focus your resources elsewhere. Just make peace with it and don’t expect them to yield big results.
  11. It is totally NOT OK to turn PR on and off completely. It’s the one marketing medium that doesn’t respond well to fits and starts.  Either do it consistently (at any flame level) or just don’t do it.
  12. Use tailored landing pages for your digital campaigns. Without them, you’re losing a ton of business.  For some organizations, this is a no brainer. For others, it’s like pulling teeth.  Every. Single. Time.
  13. If your guest service and/or guest experience is inconsistent or subpar in any way, marketing will not help change that. In fact, the more guests we drive to your door, the more money you’re going to waste.  The damage those guests will do through social media, review sites, and lack of referrals/return quietly sabotages the positive benefits that marketing brings.  And a business can’t survive on new guests alone, who are more costly to acquire than referrals/repeats.  Fix the foundation, and you’ll see marketing pay off in spades.
  14. You can’t find love on a spreadsheet.
  15. A website should be both beautiful and functional, but if you had to choose where to put more resources…choose functionality every time.
  16. Forget what we said in #15 entirely.  Stop thinking of “beauty” and “functionality” as two different things.  Together they comprise “user experience,” and if your website doesn’t deliver equally in both areas, you’re losing money.  Period.
  17. Social media is more demanding than any other marketing medium. If you want to deeply succeed here, be prepared to staff it fully and keep up with the breakneck pace of ever-evolving rules, features, and channels.  Doing set-and-forget style marketing only taps around 20% of social media’s potential.  It’s fine if you choose to do it that way in the context of your overall marketing plan.  Just expect your notable results to come from other sources.
  18. If your risk tolerance is low, then PR is not for you. Often in PR, the greatest risks yield the highest rewards, but there are no guarantees.  That’s what makes it so exciting!
  19. There’s a reason creative, clever tourism packages and programs get a ton of press and social media love. Boring things just don’t command attention.
  20. Consistent indecision will tank your marketing ROI more than making a definitive poor choice ever will. That sounds dramatic, but history generally proves it to be true.

And here’s a bonus item, since we kinda negated #15.  Be candid with your agency at all times. Issues and concerns can be overcome easily with open communication. A good partner – as all agencies should be – will welcome the candor.

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the client experiences we’ve had, and every relationship has helped us grow. And it’s enabled us to help brands of all sizes achieve their marketing and business objectives.  Big shout-out to all our clients for putting their trust in us, and here’s to the next 20 years!

The secret to a great tourism photo.

October 26, 2021

Tourism is a highly visual industry.  Photos are a key tool used to tell tourism stories, but there’s a secret behind the great ones that make the biggest impact.  Someone took the time (and often, money) to get it right.

More dramatically put:  someone resisted the temptation to use photos that were easy to get but kind of “meh” in terms of quality.  “Meh” photos serve the functional purpose of photography, but they are completely uninspiring and make no impactful impression on the viewer.  So, yeah…you have photos to put on your website.  Check that box.  But are they seducing site visitors into considering a trip?  That box stays unchecked.

Fear not, there are a whole bunch of “great” and “meh” photo examples down below.  But first…

Sucky (and Silent) Consequences of Using “Meh” Photography

When tourism businesses choose to settle for “meh” photography, it causes much heartbreak.  Throughout my career as a tourism publicist and marketer, I’ve seen:

  • A hotel client who lost a highly-desired Architectural Digest story about their opening launch because their photography wasn’t good enough. (AD wasn’t being snooty…their photography was NOT good enough.)
  • Another hotel client whose online booking conversion rate absolutely sucked…and a website audit revealed that people were leaving the site after looking at the photo gallery. (Tragic, as a photo gallery should inspire people to hit the “book now” button.)
  • A destination client who was included in a syndicated news editorial round-up…and the only one of the eight destinations included without a photo accompanying their blurb because their photo wasn’t “quite right.” (Seven destinations with glorious vibrant photos and only one with just text… which one do you think got overlooked by readers?)

But those are examples where the consequences were traceable and known.  Far more dangerous are the silent consequences of “meh” photography.  No one ever leaves your website unimpressed and without booking…and then calls you up to say, “hey, I was considering a stay at your hotel, but just wanted to let you know that the photos didn’t really sell me on the place so I just left the website without booking.”

So, the bottom line is…you don’t even know how many sales you’re NOT making because your photos are just “meh.”

But trust me.  If they’re “meh,” it’s happening.

Why Is This So Hard?

Why do so many tourism businesses settle for less-than-great photos to use in marketing?  Three common reasons.

  1. They feel it takes too much time and they don’t have the bandwidth to organize/oversee it.
  2. They don’t want to spend the money for a photographer and/or stylist.
  3. They don’t understand the difference in impact between a “good enough” photo and a “great” photo.

It’s a real head-scratcher to me, but I’ve seen clients spend $20-$30 million building a gorgeous hotel, and then fight with me about spending $20,000 on photography for the website, brochures, and socials.

In other scenarios, I get the… “My sister-in-law takes great photos as a hobby – you should see her Instagram.  So I’m just going to have her do all our photography.”

Or the… “I don’t have photos of THAT specific program even though that’s what we’re promoting, so can we just use a general photo instead?”

Or the… “These brochures are really old and our hotel rooms don’t look like that anymore, but that’s all we have so just use those at the trade show.”

To spend all that money building your business and brand, and then NOT spend the money on a professional photographer to produce photos that help you sell it?  That’s fumbling at the goal line.  And it’s sabotaging the ROI of all the money you spent on building the business itself.

What Should a Great Photo Do?

A great photo is like an assist in sports:  it should assist you to close a sale.  That assist might come in the form of (for example)…

  • An Instagram photo that stops thumbs while someone is scrolling and makes them want to explore your entire Instagram profile…and ultimately your website.
  • Photos on your website that evoke emotion, inspire a desire to visit, make them want to check pricing and logistics for a trip.
  • Photos in a magazine that arrest people’s attention as they’re flipping through the pages and make them want to read the accompanying editorial story…which hopefully makes them want to visit your website.

Here’s a great case-in-point.  Years ago, I was in Armenia with a photographer getting shots of a collection of new boutique hotels launching that year.  We had no staff with us (literally no staff – the hotels weren’t even open yet) and no stylist.  It was just her and me trudging around the countryside with tons of photography equipment.  And FYI – while I’m eager and helpful, I know zip all about being a photographer’s assistant.

Here’s what one of the hotels looked like, with a simple “point and shoot” approach.

 

A castle-like building sits beside a rushing river and in front of green mountains.

 

It DOES look like a historic castle, and you DO see it’s right next to a rushing river and nestled in the mountains.  So, it definitely gives a sense of place and is “ok.”

Here’s what it looked like when the photographer got done with it.

A nighttime view of a castle-like building with dramatic lighting, which sits beside a rushing river and in front of a backdrop of mountains. This is the secret to a great tourism photo.

 

Listen, folks.  This was NOT a simple point and shoot.  We had no cell service and no radios to communicate with each from opposite sides of the river, and crossing that river was no picnic either.  Her trying to signal to me which lights to turn on or off, which umbrellas to move slightly left or right, and could I tilt that ONE light on the side to angle more toward the patio?  No, not THAT one.  THAT one.

Getting this shot took HOURS.  Actually days, because we had weather issues intervene.

But look at those two photos.  Which one stops your thumbs while scrolling and which one makes you say “OMG that place looks breathtaking and I want to go there?”

Great photographers do more than just click a button on a camera.  They harness the power of lighting, tone, context, perspective, props, spatial relations, and emotion.  In this case, the photographer studied the situation and said, “what photo…what angle…what perspective…what styling is going to show this building in the best, most seductive, most appealing way?”  And after taking a lot of test shots from various positions at various times of day, this nighttime photo won the honor.  (Should I mention how many design and travel magazines made this photo their centerfold?)

I mean…if your sister-in-law can do all that, then by all means lets hire her.

What’s My Point?

Getting great photography isn’t easy.  It takes time, planning, and commitment.  You may need to invest in props and other items to achieve the objective… flowers, food, drinks, people, and more.  You may need to reschedule (and spend money on a wasted day) because of weather.  If you’re already open, you may need to clear entire public spaces for several hours or a day – losing revenue from paying guests who don’t have access during that time.  You may need to take a shot over and over and over and over again to get it just right.  And damn it, you definitely need a professional photographer and/or stylist to do it justice.

Yes, all that costs time and money.  But the difference between “meh” photos and “great” photos is entirely about MAKING MONEY.  Skimp elsewhere if you must.  But do not skimp on great photography.

To further illustrate the difference, here are a few examples of photos I’ve come across in my tourism work.  Some of these businesses know the secret to a great tourism photo, and some clearly don’t understand what makes an impact.

By the way, there are deliberately no business names here.  This isn’t a commentary on who’s doing it right and who’s doing it wrong.  It’s an objective look at how photos do or don’t make a worthy impact.

Everything about this charcuterie board screams “dig in.”  Lighting, color, texture, positioning.  This delicious photo was no happy accident.

A charcuterie board of food including apples, cheeses, veggies, crackers, nuts and more. This colorful, vibrant, well-light view is the secret to a great tourism photo.

 

This cocktail gets completely lost in this photo.  It’s a gorgeous color, but sitting on that similar colored surface, the vibrancy doesn’t pop as it should.  Plus the background is super distracting.  If you’re a DIY Instagrammer for your business, and just taking quick snaps like this “on the fly” for posting, at least do this:  take that glass and snap pics of it in in a few different settings, and from several angles – high, low, above, side, etc.  If you take a dozen photos of this cocktail – which can be done in just a few moments – you’ll immediately be able to spot the one that shows the cocktail off to its best advantage.

An orange colored cocktail sits on an orange colored surface.

 

Let’s talk about dramatic architectural features, such as floating pools.  We once had a client that was debuting a floating pool and they fought us like the very devil about getting overhead drone shots of it.  They didn’t have easy access to a drone and didn’t want to pay for it.  But honestly, a straight-ahead shot of a floating pool just sucks all the drama out of that super-cool architectural feature.

To illustrate, here’s a picture at another hotel of their floating pool taken from different angles.  You can see how one showcases the floating pool and in the other, it gets lost.

Left side shows photo of a large, many-windowed hotel, with a floating pool sitting in front of it. Right side shows that same floating pool at night, from an elevated perspective so the light blue of the pool glows brightly sitting inside the dark blue lake.

 

And these folks REALLY did their floating pool villas justice, ensuring their website gallery shows them from multiple angles and various times of day:

This captures the secret of a great tourism photo. A floating pool sitting on the edge of the ocean, with an attached deck that shows two lounge charis.

 

From the perspective standing on a deck looking out at the edge of a floating pool and the Indian Ocean just after sunset.

Standing on the edge of a floating pool at sunset, showing the perspective of multiple villas with their own floating pools stretching out before you. Sunset of bright orange, yellow, and purple.

From the perspective of laying in bed, looking out terrace doors to a deck with table and chairs, aqua colored floating pool, and the deep blue ocean.

 

Food shots need special attention because visuals aren’t necessarily the main sensory trigger for humans when it comes to food.  Taste, sound (sizzling, pouring, sauteing, etc.), scent, and texture all play a role in our emotional connection to food.  And that’s hard to communicate in a flat photo.

Here, capturing sugar in mid-shake on this cannoli gives more energy, life, and interest to the photo than just a static pic of a cannoli.

A person shaking powdered sugar onto a cannoli that's covered with chocolate chips.

 

But these pancakes are nearly unidentifiable in this photo.  In the quest for a close-up to show the dripping, oozing goodness, perspective gets lost here.  If you’re scrolling quickly, you can’t even tell what it is, and that super-crisp piece of bacon on the side doesn’t help… it almost looks like the pancakes are sitting on a wood shelf.  Perhaps backing up the camera to show the whole plate, and catching the moment when the chocolate syrup is being poured onto the pancakes might achieve the objective better.  But – you know what I’m going to say – try it a dozen different ways before deciding which one makes the right impact.

A close up photo of pancakes with bananas and chocolate syrup on them and a crispy piece of bacon on the side.

 

Oh, you’re taking pictures of animals?  NEVER just snap one-and-done.  You take tons of photos from multiple angles in order to get one that will stop people in their tracks.  Like this:

Picture of a baby lamb facing front and smiling.

 

And finally, these folks are rebuilding a really important and historic wall.  But this photo will stop no thumbs.  I’m sure the dude on the right won’t be pleased that his behind is on Instagram, and everyone milling around looking down at rocks doesn’t do the story justice.  A close-up of a volunteer holding up a piece of rock with a huge smile on his/her face… or better yet, faux-kissing it?… could better tell the story of the passionate volunteers involved.  Or have him/her sitting on the wall and get enough context in the shot to see “kissing the rock” and the wall itself.  Or… hey, I’ve got an idea… take a dozen different shots and see what works best.  😊

Five people standing around piles of rocks, some of which are half-formed into a stone fence.

 

So, in conclusion, please do what it takes to get great tourism photos.  There’s really no secret to capturing ones that make an impact… just spend the time and/or money to do it right.

And let me just clarify:  by “great,” I mean photos that achieve your objective of inspiring people to emotion and action.  “Great” is one of those vague words that always need clarification and shame on me for using it so liberally in this post.  See why you should be careful using that word here.

 

Five signs that your tourism marketing strategy is weak.

March 10, 2021

If you’re responsible for tourism marketing in any way, do you recognize any of these five signs in yourself or your organization?

  1. You have no written document that correlates your big picture business goals and marketing’s role in achieving them.  Or, you have one, but it’s collecting dust on a shelf and you’re not using it to make day-to-day marketing choices.
  2. You have no tactical goals for each marketing channel you use…meaning you post on socials because you’re just keeping to a frequency calendar, or send out hastily-prepared email blasts monthly because it’s your “monthly newsletter” or because you have rooms to fill in the next few weeks.
  3. You are often undecided about where and how to spend your time and money.
  4. You disrupt your marketing plans often with “shiny new toys” you read about or hear about when a conference speaker touts them as the best marketing tool ever. (I’m lookin at you, TikTok, Clubhouse, and all your shiny new social cousins as examples.)
  5. You plan a lot of tactics that you never have time to execute well, and a mismatch between resources and planned activities constantly sabotages your success.

These are five key signs that your tourism marketing strategy is weak and – brace yourself – that underlying weakness is plaguing your entire strategic marketing foundation.  Further, I’m willing to bet on the source of the weakness:  lack of clarity in your big picture “why” and lack of fortitude to stay singularly focused on achieving that “why.”

Here’s what I mean by that.

You may be frustrated when your tactical marketing initiatives don’t work as you had hoped.  That ad campaign… that social media channel…that PR program.  That “thing” you did.  You checked all the right boxes and got the technical logistics right.  So why didn’t it yield strong results?  Or perhaps it yielded results that looked good on paper (i.e. lots of clicks) but didn’t impact your business through conversions or deepened, valuable connections.  Either way, it’s frustrating.

Simply put, marketers (especially DIY tourism marketers) all too often jump right to the “how,” when they think about executing a marketing plan.  I’m gonna post on Facebook five times a week, do a monthly email newsletter, and place ads with my regional chamber and in state/provincial tourism guides.  They’re not taking the time to back up and say “why am I doing marketing…what are the business goals I’m trying to impact the most with my marketing choices?”

Why do I know this is true?  Because Redpoint has done marketing and consulting for hundreds of tourism businesses of all shapes and sizes and we see it every day.  Tactical choices made out of habit, or because they fit someone’s comfort zone, or based strictly on budget… choices which keep marketers busy but don’t actually move the needle on the organization’s business goals.

Here’s a quick, simple example.  Let’s say that you’re a hotel that realizes your customer base is heavily dependent on families and you want to diversify more, to protect your business from seasonal imbalances in family travel patterns.  So, yes…you can absolutely consider using all the channels you have in your current toolbox, such as email, PR, Instagram, and Google adwords.

But the WHY (diversify our customer base) should inform the HOW, meaning how you choose and use each channel and tool. You might be posting on Instagram all the time…but are you using it strategically to diversify your customer base and deliberately attract couples with no kids, or groups of friends traveling together?  That requires more than just doing your obligatory daily post…it requires a strategy that ties back to the overarching business goal of diversifying your customer base.  And then…bigger picture:  is Instagram even the right channel for that, or should you be looking elsewhere to achieve that goal?

None of this is easy because it requires the one precious resource that’s most scarce for us all:  time.  We lack the time to sit and think about our big picture strategy goals, and then further to think about how various tactics can be engineered to achieve those goals.

We see this especially with DIYers in tourism – the innkeeper who does marketing in his/her spare time, the marketing coordinator or executive director at a destination that has no budget to hire an experienced marketer or agency, etc.  So, don’t beat yourself up if any of those five signs your tourism marketing strategy is weak describes you or your organization.  You are not alone.

Here are some further resources that will help you get on a path to strengthening your underlying strategic marketing foundation.  Grab a beverage and a snack and just sit and read them…and think about how you can use the insights to recast your own strategy.

Why you should spend more time developing your marketing strategy.

Seven terms they didn’t teach you in budgeting school.

The strategic plan no one ever saw coming for the Vermont Attractions Association.

How consistent, singular-focused marketing in Kennebunkport ME made off-season way less “off.”

Just remember:  awareness is the first step toward solutions.  So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need a sounding board, I’m here for ya:  miranda@redpointmarketingpr.com.  Just holler.

We’re all just suckers for homemade cake.

February 3, 2021

I speak at tourism and leisure conferences around the world and I gotta be honest:  I can’t recall the food I’ve eaten at any of them.  It’s not that the food was bad… it just wasn’t memorable.

Except for one time.

At the Annual General Meeting of the Miramichi River Tourism Association in New Brunswick Canada, the desserts served after the meeting were all homemade by the committee members of the Miramichi Folksong Festival.   Naturally, my colleague Gina and I had to pose for a picture with the bakers:

Redpoint staff and the Miramichi Folksong Festival committee pose at the dessert table.

And please drool for a moment over one of the cakes:

Picture of chocolate cake with white icing and kisses on top    Close up of slice of chocolate cake with white icing

Now…why is this so fabulous and what can you learn from it?  Three things:

  • It was unexpected to find such a deeply personal touch at a large business conference, so it not only made a memorable impression, but it also warmed my heart.
  • Cakes and pies are all made by SOMEONE, so even when they are purchased and served en masse from a bakery or your catering kitchen, they can still be considered “homemade.”  But the fact that these were made in home kitchens by the very ladies (and gent) who served them spoke to a level of effort and care that made me feel extraordinarily welcome.
  • Seeing all the attendees flock around the dessert table chatting with the bakers about what they baked brought a special warmth and sociability to the event.  It made guests (and especially me, the out-of-towner) feel more connected to both the event and the organization hosting it.

So, hospitality businesses, I’m not saying you need to start baking all your cakes at home and having Ethel and Barb serve them.  But think about how you can bring that level of personal touch, effort, and care to your guests.  Can you tell the story behind a special dish made in your restaurant?  Hand deliver something unexpected to a room?  Give them a small treat at checkout made by your chef (or better yet…your housekeeper, because it’s unexpected?) to enjoy on the ride home?  Have one of your chefs, gardeners, or housekeepers hang out in the lobby one day to chat with guests and answer questions about their job?  You get the idea.

Do these things cost time and money?  Sure.  But if they make a lasting – and perhaps Instagram-worthy – impression, the investment will pay you back in spades.

Need more convincing?  Check out how these tiny design details make a big difference and how even accountants can have fun with marketing.

Four Ways to Beat Pandemic Fatigue in Tourism Marketing

October 7, 2020

Infographic showing the four elements of tourism pandemic marketing fatigue.

Let’s face it.  Tourism and hospitality marketing is going through a brutal patch with this Covid-19 pandemic.  Trying to align your marketing strategy with the ever-changing circumstances is like trying to take direction from a Magic 8 Ball.

And what makes it worse is that everyone – even within the same organization – has a different opinion on the best approach to tourism marketing during a pandemic.  Keep spending or pull back to conserve resources?  Talk incessantly about your safety measures or go more for the “business as usual” vibe?  There’s no point in marketing because the pond of fish got too small.  This is the best time to market because even though the pond is smaller, those fish are the ones ready and willing to bite.

But here’s one thing everyone can agree on:  it’s exhausting.  The uncertainty sucks a lot of the fun and satisfaction out of marketing… not to mention the permanent state of tension about our jobs, finances, health, and the state of the economy.  And now that we’ve been in this madcap coronavirus purgatory for more than six months, we’re prime candidates for “tourism marketing pandemic fatigue.”

Characteristics?

  • Loss of purpose (does this really even matter given the state of the world?)
  • Indecisiveness (the future is too unpredictable to choose a path so I’ll just freeze)
  • Box-checking (it’s too draining to be creative and do more than the minimum)

You may not even be aware you’re suffering from pandemic fatigue because it’s a sneaky little bugger.  It’s like an invisible slow leak in a tire…diluting your performance (and that of your marketing program) without drawing attention to itself.  And so you just keep putting one foot in front of the other daily, checking off tasks and trying valiantly to control things beyond your control.

Listen up, marketers.  Don’t take pandemic fatigue lying down or you’re gonna end up as one irreversibly flat tire by the time this pandemic phase is over.  Use these tips as a daily touchstone to patch the leak and breathe fresh air into your mindset.

1. Remember who you are.  Marketing’s job is to be interesting, attractive, engaging, and informative…regardless of circumstances.  Inspiring people is baked into our job descriptions.  When everyone else – from operations and finance to maintenance, HR, and administration – is battered and overwhelmed, it’s our role to stay positive, focus on opportunities, and make people want to travel.  Now more than ever, people want to be entertained while being informed…they want to dream of normalcy and joy…and they want to plan things that will bring fun back into their lives…and they are counting on YOU to give them these gifts.  So yes… what you’re doing matters a lot to people.  Remember that every day.

2. Refill your own cup daily.  Lots of people roll their eyes when they hear the phrase “self care,” but there’s a reason airlines make you put your own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs.  “Marketing” is a thing, but “marketers” are human.  If you don’t refuel and refresh yourself as a human – daily – you won’t have the mental and emotional resources needed to keep returning to the battle of inspiring others.  Being a cheerleader during difficult times takes massive amounts of energy and it’s your responsibility to replenish the depletion constantly.  Whatever refreshes you – coffee, silence, wine, meditation, dogs, exercise, showers, solitude, naps, music, and so on – think of it as an essential part of your job right now.  Make time for it.

3. Pick a lane and own it.  If uncertainty over the best path is constantly weighing you down, stop trying to plow through despite not being at peace with your choices.  Budgets, content, strategy… the more time and energy you waste second-guessing yourself, I guarantee you, the less effective your efforts will be.  Yes, you need to be nimble and adapt to evolving circumstances, but nothing dilutes the power of marketing like hesitancy.  If you’re still uncertain about spending, sharing your safety measures too much/not enough, hard selling vs. brand awareness, the marketing channels you should be using right now, or anything else… stop, sit back, and think about it until you reach a decision.  Need a sounding board to talk it through?  Just holler.  miranda@redpointspeaks.com.  No strings.

4. Have faith in marketing, even if today’s results seem dismal.   This is a huge test of your beliefs as a marketer.  My experience over nearly 30 years as a tourism marketer is that a consistent voice and presence – through economic crisis, natural disasters, crime waves, weather disappointments, high season, low season, shoulder season… whatever – gets the best overall, long-term ROI.  Your conversion volume may be way lower than usual right now, but you’ve got to keep investing in your awareness equity.  People don’t stop interacting with life because of a pandemic.  They plan and dream and build anticipation.  And once they’re willing and allowed to travel, you want them to think of YOU.  Will you be able to trace just how much your consistent marketing led to direct sales because you stayed top of mind?  Nope.  But that’s where the faith part comes in.  You’ve got to believe it works or that whisper of doubt will sabotage your success.

Listen, I get it.  It sucks to be in this position.  But we’ve all survived other rough circumstances in life and we’ll conquer this one too, as long as we fight the fatigue.

And if you heard James Earl Jones’ voice as Mufasa when you read the words “remember who you are,” I salute you as my humor soulmate and suspect you’re gonna be just fine.

Is “chaos marketing” right for your brand?

February 5, 2020

Popeye's Chicken SandwichIf you’re a marketer, there’s a good chance you watched the debut of Popeye’s chicken sandwich last summer and salivated over more than just the chicken.  The viral headlines were fast and furious, and the escalation of customer demand was ABSURD.  And when the sandwich sold out of all stores in less than two weeks, with no new inventory projected for at least another month, you’d have thought people in the world were being deprived of oxygen.  The clamor both online and in real life hit a fever pitch.

The upshot to Popeye’s?  Sure, people were upset.  But Popeye’s scored $65 million in earned media value in just two weeks alone, and desperate chicken-lovers downloaded the Popeye’s app to “be the first to know when the sandwich is back.”

So, was it an inventory miscalculation and total disaster…or a bold marketing move designed to create demand and engagement?  This comment by restaurant consultant Aaron Allen sums things up beautifully:  “Marketing is high-fiving each other and supply chain is getting dirty looks and management is in between trying to weigh out the pros and cons of what’s happened with it.”  (See this awesome story in Vox for the juicy details on how it all went down.)

I lean toward the belief that Popeye’s knew it was going to happen (come on…sold out nationally in less than two weeks?… no one could be THAT far off projections) and did it anyway.  This is a form of “chaos marketing,” when a brand deliberately chooses a marketing tactic or position that it KNOWS will make consumers unhappy, taking the risk that the upside from all the attention will be worth the negativity.

Now, lest you think this is exclusive to American brand marketing extremism, the US in no way has the market cornered on such outlandishness.  In Scotland, popular Irn-Bru soda made a billboard that featured a cow saying “When I’m a burger, I want to be washed down with Irn-Bru.”  And in Argentina, all Burger Kings don’t sell Whoppers on the day that McDonald’s donates money to charity for every Big Mac purchased (does this make people feel warm and fuzzy?…no, they are royally pissed that they can’t get a Whopper on the day they want it.)  The list goes on.

Using chaos in marketing isn’t exactly a new thing.  What IS new, however, is how frequently marketers are proactively reaching for it as a tool…and how comfy brands are becoming with embracing the negative onslaught to garner the upside potential.

You can thank the increasingly cluttered digital landscape for that.  With more digital channels to fill than ever, media outlets are constantly looking for viral moments to feed consumer appetites.  And as social algorithms get more stringent, it’s the most outrageous, thumb-stopping, and jaw-dropping tidbits that get the holy grail of unpaid shares.  The media may not be creating these viral moments, but they’re catching the ball thrown to them by brands and then fanning the flames of conversation around the subject.  And nothing catches fire faster than chaos.

So, as a marketer…do you have chaos envy?  If you get stars in your eyes over the lure of results like “$65 million in earned media,” and think you should dip your brand’s toe in those seductive waters, consider these points first:

  • Recovering from chaos requires a confident brand.  How deep are the bonds with your customers?  How loyal are they?  Can your relationship withstand some disapproval or frustration?
  • The stakes are intense for luxe brands with high price points.  When a greater share of their wallet is on the line, consumers are less forgiving and hold brands to higher standards.  It’s tough to reclaim that trust once it’s broken.
  • Frequency of purchase plays a starring role in rebounding from chaos.  Do you really want to mess with someone’s once-in-a-lifetime purchase, vacation, or experience?  You may only have a small window of time to make an impression on a potential (or one-time past) customer.  Squander that precious moment with a negative touch point and you might never get a chance to reap the upside.
  • “Real” chaos – natural disasters, epidemics, violence, travel bans, etc. – can strike without warning at any time, making “planned” chaos akin to borrowing trouble.  You spend a lot of time and money trying to prevent chaos and crisis from harming your business.  So is there ever a good, safe time to cultivate it deliberately?
  • Your skin (and your executive team’s skin) needs to be thick enough to weather the negativity.  Listen, you asked for it…don’t freak out and lose your nerve when all goes according to plan and people are trashing you on social media.
  • Besides the marketing and social teams, the operations and guest service teams need to be on board and fully prepared.  You’ve got to ALL be in it together.  I’m sure Popeye’s didn’t expect customers to threaten employees at gunpoint or sue for false advertising, but things went there because the world is unpredictable.

And that’s really the whole point:  it’s unpredictable.  You may think you’re engaging in controlled chaos, but once you ignite that spark, the fire has no master.  And not every chaos story ends up as a hilarious skit on Saturday Night Live.

The best marketing lesson from The Princess Bride.

January 7, 2020

This ridiculous & clever, slapstick & intelligent, goofy & hilarious story is probably the last place you’d look for a brilliant marketing lesson.  And yet there’s a hidden gem in there too good to miss.

If you don’t know The Princess Bride (book published in 1973, movie debuted in 1987), it has thoroughly earned its fanatical cult following.  The movie has an absurdly all-star cast, and they do a magnificent job of bringing to life this (at its most basic) plot:  peasant boy tackles numerous obstacles on a quest to rescue princess from evil prince and achieve true love.

Here’s the scene all marketers should worship.  In this scene, Westley (blond dude and the story’s hero) is just brought back from the dead by a pill from a Miracle Man (duh), and he’s instantly tasked with figuring out how to storm the guarded castle.

Click the image to watch:

Westley and Inigo solve a problem

Here’s the line that matters:  Why didn’t you list that among our assets in the first place?

See, in problem solving, it’s human nature to reach for the tools we know best and the ones most commonly employed for that job.  It never occurred to Inigo to list “wheelbarrow” or “holocaust cloak” among the available assets because in his mind, he pictured the solution to the problem as a typical one:  three men storm the castle using their own personal strengths to fight their way inside.  His version of problem solving has this anchor:  we use the tools we know how to use, and hope for the best even if there’s only a 50/50 chance of success.

Westley’s version of problem solving is:  what’s a solution that will DEFINITELY work, and then how do I acquire the tools to make it happen?

Here’s why marketers often solve problems more like Inigo than Westley:

  • We’ve made assumptions that tools aren’t right for us, even if we actually know very little about them other than their existence.
  • We’re unaware of the existence of tools that could be useful to us because we’re not always on the hunt to learn about new things.
  • We’re in a hurry, so we choose the easy (known) path instead of taking time to apply strategic thought and creativity to pursue possibly-unfamiliar options.
  • We are wary of risk-taking…and in general, we prefer to do things we’re good at because it feels unsettling to act with uncertainty.

But as a marketer, it’s your responsibility to inject a bit of Westley-like thinking into your approach on a regular basis.

This doesn’t just mean embracing new tools (true, a TikTok strategy may not be the right fit for your brand, but how do you KNOW that unless you understand how it works and how other brands like yours are using it?)…it also means looking beyond the traditional approach and usual tools.  Launching a new restaurant and want to get the locals to become regulars?  Inigo toolbox:  local newspaper/online/radio ads, start an Instagram/Facebook/Twitter, send a press release.  Westley toolbox?  Go door-to-door at local businesses with baskets of free food and special offers.  Send personal invitations to individuals in the community for complimentary tastings.  Offer a different item on the menu free each night for the first month of opening.

Do those things cost money?  Yes.  Is that just a different way to spend your marketing budget?  Yes.  But in certain circumstances, initiatives like that might be a more effective way to reach your goals.  At the very least, they’re worth considering.

Traditional and familiar tools will always have their uses, so don’t throw them away entirely.  Just remind yourself to look beyond them constantly and learn more about what you don’t know.  Then you too can find true love in marketing and live happily ever after.

Marketing: it’s about time.

December 20, 2019

Recently, I saw a stat in Marketing Week that gave me – a marketing counselor – a headache:

More than half (54%) of digital commerce projects are deemed unsuccessful.

Further details on this stat turned the headache into a migraine:

The main reason for this is a lack of customer alignment (34%), poor logistics (29%) and insufficient investment (29%).  Some 51% of digital commerce leaders don’t believe their organization invests enough in commerce, while 28% say digital projects move too quickly and lack strategy.  (Source: Wunderman Thompson Commerce)

Know what all of that fancy-stat-reporting really means?  People are not spending enough time thinking about, researching, and planning their marketing efforts before taking action.

Oh wait… did you just gloss over that last sentence without stopping to really absorb what it means, and what you should do about it?  As if that was just another piece of blah-blah advice from a marketer?  “Spend more time thinking about your marketing before taking action.”  Duh.  Of course that’s good advice, you say.  So basic.  I knew that.  Give me something REALLY meaty to chew on, like something I didn’t know before.

Folks…there’s a difference between knowing and doing.  As a rule, we humans aren’t that accomplished at just sitting quietly and thinking for extended periods of time.  If we have a marketing plan to write, we want to sit down and “just bang it out”… hopefully in the 93.5 minutes we’ve allotted in our schedule for it. The moment we sit down to just think, we get antsy about wasting time…and so our fingers seek out the keyboard so we can feel productive.

But just look at those stat percentages above, detailing the reasons why digital programs were deemed unsuccessful.  ALL OF THEM could be solved by spending more time planning… even “insufficient investment,” because more time up front can help you 1) spend the same funding with wiser choices, 2) figure out how/where to get more funding, or 3) decide NOT to spend in that arena and invest the money elsewhere to get a better return.

Sitting down and thinking for an hour is not wasting time.  Taking a full day off email and away from work to mentally explore strategy options, while curled up in a comfy chair, with your favorite snacks, beverages, and – dare I suggest it? – pajamas… is not wasting time.  Blocking an entire half-day each week to seek solitude and reflect on marketing progress is not wasting time.

Carving out time to just be still and think is never going to be easy.  Never. The business world moves at a fast pace, and we have colleagues, supervisors, and clients/guests who actively and passively demand our attention.  But if we don’t find the fortitude to MAKE the time, we’ll all be doomed to live with some pretty sucky stats forever.

Seven terms they didn’t teach you in budgeting school.

December 3, 2019

budgeting meme from elfIt’s budget season, y’all.  This means many of you are armed – or are scrambling to get armed – with that pristine, oh-so-buttoned-up spreadsheet that will guide your marketing spend choices for 2020.  And while it may be pretty and precise enough for your mom to put on her refrigerator, there’s only one thing that should matter to you:  is it sound and will it work?

Here’s how you can ensure that it is and it does:  be aware of the silent – but often deadly – influences that shaped the foundation for your choices.  Here are seven vital budgeting terms that will help you evaluate your budget’s potential for success with a realistic eye:

The Plus Ones.  Marketing plans and budgets have history, and the longer the business has been operating, the more opportunity for a budget to be sabotaged by plus ones.  These are things invited to be on the budget by someone else – perhaps someone who was in your shoes years ago, or perhaps YOU years ago, when you had different priorities or goals.  They are not relevant to the current marketing party you’re planning, but it’s the path of least resistance to keep them…and maybe even bend your plan a bit to accommodate them, even if that’s not really the best move for your goals?  Tip:  identify your plus ones and if they aren’t a good fit, show ‘em the door.

Shiny New Toy Syndrome.  Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I watched a tactic, initiative, or direction get added to a plan/budget because someone in charge (of marketing or of the company) read an article or attended a workshop at a conference on a hot new “thing” emerging in marketing.  “THIS IS THE COOLEST THING EVER AND WILL SOLVE ALL OUR PROBLEMS!” Er, no.  It won’t.  Because Shiny New Toy Syndrome is cousin to Get Rich Quick Syndrome and Lose Weight Fast Syndrome, and we all know how THOSE work out.   There is a place for adding shiny new toys to your efforts, but unless you integrate them properly into your overall plan and – in many cases – adapt your entire culture to make them a success, they’ll just throw your money and time out the window.  Shiny new toys just don’t work when you dabble.

The Invisible Sledgehammer.  There’s no line item called “time” on your spreadsheet, but it’s an invisible force best not overlooked.  Lack of time to do things properly has destroyed the effectiveness of many immaculate budgets.  For each line item on your budget, do you have enough staff/time/bandwidth to perform research, decision-making, planning, setup, execution, follow-through, evaluation, and evolution?  Because if not, you should reduce the number of tactics you’re planning, and redirect those funds into the remaining ones.  You’ll see a greater ROI both short- and long-term with this choice.

Half-Pregnant.  A spreadsheet of tactics and costs is only half the picture, and yet I can’t tell you how often I ask new clients – sometimes multimillion-dollar businesses – for their marketing plan and get handed a spreadsheet, full stop.  Folks, this is “half-pregnant” … it ain’t gonna give you that ROI baby you so deeply desire.  You need marketing goals (aligned with your business goals), and a thoughtful strategy to achieve them, carefully selected for the purpose, and integrated to produce results.  A spreadsheet just details how you’re going to pay for it all.

Approval Purgatory This one’s not easy to combat because its origins vary dramatically by business (too many cooks, indecisive owner, cumbersome process, etc.), but there’s a good chance that several tactics within your plan/budget won’t move forward because no final decision will be made…and you probably know this in your heart from the get-go. Approval purgatory is the bane of a plan/budget’s existence because 1) you waste an absurd amount of time talking about things with no resolution, 2) stuff sits on your budget/plan falsely creating an expectation of results, and 3) these items weigh you down by injecting negativity into the mix AND distracting you from focusing on the good stuff.  Tip:  scratch items likely doomed to approval purgatory off your list.  When they’re ready for baking, I guarantee they’ll resurface on their own.

JOMO.  You’ve heard of FOMO?  How about you embrace JOMO, the Joy of Missing Out?  You can’t do it all… truly, you can’t.  Your budget probably isn’t unlimited.*  So if you try to cram too many things into your plan/budget, you’ll end up scattering all your resources for little ROI.  Tip:  deliberately choose to NOT do certain things, until you can devote the labor and financial bandwidth to do them properly.  You will not go out of business by doing fewer things well, and you will be pretty giddy at the success that comes from deeply harnessing the power of the tactics you choose to deploy. Choose wisely, for sure, but I hereby bless you to strike a bunch of stuff from your plan AND FEEL GREAT ABOUT IT.

Initiative Envy (healthy & unhealthy).  It’s healthy – and smart – to look at what your competitors and colleagues are doing in marketing, and to evaluate if such things could benefit your business as well.  It’s not that you identically copy their effort, but rather, you see how well an initiative is performing for them and you explore the use of that tool for your own purposes.  What’s UNHEALTHY – and yet happens sooooo often – is adding an initiative or tactic to your mix (summarily and without strategic thought) just because a competitor is doing it…and you don’t want them to have an edge on you.  If your competitor is getting tons of press (for example), that’s not your must-do cue to go out and hire a PR firm.  Your business culture and operation may not be currently well-suited to handle a PR effort, and therefore, without adaptation, you’ll be disappointed in the results.  So, be thoughtful:  get ideas from what others are doing, but don’t automatically assume those things will work well for you too.

Lastly… a bonus tip, pulled from our way-back blog archives, but still as true as ever today.  The scrumptious dumplings at Buddakan taught us that you can’t find love on a spreadsheet.  And love – the hospitable magic that endears us to guests – is essential in travel and hospitality marketing.  Make sure your plan/budget isn’t so tight that there’s no room to give love to guests.

* PS – if your budget IS unlimited, here’s my email: miranda@redpointspeaks.com. Have I got a marketing agency for you. 😉