The secret recipe for a successful content marketing strategy can be summarized in four steps—Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight. To decide how you will measure success, the initial task is to define a conversion. Most likely a conversion will be a visit to the destination, but that is not easy to measure in a digital framework. So, look to a visitor guide request, contest signup, hotel booking, e-newsletter signup, or some other form submission that is a measurable conversion and shows intent to travel. From there, work backward to determine what will interest the target audience and attract a user to visit your destination.
For example, if research shows that visitors would enjoy more activities that involve learning about events and places of the past and your destination has a fabulous history museum, the content that will most likely convert the visitor will be historical in nature. Perhaps a collection of exhibits on a website or a historical timeline on a blog should be included in your content marketing strategy. If research shows that visitors would enjoy a family-fun adventure and you have an exciting theme park, then the content most likely to engage and convert visitors needs to be exciting, too. Perhaps your social media content strategy should include posting photos that feature families having fun.
Research can be a huge asset in the planning process because it usually does a good job of indicating visitor demographics, interests, attitudes, and perceptions of the destination. All these data points can help provide a roadmap to direct your content marketing. Jackie Tucker, a travel writer featured on LinkedIn, says “If your website is your front door, then your blog and social media channels are your living room. It’s that comfortable spot where stories are told, questions are answered, ideas are shared…and trust is built.” So, let’s discuss the living room.
Step one: Attract
In order to attract the right audience and focus your efforts, your DMO should create personas. Creating 4–6 different personas to narrow your efforts to attract the right visitors will help you develop content that appeals to each target audience’s interests. One way to define target audiences is through Marketing Action Planning. Once you have developed a Marketing Action Plan (MAP) it is much easier to create a content marketing strategy and brainstorm content ideas that match the interests of the target audiences to the DMO’s offerings. In planning, identify all the channels that the DMO owns (official website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blog, etc.), determine what content needs to be published regularly (info-graphics, photos, blog posts, news releases, etc.), and review all existing content so that efforts aren’t duplicated. Consider the Call to Action (a click to download a visitor’s guide, video, or coupon) for each piece of content that will be most attractive to your target audience, and tailor it to encourage that click. A key component to the success of content marketing is to create an annual content calendar. Having one calendar that the whole team can access will keep everyone on schedule whether they are gathering info, copy or images for each post.
Step two: Convert
The goal is to have the potential visitor read what you put out there and then take action. One thing is for sure: the clicks and conversions can’t happen unless the first step is taken—and that is content creation. Using the calendar created in the first step, you have a guide and program to keep you on track. Scheduling and creating the content are only part of the tasks required to develop a successful content marketing strategy. If you build it will they come? Not if you don’t promote the content you’ve worked so hard on! Promoting content has changed over the past few years because most social networks are now monetized, meaning social channels have become a pay-to-play platform. If a social graphic, video, blog, or special offer is to be viewed, expect to spend some of your budget in order to target the right audience to view and engage with your content.
One free promotion tip is to make the most out of search engines. By keeping search engine keyword phrases in mind when creating content (especially in the title or headline), you can increase the ranking and where your content lands on the results page. It’s helpful when there are landing pages to download special offers, blog posts, videos, itineraries, etc. The web address for the landing pages should have the appropriate keywords that relate to the content, and the content on the landing page should use the keywords repeatedly so that everything works in harmony to achieve the best results in search engines. And don’t forget the meta title, meta description, and ALT tags for images. These little factors will pay big dividends in search engine results.
Step three: Close
To “close the sale” in the digital realm is to achieve a conversion, whether it be a form submission, signup, newsletter opt-in, comment, or share. Metrics and measurement are a key part of the overall strategy to know what’s working and refine as necessary. Taking a look at views, impressions, comments, shares, clicks, and conversions will help to identify what type of content resonates with your audience and gives you the results you’re looking for. Establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will provide a benchmark to evaluate progress. It’s also helpful to have benchmarks to know what parts of your content marketing strategy are working and what aren't. And if you haven’t already, start the process of tracking your digital ROI. Three types of metrics can be used to track KPI performance, which should be done monthly:
- Traffic—Measure total clicks, site visits, page views, and web traffic sources to know how users are getting to your site to create a benchmark for total visits.
- Engagement—Calculate user actions, such as views, shares, time spent on-site, and a number of comments to create a benchmark for engagement.
- Conversions—Track form submissions, opt-in rates, click-through rates, leads, and ROI to create a benchmark for conversions.
It’s also important to create SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-based) for each one of these metrics. For example, if your current average monthly website visits are 36,000 per month, you would set a goal to grow this average number by 2% in 12 months. If the average website visits have grown by 1% year over year, then 2% growth would be an appropriate SMART goal. It’s realistic, attainable and can be measured for a specific period of time.
The final step: Delight
To fulfill the brand promise, a destination must follow through and provide the experience that attracted the visitor in the first place. If a video featuring an exciting amusement park leads to a landing page with a family-friendly itinerary touting adventure with a signup to receive a visitor’s guide, then the customer experience should include receiving a visitor’s guide or brochures showcasing the exciting and family-friendly attractions on the featured itinerary for your destination. This creates a positive brand impression and begins to encourage word-of-mouth advertising, reviews, and social sharing that is invaluable to future efforts. If possible, integrate forms, newsletter opt-ins and customer interest profiles with your customer relationship marketing (CRM) software in order to follow up and further provide a great visitor experience. Creating a successful content marketing strategy can seem daunting when you are starting from scratch. But breaking it down into the four tasks mentioned above will help the process be more manageable, and therefore successful. This can be done by one person, or a team, just make sure to clearly communicate who is doing which part. The time and effort put into this will help you Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight prospective visitors and that’s what it’s all about!