What Makes Your Community Different?

By David Allred

What Makes Your Community Different?

Travelers are increasingly seeking out unique, one of a kind, authentic experiences. And because you can't be everything to everybody, identifying and leveraging what makes your community different must be a central pillar of your marketing strategy. Read time: under 3 minutes.

Sometimes, in a misguided effort to keep all of their stakeholders happy (an impossible task no matter how hard you try), DMOs try to market everything they have — “there’s something for everyone in our city”. This makes me think of a phrase we often repeat: Trying to be everything to everybody will only ensure you are nothing to nobody. And since there is a limit to how much you can spend to market your destination (and now it's even less for most in the tourism and travel ecosystem due to pretty dramatic revenue/budget reductions), when you try to be everything to everybody, virtually all of your (now more precious) marketing spend is wasted and you are nothing to nobody. Then sometimes there is this desire to promote what we think visitors are looking for, even though we may not have it (or much of it) in our destination. We recently completed a comprehensive stakeholder survey leading up to an in-market Marketing Action Plan (MAP) development assignment, and a majority of stakeholders said visitors should enjoy their destination’s nightlife. However, in the same survey, the same stakeholders said that nightlife is the one thing they have very little of (or a desire for) in this destination.

At a tourism conference a few years ago, the keynote speaker’s theme was: “It’s Good to Be Better, But It’s Better to Be Different”

This fantastic presentation by Sally Hogshead mostly related to how you as an individual are different and how you should leverage those differences for your own personal success. But Sally also did a great job explaining how important it is for businesses and organizations to promote what is different about their offering. While almost everyone feels that their destination is “unique”, Destination Marketing and Management Organizations often find it difficult to succinctly define and then market what is truly different about their offering. As we guide DMOs through the Marketing Action Planning process, we constantly remind participants that the Target Audience’s Required Roles and Desired Beliefs must be realistic AND aspirational. Meaning, even though we may not offer it now or be widely known for it yet (the aspirational), the “it” has to be attainable (realistic). Keeping that rule in mind as you revisit your current MAP, remember that travel patterns and visitor desires have shifted. What is it that you have that is very desirable now, is realistic and aspirational and still in keeping with your brand? If you agree that it really is Better to Be Different, then consider the definition of unique: having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable. As you dig deep to uncover what it is that makes your destination different, keep thinking “no like or equal", "unparalleled or incomparable”. You may not come up with a positioning that is absolutely different than every other destination in the world, but at least you will be on a path to having a position that is not similar to too many others. Having a MAP that is as complete as possible AND is both realistic and aspirational is a great first step to figuring out what truly makes your destination different. Only then will you be able to truly leverage your strengths and really understand who you need to stand out with as a must-visit destination. Don’t have a Marketing Action Plan? You can find free resources here to help guide you in developing your own MAP. Or, reach out here! We have MAP coaching packages to fit virtually any DMO budget.