5 Mistakes to Avoid in DMO Marketing

5 Mistakes to Avoid in DMO Marketing

Search your favorite source for “Top Marketing Mistakes” and you’ll find a wealth of advice on how to avoid common errors in your marketing strategy. These mistakes fall into five general categories, but how do they translate into improving your DMO’s marketing efforts?

Mistake No. 1 – Playing the guessing game


Lack of research, planning and insight (no acquired knowledge about who your target market is, what they believe about you and how to persuade them to act).


DMOs win when marketing matches the visitor’s experience. Most marketing professionals feel they have a pretty good idea of who their audience is and how to reach them. Unless those ideas are based on data and strategic marketing planning, your marketing efforts could be being wasted.

Processes including the objectivity and quantifiable knowledge gained by conducting organized research and the development of a Marketing Action Plan (MAP) will help your organization better understand your “attractors” from the visitors’ point of view and more deliberately plan marketing efforts. Drilling down past the obvious generalized targets like visitors and meeting planners, and putting your plans in writing will serve as a game plan for making your marketing decisions going forward.

Mistake No. 2 – Opportunity knocks–nobody’s home.


Failure to understand the importance of multi-channel marketing. The “all your eggs in one basket marketing syndrome” where beliefs like all we need to do is Facebook ads to spread the word can result from enthusiasm for the latest trend or budgetary concerns regardless of appropriate fit.


Strategically build a plan to market to potential visitors with messaging that hits them in a variety of appropriate sources. There was a time when tried and true destination marketing plans contained a staple list of must-do media such as lifestyle magazines, regional travel planner ads and, depending on budget, maybe television and radio too. All these efforts were typically designed to generate a request for a printed visitor’s guide. In today’s rapidly changing media landscape, cross-promotional, multi-channel efforts provide opportunities to direct potential visitors to your destination’s offerings in very specific ways. The key to success is to have a path planned for each so an interested visitor receives relevant information that results in conversion. Remarketing strategies, social media efforts and digital advertising should all be designed to drive your target audience to a CTA (call to action) and should lead to a custom landing page. A DMO specific example of this could be when your online advertising says “click here for a sample itinerary” and the itinerary on that landing page is customized for the audience targeted. This extra effort will make your destination more relevant to the inquirer and your campaigns more measurable through the analytics these landing pages generate.

Be sure to keep up with emerging channels and technology, like virtual reality and geo-targeting. Marketing is becoming increasingly personal so you may find surprising new ways to reach potential visitors as technology continues to evolve.

Here’s where partnerships and alliances with your stakeholders can really pay off. Look for opportunities to be included in their marketing efforts. Consider asking your local hotels if you can add a link directing users to your site from their “local area” page. Or develop a co-op magazine ad program promoting a package at a hotel and an area attraction and split the cost three ways. Another opportunity is to reach guests as they arrive at your points of entry with kiosks full of visitor guides, information or even a guest services representative at peak times. The key is to encourage your stakeholders and in-town partners to help promote not only your destination but your organization as a resource.

Mistake No. 3 – Aimless wandering


No belief in your unique sales proposition. This leads to bland “me too” creative. Or worse, an attempt to pack everything into one message—therefore appealing to none.


Knowing your customer because you did research, planned and gathered insights (as covered in Mistake No. 1) can give you a clear set of marketing targets at which to aim. The statement “Always sell the biggest rides in the park. They’ll buy popcorn and ride the carousel while they’re there.” is a truism that applies to most destinations. While it’s perfectly fine to market to niche or special interest visitors, just make sure those marketing efforts are done with creative and in channels that serve that niche. For marketing aimed at a more general audience, it’s still key to market an experience that reflects your community’s most unique assets. Use your “biggest rides” to give potential visitors a compelling reason to want to learn more about experiencing all you have to offer.

Craft a message true to your brand. Give your message time to work. Repeat often. And look at results to make certain you’re achieving your DMO’s marketing goals.

Mistake No. 4 – You’re invisible


Not putting social media or public relations to work.


The beauty of social media and public relations efforts lies in the marketer’s ability to steer the conversation. It’s like touching base with a friend, sharing news and building a relationship. Strategically deciding which social channels are best and maintaining a presence there keeps your message top of mind. Establishing a presence and not utilizing it is like walking away from a conversation mid-sentence.

At the heart of tourism marketing lies the desire to make a memory, share an experience or tell a story. Social media not only shares your message but you have access to a two-way conversation and can receive messages from your visitors which helps to build a relationship and gain useful information from their responses.

User-generated content (for example, posted photos of your destination) is considered some of the most trusted content by followers. Make the most of this marketing opportunity by encouraging it with photo contests, dedicated hashtags and rewarded check-ins. And consider developing a program to encourage area attractions, restaurants and hoteliers to solicit reviews on Trip Advisor.

Collecting more information from your followers results in useful data and collecting email addresses opens another channel of direct communication.

Employ guest bloggers who are local experts to reach the niche visitors who might be persuaded by people who share their interests. This again is a good time to reach out to your stakeholders in the community who are experts in various areas of interest to visitors—museum curators, theater directors, local collectors, historians, musicians, chefs, enthusiasts, etc.

Don’t wait until something new happens in your community to submit press to the media. You can write about travel trends you see emerging based on the feedback you received from your social efforts. Or simply write about the top ten restaurants in the area based on Trip Advisor rankings.

Don’t forget to repurpose the content you create across all of your social platforms.

Mistake No. 5 – Not knowing how you measure up


Although not every marketing effort is numerically measurable, there are tools and strategies you can employ to mine information from many interactions. The knowledge gained from these efforts can guide you in tweaking your messaging, making a judgment about the effectiveness of channels chosen, and supporting strategic decision making. Without this knowledge, you are marketing based on instinct or most likely, the way it’s always been done. Justifying your annual marketing budget is tough if you can’t verify ROI.


In the world of digital marketing, most efforts are quantifiable. Website click-through numbers, email open rates, and visitor guide downloads all measure potential visitor interest. The virality of social posts, follow numbers, and designated hashtag use reports reflect the effectiveness of your social programs. Print ads utilizing unique phone numbers or URLs to campaign landing pages can help guide a visitor to specific information and measure the impact of the media buy. All of this measures interest.

New mobile-based GPS location technology is providing DMOs with “walk-in verification” that can be employed to measure, track and market to visitors. This technology is currently expensive but, as mobile interactions grow, the ability to use this knowledge to measure and interact with visitors can be very powerful.

Consider increasing the effort to draw visitors to your information center. A warm smile and helpful advice is the ultimate social network and makes a lasting first impression. And in some markets, DMOs are taking info to the streets and interacting with visitors as they interact with your destination. And while you have them, creating a short survey for the “bird in hand” visitor would be a great way to find out what factors led to a trip to your destination.

Knowing your message resonates with visitors arms you with the ability to report to your stakeholders and the community (inform the media!). Tourism IS economic development.

Marketing destinations in an ever-changing communications landscape requires innovative and educated efforts. It’s a constant push to engage, attract and inform potential tourists to your community, then convert them to repeat visitors. To be successful you must use the tools at your disposal—wisely.

Posted in Digital & Interactive, DMO Challenges, DMO Collaboration, Landing Pages, Marketing Strategy, Photography, Research, Social Media, Visitor Demographics Tags