I recently attended a Professional Destination Marketing course through Destinations International along with DMO sales professionals from across the country. During one session, my colleagues were asked to share the biggest challenges they face as destination marketing professionals, and 33% identified ‘overcoming negative perceptions’ as their biggest obstacle. Regardless of market size or location, it seems many DMOs struggle with how best to promote city-wide revitalization and product development to meeting planners who had yet to visit or who had not visited their destinations in many years.
Other perception examples of specific DMO challenges are:
- One prominent destination in the south has always been known for its southern hospitality and small-town charm, which is why visitors fall in love when they visit. However, the challenge for the DMO is that they don’t want “small-town charm” to equate to “nothing to do” as that can be a deal breaker for meeting planners evaluating their destination.
- A few DMOs from the Midwest expressed having to combat negativity associated with vast open land. “There’s nothing but cornfields and farms,” is the most common misconception. This poses real challenges when selling to meeting planners whose goals are to ensure an enjoyable conference with plenty of activity after sessions conclude.
- Keeley Smith, Director of Sales with the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitors Bureau, discussed the challenge of marketing the city’s walkable downtown convention and entertainment district and culinary venues to meeting planners as the international press focuses on the city’s rich civil rights history and attractions. This attention is drawing scores of leisure travelers to Montgomery. However, it makes it a bit harder to (also) position Montgomery as a meeting destination with venues and activities suitable for every meeting attendee palette.
As a salesperson for your destination, what are you to do? Below are just a few ideas that might help.
- Develop your Marketing Action Plan and hone in on the required belief that meeting planners need to have in order to bring significant meetings to your destination. With this belief in mind, you can focus your efforts and messaging on what will move the needle the most for booking future conferences.
- Solicit online reviews from satisfied meeting planners and group attendees who will promote positive messages about your destination. Watch this brief video to learn more about encouraging positive conversations about your destination.
- Evaluate your collateral materials, website and social media channels to ensure your message is clear and congruent across all platforms. Consider leveraging a third-party marketing firm or agency to perform an independent audit and provide recommendations for consistency.
- Deploy a reputation management program by investing in social media monitoring manually or through software, depending on your budget. Set up search engine (Google) alerts which will send an email directly to your inbox any time your destination is mentioned. See what visitors (or busybodies and naysayers) are saying about your area. This will allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of virtual conversations about your destination and to be alerted when it may be time to take conversations offline.
As usual, our list of recommendations starts with Marketing Action Planning. This is an absolutely critical part of your planning process, and you will find that it influences work you do in virtually every area of your DMO’s scope of work. You will find plenty of resources to undertake this process by yourself/internally on our website. But, keep in mind, there are numerous benefits to bringing in outside, objective experts like Stamp to facilitate Marketing Action Planning on behalf of destinations. Call us at 334-244-9933 if you would like to discuss further.