In past posts we’ve talked about building your Regional Flavor Network of businesses and rural communities. You are now ready to implement Principle #4:
Encourage visitors and residents to develop long-term emotional bonds with the region.
Why do visitors return over and over again to Disneyland, or New York City or Las Vegas? Because they’ve had memorable experiences there that they want to relive, or share. AND these major attractions do lots of marketing to remind them how they felt when they were there.
A Regional Flavor Strategy must include the vital components that help visitors create these same emotional bonds with our small rural communities.
We do this in three ways.
1. When we’re talking about emotional bonds, we remember that we’re talking about how our area and its tourism offerings make people FEEL.
That is what we’re selling.
The FEELIING when they watch their child catch his or her first fish.
The FEELING of eating a superbly cooked favorite dish in one of our locally owned restaurants.
The FEELING of seeing the whole family together having a great time.
Areas make a huge mistake when they focus all their marketing on fancy descriptions of their assets – the things to see and do. The reality is that 99% of the things on our assets lists are not unique.If people drive 100 miles in any direction they’ll get to “rural” where they can hike, camp, fish, see historic buildings and buy interesting things.
What is matchless is how our own Regional Flavor Network has uniquely presented these assets; how we present the authentic experience of our assets that enrich people’s lives and make them want to return again and again.
2. We create and market the linkages among our recreational attractions, the small town friendly services, and other communities in our Regional Flavor Destination.
By creating these linkages, we make people feel comfortable exploring our whole Regional Flavor Destination. They feel confident about where to find services, and willing to step out of old comfort zones to have the thrilling experiences we offer.
We do this with good old word of mouth marketing among businesses. When a visitor is in your Regional Flavor Network it becomes the responsibility of every business to offer the information and make the recommendations needed to enhance their experience and move them throughout your network.
I regularly come back to Roger Brooks’s statistic – for every hour your visitor travels, they expect to be entertained for half a day. If you want to be more than a day trip destination, your locally owned businesses and rural communities need to build some serious linkages.
Sharing brochures among businesses. Brochures NEVER create emotional bonds, but if you carry brochures for your partner businesses in your establishment, you can hand them out along with your recommendations, strengthening the emotional bond you create with your word of mouth suggestions.
When money is available to do a formal regional guide and map, do it and have it available everywhere. There is still a place for regional visitors’ guides with driving and walking tours, things to do, maps and service information.
They are no longer an important marketing tool to GET people to your destination. That work is done mainly by your web site and other online marketing efforts. The major purpose of a guide is to KEEP people in your area once they arrive, and help them to decide to return, once they see how much you have for them to experience.
3. We get their names and contact information and regularly send them news about our area.
Gather names and contact information in guestbooks in businesses and visitor information centers. These names are golden! When people leave their names and contact information, they are ASKING you to keep in touch. DO IT!
Collaborative efforts among businesses can make it easy to send regular newsletters. If you have a guestbook, but you’re not set up to send out regular newsletters, find a business or chamber in your Regional Flavor region who does. Get them your guest book entries and offer to help out in producing content.
Few places have an organized Regional Flavor Strategy YET. But you don’t have to wait to implement these principles within your circle of business and attraction associates. Getting started by slowly doing what you can to create these linkages and implement these principles can get you a long way toward having a successful Regional Flavor Strategy for your area.
Tomorrow we look at the 5th and final Principle.