Small Town Tourism Businesses – Is Your Local Marketing Strategy Effective?

by Joanne Steele on January 25, 2010

So much about where, when and why to market is changing, it is hard to know what to do about marketing locally.

To start with, determine if you are an Anchor Business or a Support Business.

In my e-book, Marketing For Free in 2010, I talk about these two different types of rural tourism businesses. If you’re not sure whether you’re an anchor or a support business, sign up to download the free e-book on the form to the right of this post.

Anchor businesses and lodgings almost never benefit from local advertising. They’re the magnets that draw visitors into rural areas. Their effective marketing is online and out of the area.

The exception is companies that offer shorter versions of their specialty that don’t require advanced reservations, such as half day rafting trips that can be booked hours or a day in advance.

It is effective for support businesses to market locally.

People may be making travel plans and decisions online, but once they arrive, they’re looking to fill in the details to enhance their stay. Dining, shopping, arts and heritage travel options, day trip guides and annual events can benefit from ads in visitors guides, flyers, brochures in motels, and word of mouth campaigns.

Local marketing is best if it is a good mix of all your options

1. Visitors’ guides

Be selective in which guides you advertise in. Unfortunately we see small town newspapers battling it out for tourism business advertising dollars, with local guides, regional guides, chamber guides and more.  It is easy to feel overwhelmed and financially stretched. Trim your advertising costs by selecting the ONE guide that reaches your audience the best.

I always recommend that you consider your chamber of commerce guide first. It is usually handed out in your local visitor center, is mailed out upon request and posted on the chamber web site. If it isn’t distributed through local motels, ask that wider distribution be considered.

If you have the budget for more than one guide, ask the ad sales people lots of questions about print quantities and distribution points.  Make certain you’re getting your money’s worth.

2. Flyers and/or brochures

You don’t need to get fancy with full-color three-fold brochures. A well laid out low cost brochure or two sided rack card, distributed in motels and complimentary businesses is an inexpensive way to reach visitors. Businesses carrying each others brochures is an easy effective cooperative marketing technique that is hugely underutilized in small towns.

3. Word-of-mouth

Visitors love to eat where the locals eat and do what the locals do. And they’re likely to ask locals for recommendations. It is worth your time and energy to introduce yourself to the frontline people in the places where visitors are likely to stop in and ask for information.

Check out this post about how one local store in Mt. Shasta is supporting other local businesses.

4. Local business listings online

With people relaying on their iPhones and Blackberrys for Internet searches, it’s important to get your business listed online with the Google Local Business listings. This post will help you get set up.

What effective tools do you use for locally marketing your tourism business?

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