An Internet Marketing Checklist For Rural Tourism Business Owners

by Joanne Steele on June 10, 2010

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I’m preparing for a workshop tonight on Web 2.0 marketing for small businesses. It’s sponsored by our local microbusiness development center, Jefferson Economic Development Institute.

Some of the participants were involved in a Rural Experience Business Group I worked with over the winter, and so I have been racking my brain looking for new material and new ideas to present.

Then, last night at our local high school graduation, I ran into one of the Rural Experience program members who is also a private client of mine.

She gave me a big hug and declared, “I’ve got it!! After lots of repetition, I finally got it and it’s working. It’s now part of my routine to do just what we planned. I blog every week on my website. I post to Facebook more times than you recommended, and I’m even Tweeting regularly!”

She added, “I’m booked through July and into August. This is really working!” You can check out her site here, RiverDancers.com.

So the lesson for me is clear. This is new, revolutionary information. I’ve used the term, paradigm shift often on this blog, and it’s not an overstatement. We are all having to completely shift our thinking about how to reach our customers.

Repetition is good!

For some of you, this post is unnecessary repetition. You’ve got it and are using it. Email the URL to a friend and congratulate yourself on your success.

For others it’s another nudge toward the kind of success my client, Chantal, reported.

Below is the checklist I’m going to present at my workshop tonight. Work your way through it, adding new skills and marketing insights as you go. Like Chantal’s experience, it will become second nature after a while, and your business will show the results of your efforts.

Online Marketing Checklist

Create a Facebook Business Page

If you read my posts at RuralTourismMarketing.com about Facebook even a month ago, you would have heard a different story than I tell today.

REGARDLESS OF WHAT ELSE YOU DO ONLINE, RIGHT NOW DO FACEBOOK, AND DO IT WELL. There are 400,000,000+ Facebook users now, and they are looking for information about things that are pertinent to their lives… like information about your business.

Use Facebook to communicate with your customers, not sell to them. Go to the Cornerstone Bakery & Café, or River Dancers pages on Facebook to study good examples.

Get yourself listed on local business listing pages and directories.

Some directories like Dmoz feed information into other big listings services. Others, like Google Place Pages are used by YOUR CUSTOMERS to find your services. They are used instead of phone books, and in new ways via smartphones (to find reviews and to find your location).

Prepare to list your business online by

  • Writing a good 25 word description of what you do.
  • Gather up several images to upload. If they’re huge files, resize them free at http://www.picnik.com/. For the web, you need low resolution (72dpi)photos.

http://www.dmoz.org – This is a really important one. Do this first. The Open Directory Project (ODP) is the most comprehensive human edited directory of the Web, compiled by a vast global community of volunteer editors.

http://google.com/places – New name for the Google Local Business Center – This is the second most important place to list. When people use Google Maps, these are the listings that pop up on the left.

http://www.localeze.com/manage/

http://local.botw.org

https://ssl.bing.com/listings/BusinessSearch.aspx – This is Microsoft’s  local business listing service

http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/local/business.php This is Yahoo Local.

http://www.local.com

There are more. When you find one, list your business if it’s free. These are links pointing back to your website (good for your SEO). They will help you capture random web searchers looking for the services you provide.

Register with review sites.

People who are still trying to understand Web 2.0 are afraid of review sites. Don’t be. Embrace them! People are talking about you on review sites whether you’re listed or not.

Manage your comments.

  • Answer bad reviews remembering the old adage, “The customer is always right.” Use them to improve your business.
  • Report good reviews on your website and Facebook page, with links back to the review sites.

Review Sites to list your business on:

Yelp.com. This site reviews everything. If you’re in business, get listed.

TripAdvisor.com This is an important tourism business review site.

Go to a past post, “10 Reasons That Small Towns and Rural Tourism Businesses Should Encourage Online Reviews” for a list of other review sites to get yourself listed on.

Blogging.

A static website that is never updated is like a billboard on the end of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.

A blog is one way to add fresh content without having to pay a web master to do it for you. Regular updates and fresh content is one of the best ways to get noticed by those search engine crawlers, which will help your search engine placement for the key words your customers are using to find you.

You can stick a blog onto your existing site, if you have lots of valuable content that you don’t need to constantly update. Or, you can have your web master help you switch your whole site to a WordPress blog site.

I recommend a WordPress site with a Thesis Theme because both are easy to use and well supported.

Twitter

If you’ve done everything else and still have time and energy, sign up for Twitter. You can link your Facebook page and Blog to Twitter so that all your  posts are turned into tweets.

Photo on Flickr by wheresmysocks

1 Loretta Zortman September 5, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Love reading your posts! I’m very inspired. As a member of the Marketing Committee for the Norfork Lake Chamber of Commerce (Mountain Home, Arkansas), as well as a small resort owner, you’re helping me out a LOT!

2 Joanne Steele September 6, 2010 at 9:16 am

Thanks Loretta! I hope that this Labor Day Weekend, you’re looking back on a hugely successful summer vacation season.

3 Ben Maule June 14, 2010 at 5:14 am

This is been a great tutorial for me to get the best tips for promoting business on Google maps as its not an easy task and is a vast thing to have your listing on Google maps. Thank You;).

4 Joanne Steele June 14, 2010 at 10:11 am

Hi Ben, You’re right. No matter what type of business you’re in, having that listing is vital – like being listed in the paper telephone book yellow pages USED to be!

5 John Soares June 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Hello Joann!

John Soares here, Siskiyou County resident, hiker, blogger, etc.

You’re providing a lot of good information in this post and on the rest of this site. And it’s very important work you’re doing.

I found you through the Tourism Currents folks. I’m in Third Tribe Marketing with Becky McCray.

6 Joanne Steele June 14, 2010 at 10:09 am

Hi John, Becky’s great. Have you checked out her training program at Tourism Currents? There’s a link here at ruraltourismmarketing.com.

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