Digital Darwinism and Rural Tourism Business Survival

by Joanne Steele on December 6, 2011


Social media expert, Brian Solis uses the phrase, “Digital Darwinism” and defines it as “ the evolution of consumer behavior when society and technology evolve faster than some companies’ ability to adapt..”digital darwinism

Digital Darwinism is the source of the unease felt by many local small business owners.

In a small town – I mean towns under 10,000, a small local business’s first and most important social media channel is face to face interaction. You see your customers at church or clubs or chamber meetings. They walk or drive by your business everyday.

You need to amp up your social media and internet marketing because it is replacing the phone book and print media for even your local customers. But you don’t feel the urgency of your neighbors in the rural tourism businesses.

For rural tourism businesses, marketing is challenging.

To survive, you must engage with your customer, being where they are ONLINE, now.

And with the size and variety of social media options, survival requires that you be in more places than most rural tourism businesses feel comfortable with.

It probably means being active and engaged on Facebook because of the size of Facebook’s membership. But it may also mean being active and engaged with review sites, blogs, place based options, and mobile. … or not.

Here’s the catch. You can’t make a decision about where to be, based on time, interest, or anything else but “where your customer is spending time.” You’re going to go crazy if you let “the technology” drive your marketing.

You are always going to feel like you’re not doing enough because there is always going to be a new social media option you aren’t using.

Let me go back to the example I’ve used for the last several years, River Dancers River Rafting Company.

We’ve talked about the fact that a huge rafting company may have trips that appeal to all types of rafters – thrill seekers, families, student groups etc.

River Dancers, on the other hand, makes their money from their primary customer base – families. They also have a big segment that serves student groups, and the common theme all over their website, and their social media is CHILDREN of all ages.

The River Dancers team – John and Chantal – doesn’t have to spend much time interacting with and marketing to thrill seeking rafters because class V trips aren’t where they make their money.

They are teachers and specialists in providing kids and family trips that exactly meet the needs of a variety of children’s age groups.

Being this focused and targeted works for them. They had a tremendous season again this year in spite of the recession.

Here’s how they are overcoming the challenges rural tourism businesses are having with Digital Darwinism:

They are focusing on their identified Perfect Customer NOT technology.

Technology is a tool that allows them to engage with their customer. They use the same technology their customer uses and ignore everything else.

They are nimble and able to provide exactly the types of trips their customers are asking for. By being small and flexible within their chosen target market, they can flow with the needs and desires of their customer. Several years ago they sold many day trips. Last year it was 3 day trips. This year it was half-day trips. They have the resources to provide just what is required in the moment.

This comes from knowing their customer and focusing on that rather than experimenting with things that haven’t come directly from knowledge and understanding their Perfect Customer. And that includes social media. They are on Facebook becaise their customer is there. They have a great website with a blog that gets lots of traffic. They send out email newsletters and that’s all.

Here’s the takeaway for today:

The life cycle of businesses big and small is shortening, with big and small crashing and burning for one reason – they chased the lastest “shiny new object” rather that continuing to focus on serving the expressed needs of their Perfect Customers, and anticipating those needs based on sound and intimate knowledge of that customer.

As a rural tourism business, you don’t have that daily face-to-face interaction with your customers that your fellow small local businesses have.

Your customers are out there in the digital jungle so you have to be there too. But you don’t have to be EVERYWHERE. You need to become social media savvy. You must be where your customer is looking or you will die.

It is not easy, but it is simple and doable.

Brian Solis and Jon Swartz discuss the future of business in this short video.

Here’s another post that might help:

Is Your Rural Tourism Business Website a Marketing Asset or Liability?


1 Will May 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm

More and more, it seems that the “digital consumer” is quickly able to filter out options that are thinly disguised as content and see it as a sales pitch or ad.

Creating new, engaging and interesting content is the name of the game, but even then, it might not be enough. While big businesses have the budget, they are slow to react compared to small businesses who need to turn to keep the cash flow going in order to survive.

Thank goodness social media, “inbound marketing” and other channels and platforms are available to us to even out the playing field.

2 Joanne Steele May 15, 2012 at 10:30 am

You’re exactly right, Will. One of the major reasons I’m shouting to the rafters about internet marketing is that it is made for small local businesses. Big business is used to dealing with people in masses as demographics. Communicating with the digital customer is all about speaking one on one using new tools. We small business owners have the “speaking one to one” down, we just have to acquire the skills to use the new tools, and we will all be unstoppable!

3 Gem Webb December 12, 2011 at 7:57 am

Keeping up with technology can be a difficult task. My advice since I am the Content Creator for Bruce County Tourism “Social Media” accounts is work with schedules. Here is a basic introduction from a blog post I wrote the other week. Hope this helps. Remember: “the Tools support marketing schedules”.

4 Joanne Steele December 13, 2011 at 11:25 am

Bruce County is lucky to have you! With most small local business owners doing everything from buying to cleaning to customer service to bookkeeping, scheduling is a great idea. I looked at the link to the calendar example in your post and realized that something simple and flexible like that could be used to schedule most business “to dos” making more time in a planned schedule for social media marketing.

5 Gouthami December 7, 2011 at 1:51 am

Joanne, it is so reassuring to read this post. I have been struggling to maintain our presence is many sites. Now I can take a breather!
Many thanks!

6 Joanne Steele December 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm

And thanks to you, Gouthami. Your website is beautiful. You clearly know and are effectively targeting your Perfect Customer. Enjoy your breather.

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