The use of big data has become pervasive across the world’s leading business organizations. Making data-driven decisions is essential to business planning, and our ability to search, share, curate, manage and analyze information is now more nuanced and complex than ever before. With so much valuable consumer data available, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) must become more sophisticated in their approaches to target markets and audience segments, and how they work with industry in order to reach them.

Here’s an example of how changes are starting to take root. Recently, Netflix announced that it has abandoned geographic, age and gender sorting, and have instead opted to cluster consumers by common preferences. It’s the right move.

Reaching consumers solely based on geographic marketing strategies is no longer effective.

Consumers are now faced with more travel choices than ever before, and this choice has profoundly changed how they make decisions. A one-size-fits-all strategy based on a whole geographic market is no longer as effective as it used to be before the Internet. Yet we’re still segmenting our markets as if nothing’s changed. Individuals now assemble in online tribes and seek out communities around common passions and interests. DMOs need to adapt their strategies in order to increase relevance to consumers through these passions.

Segment your industry into experiences to better understand ideal target audiences.

Instead of treating your destination as a place that offers something for everyone, what if you organized your industry into clusters grouped around niche experiences, and then helped them to collectively determine their target audiences? By eschewing broad data categories, focusing on niches and taking a collaborative approach, a DMO can radically improve how its organization and industry think about visitors and locals. You’ll gain deeper insight into what motivates and drives consumers. This will help your marketing, customer service and product development efforts become consumer – rather than stakeholder – centric.

Benefits for DMOs

Working directly with your operators and keeping them focused around destination experiences will benefit DMOs, as well. You’ll acquire more complex and worthwhile data from your partners to complement your own research, identify new target audiences for each set of experiences, and ensure that you are reaching consumers in the right way.

This will also allow you to develop campaigns and initiatives that appeal to consumers that span across multiple geographic markets. For example, scuba divers live in every city in the world.

Another opportunity to extend the data collection and insights gathered in this collaboration is by helping your operators to understand the value of Net Promoter Score, and encouraging them to adopt it. This tool is invaluable and helps stakeholders understand who really enjoys the experience, and how it can be improved.

Related reading: Two critical corporate metrics for any destination

Scuba Diver

Image credit: Ratha Grimes, Flickr

Increase the value you provide to stakeholders

Typically, DMOs have tried to demonstrate value to their industry primarily through the delivery of “creative campaigns” that evoke a sense of pride in the creative. This is how marketing value was demonstrated, and it was easy to get industry buy-in.

However, creative campaigns are costly and paint in broad brush-strokes. Organizing your industry around more segmented consumer experiences increases the number of touch points with your partners and creates a symbiotic relationship that leads to better marketing decisions. It also solves two of the biggest challenges that DMOs face: demonstrating value, and improving knowledge of consumer target groups.

Working closely in such a personal and direct fashion increases a DMO’s visibility, and helps businesses feel valued. They can see themselves reflected in your marketing efforts, and you avoid the complaints of operators who say that they don’t understand what your strategy does for their business. Together, your working relationship improves.

Some innovative destinations already implement this approach. Visit Sørlandet in Norway, for example, created a highly focused and collaborative industry network called Arena Usus that works together toward a common marketing objective.

Related reading: The future role of a DMO: How Visit Sørlandet in Norway is an international leader in industry development

Building a collaborative approach helps to grow your industry

Your operators have different objectives and needs that compete with each other. Some friendly competition is good, but it’s critical for stakeholders to understand that by working together they can grow market share for the whole destination. This is the collective vision that a DMO needs to lead stakeholders towards.

DMOs can do this by bringing like-minded businesses together in small groups, to address relevant topics including:

• Who are our ideal audiences?
• Where can we reach them?
• What content (marketing) will have the biggest impact?
• How can we increase the market share for everyone?

Managing operators in smaller clusters mean they can work together efficiently, and towards common goals while you demonstrate value by leading them through the process. Build consensus by giving them an opportunity to pool ideas, grow together and combine resources. Use customer-journey mapping and design-thinking processes to further expand efforts.

By collecting data and making decisions based on consumer passions instead of broad targets, you’ll ensure that everyone remains laser-focused on what the consumer truly needs, how to improve local products and how you can move the industry forward together.

Related reading: Design thinking for the modern DMO

Featured image credit: josullivan.59, Flickr


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We work with the most innovative tourism boards in the world to create a vision for each of their destinations, solve business challenges and execute brilliant, integrated campaigns. The expertise we apply to that work is shared in the articles published here and in our DMO Matters newsletter.

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