For most potential visitors to your destination, the journey between “I’ve never heard of this place,” and “I’m going to tell everyone how great my trip was,” is long and winding.
“It’s very important to understand where your target audience is in the customer journey,” says William Bakker, Destination Think!’s Chief Strategist. “When you know your visitor’s state of mind, your DMO can focus its budget effectively.”
We often describe the customer journey as a 6-stage loop describing visitor state of mind from awareness all the way to visiting and reliving. Our team at Destination Campbell River (our very own DMO, where we apply our company’s collective experience and insight every day) has illustrated how they build advocacy on social media by using customer journey insights.
Advocacy is critical, but the customer journey also holds deeper importance for destination strategy. Studying your potential visitors’ state of mind through the lens of the customer journey allows your destination marketing organization (DMO) to focus its budget on the most effective marketing activities.
Research your audience’s customer journey
Knowing the customer journey begins with research. “Many destinations have target audiences that are stuck in the consideration phase,” says Bakker. “In other words, people have a desire to go, but no plans. That is the typical challenge, though it varies, of course, depending on the specific audience.”
Sentiment analysis has vastly increased the intel available to DMOs by making visitor and resident feedback crystal clear on an enormous scale. Visitor surveys and collaborative workshops are among other methods of discovering what people are thinking and saying about your destination. (See below for more resources.)
With the right research that leads to passion-based audiences, the potential is enormous. Over the past 10 years, our team has seen how highly focused marketing can bring impressive results and influence travel decisions. Here are examples from three very different places and projects:
Bermuda: Our winter kiteboarding campaign with Bermuda Tourism Authority generated up to 90% social media engagement by focusing on a single niche audience. It focused on awareness of Bermuda as an excellent kiting destination.
Flanders Fields, Belgium: The Flanders Fields 1914-18 social media project with Visit Flanders connects those with a strong interest in The Great War. For many, Flanders represents a meaningful part of their heritage. They have created a space online to reflect on history, family legacies, and in remarkable cases, even help one another find the graves of relatives. Beyond promoting social well being, this project helps people plan and relive their trips.
Banff National Park, Canada: Summer 2017-2018 communications plans helped curb overcrowding while increasing visitor satisfaction. This focused on the planning stage.
One common thread between these three projects? Each focuses on a specific point in the customer journey, using specific activities that help people move along the journey.
Budgeting becomes laser-focused with the customer journey
“The customer journey is a tool to help you set marketing priorities and to focus your budget,” says Bakker.
When you know how your audience thinks and which part of the journey they are in, you can provide the right trigger for people to move further along. You’ll likely need to shift your budget to make this happen. Without clarity, your DMO risks spreading itself too thin.
Want to better understand your customer journey and where your budget will be most effective? Continue reading below, save a few to read later or contact our destination marketing strategists.
Customer journey principles in practice
- Perpetual advocacy: See how Campbell River guides visitors through 6 stages of the customer journey
- 90% engagement? Passionate kiteboarders show what’s truly possible in winter Bermuda campaign
- Banff National Park communications plan shifts traveller behaviour amid record-smashing visitor numbers
- How Visit Flanders affects lives through social media, inspiring people to visit Flanders Fields
Why the customer journey is important
- Learn the hierarchy of your visitors’ needs and build empathy through research
- Walk a mile in your visitors’ shoes by charting the customer journey
- Do your visitors trust you? Educate them with honesty
- The end-to-end customer experience for destinations
- Use design thinking to better understand your visitors
Research and metrics for understanding your visitors
- Finally, sentiment analysis lets DMOs measure word of mouth on an undreamed-of scale
- 625,000,000 conversations across 100 destinations: Get the first (free) Global Tourism Sentiment Index report
- 10 million conversations: This city uses sentiment analysis to hear what its people are really saying
- Tourism Sentiment Index gives destinations an unbiased look in the mirror: Tourism Port Douglas & Daintree
- How your DMO can measure success in the new marketing world