Book: An Absolute Must-Do

Chapter 1: Your Marketing is All Wrong.

January 13, 2023 Tim

Create a tourism business, start advertising, watch the customers roll in.

That’s the formula to start and then grow a tourism business. Right? At least that was your earliest assumption.

When things weren’t going as planned, you thought you were doing something wrong on socials. You started to ask questions like, ‘What do I post on Facebook?’ and ‘Why aren’t I showing up in Google search results?’.

You were constantly distracted by what your competitors were doing, scratching your head, wondering why they ‘get engagement’ and you weren’t. You tweaked your website or, worse, spent another 5K (or more!) to completely overhaul it with another agency or freelancer you thought was your knight in shining armour.

It didn’t work, and to this day, the slog continues. That’s why you’re reading this book. You continue to look at other successful operators and wonder, why them and not me?

I’m not a guru. I wouldn’t say I like the term and dismiss it whenever someone uses it to describe me. Usually, it’s a colleague or former client (bless them). I’m just a guy that has worked in the tourism industry with operators like you for over a decade.

During that time, I’ve not only done the work but reflected on the results. I’ve continued to learn and then apply what I know, discard what didn’t work, and do more of what does.

After having the great privilege of spending over 10,000 hours working with businesses in all segments of tourism on their Brand and marketing efforts, I’ve used pattern matching to work out what the best tourism businesses do.

I’ve then created a repeatable system to help more businesses use similar principles to succeed too. These principles are not what you think, either.

When you started your tourism business it was probably from a place of passion, a niche interest, or perhaps you felt like you saw an opportunity.

Remember how much fun it was to create a logo? How quickly you raced to set up a Facebook page and get a business card printed? When your website went live, you were telling everyone who would listen!

It was fun. It felt like you were getting things done. But you didn’t know at the time that you were starting in the wrong place.

Logos, Facebook pages, websites and business cards are nice, but they’re like vanity metrics. Something shiny to look at distracting you from the real things that matter.

This book aims to reframe how you think about your business and customer. Doing so will help you create a great Brand that matters to people other than you.

Let’s start the reframing with this thought experiment.

What if you faced a challenge where you couldn’t spend a dollar on marketing or advertising for two years? How would you change your current approach to everything in your business?

My bet is you would do at least these two things a whole lot better than you do today.

One. You would be far more conscious of delivering a remarkable experience to the customer standing in front of you.

Two. You would place more currency on their ability to carry your Brand by word-of-mouth.

You would feel like it was harder to spread the word without the ability to buy that attention (advertise). So, you would work harder with what attention you do have and place a higher value on it.

Small businesses all too commonly try to sell an average product to a completely average demographic by buying more ads. It feels more scalable than focusing on the experience of an individual standing in front of them.

You may not have the courage or financial runway to turn off advertising for two years. But consider what you might be able to achieve for your Brand if you were to treat the customer standing in front of you like they were the only mouthpiece you had to reach your future customers.

Successful tourism operators realise that every interaction they have with customers is an opportunity to lead their Brand narrative. The best tourism businesses have clarity about the Brand they are building from early on, and they merge this with a continuous focus on delighting every customer they serve.

To achieve this, Airbnb founder Brian Chesky describes how they would ask customers questions like, ‘What can we do to surprise you?’, ‘What can we do, not to make this better, but to make you tell everyone about it?’

To make you tell everyone about it. How good is that question?

The best in the business is not asking ‘what do I post on my Facebook page’ and other misdirected efforts to ‘engage’ a mostly uninterested audience. No, they’re asking ‘how do we create a better experience’ for customers who already have a ticket to the show.

You work in tourism. So intuitively, you already know where this story goes. A better experience means more five-star reviews. Better reviews suggest more people will trust you and choose you next time – and the cycle continues.

When it’s said out loud it almost feels like nonsense to approach building a business in any other way – especially for a tourism business whose success is arguably entirely predicated on what others say about The Brand.

So why do tourism businesses fuss over social media and not obsess about creating a great Brand and customer experience? I’ve considered this for a while, and I believe the answer is multi-faceted.

First things first – you’re not at fault. Most tourism business owners and managers struggle with the same things as you, and lack of experience is a prominent contributor. You probably don’t have a marketing background, and there’s every chance you haven’t run your own business before.

While this may be the case, it’s not the most significant reason you struggle with your Brand and marketing.

Wearing the many hats, you do in your business it’s not uncommon to have gaps in your knowledge and look to fill them. Either through seeking advice, training, or engaging an external resource.

But frankly, most of that advice, training, or external help you received along the way has stunk. It has stunk because there are few great marketers out there. And unlike accounting, it’s not a rules-based profession where you learn the protocols to master the discipline.

The embarrassing truth about the industry I’ve worked in for over a decade is that anyone who can work out how to set up a social media ad can call themselves a marketer. Believe it or not, it happens, and people in business are fooled by it all the time.

You’ve been sold to and distracted by so-called experts who have never run businesses before, aren’t doing it themselves, have read one book or blog article, and decide they are ready to start charging clients for services.

Please make no mistake: I don’t believe running a business or having a degree is a prerequisite to being a good marketer. There’s no single pathway to becoming a great marketer. That’s one of the things I love about what I do.

My greatest asset has been my commitment to learning continually. Watching how people interact with products, services, technology, and advertising, and considering how that can inform my work. Some of the best insights I’ve had have come from strange places.

However, many marketers live in echo chambers that reinforce their narrow beliefs or knowledge. They pay very little attention to consumer behaviour; they don’t read far and wide or learn new skills.

It’s why, for the most part, many so-called ‘experts’ you engage to help your business with marketing will likely take you down a reasonably prescribed approach.

What does your website look like? Is it optimised for Search Engines? Do you have a ‘sales funnel’ set up? Is your Instagram page styled consistently? Are you building an email database? Do you regularly send a newsletter?

While each of these tactics may be relevant for a business, it’s not the best place to start, and it’s certainly not the be-all-end-all of success that business marketers often sell to you.