Last week I had the pleasure of attending the VA-1 Virginia Tourism Conference in Richmond. The two-day agenda was packed with general sessions, breakout sessions, visiting with exhibitors and a few impromptu meetings in the corner of the hotel lobby. It was hectic, but also fun and educational. I enjoyed being a part of a panel discussion in one of the breakout sessions. Hopefully, those who attended found the session interesting and insightful. Some of our clients were present (I was prepared for hecklers), while others were not. For those unable to be in the session titled “Making Tough Marketing Choices in the Digital Age” here is a summary.

My colleagues and I at Mikula-Harris have always believed in the wisdom of an integrated approach to advertising. What exactly does that mean? How many different media must be covered before you can claim to have an integrated plan? The answer is that there is no magic number. Small destinations don’t have the luxury of buying television, radio, outdoor and mass transit all in addition to some print media, online display and search marketing. In our opinion, when possible a variety is better than an “eggs all in one basket” approach. The important thing is to have a consistent brand message and image across all media. That includes advertising, website, visitor guide, maps and any other material. Effective media strategies are built upon reach and frequency. In fact, those terms are well known by any savvy marketer who has bought TV and radio time. We need to apply the same logic to overall campaigns and markets. If a DMO considers, for example, Baltimore to be a feeder market then an online campaign that makes use of re-targeting technology provides decent reach and frequency. Now consider the effect of a more varied plan. A potential visitor sees the DMO’s ad in their local city magazine, then again on TripAdvisor, yet again as online pre-roll when watching cute kitten videos on YouTube, and one more time on the back of a bus while stuck in traffic. Now that’s reach and frequency!

Asked why he robs banks, Willie Sutton said, “Because that’s where the money is.” I think advertisers need to be where their prospects are. There are some excellent niche magazines with a very loyal readership. Imagine for a moment that a magazine, whose readers are interested in exactly what your destination has, gathered all of its subscribers together in one gigantic stadium and offered you, as a DMO marketer the chance to take the microphone and address the crowd. You wouldn’t say, “no thanks, I’ll reach them all later with a geo-targeted, behavior-targeted online campaign.” That’s crazy. Print media may be changing but it’s far from dead.

One of the reasons that frequency is important is because prospects have to go through the sales funnel. It takes a while to get past the “Awareness” stage to “Interest” and “Consideration” and eventually become a customer. This principle is as old as the advertising profession. I maintain that great advertising – the kind that stirs up emotions and inspires people to want to explore – can move prospects through the sales funnel faster. A creative and powerful ad can accomplish awareness and jump directly to consideration. Maybe it takes the combination of an ad that steers a prospect to a website that contains a video, but the point is that quality and creativity works. Every time.

There is some of what was discussed at our session at the VA-1 Virginia Tourism Conference. Got an idea for a topic for the next conference? Please let me know. I will let the conference organizers know. Perhaps we could have a webinar between now and next fall.


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