Albert Einstein once said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Of course, he only worked in theoretical physics not marketing. I wish that marketing, especially tourism marketing, were simple. But every destination is unique. Target demographics, feeder markets, budgets and just about every other variable comes into play. While these may not be iron-clad "rules" in the scientific sense, they are certainly rules to live by in tourism marketing that will lead to results.
• Focus on the long term. Even though all DMOs are under pressure to produce immediate results, it's important to take the long view. Building brand awareness can take a long time and moving consumers through the sales funnel from awareness to action also takes time. Unless you're working for a big city with universal name recognition, yes, you have to make brand awareness a priority.
• Start from a solid foundation. Destinations of every size need a brand image and strategy. If you think branding is only for large communities — think again. The small and medium-sized destinations need it even more. A smart brand strategy may actually save money in the long run by keeping the entire staff focused on what's important and giving them the courage (and research) to say "no" to unnecessary side projects.
• Don't measure success by how little you spend. Your marketing items must make people stop what they're doing and say "wow." Crappy photography (no one wants to admit it, but face it, you may be using bad photography), amateur video, websites derived from a template not designed for results, and utterly lame marketing messages like "Eat, Stay, Play" are not simply under performing they are actively damaging to destinations. Prioritize if necessary and put some actions off until funds are available, but never ever put a low-quality marketing product in front of the public.
• You can't please everyone. That goes for the local as well as external audiences for DMOs. Naturally, you can't position your destination as the ideal destination for all people. No place has it all. It's also helpful to accept that some local folks will not be happy with your efforts. You can't answer their criticism with "Well, I think…" You have to have real research and a solid rationale for your decisions.
• Focus. Focus. Focus. It's time to get over the notion that being consistent in brand messaging and visual style is boring. It's not. It's the wise strategy of an seasoned professional.