Mastering Geographic Scale
An understanding of geographic scale is essential to marketing success. Location theorists have proven again and again that the majority of all commercial activities happen at the local level. When it comes to travel, good sense tells us that geographic scale shrinks even further since visitor’s activities are limited by transportation, time, and a lack of familiarity with more remote regions at their destinations. Commercial growth needs to rely on using technology and content to increase opportunity awareness within the confines or activity spaces imposed by distance and circumstance. It will not rely on widening the outward search perimeter or geographic scale to include places that visitors will never explore.
Control the Clock
Not only is there a relationship between geographic space and commerce when it comes to travel, there is also a relationship between commerce and time. To succeed, marketers and technologists need to work within the confines imposed by both time and distance from a circumstantial or fixed geographic hub—the epicenter of a visitor’s activity space.
Given modern technology, visitors not only want highly personalized experiences, they also want what they want on highly personalized schedules. For every visitor that frequents an aquarium during the day, there is just as many that wander the streets looking for a six-pack of micro-brew to take back to their hotel room at 1 in the morning.
Think Hyper Local
Trends show that visitors are becoming increasingly interested in hyper-local opportunities [markets]. They are looking for the experience of, ‘How can we find out more about the community we’re in?’ This means that visitors don’t visit Baltimore. They visit street corners in Baltimore and they remember very specific adventures at very specific places that just happen to be in Baltimore.
Understand the New Hyper-local Paradigm
Many visitors return to specific places again and again. They may have a favorite hotel or event around which they build an activity space. Baltimore to them is not one big, undifferentiated whole. It is space comprised of discoveries emanating outward from a geographic hub. In most cases, this geographic hub doesn’t change over time. It is like a home away from home—a place from which a traveler ventures out.
The future of successful destination marketing won’t be involved with promoting destinations at a single large scale. Sure, creating a Baltimore “inspiration” will always be important. That is what brings visitors the first time. One the other hand, if marketers want to build lasting relationships, they must inform visitors with content and technologies than build-out from geographic hubs rather than build-in from large areas that visitors only drive through en route to their hyper local activity spaces.
Think Beyond Memberships
There is a destination marketing war going on between fee-for-marketing services vs. membership pricing. A recent LinkedIn comment puts this into perspective, “The fundamental issue seems to be: how can people justify paying for membership in an organization, when with today’s technology they can duplicate most organizational functions for less money and more value? So, why pay for DMO membership?”
If we read between the lines, what this DMO board member is really asking is how can we market in a way that makes each member relevant. Of course, each member is part of a whole comprised of pre-determined categories on any typical DMO website, but that is not how individual businesses think. They are at the street level and they have their own promotional devices, vis-à-vis local advertising to draw people from remote locations. What they want from a destination marketer is a local presence or identity—a mechanism that makes them stand out in a visitor’s activity space. If the destination marketer can’t provide that, being a footnote listing in a large regional awareness strategy may not justify a hefty membership commitment.
The new marketing battle between fee-for-marketing service vs. membership pricing won’t be won. It will be negotiated. The optimal marketing model will be a mix wherein the marketer continues to inspire travelers to come to a destination while facilitating them at the hyper-local level. At the larger scale, traditional performance models will still predominate. At local-levels, web or mobile traffic will be less relevant. It will be the job of technologists to develop hyper-local analytical frameworks that demonstrate value to members that pay for marketing services.