Before you begin promoting and marketing your new tour, program or event, you need to answer one very important question. Who is your target audience?
If you don’t know who your ideal customers are, you won’t know how best to reach them. You won’t know where to concentrate your marketing efforts. A late night tour aimed at millennial ghost hunters needs to be promoted differently than a sit-down event designed to appeal to the members of the senior center’s genealogy club.
If your target audience listens to the radio and you put an ad in the newspaper, you’ve not only wasted money, you’ve missed an opportunity to connect. The same principle applies to social platforms. Posting endless Facebook updates about the event will be pointless if members of your audience spend all their time on Twitter.
Defining Your Audience
So who is your perfect customer? Anyone with $20 is not an acceptable response.
Ask yourself a few basic questions. If everything goes just as planned and the perfect people show up for your program, who will they be?
- How old are they? 65? 23? 9?
- Are they mostly men or women?
- How much do they already know about your program’s topic?
- What are they interested in? We assume local history, but what aspects? Architecture? Businesses of the past? Famous people? Any particular time period?
- Is this more of a nostalgia or a history crowd?
- What else are they interested in? Food? Beer? Art? Flowers? Vintage cars? Can you work any of those elements into the experience?
- Are they local or visitors from somewhere else? Where?
- Do you know these people or are they complete strangers?
A lot of this is admittedly guesswork. But taking a stab at the answers will help you design a more effective marketing campaign. It will help you design a better tour or event too.
You can spend a lot of money very quickly on ads and other promotional pieces and activities. There are plenty of people who will tell you that paid marketing is the best way to help your program succeed. That's not necessarily true.
Unless you have a clear picture of your ideal customer, spending a significant amount of money on marketing is a bad idea. A much better plan, especially in the beginning, is to start where you are with what you know and what you have.
This means saying no to expensive ads and opting instead for budget-friendly flyers and posters. It means passing on paid social media promotions and encouraging free social sharing instead. We’ll take a look at tactics for both traditional and digital platforms in future posts.
As your tours and events grow and you learn more about who is actually showing up, who your real customers are in other words, you can adjust, adapt and upgrade your efforts.
When the target is clearer, it’s easier to hit.
In any case, the most important marketing question is not how much does it cost. The most important question is where do my customers consume information and how can I reach them.
For a few very specific target markets the answer will be obvious. Everyone belongs to the same organization and they have a newsletter. Or there are hundreds of active, engaged people in a Facebook group dedicated to discussing the neighborhood you’re going to tour. It’s usually not that easy though. The answer is almost always a combination of various types of outreach.
If you are collaborating with another organization such as a Main Street or neighborhood group, make sure they link to the tour or event information on your website. Encourage them to add a page promoting the program to their site and to let the people on their email list know about it too.
If the organization doesn’t have a website or email list, they may be willing to allow you to mail a flyer to their members or let you display tour information in their office. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Be sure to include the names, logos and links for all partner organizations and any official sponsors on your tour page as well as printed material you produce.
There may be other organizations or groups that would allow you to place program information and a link on their sites. Are you a member of the Visitors Bureau or Chamber of Commerce? How about the historical society? If you’re doing a tour, are any businesses stops along the route?
Groups are a great addition to your customer base. There are a number of advantages to working with them.
- They are predictable.
- They book in advance.
- You know how many people are coming and when.
- They can represent a significant new income stream.
Groups formed by tour operators are generally the ones that come to mind first. These folks are usually out-of-town visitors who arrive on buses. The best way to find them is through your Visitors Bureau. Group tour companies are always looking for interesting new components to add to their programs. Your tour or event may fit nicely into a larger itinerary.
Don’t forget about local groups. Are there clubs that might enjoy taking your tour or attending your event as a private group activity? Potential customers include antique clubs, service clubs, reading groups, scout troops and even people organizing big family reunions.
Local history can reinforce a community’s sense of identity and be a source of pride in the town’s shared story. Think about corporate groups interested in heritage, community development and historic preservation as well as libraries, museums, real estate agent associations and merchant/retail groups.
Groups expect and should receive discounts. Develop a price chart based on the group size so you don’t have to figure out the rate every time the question comes up. Here’s an example for a tour that normally costs $20.
1-9 people - $20 per person
10 – 19 people - $15 per person
20 -29 people - $10 per person
30+ people - $7 per person
Can you add something to your program to make it more appealing to a specific group? For example, modify your walking tour of downtown for the garden club by adding a stop where you describe how and when the big trees that line the streets were planted.
Customizing can also mean subtracting. My company offered a very popular night time walking tour called Ghost Trek. It was not designed for kids. Some of the stories were complicated and nuanced plus there were references to prostitution and embalming. I created a G-rated version of the tour that was only an hour long, as opposed to the two hour adult tour, and operated in the afternoon. The kids loved it. So did their parents. The tour was the featured activity for several birthday and slumber parties.
Think about the types of groups you’d like to attract then develop a flyer and web page specifically for them.
Get the word out. Let people know you’re anxious to work with groups and that you will gladly customize programs to meet their organization’s needs and interests. Your bottom line will thank you.