michigan_small_business

Downtown Dexter Michigan by Andypiper (CC BY)

Soon it’ll finally tourism season, those few months of the year where your business gets customers from all over the country. But though it’s said that “if you build it, they will come,” don’t think of tourism season as just an easy boost in traffic. In this article, we’ll show you how with just a little extra work, you can reach extra customers and make the most out of the season.

Make sure to be mobile first

I’m sure you’ve been hearing about going mobile first for a while now, but that advice is even more urgent for tourism season. A recent study by Expedia found out that mobile devices are “very important/critical” for 76% of all the travelers consulted, and that means they’re not going to take out their laptops in the middle of their trip to find your site. That means that to reach tourists you have to make sure your site is mobile optimized or risk being ignored by wide swaths of your potential customers.

Join the local conversation on social media

Though search engine results are just half the conversation nowadays, with more people than ever turning to social networks to get a feeling for what’s happening. For example, a music festival might have one particular hashtag that visitors are encouraged to check to keep up with updates on the shows. Tourists might tweet with their location once they arrive. You can find out popular posts in the area by hashtag or even geolocation using Twitter’s advanced search feature.

Get a feel for how the conversation plays out and join in! You can reply to questions, tweet at the organizer for an event or just mimic popular posts. With luck you might even get retweeted by event participants, increasing the amount of people that see your message. It pays to act natural, as forcing a sales message might have the opposite effect and turn people off your brand for good.

Show the advantages of staying local

Again tying into the last point, with up to the minute information on what to do, tourists are willing to leave their comfort zone today more than ever. It used to be that tourists stuck to things they already knew when on vacation, as observed by John and Linda Stanley in Food Tourism: A Practical Marketing Guide. So while the British tourist of the past would stick to ‘fish and chip’ shops even while vacationing at the Mediterranean, today they more likely than ever to try local dishes. Use that to your advantage.

You can use social media to find out what tourists are looking for and let them know you have it. Examples include highlighting the local dishes in your restaurant or your selection of Styrofoam coolers in a particularly hot summer, to keep tourists from going to a fast-food chain or the supermarket in the next town over. Remember however not to gouge them on price though, you’re aiming to win them with the local charm and convenience, not by having them as a captive market.

Facebook Advanced Location Targeting

Another amazing tool to find and reach your potential customers is the Facebook ads platform “Advanced Location Targeting.” Basically, by using this feature you can send a specialized message to Facebook users that are in a certain distance from your business, even distinguishing between people who live in the area or are just traveling. You can use it to be the most focused while applying the previous tips.

For instance, you can target people visiting a local landmark, or attending a local festival. With that level of precision, you can invite people to stop by your business the moment they need something from it. As always, you need to be careful not to overdo it. Having a business pretending to know everything about you is a sure way to turn people away. You can read a more in-depth look at this Facebook Advanced Location Targeting at Social Media Examiner.

Think about the off-season too!

Do you have a way of keeping in touch with tourists during the off-season? If not, you should. A great way of doing that is by keeping a guestbook of satisfied customers and reaching out to them. Make sure your website and store have plenty of ways for interested customers to sign up to get more information. That way, you get a self-selecting audience that is likely to appreciate your contact.

You should also stay social and generate hype throughout the whole year. Who hasn’t daydreamed about going to the beach next Summer during a heavy snow season? Take advantage of that! Ask how are people preparing for their upcoming vacation, offer early-bird discounts and showcase how great the next vacation season will be throughout the whole year.

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