“My bags are packed, I’m ready to go”
If this John Denver classic pops into your head often, you’re one of us. You love marketing resorts as much as you love visiting them. But marketing a dream destination is far from easy. The competition is vast, budgets change rapidly and guests’ expectations continue to rise. Now, more than ever, you must move beyond the norm. You must listen to the guests and be willing to try something new.
But don’t worry, we’re here for you. As a marketing agency based in Colorado, we live in a vacation destination. We have partnered with resorts all over the country for over 15 years. Our resort marketing efforts have weathered real storms (think: hurricanes) and economic downfalls. While COVID-19 continues to change how we market, we want to walk you through some easy-to-implement ideas and bigger A.C. (after COVID-19) strategies.
What is Resort Marketing?
Resort marketing is the magic of making your target audience feel like they are visiting your destination — before and after their visit. Resort marketing is the practice of speaking to your target market at every point in the funnel. It means keeping a close eye on trends, but even a closer eye on your own data. As a resort marketer, you should always be testing something new and unique because your competition isn’t just other resorts — it’s any possible way a guest can spend their free time and money.
How Do you Market a Resort?
Data shows us that a majority of guests’ resort research begins on a mobile device, months in advance, and conversions happen last-minute, now more than ever. Therefore, you must have a resort marketing strategy for each part of the marketing funnel. But never forget the power of a repeat visitor. It’s always easier to make a brand fan out of a current visitor than it is to find someone new.
How to market a resort is also found in what your customers are already telling you in their search patterns, the pages they visit, and the reviews they leave. As marketers, we need to listen more. Christine Chen sums it all up, perfectly.
It’s rare that brands make first-person data a priority, but often this type of data is way more powerful than traditional metrics. Challenge yourself to amplify your guests’ voices because, in challenging times like these, almost nothing is predictable.
Set aside time each month to mine this data, make a visual representation of it, and share it with your entire team. From there, you can apply those learnings to each marketing channel and populate the content to match what they desire and need from each.
5 Foundation Resort Marketing Tips
Now that you know why your marketing needs to change, let’s talk about which marketing strongholds should be working harder for you.
It’s time to take a deep hard look at your ‘money pages.’ Examples of these pages are your actual resort pages, homepage, and main booking page. Chances are, they are too general and speak to too broad of an audience. First, tap into your new ‘real talk,’ as Chen puts it, and apply those learnings here.
- What problem is this page supposed to address? Is it addressing that in great detail?
- What ‘snackable’ information is missing that will address their basic needs (think FAQ-style content)?
- Are your unique differentiators listed in a clear and concise manner?
- Is it easy for them to understand what to do next?
- What is the competition doing better than you, content-wise?
Once you’ve bulked up the content, then revisit your keyword research and basic SEO optimizations. Always remember that your money pages may be more evergreen, but they should also be updated a few times a year.
Get More Reviews
Are you capturing reviews at all touchpoints, both online and offline? Audit and inventory your review collection process often. This is where the gold is found. Reviews, more than any other tool, allows your guests to do the marketing for you.
Revamp Blog Posts
At least 10x a day, we say “Quality over quantity” — and we’ll keep saying it until all marketers listen. There is too much content out there and your guests are feeling major content fatigue. As a result, you should focus on revamping your content more often than creating something brand new. Older content deserves it — it has gained traction and authority. It can always be more robust. Start with intent research for each keyword you’re going after and mimic what’s winning.
Capture New Imagery
The world does not look the same and your marketing photography needs to adapt. An expensive photoshoot is not needed here. Instead, phone photography and live footage will do. Bonus points if you have a drone. Keep a running list of ideas and spend time each month capturing how your visitors are experiencing your resort differently.
Never forget the power of user-generated content (UGC), either.
When was the last time you audited your own data stack? Clear conversion data is required more now than ever. Our advice? Pay an expert (an agency or freelancer). Of course, it will be on you to help them understand which metrics mean the most to your brand, so come to the table with a full list of your goals, things you want to improve, and a plan for better monthly reporting. Don’t forget the first-person data here, too. It will help inform new goals and custom reports.
5 Unique Resort Marketing Tips
We’re big believers in the constant testing of new ideas and we love working with resorts that believe in this, too. That’s why we’ve collaborated with our great client, Resort Collection, to come up with this list of unique resort marketing tips. (Oh hey, Lauren!)
Build a Bulletin Board
Fear of the unknown is real, so why not remove a lot of the unknown? Create an up-to-date bulletin board on your site with news and alerts. Don’t make them rummaging through your social media feeds to figure out exactly what’s happening today — from weather to COVID-19. Instead, create a page on your site that is very detailed, FAQ-style, and updated often. Let them breathe (and plan) easy.
Travel is still a luxury for many and we must try to make it more accessible. Begin by targeting your neighbors who could easily make a day, overnight, or long weekend trip by driving to your resort. Build a ‘travel is within reach’ ongoing campaign. Speak to the ‘why’ (they deserve this trip!) in paid ads. Include drive-time estimates or create a blog post that maps out exactly what they could do each day and how much it would cost. Make it an easy decision for them and they will make it easier to market to people just like them (look-alike audiences for the win!).
Content for the Far in the Future Visitor
People will be searching differently for the foreseeable future. Watch what they are coming to your site for (via Site Search or Google Search Console) and build content just for this future visitor. Keep the vacation dream alive, even if you are extending the normal runway a bit.
Again, remove the fear factor about traveling to or staying at your resort. It may take systemic business change or small tweaks to your site. As the voice of the guest, you have the power to voice their concerns. Figure out their fears and try to address them. That may mean big things like new linens or a creating a print-out of your safety guidelines they can share with their fellow travelers.
For example, our client Resort Collection adapted quickly. Their marketing team pushed for extremely flexible booking dates and it’s paying off in ways we may never be able to measure. But if it’s what’s right for today’s guest, it will be easy to advertise.
Be Willing to Chat (Insert Empathy)
Whatever you do, make connecting with your brand easy. Do you have chat installed on your site (with a real person, not a bot)? Do you have someone monitoring your social media feeds every day? Is it obvious what time people will be answering the phones to answer questions? Simple things like this can add a personal touch and make your brand more accessible. Isn’t that the end goal for all of us: to make our brands feel like a good friend they can trust?
From One Resort Marketer to Another
There has never been a better time to change how we market. In the past, we may have relied too heavily on things that have ‘always worked’ and we didn’t amplify our visitors’ voices enough. We hope this list makes you feel empowered and ready to make changes that work for your visitors now. We’d love to hear what other new resort marketing tips you have, too!
And don’t forget to take some time for yourself soon. We know a great place to escape to.