Marketing Difficulties. Stealing Market Share in a Sluggish Economy
From the Spring 2010 edition of Resort + Recreation magazine.
By Tom Dougherty
President & CEO, Stealing Share
Today’s destination travel and tourism business is currently, for many, a bear market. As is the case in investment trading during a bear market, an entire index of stocks is in decline, but a few select stocks will grow. While competitors scramble for a shrinking pool of tourism and recreation dollars, determining how to position your business as one of the chosen few is the secret.
Winning in this highly competitive environment often means forsaking those strategies that brought you success in the past. They may well be the messaging that spells disaster now because your competitive set grows in a downturn. For example, a spa today may very well be competing with a weekend resort for available dispoHsable income. A weekend resort might be competing with a night on the town.
If you simply market the benefits of a spa, you’re not creating preference for yourself. Rather, you’re attempting to create preference for the spa category at large, which may only slightly help your own business. Winning means doing something else.
Marketing Difficulties in Destination/Tourism
Today’s hospitality marketers must understand that travelers have changed. They are driven by right” rather than “best.” With “best” comes risk, and may not be believable anyway because most destinations claim to be best. How well you understand the difference between the emotional fabric of “right” and “best” will determine where your destination falls on the grid of success and failure.
It is important to keep in mind that every decision being made by the potential guest today is not being made in dollars and cents. Cost is not the final arbiter — value is. Be aware of that before you decide to fight back with discounts, price reductions and specials. Travelers are looking to get their money’s worth (what makes it more “right”) not what is the cheapest.
You will not fill rooms, tee times and massage tables with the same lead messages and offers as those of your competition. Begin to emotionally differentiate your business from the expanding competitive set. Eliminate the table stakes you have been touting for years as your lead message. A spa cannot be the preferred choice because it is relaxing, spiritual and calming; that is the definition of a spa, it is not the vehicle for preference. The question you must ask yourself is, “Why would target audiences seek relaxation, spirituality and calm?” Honesty and a cold calculating view toward your business model are required in today’s market.
Remember, promoting an enumerated list of your amenities does not make for a reason to choose your destination. Real experience, in a tough market, is found when prospective guests feel incomplete when they don’t choose you, because you have described who they are when they choose you. They must covet what you promise because the emotional self-description in your brand is what they aspire to be. Explain in context how your promise of who they believe they are is fulfilled by the amenities that you used to list as your differentiators. Now, the self-description of your customer is the differentiator. You’ve answered the question why you offer the things you do, which is more emotional than simply listing them. Now, your brand has become about the customer.
To execute this sort of persuasive brand message requires an investment. If you are to reflect your customers’ aspirations, fears, motivations and highest emotional sensitivities, then you must know what these elements are. You must be willing to slay any sacred cow that stands in your way to redefine your business (and brand) so that it is about the customer and not about you.
The good news is that by doing this in a methodical way, you will be one of the select few that win when others lose. Better yet, when the economy turns around, you will be propelled to greater heights than your competition. A great bear market stock has its act together. In a bull market, it is a juggernaut.