It costs 6 times as much to find a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer (Understanding Customers by Ruby Newell-Legner). And according to Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, but the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%.
I’ve written previously about the ongoing efforts of tourism marketing professionals to promote the Adirondack region as a destination. From the I Love New York program to the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council to each County’s designated Tourism Promotion Agent (TPA), there are ongoing, comprehensive marketing strategies being implemented, with measurable results that are utilized to inform future efforts.
I’m sure it’s consistent in the other Adirondack counties, but as the accredited destination marketing organization for Essex County, we hear from individual businesses asking us to help them with marketing all of the time. And we do. Of course, we also develop programs and mechanisms for individual businesses to promote themselves within the framework of our overall regional marketing strategies.
For the most part, though, regional destination marketing efforts promote the Adirondack visitor experience equitably; without proprietary bias.
We’ll continue to do our job, but there are a LOT of ways that regional businesses can help to market themselves, and ideally, to retain customers.
Here’s some basics:
First, (and I shouldn’t have to write this but I know that there are some who can answer no): Do you HAVE a website to promote your business? If you do, does it accurately reflect the product you offer?
A home page filled with animated gif images, irrelevant copy in unreadable fonts is very 1995. Looks DO matter when it comes to websites. And content matters more.
Since over 90 percent of travel research is conducted online, it’s a good idea for tourism-related businesses to have a website; and a professional-looking website is now the standard. And there’s no excuse for having one of those 1995-era sites; sophisticated web design is far less expensive than it used to be. And there are plenty of resources at a variety of price points to meet the needs of any business.
Second, remember that old adage: ”the customer is always right”? Well, a successful business will make the appropriate investments to ensure that their product meets the expectations of the customer they hope to attract – and keep.
It’s important to keep an eye on commonly accepted industry standards. For instance, a lodging property with updated room decor and amenities has a head start on gaining repeat customers. However, a lodging property who is still charging for wifi access to the internet, promoting that they have color TV, and that does not accept credit cards is not going to be a competitive player in today’s marketplace.
And for those “mom and pop” businesses who are just hanging in there until they can retire; isn’t it a better retirement plan to invest in a business that can be sold as a successful turnkey product?
It is in a business owner’s best interest to listen to their customers and respond appropriately. The other day, I was paddling with an Adirondack hotel owner, who told me something that prompted my writing this article. She was talking about how she painted some of her hotel rooms with a “robin’s egg blue” accent color over the existing warm, green color, because she personally really liked the blue better. (In fact she loved the color so much that she painted her bedroom in her own house that same blue.)
Turns out, her customers didn’t like the color at all. How did she know that? By asking them. By talking to them directly or providing a mechanism for her customers to provide input (a simple in-room survey response card will do; collecting contact information and remaining in contact with them is better). Plus, her longtime repeat visitors purposely and specifically asked to stay in the rooms that were painted in the warmer, green color. Her response? She repainted the blue-accented rooms in the more popular green. And that level of responsive customer service translates directly into profit: happy, repeat customers represent about one-third of that hotel’s business.
Are you participating in social media?
Today, third party validation doesn’t come from the media; it comes from your customers. Consumers are empowered to avoid traditional advertising, find their own information and share their opinions. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, TripAdvisor or Yelp, decisions are made based on friends’ and others’ recommendations. And as business owners and destination marketers, we have the power to be part of the conversation in real time.
My advice to businesses: invest in your product, and whether you outsource or learn how to manage your own, invest in your marketing skills. And remember, it is far less expensive to retain a happy customer than to attract a new one.
Just as a destination’s brand is what the customer thinks it is, meeting or surpassing customer expectations will result in customer loyalty. And in today’s word-of-mouth-powered marketplace, those loyal customers will not only come back; they’ll bring their friends.
Now THAT’s a real return on investment.