At MyTravelResearch.com we do a lot of stakeholder research – and a lot of industry workshops. One of the things we hear a lot from small tourism businesses is that they hate spending time on marketing (especially digital marketing) when they could be doing ‘real’ work and that customers prefer face-to-face contact rather than digital connection anyway.
I’m not going to get started on all the ways that marketing is ‘real work’ if you run a tourism business. (Well I am – but that will be a separate blog piece.)
The fact remains that 70% of all customer purchase journeys begin with what Google calls ZMOT: the zero moment of truth. That ZMOT is search. This is not just millenials/Gen Y/Z. Our sexy seniors are the fastest growing group on the internet and they told us last year that search is the number one way they get inspiration for travel. I had the wonderful experience of sitting next to a granny in twin set and pearls navigating her iPad in the Thai Business Lounge in Bangkok a few years ago who personified this spirit.
Furthermore, Google’s evidence from across the globe is that travel leads and drives this use of search. Search after all is exactly what it says: the search for inspiration or enlightenment – all the things we in travel deliver in spades…
But the good news is that the digital world is coming to meet you halfway. Last year, Google quietly changed its search algorithm. That update is the culmination of a process that we at mytravelresearch.com felt for some time had to come eventually: the personalisation – no the ‘individualisation’ – of search.
Historically what you found on search was a combination of many things but mostly how many people have searched for the keywords it contains and how many links it had. But gradually the enormous amount of information that search generates has enabled us to start understanding what people are searching for and predict what they really need.
It’s not perfect yet, but basically search now (and not just on Google) is really like seeking advice from the friend who not only knows everything about the subject, but also knows exactly what your tastes are AND has no other thought than to give you exactly what you need. It’s a sobering thought, but Google these days may know me better than my partner of nearly 30 years. (If only I could train Google to do the ironing as well as he does …)
As such, search is really now at a ‘back to the future’ moment. Good digital marketing now is really like the days when the world of marketing was all about word of mouth recommendation and face-to-face contact. Except that now that world is without boundaries. Before, it that sort of marketing was limited to those who had already stayed with you and the three people they told. (Remember in the old days happy customers told three people, unhappy people told ten!) Now the customer who posts a review on TripAdvisor, the digital edition of your local paper’s article on the prize draw you gave to Rotary last year, the photos of the kids gathering eggs at your farmstay that were posted on Facebook or Google+, the amazing photos of the dawn you posted on your website and the listing you have on your state tourism’s website are all working together to tell a story about how amazing you are to anyone in the world who is looking for what you have to offer. And it’s happening 24/7 with no penalty rates and while you are off leading tours, cooking breakfasts, meeting your current guests or whatever your ‘real’ work is….
The purpose of this article is to inspire those of you who are reluctant digital marketers that this really is your time. To tell you why you should want to make that effort. It’s because now digital marketing really is you, interacting one on one – and as you’ve always know that’s the best marketing.