DIY Marketing Pt. 2 — Winter 2022

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In Part 1 of “DIY Marketing” (API Fall 2021), we examined how to craft your message, which involves the preliminary legwork of creating a unique value proposition, studying the competition, writing marketing copy, and developing a branding package. Now that you’ve built the foundation for your brand and message, it’s time to get your message out. This involves what most people think of when they hear “marketing”—social media, online advertising, billboards, and other ways that you can spread the word about your business.

The good news is, this part of DIY marketing is more fun. The bad news? Everything comes at a cost, whether it’s time or money. But while costs for paid ads certainly can’t be avoided, there are opportunities for you to get the word out on your own without breaking the bank.

WEBSITE

Websites are part brochure and part salesperson—they provide exhaustive information about your business and encourage customers to book their experience right then and there.

The goal of most forms of advertising is to drive people to your website and, eventually, your booking page. There are two primary ways that people arrive at your website: by clicking through advertisements or finding it via online search. When it comes to an online search, the content of your website can be the very thing that gets new visitors to find it in the first place, through what many people consider the holy grail of 21st century marketing: search engine optimization, or SEO.

Whether you are building a new website or giving yours a revamp, here are some things that will give your site a degree of visibility:

Long-tail keywords: These are, quite simply, longer and more site-specific phrases that people are searching. An easy way to build up your SEO is to target a phrase like “adventure park [insert your town name here]” as opposed to simply trying to target the phrase “adventure park.” By including phrases like this in your website copy, you’ll get greater recognition among the audiences where it actually matters—your local and regional market.

Fresh content: The goal of Google’s SEO algorithms is to provide users with the most relevant content possible. Pages that have been updated in the past year, for example, will generally be prioritized over older pages. Improve your SEO by updating current pages or embedding a blog that you update with new posts. Even periodic spelling and grammar checks will indicate that a page was updated more recently.

Backlinks: This is basically when another (credible) website includes a link to yours. This could be built up through social media sites, by publishing online articles on external sites, or the old-fashioned way—building up reciprocal referrals with partner businesses. Entire books could be (and have been!) written on SEO, but these tips are a good place to start.

Your website should be mobile-optimized. More than 68 percent of all web traffic globally was on mobile devices in 2020, according to Google Analytics Benchmarking Software, and that number continues to increase. It’s also likely much higher in our industry, where most of our traffic comes from tourists, families, and other individual buyers who spend more of their free time on their phones than desktop devices.

We generally advise against going down the DIY road of building a website on your own. There are too many factors that could cause outages, broken links, or other problems that could ultimately debilitate your business. But you can still hold the keys to the kingdom for a website built by a developer. With login credentials, you can add your own pages, post blog articles, change content, and edit all of the components that you can manage on your own.

If you absolutely want to build your own website, consider a service like Weebly or Wix. These services are subscription-based and give you front-end design capabilities without needing to know html code. That said, you are ultimately on your own, and learning even these relatively easy interfaces can turn into a full-time job.

Bottom line: hire a developer, but get access to your site so that you can make the front-end changes on your own. This will give you plenty of DIY options while having the insurance policy of professional help.

SOCIAL MEDIA

While a web developer may be the ultimate answer to creating your website, there is plenty that you can do on your own with social media. For our purposes, we’ll focus on the four most popular nonchat-based sites: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. (Sorry, Twitter.)

There are two questions that you should have clarity on before you decide which site, or sites, to focus your efforts on: What content am I putting out? Who is my audience?

Content-wise, each site is best suited or built for different types of posts:

Facebook: Longer written posts, embellished with photos and videos, and robust business information.

YouTube: Longer videos.

Instagram: Photos/images.

TikTok: Shorter videos (up to 3 minutes, but primarily 15 seconds).

To determine which social media site to focus on, start by considering what type of content you can realistically create. For example, if you have an amazing photographer on your team but your collective writing skills are lacking, Instagram may be the place to start. Likewise, if you’ve never produced a video in your life, don’t start with YouTube.

Knowing the audience you’d like to target is equally as important in deciding which site to focus on. In general, their users are:

Facebook: Gen X, Boomers, and older adults. While the primary global demographic is ages 18-44, older adults (i.e., parents and grandparents with credit cards) are still more likely to be on Facebook than some of the other platforms.

Instagram: Millennials and younger adults. Two-thirds of users are age 34 or younger.

TikTok: It’s a growing user base, but the majority (60 percent) are between the ages of 16 and 24.

YouTube: This platform is the most widely accepted across all age groups.

Once you’ve determined who you want to reach and what kind of content you’re prepared to create, the next step is making it happen. For this, you need to figure out who is creating the content (shooting and editing photos and/or videos, writing copy, etc.) and who is managing the account(s).

Content creation can fall on one person, or you can crowdsource content, such as photos, from your guide staff. Crowdsourcing from staff can be a fun assignment, and you could also make a contest out of it to add some extra incentive. Same goes for video, especially if a staff member is also really good at using video editing software.

Managing social media accounts involves tasks like checking analytics, deciding when and what to post, and paying attention to comments and direct messages.

There are certainly opportunities to extend the account management reins to other members of your team, as long as everything is approved by you, a trusted senior team member, or your sales/ marketing person/department. Just don’t distribute the company’s Instagram login credentials at new guide training.

If nothing else, remember that social media is a place for content that adds value for your visitors, not a self-promotion tool. Be thoughtful about what you post. It’s easy to drum up interest so that followers click over to your website—and even easier for them to click the “unfollow” button.

PAID ADVERTISING

Technically, paid advertising falls outside of DIY marketing, given that you are paying external firms to get the word out for you. That said, there are still a few things that you can do on your own to ensure that you make smart advertising investments.

Market research can help you decide what kind of advertising you want to invest in for your business. Take a look at what other nearby businesses and competitors are doing. Do you live in an area where a lot of tourists stay in hotels? Then investing in rack card space might be a good place to start. Is your site close to a major thoroughfare that sees a lot of traffic? Then billboards might be a good consideration.

Online ads. A lot of businesses pay for Google Adwords or Facebook Ads and think they are done. But if you’re looking to capitalize on online advertising, there are ways to give your online ads some TLC. The more time you spend optimizing your campaigns by playing with location settings, word choices, banner ads and target images, the more likely you are to see success.

Finally, if you are going to pay for advertising in any form, be sure to test and measure what’s working. We’ll share plenty of tips on how to do that in the Spring issue of Adventure Park Insider.

IN-PERSON NETWORKING

Networking is a remarkably valuable advertising tool. Other local businesses can be your biggest source of referrals, especially if they offer a complementary service. If “networking events” make you cringe, start small—visit a local rafting company or bike shop and introduce yourself. A multitude of aerial adventure businesses partner with other outfitters to offer referrals and even packaged discounts.

If you want to take it a step further, join a local business association. Chambers of commerce tend to cater more toward local community-serving businesses, while convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) serve businesses designed for outside visitors and tourists. Not every CVB or chamber is going to provide a tremendous return, of course. But the cost of joining and the time investment in a one-hour monthly meeting will be a fraction of the cost of a billboard. And you never know what kind of referral partners you might meet.

Good press. Finally, if you want a quick way to drum up business in the comfort of your park or tour, host a free press day at the beginning of the season and invite local media to come out and enjoy the amazing adventure that you offer. It’ll require a fair amount of outreach to promote the event, but the return on investment in free press coverage—aka earned media—can pay dividends.

It takes some planning. You’ll want to make sure all of your operations are buttoned up, all questions are directed to you and the management team, and you have a media kit to distribute. The last thing that you want is for a new guide to give an unsolicited interview.

FOCUS IN

Above all, consider what marketing method(s) will work best given your current audience, skill set, and market. Managing all of these marketing channels is a full-time job in and of itself, so choosing one area to specialize in is likely to get you better results than trying to be a jack of all trades (and a master of, well, you know…).

Once you land on an area to specialize in and start putting your message out there, you need to measure whether your efforts are working. We’ll cover that in the Spring issue of Adventure Park Insider. In the meantime, good luck out there, and don’t forget: Attention spans are short, and less is more!

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