Beginner’s Guide to Place & Destination Marketing

Get Them Back!

How to make an impression on your visitors, reach their connections, and win their repeat visits.

If you want to completely hobble your business or event, the best way to do that is to ONLY market for awareness and new business. 61% of small businesses report over half of their revenue comes from repeat customers, and a repeat customer spends on average 67% more than a new one [Manta]. So why are so many people spending the majority of their budget on acquisition?

“Make a customer, not a sale.”

This is a guide on how and where you need to invest some marketing dollars to make that first visit a second visit, then a third visit, and then that all important 4th visit that signals a 70% likelihood you’ve converted a customer to a fan.

Free WiFi

Yes, it’s time – Cough it up.

Free WiFi is arguably no longer a “perk” rather, it has become an expectation. Lucky for (some of) you I am in the midwest and we haven’t, as of December 2018, fully caught up with the rest of the world, so it’s still a place you can stand out. It needs to be a decent speed. This is to earn, allow, and encourage a few things.

The first consideration is that not having WiFi, especially if you’re in a place with poor signal, is often the first groan when you visit a new place. It’s not going to LOSE your customers, but consider it a -1 that needs to be made up for.

Secondly we absolutely 100% want this new person to get on social media and check-in, review, post selfies, post food pics, etc, both for their followers and so that we can engage with them after the fact.

Third, we want them to get that e-hug of everyone liking their post when people like their amazing selfie or food pic because that will further enhance their experience. There’s nothing like a good shot of dopamine before a great burger.

Take The Deals Down.

Put the Password and Hashtag Up

You need to have your WiFi password, or how to connect to WiFi if it’s a landing page/check-in, CLEARLY posted. Do a walkthrough (I mean, you should be doing this once a month anyway) and look at your entry points, what’s the first thing people see? Where are “idle” spots? This could be a lobby, bathroom, lines, etc. These areas need to have an awesomely designed way to communicate a hashtag, encourage sharing, and a WiFi password – Poster, Chalk, Digital, whatever. Pick ONE unique hashtag. If this is an event: giant step and repeat banners cost less than a 1/4 page ad in the paper and almost always get action.

This “First” impression should never, ever, be a cheesy special or deal. Once they’re in the doors it’s about retention. It can be a little different in every location and instance but in general, the rule is “Deals outside, Engagement inside”

Lighting, Space, and Decor

Make your customers the hero

This is mainly a discussion for indoors, but it absolutely cannot be ignored. When I am meeting with a restaurant/retail client the FIRST thing I do is check out the bathroom, and only partly because I drink too much coffee. Your bathroom should be the most beautiful, well-lit part of your establishment. Seriously. You need great lights, great SPOTLESS mirrors, and beautiful background when looking in the mirror (Hopefully not toilets, but we can get creative with any space, restriction breeds creativity)

If you are spending any money at all on yellow pages, print, media, etc and don’t have great WiFi and fantastic bathrooms, divert that money. Why? If you make people feel beautiful, feel fantastic, it will make them happy. They will have a better date, a better experience, a better everything if they are feeling confident. Happy people share, but you have to make people exponentially happier than you have to make them angry to share.

After your bathrooms are amazing, worry about the rest of the light. Regardless of your product, you want people to be taking great photos to champion your brand on social media, even if they don’t know that’s what they are doing. This is a whole giant topic I think I should write about separately – but the keys are: Natural light from windows and doors wins, Find textures and surfaces that reflect light well and go with your decor, and the more sources of light the better. Tuck LED strip lights in crevices.

Identify First Timers

And court the hell out of them

There are 1,000,000 ways to do this, but if you don’t want to ask a professional or develop a program, the easiest way to identify customers is…Get ready for it. Open your mouth and ask. It’s literal insanity not to find out if they’ve ever been here and if so, do they have any questions. Now here’s where it gets interesting. Give them a differently colored wristband, do the old “Red Napkin” trick, etc. Everyone who works or volunteers for you needs to know what that identifying mark means and interact with them differently.

You can’t know what it’s like to interact with YOU the first time until you’ve interacted regularly with first-timers, you can try to be objective, and that’s a great start but it’s impossible to completely wipe what you already know out of the equation. Where are the bathrooms? What do I NEED to see? What’s different about your business than Wal-mart that I need to know? This is the data you need to create a phenomenal first experience. Secondly, there’s nothing worse than recognizing your waitress and saying hello and them treating you like they’ve never seen you before. If you are on your 2nd or 3rd visit you should be starting to feel like part of the tribe. If they don’t have a red napkin or wristband, you should be treating them like old friends.

A manager or leader needs to make a point to stop by the table with the red napkin (Or whatever your identifying mark is) and interact with them. Get some real feedback. Then you need a completely unique promotion or next step for them that ONLY gets given to 2nd timers. It’s OK to not be pushy, but say “Hey follow us on ___Platform___ if the opportunity arises. Oh, you like the wings – Have you tried our ribs? They’re every Tuesday – you gotta try the ribs. Here, come back next Tuesday. The first beers on me *hands business card with “free beer” handwritten on the back.

Again, everyone on your team should know “Free Beer” means 2nd visit. You can see where this is going.

Be Social

Be Real

Every night you should check your tags, hashtags, and check-ins. You need to then follow, like, and comment. If it’s a great photo – share it and praise the hell out of them. This opens a door for their connections as well as engages with the customer. Make them feel special and awesome because they are. When you share or repost a client photo this also encourages others to take their own photos and share their own stories and experiences. This is exactly what you want and 1,000 times more valuable than any ad could ever hope to be.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading

Experience is a passion of mine and a new direction for our firm in 2019, moving past branding and social media to get completely vertical with client-brand engagement. This is just a scratch on the surface of what you can do with a great location or event. Vala Marketing is a full-service branding and social media agency and we’re growing. If you need a new team on your team, let’s talk –