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This month’s Modern Marketing column is a call to action for state executives to work closely with individual parks, developing and disseminating content that helps keep the dream alive.
A European colleague of mine, Eicke Schuumerman, executive director of LeadingCampings of Europe, recently sent me a promotional video from the German National Tourist Board called “Dream Now – Visit Later #DiscoverGermanyFromHome” (https://youtu.be/3sbU567-6Sk). The video, seen by over 24 million viewers, focuses on what people are dreaming about experiencing once travel is restored. They’re dreaming about beautiful towns and captivating cities, meeting friends, making memories, enjoying unspoiled nature and the great outdoors.
As I watched, I thought about our guests and prospects, just like the whole world, dreaming of upcoming travels. I imagined them eagerly researching their next camping/RV adventure, looking at videos and photos, connecting with destinations and other campers, inspired but anxious by today’s circumstances. As industry marketers, it’s our job to not only keep the dream alive but to also shine some light, boosting their imagination and anticipation. To that end, what actions should we be taking?
In my last column, I briefly touched on state camping directories and the possibilities they can bring about. There are several benefits to taking advantage of these state association workhorses, using them to develop exciting trip planning materials that beg to be saved and shared.
If you look at it from a digital marketer’s standpoint, a state camping directory is a treasure trove of content. It might contain camping stories, testimonials, product recommendations, recipes, regional information, maps, and more. Individually, each one of these topics is designed to reach a specific consumer, piquing their interest and prompting action.
For example, TACO’s Texas Campgrounds 2020 guide is themed Texas Traditions. Think world-famous Texas BBQ, happenings such as rodeos and dances, even cowboy boots and other Texas-centric shopping. In 2020, Camp-California chose to focus on ghost towns, as well as other iconic California dreams. Maine’s mighty 2020 directory is rich with stories about the many wonders of Maine from lighthouses to lobsters to lakes. It’s this content, if not fully developed then certainly outlined, that motivates traveler decisions.
The one-size-fits-all approach of a single directory could be augmented by following the example of successful visitor bureaus, offering stand-alone, collectible guides focusing on regions, activities, or interests – each guide its own entity, complete with its own advertising. These might take the shape of mini-magazines or short PDFs. Rather than going to the expense of printing, these targeted guides could be offered as a digital product, printed by the reader if desired. Think of it as an online version of walking into a state visitor center. Yes, there’s the all-inclusive state guide but you’ll also find detailed information for specific interests.
Let’s use Florida’s outstanding visitor website as an example. In addition to their info-packed Official Florida Vacation Guide, VisitFlorida has carved out a Florida Fishing Guide, Florida Golf Guide, and has even partnered with our very own Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds to provide an RV park and campground directory.
Another possibility may be for state associations to offer PDF versions of the most popular brochures and flyers available to guests across the state, in partnership with the brochure publishers, usually attractions and other such entities. Savvy ad sales reps might even charge a small fee to distribute this information to website visitors while at the same time serving guests relevant and useful information in one easy and convenient location.
Expanding the Web
Even if developing stand-alone guides isn’t in the cards, state association webmasters can still utilize this content for the benefit of the association, its member parks, and camping consumers. The research and writing work has already been done, now it’s a matter of organization and layout. Take advantage of what’s been published by reviewing current and past directories, creating a written content inventory, organizing it into topics, and developing website categories for those stories.
TravelOregon.com does a brilliant job of this by building a cascade of content built on single topics. For example, bicycling aficionados can click on the front-page Bicycling or Outdoor Adventures panel and discover several different biking options throughout the state, mirroring content found in the Visitor Guide.
State associations can follow this lead with their unique content including building campfires and campfire cooking, hiking/walking and plant identification, city tours and public transportation, etc. Member parks can benefit by teasing the content, both with text and images, and linking to the state association’s associated webpages, with full attribution, of course.
Maximizing What’s Inside
And then there’s fulfilling good old fashioned digital marketing needs. Smart parks and associations can piece out ready-made information from their directories to assist in filling their content marketing calendar. After all, every park needs something interesting to say. Every state directory is brimming with relevant news. It’s an ideal partnership.
From e-newsletters to Facebook, Instagram, and blogs, this modern marketing tactic hand-delivers those oh-so-challenging pieces of info needed to fill the ‘what to post’ slots. Entire guides, regional or topical guides, individual activities and events mentioned in the guide(s) or brochures and flyers, stories, recipes, and anything else the guide(s) cover that may pique interest in an outdoor vacation is perfect for posting.
When utilizing this content add links, images, and attribution if necessary. The links can be directed to a state association webpage or to an individual park’s site depending on where the information is housed.
Spreading the message of outdoor hospitality experiences, getting eyes on the directories, and enticing an internet audience to keep the dream alive is the name of the game. And what marketer doesn’t love discovering relevant content to share at will. It’s a win-win-win. Make your state camping directory do double or even triple duty. Market every inside detail of that guide. Remember, we’re looking to turn the dreamers into doers. What part will you play?