This page guides you through the three steps to effective marketing, with a focus on those trying to rebuild their tourism business after a crisis event.
Step 1: Review your markets
Knowing who your markets are before an emergency strikes gives you a head start when recovering from an emergency.
Do you know:
- where your visitors are from - by country, state?
- the email and postal addresses of previous visitors?
- how your customers found out about you?
- what your visitors like to do in the area?
Gathering answers to such questions about your market will assist you in actioning effective marketing opportunities if an emergency occurs.
It's easy to keep records of contact information for previous visitors. By maintaining a database of this information, you can:
- build a profile of your customers and their visitation patterns to help you make decisions about marketing and product development that are tailored to the needs of your markets
- build your relationships with previous customers by contacting them with information about special offers or new products
- have access to the contact details of people who have already shown interest in your business, and who are likely to be more receptive to your promotions
Email addresses are especially useful after an emergency to provide you with an instant, cost-effective marketing opportunity to get a message out quickly to people who already know about your business, and who could be encouraged to return again.
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Which markets recover faster than others?
The experiences of different businesses recovering from a crisis show that some markets recover faster than others. How markets respond will depend on the type of crisis.
If some of your usual markets are staying away, you:
- may be able to attract new markets that can generate business, e.g. if short-break weekenders are staying away from a bushfire-affected area, events based on food and wine or music can be used to generate interest in visiting the area or business again
- can encourage your more loyal, repeat visitors to come back
- can focus on market segments that are less deterred by the specific type of emergency.
Sometimes those looking for a bargain can provide a short-term market to stimulate cash flow if you decide to discount your prices.
Do your homework
Work out which markets you should target in the short-term after the emergency to get business going again by completing the Reviewing your markets (PDF 31.53 KB), and include this table in your new Marketing action plan template (PDF 18.9 KB).
Case study – 5 Star Adventure Tours, Alpine National Park
Operators of 5 Star Adventure Tours, Tracy Walker and Daniel Boissevain, are business survivors of the 2006 bushfires that broke out in the Alpine National Park.
One of their successful recovery activities was to draw on the relationships they had established with previous guests. Since starting the business three years prior, they had retained information about all previous guests and, with their permission, had kept in touch with them to promote new tours and products.
When fires burned through sections of the Park and tours had to be cancelled, cash flow to the business ground to a complete halt. After tours were able to recommence and they had to get word out quickly that they were back in business, Daniel sent out a special offer to previous guests to book a tour and dinner by paying a 50 per cent upfront deposit, with the remainder payable when they took the tour in the next 18 months.
As many of these visitors had formed special bonds with Daniel and Tracy while on tour, they were only too willing to help. "Our previous guests were a lifesaver for the business," said Daniel. "Around this time, turnover was down to zero and they helped to keep money flowing in to pay the bills."
Step 2: Discounting or value-adding?
After an emergency incident, discounting can be a useful strategy to stimulate cash flow. If you decide that discounting is a good option, consider the following questions:
- How long will you offer the discount - one week, one month or a season?
- What will the value of the discount be?
- Can you cut costs and make some money while offering the discount, or will the discount create cash flow but mean that you operate at a loss?
- How will the discount be offered? For example, will it be a price reduction or a buy one, get one free?
Research suggests that if you discount, it should only ever be for limited periods, otherwise customers will come to expect the discounted price as the norm. Also, if you discount too heavily, it may damage people's perception of your product, giving the impression that it is of cheap quality. The more luxurious the product or service, the greater the risk of undermining your brand if you discount your prices.
An alternative to discounting, but with some similar issues, is value-adding. This involves including additional products or services (for example a picnic hamper or cheese platter) for the same or slightly higher price.
It can be a way of making your product offer more attractive but still attaining the full price for your product or service. This may make the business less vulnerable to unsustainable cost-cutting.
Deciding the best option for you
Whether value-adding or discounting, a better way of generating turnover after an emergency can depend on the type of product you offer and the price sensitivity of your markets. If you run an upmarket restaurant, you would be more likely to protect the restaurant's brand if you provided extras for free, rather than discounted the meals which could create an impression of the restaurant being cheap or of lesser quality.
However, if you run a caravan park that has a large number of on-site vans, cabins and tent sites, lowering your rates is much less likely to be associated with a lesser quality experience. Your market may already be price sensitive and attracted to your budget accommodation so you are not contradicting the reputation of your business by providing a discount.
Do your homework
Work out any changes to your prices or value-adds to your product or service that you want to put in place.
Step 3: Proactive marketing
People can stay away from your business after an emergency for a range of different reasons. The key is to understand what these reasons are and to address them through your promotions.