Six tips to be more cost effective as a place brand and marketing organisation

With our economic future uncertain, many DMOs and EDOs will be tightening their belts right about now. We’ve spoken before about the importance of continuing to advertise during a crisis, but when every dollar matters, ensuring that you maximise the return on that dollar’s investment is crucial.

Here at City Nation Place, we’ve always been firm believers that a cohesive, collaborative place brand strategy can be the foundation for a quicker recovery and a more resilient future. If you continue to promote your place values, and if you stay true to your place brand strategy, then the authenticity and individuality of your marketing rockets.

What else should places be doing though? We reached out to six experts to get their top tips for destination marketing and economic development organisations looking to increase the cost efficiency of their actions.


1. Work smarter, not harder

Do fewer things better and find ways to work smarter, rather than harder. Who else will benefit from your place promotion? Collaborate with the private sector, with the universities and with other places in your region to make budgets, and your story, go further. People are already making content about your place – how can you harness and focus this to support your aims?

Mary Harris, Managing Director, M&C Saatchi


2. Leverage your data more effectively – and reevaluate your KPIs.

While a full recovery is going to take time for the tourism industry, it's wise for destinations to stretch budgets by leveraging what they already have - their first party data. DMOs have access to website and social media analytics, CRM data, email opt-in lists, etc. This data is something that can build on itself over the years as well as support other marketing efforts since destination marketers can then reach their intended audiences more efficiently.

We also recommend using this challenging time as an opportunity to simplify marketing metrics to focus on KPIs that drive overall growth and engagement. Determine which KPIs are the most important and plan your marketing strategies accordingly. And remember, one of the strengths of digital marketing is its flexibility. Be agile and continually evolve your marketing plan in step with recovery.

Jason Swick, VP of Strategy & Insights, Simpleview


3. And while you’re at it, take the time to refresh your data too

In this time of volatility and travel restrictions, the wise use of freshly updated data is fundamental when trying to understand which current markets and audiences you should be targeting. We all are suffering strong budget limitations due to COVID-19, and spending in data might appear daunting at first, but I am certain this is the only way to maximise the impact of your marketing campaigns (and budgets!) and the ROI in the medium/long term run.

Emilio Ines Villar, VP of Destinations, Forward Keys


4. Leverage partnerships and collaboration to extend the reach of your actions

DMOs, particularly in England, have long been in the position of working and collaborating with others to supplement meagre budgets. This is true now more than ever before and a great example is our “Secret Garden of England” consumer confidence campaign for Kent which launched at the end of August.

Contributions from public and private sector partners enabled Visit Kent to expand the budget into one that brought a greater audience reach and lengthen the campaign period. We were also lucky enough to secure further financial help from the government as part of their Enjoy Summer Safely programme. Individually we may be unable to do all we want to but working together we can achieve more and make 2+2=5.

David Curtis-Brignell, Deputy Chief Executive, Go To Places/Visit Kent/Visit Herts


5. Be precise in your marketing. The more granular, the more effective.

Although the number of travellers may be lower than normal, many have still travelled this summer or are looking for inspiration for when they are able to holiday again therefore destinations must remain active and front of mind to avoid others filling that void. Maximising owned digital channels, particularly social media, will allow destinations to stay relevant and inspire at a low cost.

When it comes to spending marketing budgets then focus is the top tip – understanding who you are targeting and how, concentrating on a group that are most likely to travel and interested in your destination. This is good marketing practice anyway but, with budgets likely to be tighter, understanding your best prospects and targeting them in channels they use is most effective. Of course the other element is appreciating that this group of most likely travellers may have changed since the pandemic (such as being closer to your location) and the things that will be important won't only be the features of a holiday but safety and security measures too.

Tim Lawrence, Head of Strategy and Planning, iCrossing


6. Think outside the box.

When looking to stretch a budget, elements of pragmatism and creativity will help deliver results. For example, practical actions could include ensuring your websites are updated and engaging, maximising existing databases, and making sure you are highly focused in targeting genuine prospects.

However, cities, regions and nations need to think more creatively too. Communicating in partnership with other brands will stretch budget and reach. Using your local populace to create social media content can also be an effective strategy whilst looking to leverage PR opportunities with media outlets can also yield savings and increased reach. Why not look to reach out to your loyal audiences and offer referral bonuses, getting your ultimate advocates to do your marketing for you?

Most importantly, whatever path you choose, make certain you remain true to your brand or risk squandering your sparse resources.

Gary Bryant, Executive Director – Strategy, Landor


Related reading

The roadmap for sustainable recovery

Future-proofing our cities against 21st century crises | Interview with Jonathan Woetzel, Director, the McKinsey Global Institute

People make places: rebuilding from the inside out

Has the pandemic killed soft power?

The politics of space, culture, and placemaking in post-COVID place branding

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