NOTE: I previously shared with you my thoughts on 10 marketing trends that I plan to focus on in 2015. Of those 10 trends, I plan to break each one of them down into its simplest form so that you can understand it and implement it in your own destinations or places of business.

As a little boy, I was always fascinated with reading. I would read books and the newspaper all the time, because I loved the story. Stories have a special connection to the emotions of consumers. If the story is written and told the right way, that potential consumer can see themselves experiencing or purchasing the product.

In destination marketing, destinations are in a unique space, because they have the ability to inspire and influence the potential traveler at the top of the travel planning funnel. They have the power to tell a story that puts the potential traveler in their destination. In past years, destinations would rely solely on the top-level attributes of their destination, touching on beaches, museums, parks, restaurants and other attractions. But that needs to change. Travelers today are looking more and more for that personal experience with the destination. They want to be engaged with the destination as a local. It’s that whole “travel like a local thing”. Anyone can find the top level things to do in any city, but what are the off-the-beaten-path things your city offers that can blow a potential traveler’s mind? This is where destination brands will be successful. Destinations need to work more on developing their brand story to peel back the layers, and create more engaging content for the potential traveler.

Here are four ways you can enhance your destination brand story:

  1. Know your story. Before you can enhance your destination story, you need to know who you are and who you are for. Get away from the family-friendly messaging of beaches, museums, parks, restaurants and other attractions, that 99% of the destinations use and uncover the 3-5 key attributes that really set you apart from the rest of the destination marketing world.
  2. Have ongoing focus groups. Use your local hospitality community and past visitors to develop focus groups where they can share their experiences, thoughts and comments about the destination. The information that comes out of focus groups, can affirm what you already know, tell you what you don’t know, or provide you with opportunities to develop something new down the road.
  3. Exploit your locals. Most destinations benefit from VFR travel (Visiting Friends and Relatives), so allow your locals to be a part of the destination story. As a destination marketer, YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING. Matter of fact, you can’t know everything. Allow the locals to share an insider’s view and help you better market your destination. Get your local mixologists and chefs to share what they love, because they actually travel quite a bit to share their craft of mixology and cooking at bars and restaurants around the world.
  4. Stay the course. When telling a destination story, you never really know how it is going to end. And if you have uncovered your true destination story, you really shouldn’t see an end in sight. There will be times in the story where you are writing some chapters as they are happening – and that’s okay. What you don’t want to do is write all the chapters at once with no opportunity for revisions. You don’t want to write the end of the story before you’ve had to time to really read all of the pages along the journey.

What do you plan to work on to enhance your destination brand story?

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