For destination marketers, the race is on for tourists’ attention for the spring summer season – and beyond.

With organic reach increasingly restricted across many social networks, extending the potential audience of your “Visit Us This Year” campaigns should be a major priority for all destinations – big and small.

A great tactic that can deliver big benefits for short term reach and longer term community growth at minimal cost is to partner with brands who share your target audience.

By carefully planning high quality partnerships for your destination campaign you can:

Indeed the right approach is a win for you, a win for the partner and a win for your customers – at more or less no cost to any party.

At heart, it’s a simple concept but what’s the best approach to secure the right brand and ensure success?

Here’s the anatomy of how we do it, broken down in six steps:

  1. Audience & prize: It’s all about your audience and what they might like!

The obvious place to start is with who the exact target of your promotion is – and what you are offering them as a reward for entering.

Then have a think about what they will be doing when they’re enjoying winning the prize. For destinations, it might involve a day out or travel, but put yourself in the prize winner’s shoes!  This will guide the kind of complimentary prize you could offer and that in turn guides which brands you should target.

If you can make the partner prize really relevant and combine the two rewards in people’s minds then you’re onto a winner, though this isn’t always a “must have” for simply delivering reach.

Case study: For Visit Isle Of Wight, we ran an autumn campaign for families and couples to experience a fun packed Halloween weekend on the Island. Britain’s weather being what it is, we wanted to partner with a classic high-quality outdoor brand that took the discomfort of a rainy day away and also delivered great British values.  Barbour fitted the bill perfectly. Read more about this campaign here.

  1. Brands: Which businesses offer the right products and reach the exact same audience?

Often partner brands and businesses will be obvious choices – but others might require a little more exploration and thinking. We often send an email round our team detailing the client and prize, asking for ideas. The results can be surprising, but sometimes a bit of lateral thinking can give you a great list to work with. Aim for 8-10 partners to consider, then build yourself a spreadsheet with each one listed.

  1. Shortlist: A key stage that takes a bit of thought and consideration.

Shortlisting is all about audiences and engagement. As reach is what you are after, you’ll want a partner with a big community in the right channels – and Facebook and Twitter both are key.  To maximise organic reach, you’ll want plenty of engagement on those profiles too. Look for regular outbound messaging from the brand – and replies, retweets, likes and comments coming back in from customers.

Add audience numbers to your spreadsheet – then a rating for engagement on a scale of 1-10.  Once you’ve got a sense of who’s got both – plus great relevant products – shortlist down to 2 to 3 prime targets.

Now onto the pitch!

  1. Outreach: Context and personalisation are key.

We use a key member of our sales team to pitch for partners – and he’s always come up trumps – but it’s possible for anyone with a bit of outreach or commercial negotiation experience to cover this area.

Prepare a support document, with details of what you can offer the brand you are targeting.

For this you should answer the following questions:

Now find the right contact at the brand. They will usually be in marketing and often be a budget holder – but key will be their responsibility to promote their brand the way you are promoting yours. We use LinkedIn for getting these contacts – but a polite call to the switchboard at target brand HQ can be a good start too.

As with all outreach (and especially outreach in social) – personalise and contextualise your emails or phone contact as much as you can. Check out whether they have any current brand campaigns running – or possibly a new product launch that your activity might compliment – and refer to these in your outreach.

These details can be key to opening the door!

  1. Negotiate and close: Don’t give away too much to get what you want!

Mindful of your aim, the right brand and product and the right audience is worth a lot, but it isn’t worth losing commercial perspective. Remember the same audience can be reached through well planned media spend – but the credibility that comes with an “official sanction” of a partner brand is worth a lot in social.

If you’re using the right mechanic, the main chip you have to play that every brand marketer wants is high quality “opt-In” data. For many brands this is the golden nugget!

Our campaigns usually deliver 35% opt-in data for partners and at practically no cost to them, the cost per acquisition will be the best they’ll ever get for high quality names and email addresses.

You can also offer them some residual traffic benefits and mention audience growth too – but data is your key bargaining tool. Trade it against your key requirements in the deal with confidence.

What we always ask for from the partner is:

Close the deal with an agreement email that maps out who will do what when and then get planning!

  1. Management and results: Deliver what you promised!

The golden rule here is ‘the closer you can work with the partner – the better results you’ll both get!’

You must include them in your promotion’s prize Terms & Conditions – but you usually don’t have to give them sign off on creative.

Then be sure to deliver the best you can against the plan. Especially take responsibility for timely fulfilment of shared opt-in data and prizes to your winners too – as the partner brand’s reputation is at stake too!

So that’s how we do it. 

It can feel like an effort – but partnerships with Samsung, Trunki, Merrell, Osprey, Marriott Hotels, First Great Western and Samsonite for successful campaigns with the likes of Visit Jersey, Visit Essex, Visit Isle Of Wight, Visit Wiltshire and more have shown us the value of this approach.

Remember – when it comes to delivering credible, authentic, high value organic reach for your campaigns – partnerships can deliver like nothing else.

We have a strong track record of successfully working with complementary brands that could provide additional exposure and incentives for your campaign. So, contact us to work with the best commercial partners and maximise your destinations visibility this summer.