Ways to help you turn on the visitor tap

The extra-squeezed marketing budget. The run of bad weeks. The good weather keeping people from your indoor attraction. The bad weather keeping people from your outdoor attraction. The lack of support from tourism bodies. Whatever the reason, falling short of your expected visitor numbers is a horrible feeling. The question is, what can you do to turn the tide – and turn it quickly?

The first thing to say is, keep calm. The second thing to say is, you’re not alone – VisitEngland’s latest tourism figures show just 31% of visitor attractions reported more visitor numbers during Easter 2018 vs 2017, and a sizeable 56% a decrease. And the third thing to say is, we’ve got practical and cost-effective measures for how you can relieve the pressure and get more bookings, more quickly. Measures we’ve learned and honed through working with some of the UK’s largest (and smallest) visitor attractions.

But before we go into what those measures are, it goes without saying that if you haven’t already, you need to embrace the idea of digital. Digital should be an absolutely essential part of your marketing strategy, but in times of crisis, give it a proper bear hug for two main reasons:

  1. No other channel will give you the reach, penetration or precise exposure to the right audiences you need to boost immediate bookings.
  2. You’re in complete control – you can see what is and isn’t working and adjust your approach quickly and effectively. And of course, there’s no lost time waiting for stuff to come back from the printers!

So assuming you’re thinking ‘digital’ first’, here are some things you can do:

  1. Smarten up your shop window

How up to date and smart is your website? If your online presence looks tired and dog-earred, people are likely to think the same about your attraction. Optimise for mobile too, as more and more of us find ourselves researching on the move. And of course, link your site to Facebook and Instagram – the two most popular platforms visitors look to when researching attractions – along with TripAdvisor, Twitter and Pinterest.

  1. Make life easier for everyone – you included

Offer direct booking from your website. If people worry (even slightly) they won’t be able to get in, they’re unlikely to turn up at all. So remove barriers to booking by making the process easy and convenient. According to VisitEngland’s research, 93% of visitor attractions have websites, but only 29% offer online booking. Add this to your website and you’ll immediately stand out from most of the competition. At the very least you’ll catch up with them, so no bad thing. You can find out more about the different ways to set up online bookings in VisitBritain’s Digital Marketing toolkit.

  1. Bring your attraction to life

Show people why they should visit and highlight anything new, using video and images. Then push this to the right audiences ­– eg, people checking in/tagging themselves nearby and other potential visitors. In other words, make sure people who know and love you see this content and give them a reason to share it with their friends. You can also take advantage of content your visitors create, and we’ve got some advice on how to make more of user generated content (UGC).

  1. To pay or not to pay…

There are plenty of ways to reach new audiences using paid media. These include ads targeting people searching on Google for things to do or local events, or people interested in similar attractions/competitors, or people nearby your attraction. Use the data you have on your customers to build a profile to help segment and target your audience more specifically. Perhaps use Facebook’s lookalike audience to do this for you?

If your key challenge is brand awareness, or if you’re a fairly new attraction, then it’s definitely worth considering paid media. Yes, it’s more expensive, but well-targeted ads on the right platforms will showcase your attraction to the right people at the right time. And if you include a direct booking link (and maybe an incentive?) in your ads, you’ll be giving previous or prospective customers even more reasons to book. You may need to play with this approach, but once you’ve nailed it the targeting is second to none and often extremely cost-effective.

       …If you pay, go with Google… or Facebook

If you decide paid media is the answer, the best digital platforms to drive immediate bookings are Google Ads (search with display option) and Facebook (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Facebook Audience Network). But make sure you optimise your ads for conversion. Here’s how:

  1. Select the ‘Conversions’ option in the ‘optimisation’ section beneath the bidding)
  2. Add a tracking code to your website to help each platform find you the visitors most likely to buy tickets, and track the success of your campaign
  3. The Facebook tracking code (also called a pixel) is in your advert manager under ‘audiences’
  4. For the Google tracking code, click ‘tools’ in AdWords and select ‘Conversions’ under measurement
  5. Add both tracking codes between the <head> tag on each page of your website.

We’d also always recommend A/B testing your targeting and creative to help understand your audience and drive a higher return on investment.

However, if paid media is beyond your budget and you’re a non-profit, you might be eligible for a Google Ad Grant, which offers up to $10,000 a month to spend on Google Ads.

  1. Lastly, watch the numbers

Watch the results of your activity. Turn off what isn’t working and turn up what is. If you see your visitor numbers starting to fall, or struggling to get off the ground compared to a typical year, make sure you have a plan. There’s no point waiting till halfway through what’s supposed to be your busy time before acting.

So if you haven’t already, start scoping out the costs and benefits of the above. We’d suggest prioritising points 2, 3 and 5. Point 2 will take slightly longer that the others, granted, but you can start on points 3 and 5 almost immediately, and reap the benefits sooner.

In summary

Embrace digital, make sure ensure your website’s at the top of its game, don’t neglect social media and TripAdvisor, offer online bookings and, if you can afford it, use online ads to target potential visitors.

Or if you’re really up the you-know-where, without a you-know-what, you could always give Simon a call on 0117 440 0500 or email simon@digitalvisitor.com.