It’s important to build a two-way relationship with your members
The elements that set one destination apart from another could be its historical landmarks, specific geography or intangible characteristic like its ‘friendliness’. The businesses and attractions which are found within the destination are also crucial to reflecting the unique reasons to visit so it is vital to build a good relationship with the businesses that make up your destination in order to work together to best showcase what is on offer.
A destination website can be a useful conduit for enhancing your relationship with members and provide the perfect opportunity to keep in regular contact, check in with how the businesses are faring and find relevant ways to champion the businesses, which in turn, will champion the destination. It’s important to build a two-way relationship with your members in order to work together to create inspiring content, showcase the full breadth of your destination’s unique offer. Through a successful collaboration with members, your destination website will become the go-to website for accurate, practical information and inspiration – something which is mutually benefit for you as destination marketers as well as the businesses that are represented.
Get the fundamentals right. On a practical front, a destination website should be well-maintained with up-to-date, accurate information and give its end user an excellent experience so they return again and again to your website for information about the destination. The ultimate goal is to be the ‘go-to’ authority for your destination. Having a great SEO strategy will ensure top rankings in Google search as well as making sure the content and practical details on your website are well maintained to reduce bounce rates for visitors once they get to your site. Basics like ensuring a logical site structure with clear navigation coupled with good site speed will ensure it is not a frustrating process for users when they are searching around your website for the information the need. Obviously in 2020, it’s vital to ensure your website is mobile responsive so that it provides as good an experience for the users’ ‘on the go’ moments as well as when they are taking their time to plan their journey or be inspired by your destination.
By providing a reliable and accessible service as a destination website which functions as it should – providing relevant, up to date information and inspiration – your users are certain to be back and this will in turn honour your current members who are listed as well as attract new potential businesses members.
Part of having a successful destination website is ensuring there are fleshed out, comprehensive and well-written business listings to inspire and inform users. Not only does this provide the user with relevant information, it will also support your wider SEO work across the website to enable more visibility from organic search. Aside from these website considerations, a quality business listing will best reflect your members and could be a manageable way for you to set your members apart from non-members on your website. Some of your smaller business members or independent venues may not have a lot of resource or marketing expertise – having a quality and well-maintained listing on a destination website could drastically improve their digital presence too and demonstrate in a tangible way, the benefits of membership.
There are considerations to make though when creating a more comprehensive listing on your website. There will be (perhaps smaller) businesses or new businesses that are not members but would still reflect your overarching goal of providing a website that reflects the best of your destination. A hierarchy of listing – for example, enhanced, more prevalent and comprehensive for members will encourage other businesses to get involved with what you are doing and perhaps sign up too.
There is nothing more annoying than finding a broken link or having to click through lots of pages before you get to the right bit of information. Ensure that when you add a business or event listing to your destination, you are linking the user directly to the most relevant information on your member’s website. A clear CTA such as a ‘Book Now’ button that links to the business’ book now section (rather than a more generic landing page) seems obvious but will help to minimise user frustrations and maximise conversions for your member business. Accurate links and clear CTA's – whether that's to a booking link, more information about the business, or a way to contact the business directly – will help to drive traffic from the destination website to the member’s website.
Plug ins to your website such as an online event submission form, will alleviate the pressure from your team but also ensure that your members are given more opportunity to be represented across your website. Keep your online submission form quick and easy as no one likes a lengthy form! Event listings on the destination website are a vital way to keep users coming back for more and also is a simple way to multiple a business’ profile across the website. Encourage your members to upload their events themselves so you have more resource within your team to amplify their events on your social and email channels to drive traffic to your What’s On section.
An important element on a destination website is the inspiring, high-quality imagery and video content which will sell the region.
Work with your partners to make sure that you have permission to use their most recent images to best showcase their business and event listings on the destination website. Share access to your image library for use on your members’ website and digital platforms too so that a consistency of high quality imagery is used to tell the story about your destination. This joint working will help build relationships with your members and show the region to its very best too.
Keep in contact with your members and invite businesses to regularly share their upcoming plans to inform your content too. Work with your members to create fresh content for your website that can be used on your social media channels. Rather than just relying on practical listing information from your partners, have a conversation to find out what they are planning for the year ahead, share your content objectives and work together to produce content that showcases the business and markets the destination in a new way.
Make sure to share your blogs, tag partners in social media posts that link back to your website – this relevant content will be amplified and support your position to become the go to website but also provide engaging content that will bolster your partner’s own marketing outputs.
One of your members might be a small, local business who want to include content about top things to do for visitors on their own website. This is where your expertise will really enhance the relationship with the members. Suggest they link to content that already exists on your destination website or support the business with suggestions to include in their content – with links back to your website too. Not only will this enhance your member’s business website but will broaden your website reach, opening it up to a new audience.
COVID-19 has changed the way we work. If nothing else, 2020 has shown us all how important it is to be flexible and how to adapt. Work with your web developers to make sure your destination website is flexible too so that you can be reactive and responsive. During 2020, it was vital to update content quickly and efficiently and have a site structure that could be easily adapted to include new information hubs. The implementation of site wide alert banners also helped to mitigate against out of date information and ensure that ever-changing guidelines and restrictions were easy for a user to find. A proactive response to updating, developing and maintaining the destination website during the coronavirus pandemic is a great example of how to enhance and improve your relationship with members. Businesses who were understandably stretched and having to adapt just as quickly, could therefore rely on the destination website to showcase what they could offer users, from takeaways and virtual events to click and collect shopping and extra, pre-visit instructions for visitors. A flexible and innovative approach to building a destination website as well as producing reactive content will demonstrate to your members your commitment to supporting their business whatever challenges arise.
Marketing is all about experimenting, evaluating and then building on what works and tweaking what doesn’t based on insights and research. You have access to so much data and insight, which could really benefit your member businesses. Regularly report back to your members with insights from your website to demonstrate the value of the destination website. Find out what your members consider their top KPIs and feedback at regular intervals during the year. Track the monetary value of click through rates and traffic generated by referrals to their website as a robust way to demonstrate the membership value and tangibly measure ROI.
Here we go again – update, refresh, revise. Making sure that your whole website is up to date and accurate can be like painting The Forth Bridge (especially after 2020’s year of constant changes). But it is an important part of having a destination website that showcases content from other organisations. If you haven’t got budget to have a built in account system where your members can take ownership of their own listings by logging in to make updates, then put a date in your diary once a quarter to go through listings more thoroughly. Use your website ‘tidy-up time’ as another chance to get in touch with your members and ask them to review their listings and refresh content and images. Make them feel loved and part of the wider remit of showcasing the region. Work with members to keep their business listings up to date with accurate information, websites, open hours as well as including additional content such as video, logo. Hopefully, you will build a relationship where businesses have you in the forefront of their minds when they have updates, news or developments to share.
A website is not a static platform – it should be dynamic and flexible. Be ready to adapt, change, revise and refresh your content to keep up with trends, ensure you’re answering the search queries of your intended audience, and have great housekeeping to reflect the changes to businesses and what is new, what is no longer there in your region to provide the best experience for users.
Work with your members to great a diverse and successful destination website which is rich in content, accurate and will bring audiences to your region again and again. Then get ready to welcome all those visitors!