Free Marketing Tools

You don't always have to spend money to market your business. 

When it comes to talking about marketing the word 'free' is usually   never   mentioned   in
the same sentence . But in reality there are a few 'free' and low cost marketing tactics you can employ to gain profile and ultimately drive customers through your door.
When  working  with  new  or  fledgling tourism businesses there are a few ques­tions I ask to ascertain if they've leveraged free marketing opportunities. 

Are  you  on
This is Tourism New Zealand's con­sumer website and it is the 'call to action' for their global marketing campaign. The average number of unique users to the home page is 337,258 per month and Tourism New Zealand  reports that traffic is growing, on average, at 19 percent a year.

Listing is free, so why would you not take advantage of exposing your business to thousands of information hungry con­sumers. If you've not yet registered then visit http://www. register.

Are you receiving industry news letters and  information?
The internet is packed with informa­tion so take time to review tourism and marketing related sites. They can provide you with good tips and information and usually have a sign-up mechanism for free newsletters and RSS feeds.

Ensure you take the time to read them. You may be alerted to a worthwhile semi­nar in your region or be made aware of a major group, conference or incentive being planned.  If your product suits that audience then approach the key decision maker to potentially convert that busi­ness.

Tourism New Zealand regularly produc­es 'Regional Rap' which provides a sum­mary of their global marketing activities. It's free!

Have you joined your local RTO?
Your nearest Regional Tourism Organi­sation performs a vital function in marketing your region to domestic and interna­tional audiences, plus they disseminate industry information  back to you.

When Nikki  Marsh and Mark Gilbert set up Hassle-free Tours they were both new to tourism.  "Early on we joined both our local promotional associations and Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism. " They made time to attend seminars, in­dustry events and read their publications. "We gained critical insights into the in­dustry, details on market opportunities and profile within the industry. "

Tourism is all about relationships and maintaining a presence, at events like seminars, is an important way of estab­lishing relationships. Swapping business cards with the person sitting beside you is free!

Rotorua's RTO, Destination Rotorua Tourism Marketing offer new  operators free access to a basic range of benefits such as newsletters, invitations to semi­nars and listings in certain  publications .

Some other RTOs have membership fees and marketing packages so check with them for their membership details and benefits.

Do you have a database of past customers?
Satisfied customers are your best free marketers. In market research surveys 'Word of Mouth'  ranks at the top when it comes to decision making. Invite your customers to opt into your database (they must give their permis­sion).

How you then use this is likely to depend on your  product. If your  product is a-once-in-a-lifetime  experience you could use the database to incentivise your for­mer  customers  to  refer  their  family  and friends.  If  your  product  attracts  regular customers, for example the luge at Sky­ line Skyrides in Rotorua and Queenstown, then  you  will  be  encouraging  your  cus­tomer to come back again and again .. and bring their friends and family.

Have you hosted any travel writers?
Hosting travel writers  to your  business is essentially free, especially if you have a spare seat in your vehicle, helicopter or launch that is already taking paying pas­sengers.

Selecting or accepting the most appro­priate writer to host is the key to success . Find out who they write for, their circu­lation, will you be profiled in a fact box, what angle they are taking and when the story will be published.

Once you've done your research on the writer and whether they do suit your product the benefits of  hosting far out­ weigh the resources you've actually applied to them.

First Published in Tourism Business - March/April 2008