Thursday, April 04, 2013

Where Explaining Marketing Seems Never-Ending

When it comes to understanding sales and marketing, there are four internal audiences that are a challenge for a community’s marketing arm (DMO.)  First let me comment on the one that is internal-internal.

For nearly a century now, marketing has included sales as one of many blended elements.  Effective sales today is more than just unloading something you have.  It is driven by providing value to the customer even if it turns out not to be something your community offers.

It is easy to spot DMOs that haven’t fully evolved because they are facility-driven rather than focused on exploiting their community’s full share of visitor-centric economic and cultural development.

The internal-internal challenge that even holistic DMOs face is getting those involved in sales activities and those involved in other marketing activities to better understand the needs in direct sales.

In an effective community DMO, sales people understand that others in marketing are sales enablers and need an intimate and real-time understanding of the roles they play in the success of sales in the overall marketing process.

According to a study by Knowledge Tree, across all organizations half of sales teams are dissatisfied with the support they receive from their peers in other areas of marketing.  The disconnect usually revolves around collateral, a marketing term that refers to flyers, fact sheets, presentation materials etc.

Often by nature, those in sales are more literal and those in marketing are more conceptual.  To bridge this gap, the DMO for Durham NC where I live breaks the sales process down into a pipeline that maps the various stages and then shows the role of sales in a diagram of the overall marketing process.

Knowledge Tree’s Peter Mollins suggests in a blog post that marketers map various pieces of sales collateral to each step in the sales process with enough flexibility so that sales people can rapidly access the piece they need during the variability of each particular sales call.

A white paper produced by Knowledge Tree as part of its own “content marketing” breaks down what the company calls a “content lifecycle” for the collateral materials marketers generate to enable their peers involved in sales.

It suggests that those non-sales marketers devise very specific metrics to measure the effectiveness of each piece of collateral to better enable rapid evolution and improvement.  General increases in overall sales results are not enough.

Managing and updating content is a huge challenge for a data-driven community DMO.  But there are three other internal audiences that are also always a challenge for community-destination marketing organizations:

  • Local government officials, elected and administrative
  • Strategic partners such as downtown organizations and chambers that use the term marketing but practice primarily sales
  • Some visitor sector organizations, particularly many hoteliers at the local level who view marketing as just sales

These groups are not alone in the need to better understand marketing.  According to experts such as place-marketing guru Dr. Philip Kotler at Northwestern University, marketing is “terribly misunderstood in business circles and in the public’s mind.”

For many local elected officials, the only element of marketing with which they have frequent direct exposure are “yard signs” during campaigns.  On the flip side, the element of marketing to which they are most subjected as recipients, are those still practicing the nearly extinct form of sales as a mix of arm-twisting, cajoling and financial enticements, such as is done by many lobbyists.

No wonder that so many local officials struggle to understand customer-driven, holistic community marketing.

Likewise, many downtown organizations and chambers of commerce that sometimes contract with local government to court prospects for business relocation or expansion may use the term marketing but essentially practice only sales after these audiences have been primed by overarching community marketing.

Sales is particularly relevant for these groups because their focus is supply-side economic development while community DMOs work economic development from the demand-side.  Communities are most productive where communities understand, respect and exploit both roles.

In savvy communities these organizations work hand in hand with respective DMOs, even cross-populating collateral tools such as they do in Durham, NC where I live with both the Downtown Map & Walking Tour and the Official Visitor & Relocation Guide.

Leveraging respective roles such as this is hindered only when there is a failure to understand roles or when people who think in terms of sales begin to presume they understand overall marketing.

Many during my career in community marketing were fascinated with marketing but mistook it for advertising, another of the many elements blended into marketing.  Not surprisingly, they were often drawn to glitzy ad campaigns because they learned about them from ad sales people with whom they can relate.

DMOs also occasionally run into misunderstanding with some some in the lodging industry, one of six or seven industries that compose the visitor sector economy.  Nearly all marketing for a hotel is done at the chain level and involves primarily branding not destination marketing which is performed by DMOs.

Lodging facilities do not drive demand at the destination level, they harvest it once interest in the destination is generated by overall community marketing.  The best tool for harvesting these potential customers once they are destination aware is often sales, especially for those facilities focused on the 1 in 10 visitors who attend conventions and meetings.

Friction can arise if hoteliers do not appreciate that the role of a DMO is different than a lodging property.

Other visitor-sector entities practice a mix, deploying marketing to reach residents and specific elements to harvest their fair share of visitors.

The challenge for a community DMOs is to find and exploit opportunities to perpetually educate these groups and their stakeholders about marketing in general, and more specifically, the role of community marketing.

However, even under the best conditions, it isn’t unusual from time to time for individuals in one or more of these groups to mount an attack on and/or try to undermine a community’s marketing arm. Usually it is about power or money or both.

Effective community-destination marketing is best when relationships are mutually respectful.  Sometimes that means DMO execs are required to still work with individuals who may at the same time be trying to stab them in the back.

For community-destination marketing organizations, it is all just part of the job.

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