Marketing is far more than promotion. Marketing is defining your customer's desires/needs and directing your entire business toward meeting these expectations by offering satisfying outdoor experiences.
The most important considerations in marketing are the product/service mix, people market identification, price, partnerships, packaging and promotion.
Consider doing a web search of businesses offering nature tourism opportunities. The range of experiences being offered is as diverse as Texas itself and the imaginations of people. Try several successful nature tourism operations and see what they do from "start to finish."
Following are six steps to take in marketing your business:
- STEP 1: Product design
- STEP 2: People - market identification
- STEP 3: Price
- STEP 4: Partnership and packaging
- STEP 5: Promotion
- STEP 6: Public relations and personal selling
STEP 1: Product design
A product may be a physical object or a service. The product and services that you offer are the mixture of benefits which the customer thinks they will receive. It is not only the accommodations, meals or guide service that you offer; in a nature experience, you are satisfying a need and desire for education, socializing and relaxation. It is necessary to define what your customers are buying from their point of view.
Remember that you are selling an experience, and nature tourists want what is "real." They want to learn and they want an enjoyable natural, cultural or historical experience.
STEP 2: People - market identification
Good communication with your customers requires that you know to whom you are trying to market. The most basic questions that should always be asked are who, what, when, where and how:
Good communication requires that you
know to whom you are trying to market.
- Who uses this service and who pays for it?
- What additional services are required?
- What are their characteristics (age, interests, etc.)?
- When do they use such a service?
- Where are they located?
- How can you best communicate with them?
Market research has shown that price is not the first thing customers consider. First, customers will evaluate the product, the services offered, the perceived quality of the opportunity and their desire for it... then they ask about the price!
Consider, for example, that not all birdwatchers are alike. Some are avid birders interested primarily in seeing new species. Many more people enjoy birds as a part of the overall outdoor experience. The chart on the next page, developed by Ted Eubanks of Fermata, Inc., illustrates market segmentation in nature tourism.
If you want to market to nature tourists, it is important to understand which segment best fits your resources and business plan.
Nature tourism is essentially a specialized niche market, i.e. clientele with special, unique and clearly defined interest and needs. Further definition or refinement of that niche might be provision of services for disabled persons. Please refer to the TPWD Web site at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/nature/tourism/wheelchair_access for a list of wheelchair accessible wildlife viewing sites in Texas.
STEP 3: Price
Pricing is a critical bottom line
factor in you marketing plan.
Although your customer looks for a unique experience and good service, inevitably for the owner-operator, pricing is a critical bottom line factor in your marketing plan. One method for pricing is to project what the business cost per customer (this must include start-up and operating cost) will be and then to add the percent of profit desired. This is often called Cost-Based Pricing. Another way to price is Going-Rate Pricing. With this method you simply strive to base your pricing upon the competition. This requires investing your time and money in researching fully experienced tourism operators related to the business that you are considering.
Wise operators will determine the Cost-Based Price and then compare that price to the Going-Rate Price before making a final pricing decision. One should keep in mind that some people may be willing to pay more for special or exclusive services. This could be one way to differentiate your business from a competitor.
STEP 4: Partnership and packaging
Identify additional local experiences that
could be packaged with what you offer.
Too often we think in terms of our own business concept and ignore the other elements that are necessary for a successful tourism business. Tourists require accommodations, food and beverages, transportation and information. It is almost impossible for a single small business to effectively provide all of the essential elements. Identify additional local experiences that could be packaged with your tour. Consider adding festivals, cowboy poetry, folk heroes, historical lectures and unique and related cultural events. Offer various options for your package where people have choices that range from busy to slow. Some people want to choose.
in Nature Tourism
- HIGHLY SPECIALIZED
- Primary Recreationist
- Committed Birder
- MODERATELY SPECIALIZED
- Secondary Recreationist
- Nature Tourist
- Wildlife Viewer
- General Nature Traveler
- WEAKLY SPECIALIZED
- Peripheral Recreationist
- Experiential Tourist
- Adventure Traveler
- Cultural/Historical Traveler
- Incidental Recreationist
- General Tourist
- Leisure Traveler
- Business Traveler
By seeking out and partnering with other businesses in your area that offer complementary products and services, you can effectively offer a quality experience to the visitor. One approach is to reach an agreement with a group of complementary enterprises, offering a package where all facilities and services are covered by a single price and can be purchased in a single transaction. For example, a farm or ranch offering special wildlife viewing or nature tours may enter into an agreement with a local lodge or hotel to provide accommodations.
Consider partnering with a related nature tourism enterprise. Such associations can be utilized to represent your industry and lower fixed costs like insurance and marketing and are a great opportunity for sharing ideas, ensuring quality and training for improvement of your enterprise.
STEP 5: Promotion
Few products on the market appeal to everyone. Your financial success depends on your ability to appeal to enough customers to cover your expenses and produce a reasonable profit. Establishing your business requires a certain amount of personal selling. If the public does not know that your business exists, there will be no demand for it. Creating public awareness and demand for your product involves commitment to promotion and advertising. Nature tourism should make conservation part of its marketing concept. Nature tourists want to know that you are contributing to conservation by caring and protecting the resource. Be aware of the importance of brochures, signs and interpretation for promoting your business. Good logos and designs don't have to be expensive –just look good and be creative. Do such things as develop wildlife and plant inventories for your site and region –and think about how you can piggyback with other local marketing areas. Write a story and submit it to a magazine and use that as your marketing piece. Invite travel and feature writers to experience what you have to offer. Do a video to show at trade events. Use radio to spread the word. Look for creative ways to get the media involved in promoting your business "in the name of new!"
Take a picture of your guests having a great time and send them away with a souvenir photo that includes your business name or logo. Be creative and enthusiastic about your business and during every interaction with your customer!
THE FIRST FOUR STEPS IN
- Catch their Attention
- Get their Interest
- Create a Desire
- Get them to Act
The nature tourist should be made aware of:
- The nature of your service
- Who does business with you
- What activities, experiences and benefits you offer
- Facilities and rates
- Your location
Surveys have shown that today's nature tourists are well-educated and most use the Internet to find information on wildlife-related travel destinations. Consider developing a web page to market your nature-based business. Find ways to link your web site to local and regional sites that can help promote your business. Design your site so that it is picked up by the commonly used search engines.
There are many potential advertising mediums available to you, including television, radio, magazines, newspapers, billboards and direct mail. Each medium has different characteristics to consider. Advertising is costly so it is important that you carefully select the appropriate media. Your choice will depend on many factors: the amount of money available, the message, the market and market area. (Most important: does it reach my market?) Contact your local tourism organizations, chambers of commerce, state tourism office and other promotion organizations and request information about media sources, technical assistance and potential cooperative advertising opportunities. Look for trade and special interest group magazines (i.e., birding, nature photography, fly fishing, etc.). Remember that providing good service and a memorable experience generates positive "word of mouth" from your customers –and this is often the best way to enlarge your customer base and secure return visits.
STEP 6: Public relations and personal selling
Building good relations within your community and region is an excellent way to promote your business. Many clients will be referred by people living in your area. Local residents and businesses like to recommend places that are an asset or unique feature of the community. "Good word of mouth" is the single best and most affordable form of advertising! "Bad word of mouth" is simply an unaffordable cost. If the customers believe you are offering a quality service, they will recommend you.
Your promotions program should include the following:
- Make local residents aware that you are offering a nature-based experience.
- Support community programs. Become a member of the chambers of commerce, Better Business Bureau and visitors bureau. Become active in civic and environmental groups.
- Work within existing community, regional and state environmental agencies and groups to help promote the development of nature-based tourism.
- Offer to assist your local tourism agency with familiarization tours that it may be planning in your area for travel writers. Providing a complimentary nature based service to a travel writer will be a good marketing investment.
- Offer a free tour or weekend stay to a segment of recreation users, for example, birdwatchers. Ask them to evaluate your operation and get their input on pricing and activities.
- Send news releases to area newspapers and radio and television stations and make them aware of current environmental events and activities. Example: such things as the early arrival of a bird species or the catch of a record breaking fish are often newsworthy.
Positive "word of mouth" from your
customers is often the best way to
enlarge your customer base and
secure return visits.
- Participate in survey community events. Keep abreast of activities within the community, and donate your services when appropriate.
- Send a newsletter, a list of upcoming events and holiday greeting cards to your clientele. Prepare an e-mail listserve to keep your customers and others informed about opportunities you offer.
- Set the appropriate image for your business. Pay attention to:
- Company name and logo
- Facility appearance
- Employee appearance
- Business cards and forms
- Equipment appearance
- Ways you contribute to the conservation of your resource.
- Continually survey your customers/clients to learn more about how you are doing and who they are.
Offer to assist your local tourism agency with
familiarization tours that it may be planning
in your area for travel writers.