Marketing a destination event business offers interesting challenges and exciting opportunities. And you don’t need to be a marketing guru to implement the strategies.
My mother ran a destination business for many years, helping people experience the unique cultures and wildlife of Southern Africa (where I grew up). I saw first-hand what worked and what didn’t, as well as the particular difficulties when it came to marketing.
And, of course, she’s an excellent resource when building event planning software.
The Challenges Of Marketing A Destination Event Business
Marketing any business is a challenge, but most companies have the luxury of a clearly defined range to focus their marketing. Services like Google Business Profile make local SEO a breeze. Local reputation builds over time into a concentrated flywheel of referrals, and you get to know your repeat customers.
When it comes to destination event businesses, well, that doesn’t always work. We’ll talk more about building a reputation, but your potential customer base is the entire world. And it’s actually way harder to market broadly than narrowly. But there are several marketing strategies you can use to grow.
Pro-tip: Don’t try to do all of these tips at once when marketing your destination event business. Pick one or two and focus on them until they kinda run on their own steam. I love the bullseye framework mentioned here. I can work for any business, despite being startup-centric.
Local Networking Is The Core of Marketing A Destination Event Business
Most people, when they travel somewhere, rely on a source for tips. Often, this person is a tour operator or tour guide who makes the tips, sets up the connections, and even handles payments.
So, of course, it’s highly worthwhile to cultivate relationships with tour operators and travel agencies. But that’s not quite all. My suggestion is to make a list of all the other businesses that soon-to-be-weds might get in touch with. That includes wedding photographers, caterers, hotel managers, transport companies, etc. Cast a broad net, and build a deep network in the local travel industry.
Search Engine Optimization
This is my favorite marketing channel. And if you’ve followed this blog, you’ll have seen my many articles on SEO. Search engines are an unavoidable part of the client’s journey.
So taking the time to work on your SEO will pay dividends in the long run. And it really isn’t all that difficult. The first step is on-page SEO – a once off update to your website. Then, I’d recommend looking at my article, Blogging Tips For Event Planners: Search Engine Optimization.
Then there’s Google Ads (which used to be called AdWords). If you’re not careful, this can be expensive. Still, if you are careful, then you’ll see a significant return on your investment.
Here’s an extraordinarily brief overview of Google Ads, but if this feels like an attractive way to market your destination event business, then you can dive a little deeper. Just reach out if you want some recommendations.
So, here’s my advice for marketing your event business on Google Ads to people outside of your location:
- Set a reasonable daily budget. It can be as low as $10 a day, but $20 is better for learning.
- Make sure to exclude your location! This ensures only travelers outside of your area see your ads.
- Use single keyword ad groups to ensure really focused keyword targeting.
- Focus on only precise keywords like “wedding planner Honolulu.”
- Monitor your ad performance weekly and monthly.
Keywords Matter When Marketing A Destination Event Business
Marketing a destination event business begins on your website. That’s good news – you can control what happens on your site. So, let’s talk keywords! Please do look over the articles I link to in the SEO section above. It’ll make this section a little clearer.
Keywords matter on your website. On the main pages, you should absolutely state your specialties like “beach weddings” or “farmhouse Vermont weddings” or whatever draws couples to get married in your area. If I were building out your marketing website, here is what I’d do:
- I’d map out the primary keywords that someone would look for. For example, “Hawaii wedding,” “beach wedding,” and “destination wedding Hawaii.”
- Then, I’d make sure my website’s homepage contains those words in some headings and copy.
- I’d create a standalone page for each primary keyword.
- I’d link to those pages from the homepage.
This will train Google to understand precisely what it is you do. The people searching for a planner in Hawaii who does memorable beach weddings will be that much likelier to find you.
The keywords you choose should match what it is that makes your region a destination for to-be-weds.
Keep Your Portfolio Updated
Why do people have destination weddings? It’s about the dream. And while referrals are powerful, the portfolio is what speaks to the dreamer inside your client.
When choosing between wedding vendors, the portfolio is what clinches the decision. And if your portfolio is light, consider a styled shoot that prioritizes your locale’s destination-worthy features.
Referrals Are The Biggest Marketing Channel For Destination Event Businesses
Let’s not underplay it. Referrals are probably the most impactful marketing channel out there for your business. This applies to most companies, but there’s an added layer when booking someone’s services far from home.
The challenge is in building a client network of referrals. See, local businesses, merely by existing, can earn a local reputation. Destination businesses’ clients scatter to the four corners of the world. And while there are likely to be referrals, how many couples in one circle of friends have destination weddings in the same place?
So you’ll need to create referrals by proxy.
Social Media Referrals
If you can get your clients to share their special weddings on social media and tag you, that’s a big win. Other couples trawling Instagram tags and location-based search will see happy clients and dream weddings. This acts as a referral even though it’s not directly from a friend.
Testimonials on your website are also important. They help get over the trust hurdle. When booking someone’s services across the world, trust is a huge issue. And testimonials (with full names and pictures) are really great at assuaging people’s concerns.
But it’s not just testimonials on your website.
My wife and I decided to celebrate our second anniversary with a trip to Korea. Outside the USA, many travel businesses require wire transfers to confirm the booking. We booked with a Hong-Kong based tour operator and, well, I was concerned with fraud.
It was seeing their reviews on Trip Advisor that got me to relax. They had fantastic reviews from real people, and this allowed me to trust them. Funnily enough, a few weeks after the trip, another couple reached out to me via my review on Trip Advisor. They asked if they could trust the company. I replied with a hearty, yes!
Referrals From Other Vendors
My wife and I honeymooned in Zimbabwe. Every business we interacted with was via a referral from our local tour guide or another local vendor. It’s a funny thing, but once one local business gets over the trust hurdle, anyone they refer is included in that trust circle.
Cultivate your local network and give referrals to get referrals. My event planners track their referrals to make sure they’re sharing the business around their community and not leaving anyone out. So, refer clients to your fellow event pros, and you’ll find they make referrals right back.
Create Your Own Local Website
I’ve seen variations of this around the world, from Hawaii to South Africa. A group of destination wedding vendors gets together to create a resource for potential clients that include vendors, but also history, culture and food tips, and other helpful advice. It’s easy to maintain, adds a great trust-factor, and becomes a long-term marketing tool.
If you make sure it’s SEO-optimized and create regular content, it’ll rise up the search engine rankings in no time. And if every vendor links to it from their website, it’ll rise even faster and add a trust factor too.
Local (And Not-So-Local) Press
Getting a little press goes a very long way. In Hawaii, many businesses seek press in Japanese and Korean wedding and travel magazines. It drives a ton of local bookings.
Local publishers are eager for human interest stories, and all it takes is some reaching out and a story angle. But again, trust is vital, and people figure if you’re in the papers, you’re legit.
This one admittedly caught me by surprise. In South Africa, vendors hire a representative to travel to big bridal shows globally and showcase both their location and the wedding vendors. When twenty or more businesses get together, the costs are far lower. The representative even has multiple photographers or musicians, but each with a clearly different style.
Destination Management Companies send reps to the bridal shows too, but their costs can get up there.
YouTube Is An Easy Social Network For Destination Marketing
When it comes to destination events, well, there are incredible opportunities for gorgeous, compelling video. And YouTube is a mighty search engine that is hungry for content. Get permission from clients, if possible, to share the video of the events on YouTube. At the very least, it’ll be a part of your online portfolio.
Being Active Is Key To Marketing A Destination Event Business
All of these marketing tips can be summed up as simply being active. Being active online, in your community, and with your website. The best part of these marketing tips is that they have long-term benefits. Each action you take has a cumulative impact over the long run. Go for it!
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