Destination Blog #4 - Tools to enhance, brand & market
Cost Effective Tips for enhancing, branding and marketing your bicycle tourism offering
In our previous blog we introduced the concept of self-assessing your bicycle tourism offering.
This included objectively weighing up your strengths and weaknesses, and thinking about which subset of the bicycle tourism market you’re best placed to cater for and benefit from.
Now we’ll dive a little deeper in to the concepts of enhancing your bicycle tourism offering, and then provide you some tools to enable you to effectively brand and market it.
Imagine This Case Study
Let’s provide a hypothetical example to paint the picture:
Your region includes an historic river town next to a wide, meandering river. It’s as flat as a tack so there’s not a lot of potential for mountain biking. There are only a few main roads and because you’re fairly close to major population centers, there’s a lot of through traffic, so those roads are not very pleasant to ride on or well suited to bicycle tourism.
Fortunately, that through traffic provides you with a potential cycling audience, and there are large areas of woodlands and other open land along the wide flood plains of your river that are ideal for family recreational riding. Because the wide river is a natural barrier to traffic apart from a few bridges, cyclists can ride on dirt trails along the riverbank for long distances without having to cross major roads.
Let’s imagine that your ‘low hanging fruit’ opportunities are to enhance the existing river trails by building some more trails to create a series of loops that start and finish from the old river town, where most of the cafes and accommodation are located. You can then install themed directional signage to serve the dual purposes of guiding visitors and branding each of the loops.
Why not add a defined trail head in or near the centre of town? If you know that most of your visitors are going to drive from those nearby major population centers then the trail head would include, or be close to, car parking. It would have a large map of the trail network, including estimated lengths of time that each route will take to ride, based upon the speed of beginner cyclists. This, in itself, is part of your marketing. Because your target market is family / recreational riders, it will need to located so that there were as few busy roads or other barriers as possible that needed to be crossed before riders reach the trails themselves. You want to make sure this audience feels completely safe and comfortable riding these paths.
An element of your trailhead sign should be photographs of key attractions along the route - river views and so on. These will make your trails more enticing. Use these same photos on your listing on the CYcleLifeHQ platform, and across social media so you’re reinforcing to visitors that they’ve come to the right place.
Also include information about local bike shops, bike hire options, local cafes and other attractions to create the overall cycling expereience of your region.
If your budget can be stretched by a small amount further you can add a permanent all-weather bike service centre that includes a pump, bicycle work stand and set of tools that are all attached by stainless steel wire for security purposes. This will add a nice little feather to your bow that bicycle tourists will appreciate.
So now that you’ve identified and enhanced your bicycle tourism opportunity and defined your target audience, how do you develop your brand and market to your audience so that they come and spend money in your town and region?
A good place to start is understanding the true meanings of the words ‘brand’ and ‘marketing’.
What is a Brand?
A brand is so much more than just your logo!
Customers will choose your region over someone else’s region and be prepared to spend more with you if they value your brand.
Your brand includes everything that impacts your customers’ experience. In the case of bicycle tourism this includes the quality and consistency of your marketing in terms of its appearance and messaging.
Your customer’s impression of your brand will then hopefully be further enhanced when they actually visit your region.
How friendly are the locals? Do your visiting tourists feel welcome? How well maintained are the trails?
What about the local environment? Is there rubbish everywhere or is the region clean and green and a pleasant expereince for visitors to enjoy?
All of these factors add up to give an overall impression in the minds of visitors. Now more than ever in today’s social media connected age, you need their impression to be positive. Nothing will enhance your brand more cost effectively than genuine, unsolicited, positive comments and recommendations from your visitors. Word of mouth has always been, and remains, the best form of marketing and advertising. You want to give people an expereince that makes a lasting impression and is talk-about-able, that they will want to boast on social media and tell their friends and family about.
Brands take years to build. ‘Brand equity’ is not an abstract term, but an asset of enduring value. Make sure that all of your key stakeholders - including anyone who interacts or does business with visiting bicycle tourists - is aware that everyone will benefit through helping to enhance your brand and build precious brand equity.
What is Marketing?
Just as a brand is so much more than just your logo, marketing is so much more than just advertising.
Imagine a nice, fat round apple pie. Advertising is just one wedge shaped slice of that pie. When it comes to bicycle tourism, other slices could be named ‘public relations’, ‘community involvement’, ‘bicycle tourism festivals and events’, ‘package deal product pricing’, ‘consistent signage’, ‘bicycle tourism training for local businesses’, ‘active social media’ and more.
Where does marketing fit in?
Marketing is the whole pie. Each of these slices, including advertising, is just a single aspect of marketing.
Marketing includes all of these things plus anything else you do that enhances the exchange between your bicycle tourism region or business and your customers. And please don’t think of your customers as only those who are riding on your trails this weekend.
Your past and present customers are also your best source of potential future repeat customers. Try to capture their contact details during their visit so that you can let them know when new rides are opened, annual festivals are due to be held or any other news that might help to lure them back.
Of course then there’s the vast pool of potential first time visitors. You only have enough budget to reach a tiny fraction of them, so where do you start?
Once you’ve objectively assessed your best bicycle tourism assets and the market niche they’re most likely to attract, target your marketing to that niche.
One good way to gather vital marketing data is to survey visitors, finding out where they come from, their age, group size and make up, how they heard about your attractions and so on. The more tightly you can define your core market, the more effectively you can target it.
In our next blog we’ll look at how you can seek funding from government and other sources in order to enhance your bicycle tourism offering. We also value your feedback and social media sharing of our blogs.
image credits: Phil Latz