4B: Who to Target
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The most successful destinations are clear about who they are targeting, and so are able to be very targeted in their product development and their marketing communications.
This section looks at:
- the importance of targeting tightly
- choosing who to target
- different ways to segment the market
- getting to know target segments.
It is hard for destination marketers to target as tightly as they should: their stakeholders may have conflicting needs and want them to appeal to very different target segments. And the public sector is often more comfortable being inclusive rather than exclusive.
Yet targeting tightly – focusing on only one or two segments (or possibly a larger number of niche specialist segments, see Long-tail marketing below) – can be the most effective use of resources.
Visitors may be looking for a variety of experiences during their trip, but the message "something for everyone" tends not to be attractive to anyone. Today’s consumers expect to be addressed directly via the route that they favour, in a tone that appeals, with information, experiences and offers that they find relevant to them. That is what the competition (for potential visitors’ leisure spend) is doing.
The most successful destinations are clear about who they are targeting, and so are able to be very focused in their product development and their marketing communications.
These destinations are not actively excluding other types of visitors, they are simply focusing marketing resources on the people they would most like to attract. "Targeting narrow" helps to establish a clear and confident image for a destination, providing clear reasons to visit.
Perhaps surprisingly, this clarity and confidence can make it more appealing to people outside the target segments too.
This approach helps destination marketers make best use of scarce resources – by focusing on a comprehensive campaign with deeper market penetration rather than spreading budgets across a wider range of disparate targets, with less impact.
What constitutes an attractive segment?
This will differ according to a destination’s needs and the funding organisations’ (and sometimes stakeholders’) corporate objectives. For example, are they looking for:
- increased visitor spend all year round… or visitors more likely to visit outside peak times?
- visitors who will spread their spend across an area and a range of businesses … or those who will support one particular sector – for example culture, rural tourism, or small independent businesses?
Examples of popular criteria used to select target segments are:
- spend per trip
- likelihood to repeat – and therefore spend over a number of years
- ease to influence
- propensity to visit
- seasonal spread.
Potential segment size is another popular criterion, with many destinations choosing large (sometimes too large) segments to target. But recent developments in digital marketing mean that very small niche segments can now be targeted cost-effectively.
A destination may find that cleverly targeting a significant number of small niches (the "long-tail" of the traditional demand curve) gives a better return on investment than targeting one or two high-volume markets. This is described by Chris Anderson in his book The Long Tail and discussed at www.longtail.com.
However attractive a segment is, the competition may be too stiff. When choosing target segments, a destination must take into account its ability to compete.
Segmentation simply means dividing markets into more manageable chunks – small enough to differentiate and recognise, but large enough to be "worth targeting" (and the definition of "worth targeting" is different for different places).
There is a range of ways to segment the market – and each is only part of the picture:
- socio- and geo-demographics, ie socio-economic group, age, lifestage and location
- values, beliefs, attitudes
- buying behaviour
- motivation – reason to visit
- niche/special interests.
The most important question before deciding which method and system to use is: will it tell you something you can use to improve the effectiveness of your marketing?
Long-established systems such as Cameo, Mosaic, Acorn and TGI (Target Group Index) have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, describing consumption of products and services, culture and media, lifestyle and attitudes, as well as socio and geo-demographics. These are particularly useful for mail and media campaigns, as they identify postcodes where types of people are more likely to be found as well as the media they consume.
Values-based systems are more recent and can be particularly useful when it comes to encouraging marketers and their partners to think more creatively about their marketing communications.
Values-based systems give us more of an insight into what motivates consumers. One example is the VisitBritain-backed ArkLeisure system, which specialises in the UK domestic holidays and short-breaks market and splits the UK into eight segments.
Almost inevitably, the various public and private sector stakeholders in a destination will be using a variety of methods or systems, describing their current customers and target segments in various different ways.
The destination marketer usually needs to take a pragmatic approach. Sometimes a mix of more than one method/system can work well, enabling the marketers to get a more rounded picture, and really get under the skin of their targets.
Some destinations begin with information from "off-the-peg" systems, and then develop them into "bespoke" segments. These bespoke segments – which have the advantage of being specific to the destination and its special circumstances – can then be tested and further refined through qualitative research.
Once destination marketers are clear about who they are targeting, deciding:
- what to take to market
- key messages and tone
- routes to market, and
- potential marketing partners
becomes much easier.
Researching current visitors during their visit to measure satisfaction is covered in Section 3 Destination Monitoring. Destination managers and marketers also need to research non-visitors, as well as current visitors, to find out:
- people’s perceptions of the place (rather than simply awareness)
… and their interest in visiting compared to other places
- what normally motivates them to take a trip
… and their typical "buying behaviour" when it comes to planning and booking trips
- their expectations from a trip, in terms of experiences, facilities, quality etc
… and what are the "deal breakers" that would rule out a destination
- the most effective ways to reach them … and the most effective images and words to use.
They may do this before they decide which segment(s) to target, and then use the research to help them make their final selection – in which case ideally they need a mix of quantitative and qualitative research.
Or they may already have decided on their target segment(s), and will use research to refine and deepen their knowledge – in which case qualitative research will be of most help.
Joining forces with other destinations is well worth considering. A joint research project managed by a third party could mean that some results are shared by all partners, but some are confidential to the various partners.
Joining an "omnibus" survey – ie paying to add some questions to a survey that is already asking a sample of the population about a range of topics – is another way to keep down the cost of quantitative research.
Destination marketers need to carry out their own ongoing research to make sure they "get under the skin" of their target segments – for example consuming the media (reading the magazines and websites, etc) that their target segments consume.
They also need to monitor and understand market trends.
There is a huge range of information in the broadcast, print and online media about market trends. Useful online links are:
- www.tourismtrade.org.uk MarketIntelligenceResearch to sign up for VisitBritain’s Visitors Voice e-zine, and read their monthly Foresight publications
- www.reports.mintel.com to buy Mintel Reports on consumer trends
- blog.hchlv.com for a fascinating blog about market trends from Henley Centre HeadlightVision.