Economic Development, Tourism, Branding, Website Development
How to Build an Authentic Brand Promise with Your Destination’s Website
by Megan McDonnell
Your destination may be vibrant and interesting, but what about its website?
The first stop potential visitors make on their next getaway happens before they even pack their bags. Ultimately, the experience visitors have is dictated by what they’re exposed to on your website — it shapes their perceptions about your destination (and whether they want to spend their time and money there!). That’s why it’s so important to make sure the first impression, and every touch-point in between, is one that’s authentic for your DMO, CVB or cultural nonprofit. You need to persuade them that your area is worth the visit, and that they can trust you that you’re marketing an experience that will match up to expectations.
Even the most beautifully built websites are anything but a “set-it-and-forget-it” type of marketing asset. To capture the full benefit of your website as a tourism promotion tool, it needs regular TLC through branding consistency, authenticity and a steady stream of high-quality content.
While an incomplete or clunky website can tell the wrong story about your region, one that is inviting, robust and easy-to-use helps you deliver on your brand promise and turn former strangers into enthusiastic promoters of your destination.
Is Your Website Giving Visitors Trust Issues?
Join Bull Moose Marketing’s Director of Digital Strategy & Brand Development, Megan McDonnell, and Lead Web Designer, Nuno Faustino, to learn about the principles and functionality your website needs in order to lay the groundwork for a high-performing, standout DMO website.
To Build Trust, You Have to Be Consistent and Forthcoming
Visitors expect that a DMO’s website is the ultimate authority on a destination, which means that consistency and accuracy is vital. Each time they visit your site, they should be able to trust that they can find the most up-to-date offerings and comprehensive information. It’s natural for potential patrons to assume that if a DMO’s website features regular, engaging and high-quality content, your destination has engaging and high-quality amenities! But it’s not just timely content that can achieve this. It’s authentic content that wins the hearts and trust of visitors.
So how can you ensure your website is hitting the mark?
Create an Honest First Impression
Understanding your true brand is the cornerstone of delivering an authentic first impression. Layout, fonts, colors, photography, video and other visuals — it all sends a message to visitors about what they can expect from your destination. But it’s more than just ensuring that your website sends the right message about your identity. It’s also critical to make sure you aren’t unintentionally sending the wrong one. If the style and content featured on your website says your destination is all nightlife, but your bread-and-butter draw is really your historical museums, you could completely misrepresent your brand.
Even worse, you could be alienating target audiences while disappointing others looking for an experience your destination may not be able to actually provide. Visitors want honest information because they want a real experience, not a fabricated one.
A destination’s “true” brand hinges on the buy-in and participation of its stakeholders. How do you get buy-in?
Know who you are as an organization and as a brand, as well as who your audience is. A clearly defined brand tells people who you are; clearly defined target audiences tell you who you’re trying to reach. Both are absolutely necessary to get the most out of your promotional efforts. If your website speaks truthfully to who you are, that’s when stakeholders are ready to champion your brand alongside you.
Focus on Being Accurate and Truthful
Be honest about what your destination can offer. Ever stop at a new restaurant that claims to have the “world’s best pizza” and been sorely underwhelmed? It leaves a bad taste in your mouth (figuratively and literally). Sure, it’s tempting when promoting your destination to want to build up hype. But false information only leads to disappointment. And just because your summer art fair isn’t the biggest in the state doesn’t mean your visitors won’t have an amazing time. There are so many reasons why a destination might appeal to visitors, so embrace what’s truthfully interesting about yours.
Strive to be timely when updating event information. The sooner you publish complete information about details like dates and ticket prices, the sooner people can plan their trips and decide to attend. This also includes safety policies, such as masking guidelines, vaccine requirements or capacity limits.
Watch for inconsistencies on your website. If your homepage says your winter festival kicks off at 7:00 with live music but another page says it starts at 5:30 with a parade, visitors get confused. And confused visitors tune out and lose trust.
Content is King, So Put It First
Authentic content brings soul and credibility to your website, drawing people close to you. You can ensure the authenticity of your content by highlighting exclusive experiences that only your community can offer and depicting your attractions honestly. While your website content should always be the highest quality possible, avoid over-editing, over-filtering or over-staging your digital assets like videos and photography. If there’s too much polish, people can’t envision themselves having an experience at your destination. People want to see real people having real fun!
Here are some other key principles to ensure your content feels true to the people who actually live it:
Address Your Niche Audiences
Marketing often gravitates towards trying to cast a wide net to reach the most people possible at once. But this approach is both competitive and challenging, especially with limited resources.
Instead, capitalize on your niche amenities to tap into unique audiences that are more likely to actually engage with your destination. If visitors see information on your website that appeals to their specific interest, they are more likely to feel “seen” and connect with your content. Embracing the uniqueness of your destination and speaking specifically to those niches, rather than attempting to appeal to everyone, will help you reach exactly the right people.
Create targeted, niche itineraries instead of a grand list of attractions. Many people equate New Orleans getaways with Mardi Gras festivities, but others may be looking for the unusual – like, say, a séance in a New Orleans voodoo shop. While summoning spirits may not be on everyone’s vacation bucket list, it is exactly what plenty of people are looking for, and New Orleans benefits from the added tourism.
Creating a targeted itinerary of attractions that a niche traveler could enjoy can have a remarkable return on investment; these are often the most passionate potential advocates for your destination. They are eager to experience the special amenities that your destination can deliver, and are the first to spread the word throughout their tight-knit communities about the one-of-a-kind experiences they had.
Online Experience = In-Person Experience
If your DMO’s website sets the right tone and expectations, your target audiences are likely to become real visitors who spread the word about their experiences and become advocates for your destination. And they will better understand your local community, its offerings and the stakeholders within it — all the things that comprise your true brand. The most successful DMOs learn to embrace this opportunity to turn their visitors’ online interactions into unforgettable trips. What is your destination promising visitors, and are you delivering on that promise successfully? Learn more about the definition of true branding, why sometimes destination branding falls flat, how to get community and stakeholder buy-in and more in our on-demand webinar.
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