So far in this toolkit we have looked at why cultural tourism is important and how it can boost business in a town so that everyone benefits.  We have seen how the visitor experience is important, and how a group of businesses (of all kinds) can come together to make this better. We have seen how this group can identify a unique selling point, and build a brand and how cultural organisations are vital to creating a sense of place, and making sure that expectations are met – all part of the visitor experience. 

So what’s next?

In this chapter we will look knowing who comes to your town can help you build the most useful cultural packages to attract more, persuade them to stay longer and spend more money. We will look at how to promote your assets and your unique selling points.  We will consider the power of social media and how to tell your stories. And finally how to check what is, and what is not,working for you.

Step 1  Marketing segmentation – who enjoys what your town has to offer?

First, what will help you target your marketing. As a group, think about who would most enjoy coming to your town.  Do you already know who comes? Are they a particular type?   

Then think about where these potential visitors are, and how far they might travel, both for a day trip or to stay. Find places that attract the same types of people – what do they do well? Could you do something similar? Why are people going there and not to you?

When we ‘segment’ visitors, we group them into visitor groups who have characteristics in common. Knowing these can support marketing and product development decisions for cultural organisations. 

As a tool, marketing segmentation work will help you to know your current audiences. You can then make your offer more attractive and keep them coming.It can also help you see who you are not attracting to your town. Is there a reason – could you change something, something simple, that might persuade them to come. Or is it just a matter of marketing your USP?

What Culture+ Tourism did in Dorset

The Culture+ project was part of a recent survey (2017) to identify the types of people who visit Dorset. The South West attracts most of all UK holiday and short break visits to the coast, and these visitors are generally more affluent than those visiting coastal areas in the North and East of England. 

Visitors come to Dorset as a main holiday destination as well as for a second holiday or a short break. These include the cultural holidays that we have mentioned, or those who visit a show or event (we will look at how cultural events, such as festivals (big or small), can boost the economy of a place in the next chapter).

Who comes to Dorset

These are the groups and types of people who come to Dorset.  Do you recognise any of them?

Prestige Positions – affluent married couples. Successful careers give them financial security and a spacious home in a prestigious and established residential area. Some are mature empty nesters or elderly retired couples, others still support teenage or older children.

Country Living – well-off homeowners who live in the countryside, often beyond easy commuting reach of major towns and cities. Some people are landowners or farmers, others run small businesses from home. 

Rural Reality – are typically aged 46-55 living in inexpensive homes in rural locations. They usually own their own homes or live in properties managed by social landlords. They often run their own businesses. They can live in areas where internet speeds are slow (which affects their use of websites). 

Senior Security – elderly singles and couples who are living in comfortable homes that they own. Property equity gives them a financial security. Some have remained in family homes after children have left. Some have chosen to downsize to live among others of similar ages and lifestyles. 

Suburban stability – mature couples or families who live in mid-range family homes and have done for many years.  Many have paid off the mortgage. A significant proportion are still supporting adult children.

Domestic Success – high-earning families with affluent lifestyles. They live in upmarket homes situated in sought after neighbourhoods. They are busy with children and successful careers in higher managerial and professional roles. 

Aspiring Homemakers – younger households who have, often, only recently set up home. They usually own their homes in private suburbs, which they have chosen to fit their budget.  

Access the full report here:  RESOURCE Market characteristics of visitors to Dorset

How could cultural businesses in Dorset use this information?

All types of families come to Dorset, so cultural and heritage organisations should offer activities for young people.  Many of those visiting Dorset come for the beach or outdoor activities. 

Inter-generational holidays are attractive to these groups – people come for the coast, but as many cultural organisations are indoor, wet weather attractions they can offer an alternative for older members of the party ,or when the weather closes in.  

The more mature single or couple visitor market is important as these people tend to come out of season and provide a vital income stream in the winter months.  

Mature visitors want to be entertained in a certain degree of comfort, and like to feel that they are getting a bargain! Museums, art galleries, heritage sites such as stately homes or activity holidays (from dancing to bingo) are all popular. These can add value by partnering with a local restaurant, café or pub, which could offer a free dessert, or drink, or coffee. 

Once you know who is coming, you can start to think about how to attract these groups. In this case study, the key market groups who come to Dorset consume culture in different ways, but all are attracted by it. It was interesting to see where these people live – for example, many of the same types are found in Bristol, not too far from Dorset.

Step 2 – Promoting your town

We have seen how a town can bring together a group of people from different sectors to take marketing forward as a group. These are some of the steps such a group can discuss, to market your town to attract visitors and customers. 

What are you doing at the moment?

First, review any existing marketing activities to see what activities are cost-effective. Some of the questions that you can ask include: 

  • What can you prove has worked in the past? 
  • How is your place represented on websites and do these redirect people efficiently?
  • Who is using press advertising, and what impression are these giving?
  • Are there already any successful collaborative marketing activities?
  • Is media coverage generally positive 
  • Do existing publications/websites need updating

How do you communicate this?

Next, communication is vital. Ask yourselves, how do businesses in the town know what is going on?  Is there a way that you can ensure everyone knows well in advance? Where do people go to find things out so that they can plan ahead – hotels for example work around nine months in advance. 

As an example, if there is a folk festival in town local pubs and restaurants may want to offer a suitable beer or cider.  If there is a big family event planned, local tourist attractions may be interested in joint promotion. If there is a theatre production opening, local restaurants may offer a pre or post theatre dinner.  But they need to know what is happening in advance!  

Culture+ Tourism resources 

To explore ways to increase knowledge of what is going on, and market Dorset to visitors, Culture+ Tourism tested a number of resources:

  • A Tourism Wall Planner for businesses. This mapped out what went on throughout the year in terms of events and helped future planning.. 
  • A ‘Dorset Ambassador’ publication for the tourist trade, so that customer-facing employees in all types of business had a knowledge of what makes Dorset unique its cultural heritage and what the main towns in each part of Dorset could offer a visitor.
  • Two ‘Fantastic Festivals’ leaflets to showcase the many quirky festivals in Dorset, of all sizes. These leaflets aimed to inform about the many cultural events and festivals, including food, of all kinds held across Dorset all year  – when, what, and where. This also encouraged visitor numbers in and out of season. They built Dorset’s brand as an event led place where people could access the unusual, or something new. They also showcased performances and Dorset food and drink, and profiled the landscape and different towns, encouraging people to visit where they otherwise may not have gone.

RESOURCE Tourism Wall Planner

RESOURCE – online Dorset Ambassador

RESOURCE – Fantastic Festivals leaflet

Step 3 – Look at your competitors

As a town, now you know what you have, look at your competitors. Is there a similar town, with comparable cultural and heritage assets that attracts more visitors than you? It may be worth doing some research into what other people are doing to see what they do well.  You can do this by identifying key competitors and:

  • looking at their website
  • seeing how are they promoted on other websites
  • mystery shop, to test the visitor experience and see how you are treated
  • research places that market themselves well – this could give you new ideas 

Now, think about what you do better.  Do you have a better cultural product? Beautiful landscape and walks? Quality events, high standard of  places to eat? Good accessibility Car parking?

Staying ahead of the curve

Next, what are the future trends, how can you stay ahead of the curve? Major cities often lead the way in introducing new experiences. The idea of the ‘local’ tourist was new a few years ago but is now an accepted part of what should be on offer. Free wifi is now expected, not a bonus – a reflection of the importance of online communication such as social media.  Camping has always been a popular way to holiday, and serviced holiday sites such as Centre Parcs took it to a new level. Now glamping is popular. So what is the next big thing and how can cultural organisations benefit? 

For example, health and well-being trips, inter-generational holidays that offer activities for everyone, and trips for people travelling alone are all on the rise. Arts and culture is well-placed to offer experiences for all these groups. Plan to stay ahead of the game!

Promoting to new customers – how to do it

How do people find out  about the wealth of cultural and artistic events that you have on offer? Websites are an important source of information. Visitors to Dorset are not risk-takers when it comes to holiday choices, with accommodation, travel and main activities booked in advance. So make sure the following elements are in place:

Websites need to be up to date, clear and accurate, as well as ‘selling’ your place and what is on offer, from events to car park provision. Culture+ Tourism’s preparatory work in Sherborne highlighted this, and as a result two new platforms were created to promote the town. One was a new website, and one was a Facebook page – I Love Sherbs – but both were created as a result of cultural and tourism organisations working together for the benefit of both.

The power of social media and stories

Since the rise of social media, customers talk to businesses, to other customers and potential customers. They produce millions of messages every day on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TripAdvisor and YouTube, as well as through forums and blogs. Customers will spread the word about products and services in a place and use pictures to make an impact. 

Cultural and heritage organisations are visual in their offer and can take advantage of social media platforms to market themselves.   Here you can see how two very different Dorset heritage attractions, Shire Hall in Dorchester and the Tank Museum in Wareham, tell their stories online using Facebook and YouTube.

Instagram is another growing social media platform, one that is particularly effective for visual messages and promotion – art galleries, museums, heritage sites, beautiful locations for example.  Taking pictures for Instagram can be tricky to perfect. Culture+ Tourism worked closely with the Instagram vlogger Emily Luxton over the course of the project. We asked her to advise on how to take pictures for Instagram and use it well, and you can see this here.

We will see how Emily works as a vlogger, promoting events to her wide range of followers in the next chapter, as we engaged her to help us promote Dorset Moon, our major festival held in Dorset in 2019.

Step 4 – Monitoring and evaluating what is working

It is good practice, as a group, to assess the results of what you have done against what you planned, to judge how successful it has been. This is about getting an acceptable return on your investment (also called an ROI).  There are several ways to do this.

The Culture+ Tourism project developed a calculator that allows you to calculate return on investment, and this can be accessed here

Google Analytics will measure website traffic and let you know how visitors find and use a website. 

Monitoring social media sites for comments is a good way to see what people think. This is not only the regular sites such as Facebook, Instagram and so on; but also review sites such as TripAdvisor.  Managing your reputation online is very important – that one bad, or average review is the one that people tend to remember. Replying to bad reviews, apologising and explaining politely your side of the story can do much to take the sting out of a bad review.

Evaluation means you can develop marketing plans, and a more precise targeting of future marketing activities. So first,  make sure you know what your objectives were in the first place, and then look at:

  • sales/advance bookings/footfall against what you hoped to achieve
  • customer awareness of your USP – have they commented?
  • take-up of any special offers or new products
  • customer satisfaction – this can be measured through traditional ways such as a questionnaire, or through social media, or review sites. Or increased footfall!
  • are other people watching what you do?  Is your town, or the businesses within it seen as successful?  Have you won awards, and received external recommendations?

In summary

Remember: The ideas and resources above can be applied to individual businesses, but cultural organisations are stronger when they work with others. By forming a group of different businesses, talking and deciding on your USPs, your marketing channels and how you can work together, everyone benefits.

By finding out who comes to your town through a segmentation analysis, you can target your offer to the right people.  You can also find out who is not coming, and think about why. You can also see where these particular types live, and how far away – useful to target promotion.

Any website or literature about your town or place needs to give new visitors confidence that you can meet customer expectations and offer good customer service. After all, they have not experienced it yet! 

What evidence do you have? Could you collect testimonials, good reviews, examples of happy people on social media? Stress the benefits and promote your USP.  Promote what you have to offer and how a customer will enjoy visiting the town, and your business. 

What is going on?  Use your events and happenings, and keep everyone informed. Promote anything innovative (events, landscape, happenings, celebrations) – anything can make an impact if it is new to your customers. 

Share good reviews – external recognition is important. Are there local awards you could enter? Success at regional or national level can boost profile and business. For example, see here for information on the Dorset Tourism Awards and the Bournemouth Destination Awards 

What will we look at in the next chapter?

In the next chapter, we look at Dorset Moon, a signature cultural event commissioned by Culture+ Tourism in Dorset in summer 2019.  Dorset Moon set out to demonstrate how tourism sector could enjoy working with a cultural festival. Through it Culture+ Tourism explored many of the ideas above.