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Skip the Sales Pitch: How Destinations Can Leverage Content Marketing

By / Sep 26, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Content marketing isn’t just a buzz-phrase. According to a new report, it’s a way for convention and visitor bureaus to reach meeting planners and convince them to hold meetings in their destinations.

You’ve probably been living under a rock if you haven’t heard one of the latest buzz-phrases—content marketing—over the past year or so.

What we found in our research is that today’s meeting planners don’t want a sales pitch.

But just in case you are unfamiliar with the term, the Content Marketing Institute defines it as “a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

While global brands like Nike and LEGO have developed and implemented successful strategies, other companies and industries have been slower to engage, including destination marketing organizations and convention bureaus, says Marketing Challenges International. And according to a report MCIntl released earlier this week called “The Business of Storytelling” [PDF], this needs to change. That’s because in order to reach meeting planners, destinations must use stories—a.k.a. content marketing—not sales.

“What we found in our research is that today’s meeting planners don’t want a sales pitch,” said MCIntl President Michel Couturier in a press release. “They want useful, interesting, and thought-provoking information that will help them professionally. Global convention bureaus can use content marketing to start that conversation with them.”

MCIntl says two things are changing the way planners evaluate destinations: the influx of digitally savvy millennials into the industry and the rise of the “knowledge economy.” According to the report, meeting planners increasingly consider in site selection a destination’s ability to offer industry expertise, as convention bureaus often can provide access to potential speakers, sponsors, and attendees.

In order to target and build relationships with meeting planners now and in the future, destinations need a well-thought-out content marketing strategy. It involves two parts: creation and distribution. Here’s a closer look at what the report suggests around each:

Content creation. A good mix of content not only highlights the destination but also provides useful information that will help planners do their job better, the report notes. It suggests four four tactics to accomplish that goal.

The first is straightforward: Keep content short, digestable, and useful. The second is to showcase your destination’s knowledge resources by featuring local business leaders and influences in your content pieces.

The third is to use visual media to create impact. A good example of this was featured in one of my previous blog posts. Visit California did a 24-hour ad takeover of YouTube in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. Called “24 Hours. 24 Dreams,” the takeover featured a different video highlighting the state’s “Dream Big” brand every hour. The final tip is for convention bureaus to become thought leaders in the industry in order to be seen as innovative, creative, and forward-thinking.

Content distribution. After you have created the content, you need to be sure you are targeting the right audiences through the right channels. MCIntl offers four starter tips. First, use social media to share content through both destination-branded accounts and staff accounts. Second, have a good search engine optimization strategy in place to make content more discoverable.

The third tip is to publish on third-party sites—both free and paid. These may include native advertising opportunities or guest contributions in industry-related publications. Finally, MCIntl suggests using a tried-and-true method: email. “[It] is still an effective way to put your content in front of your target audience, especially if they are subscribers who have elected to receive your newsletters,” the report notes.

No matter how convention bureaus decide to implement content marketing, MCIntl says they must understand that it’s a long-term investment in their destination’s brand and a way to build a connection with different audiences.

For our readers who work for convention bureaus, how has your destination implemented a content marketing strategy? And for everyone else, what great content marketing examples have you come across? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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