I am not sure if you have noticed, but I really like writing these monthly introductions to the newsletter. I will typically reach out to the staff a week or so in advance and ask for themes that I should write about. I then take time to mull over in my head what I think I should write about that will both connect with the theme and, more importantly, resonate with you. When Sandra reached out this morning asking if I would have the intro complete by end of day, I assured her I would (and I did), but it was the very first time I thought about it since I ignored the reminder 10 days ago to start writing it. So, you are getting me unprepared and unscripted – writing a paragraph here and there between meetings and other deadlines. My apologies in advance if it isn’t up to snuff.
Having said that, the theme came easy today. Money. More specifically, the lack thereof. Our year-end is looming, the Tourism Relief Fund has closed and we are busily trying to reconcile all of the contracts, I am crafting the draft 2023-2024 Partnership Opportunities Guidelines so that we can get them to you sooner rather than later and my own businesses just started a new fiscal. That’s a lot of finances dancing in my head. In addition, I have the honour of facilitating two of the panels at our upcoming Tourism Symposium and, maybe because of my focus of late, when I was crafting questions, the notion of economies of scale really shone through.
This current fiscal, between the Governments of Canada and Ontario, there has been a lot of money provided to tourism organizations to help get them back on their feet. It is evident that a lot of the businesses that rely heavily on non-residents have not yet rebounded completely, and our industry leaders, including private businesses and associations like the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, continue to champion us with officials. And as much as I hope that funding levels for individual tourism related businesses and organizations remains at the 2022-2023 levels, I have to think at some point the well is going to run dry.
What does this mean for you and your business? Well, in my opinion, it means that we are all going to have to rely on each other just a little bit more. When businesses pool their resources to create new experiences or develop and execute campaigns, a few different things happen. You reach more people for less outlay. You get to promote your business to your partner’s customers (and vice versa). You can convince more people to visit because they know there are more things to do. It really is a win-win-win. Let’s use some paid advertising as an example. Did you know that two eighth-page ads cost more than one quarter page ad? And that two quarter page ads cost more than a half-page ad? And two half-pages ads cost more…you get the picture. If you want to put a quarter-page ad in a newspaper or magazine, you will save money if you can find three other organizations that also want to purchase a quarter page ad in the same publication. The same could work for radio if you collectively purchase some airtime under a master agreement. Main stream media are okay with getting creative if it means getting their advertising dollars.
Social media buys can work too if you have an umbrella account that leads back to each of the partners. It could be as simple as partnering with your BIA or municipality to promote an event or your collective of businesses. If there are three businesses working together who are willing to invest $50 each on paid, joint social media advertising, each business is getting $150 in exposure. And with a little bit of persuasion, the host partner may be willing to match your investments too. Not to mention the organic reach you will get because all of the people following the partners will also see your business.
As an industry, we have to forget the notion of local competition. If you are reading this from anywhere within Central Counties, there are more than 7,100,000 people that live with 75km of your exact location. Do you have a better chance of getting people to drive 30-60 minutes to visit your individual business or a collection of businesses and experiences? Do you have a better chance of your message being heard in isolation or amplified by many? Our Partnership Program works off of that model – helping businesses through economies of scale and leveraging each other’s consumer followings. What we would really love to see this year is even greater economies of scale. It would be great to have groups of businesses/organizations working and investing in a project, and then coming to us to be yet another means to leverage funds and reach.
I can tell by how fast I have been typing that I am probably up on my soapbox. I hope you are hearing my passion for the industry and not preachiness. I truly believe that several businesses working together can make a small destination. That’s our first step. Step two is getting several small destinations to work together to create a bigger destination – reason to spend time and money. We can stop there for now because that alone may take several years. We have witnessed businesses and communities throughout Central Counties embrace the power of working together. They have enjoyed success through economies of scale. As one stakeholder put it, “I used to say that I barely had two dimes to rub together for marketing. Then I found nine others who barely had two dimes to rub together. Now we have $2.00!”
Let’s find more $2.00 all across Central Counties. Don’t know where to begin? That’s where we come in. We are here to help. Just give me a call.