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Dear Emma and Derrick: How to Market to Real People

Learn to Create Visitor Personas and Ensure Your Tourism Marketing is Targeted

How can you be sure that your marketing content is hitting home? Sometimes, tourism marketing can feel like taking a shot in the dark. With the whole world as potential travelers, how do you create content that is compelling?

The answer is market to real people.

Turn Stats into Humans

If you work in tourism, you likely have a lot of data about the people that visit your destination*. That data isn’t just a “nice to know.” It’s the key to moving from generic marketing to marketing to real people.

It’s time to turn those stats into real people. The first step is to group your visitors by personalities or lifestyles. These groups are called personas.

Start with two or three personas and give them names. After all, they are real people. Emma and Derick are a millennial couple. Sarah and Sam are a retired couple. The Taylors are a family with a teenager and an 8-year-old.

Alternatively, you could group them by interests such as Robin, a nature lover and environmentalist, Stephen, an active adventure seeker, Diane, a lifelong learner interested in history, science and culture, or Tobin, who is looking for a relaxing escape from his hectic job.

Describe the following for each persona: where they call home, their age, who they travel with, how much money they spend, what their ideal vacation is, their activity level, what their transportation preferences are and their interests.

Create Compelling Content for Your Visitor Personas

Look back at the personas you just created and make a list of topics that each would be interested in. For example, Emma and Derrick might be interested in eco-friendly lodging, a three-day foodie adventure with a list of restaurants that offer farm-to-table experiences, or the most Instagrammable spots in the area. Stephen might be interested in the best mountain biking trails, learning how to mountain climb, or a profile on a local athlete.

Whether you’re writing an article, recording a podcast or filming a video, travelers respond more favorably to engaging stories that are told authentically, with specific and helpful information. Don’t forget that you are reaching real people. Think about the articles you’ve read or podcasts you’ve listened to that kept you hooked until the end.

Whenever possible, include comments from local residents and business owners, give tips that help visitors avoid pitfalls, share details that help people make informed decisions, and include images that inspire. Avoid talking in generalizations. Instead of saying, “we have every type of restaurant you could want,” give specific examples. While in the tourism industry it can be tempting to generalize to avoid showing favoritism, potential visitors are looking to your content to plan their trip. Every town has restaurants, what makes your destination unique? Is it the giant cinnamon rolls at the local coffee shop? The fabulous patio overlooking the river? If you’re nervous calling out specifics yourself, consider interviewing a local for their favorite spots. This will take the pressure off of you. Another thing to avoid is writing in the voice of a marketer or salesman. Catchy taglines look good on ads, but real people are going to notice when your content is aimed to market and not to help visitors have the best possible trip. 

As you put yourself in the mindset of your visitors, don’t forget to think about how they’re going to find your information. Write about major attractions within a day’s drive from your location such as national parks, historic sites and museums. Tell them where to get the best donut, burger or the tastiest huckleberry milkshake. People searching for information on those attractions may consider stopping at your destination en route or decide to stay at your destination.

Once you’ve created engaging content designed to inspire and compel Emma and Derrick, the Taylors and Stephen – the real people who you’re marketing to – it’s time to get them to read it and, ultimately, to plan a trip.

Did you know, on average, people need to see information seven times before they’ll make a decision? It’s not as hard as you might think to get your compelling content in front of your visitors again and again – you need a marketing funnel. [Another helpful article is coming about funnels.]

Are you saying to yourself, “this sounds great, but who has the time for that?” We’d love to help. Contact to learn more about how you can market to real people.

*If you don’t have visitor data, consider collecting it using your email list. There are many free survey tools that will allow you to ask your subscribers to take a quick survey. This is a great way to figure out who your audience is.