Flow Communications

Your brand should be online, because we live online – it’s not only about what you offer, but about who you are. Brand personality is about “living with your heart on your sleeve; it’s what gets your Instagram followed, and your emails opened”.

It is with this sage advice that Flow Cape Town manager Sarah-Jane Viljoen kicked off her presentation to a diverse group of marketing professionals at the recent 2019 Tourism Marketing Conference held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

“Know your brand’s story. That is what sets you apart,” she said, before delving into the theme “How do you tap into digital trends to grow your business in 2020?”, and providing the delegates with four useful strategies to grow their brands online.

These key tactics centred on extending your brand online; making your content relevant; personalising your digital offering; and using data as a tool.

CT tourism libby and SJ
Flow Cape Town manager Sarah-Jane Viljoen (right) and senior writer Libby Peacock, at the 2019 Tourism Marketing Conference. (Image: Flow Communications)

Make your website work for you

“Give people a marvellous time before they’ve even decided to visit you,” Sarah-Jane advised the professionals in the room – many of them from tourism bodies, hotel groups and travel companies. “Your site is your shop window – if it’s shabby with broken glass, it’s not going to work for you.”

Quality content is paramount. Not only should copy be well written, it should also be up to date, she stressed, using the well-researched, informative blogs posted on Flow client Visit Winelands’s website as an example.

“And if you use video to tell a story, people are even more likely to pay attention”, she added.

Offer a personalised experience

These days, younger travellers, in particular, “expect personalised experiences” when they choose their favourite travel brands, said Sarah-Jane.

Finland, for instance, has scored major digital marketing points with the country’s Rent a Finn “happiness guides” campaign. Visiting that part of the world and interested in experiencing Finnish habits, nature, the environment or cultural activities with a local showing you around? Then #rentafinn!

Going further than just offering an experience, brands should give their online users control over how they want to engage with you – having their questions answered immediately via chatbot or WhatsApp is invaluable.

Visitors to the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway site, for example, have immediate access to key information such as real-time weather updates, estimated waiting times and whether the attraction is open or closed.

Finally, your “hard-working data” is a real tool in your weaponry, Sarah-Jane concluded. Bring all your data sources together, measure what matters, and understand your user.”

Other marketing and communications specialists speaking at the conference included Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro, the tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape; Wilfred Williams, tourism development manager at CapeNature, the governmental organisation responsible for maintaining wilderness areas and public nature reserves in the Western Cape; and Cape Town marketing guru Judy Lain.

They presented their insights, respectively, on the tourism vision for the Western Cape, how to best position sustainable green eco-tourism development, and managing crisis communications for small and medium tourism businesses.

These presentations – and others on key topics ranging from branding in tourism, new opportunities in local markets and the influence of effective marketing on accommodation and booking trends, to the use of video in tourism promotion – made for a truly informative industry event.

We look forward to next year’s conference!

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