Being a seasonal business owner of a walking Food Tour company in Chicago, the bitter winter months mean shutting down culinary tours until the warm weather returns. The decline in business can be a drag, but it comes with the territory for many outdoor based tourism companies in the midwest, northeast and northwest.
However, during this winter downtime (or any tourism off-season), there’s still opportunities to continue to grow your brand and food tour business even if it’s not the best time for soaring ticket sales. Today let’s focus on a few tactics that are great for any slow month(s) and a few specifically aimed at beating the winter time blues.
Put Out Useful Content & Feature It
Valuable content is one of the best things you can do for your brand all the time, but especially while business is slow. Useful content is the perfect way to continue to connect with your past and potential customers and establish yourself as a trusted resource. As a result your company will be top of mind when people are planning their future vacation or weekend travels.
You’re likely thinking this is all easier said than done and you’d be right. We know that the ideation process can be a struggle, let alone actually writing a guide or lengthy blog post. Fortunately the tourism industry (and for Food Tours, the culinary industry) is ripe for ideas. During your off-season keep track of other events happening in your city and write about it. You can also create content by repurposing and/or expanding on any informational brochures or other resources you’ve already created for your business.
While content may be time consuming, it’s well worth the investment. Blog posts and other online content can be shared on social media and in emails instead of just promotions to round out your marketing campaigns. Plus, fresh content can positively effect your search rankings as Google’s algorithms continue to place more importance on valuable content.
Once you’ve completed a piece, don’t let it sit on a dusty shelf. Share it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.), feature it on your site wherever possible and include in your email promotions (see below).
Send Content Focused Emails
Now that you just did all that work on your blog posts, your emails are the perfect way to share it. While it’s tempting to send emails only aimed at selling your service, remember that sharing useful or entertaining information can help build longer term relationships. These are the kind of emails that build loyalty among current/past customers and reel future customers in.
Get Involved In Off-Season Tourism
If your tourism off-season is the harsh winter months (like at Chicago Food Planet Tours), remember that other activities are still going on in your city and thus, there are ways for your company to get involved and stay visual. Look for opportunities to sponsor local events or host an event yourself.
Host a Single Location Event
Fortunately, local exploration and tourism don’t have to take place outside. Think about the aspects of your activities that can be broken down as single events that can continue during the winter. For us that one thing is the tasting portion of our tours. While we wouldn’t have enough brave souls to fill a 3-hour winter walking tour, we could still host a one-stop tasting event with one of our restaurant partners. Another option could be to rent a vehicle- think mini-bus or expanded truck- to continue to run events without any walking or significant outdoor time.
Sponsor an Event
Because hosting an event yourself can be a bit of a financial risk if it turns out to be a flop, consider partnering with another local tourism business or look for events that you can sponsor to get some extra exposure. The beauty of sponsoring an event is that promotion and attendance are already taken care of so your main responsibility is just contribution. To find an opportunity to sponsor an event look at smaller local events that have business partners or sponsors.
Good old fashion promotions can still help encourage sales during slower months by encouraging off-season purchasing. There are a number of ways to go about it, but the two examples below are a good place to start:
Basic Discount Codes
Offering discount codes for future tours is the easiest way to run promotions. Simply decide on an appropriate discount (we recommend, for example, 15-20% off of our gift cards), create a code and promote the heck out of it via email, social media and on your Food Tour website.
Social Media Exchange
Discount codes are great, but if you really want to inspire some engagement and excitement around your brand consider offering discounts in exchange for an action on Twitter or Instagram. For instance, encourage followers to post a photo of themselves at a stop on your tour using a unique hashtag to get a discount or gift.
Team Up With Your Vendors
You likely have various business partners or restaurant vendors who are still operating even if you’re not. Why not team up for some easy cross promotion that’s a win/win for everyone? Instead of just offering a discount code, collaborate with your vendor and make use of those relationships you have created on a special offer they can provide to reward the customers booking ahead. That way the incentive to buy is a special offer that can be redeemed immediately.
Amp Up Your Social Media
Everything above is going to require some outlet of promotion and social media is a great option. Posting can get the word out to current followers and help you reach new people who haven’t heard of your company. Remember though that the key to successful social media isn’t just talking about yourself—it’s about engagement. Become an active member of the food, beer and wine tourism and/or culinary community in your city to widen your visibility and form valuable connections with bloggers, tourism organizations, media and brand evangelists. Just like emails, social media can help your company stay connected to your audience and customer base during the in-season, but as well as the off-season.
These are just a few ways you can continue to grow and engage, but different tactics will work for each brand. What do you do during your slow seasons to promote engagement and future sales? Let us know in the comments!