Okay, let’s start with the beginning. You have quite a bit of experience in marketing. What originally led you to pursue a career in marketing?
It goes back to being 14 or 15 years old. I always had the entrepreneurial spirit. I was always trying to find ways to make money and start different businesses. As I got older I realized how important it is to do things that would let people know who I am and what I was offering. I realized this was the key to success.
What was your first business?
At 14, I did hair and makeup for prom and beauty pageants, which were big in Georgia where I grew up.
I know! People trusted me because my mom was a well-known photographer and hair & makeup artist, so they assumed I knew what I was doing. My mom trained me on everything, so I was like, I’m going to take this knowledge and now I’m going to charge people!
That’s awesome. So, you started learning at a young age. When did you decide you wanted to pursue marketing?
I was a psychology major and quickly realized I wasn’t going to be a psychologist. I have a personality that isn’t well-suited for doing the exact same thing every day. I figured there was another way to use psychology that could be applied to the business side of things. So, I decided I wanted to learn more about marketing, and it just evolved into this thing where it helped my business.
I kept my business running and started working with a marketing agency where I continued learning as I went forward. I learned how to run an agency, how to find clients and what kind of work needed to be done to help them. If I didn’t know something, I had to learn it, and I had to learn it fast!
A lot of businesses go through that. They realize they need to do marketing, and they’re not quite sure how to do it. As they experience it for themselves, part of that learning becomes, “I need to get someone else to do this”.
So, give us a snapshot of how your career developed before you joined Divining Point.
I worked with a startup and helped build that company from the ground up. I got so much experience during that time and learned about each aspect of branding, marketing and business.
After that I moved to Atlanta, where my family is from, and decided to change it up. I went into corporate marketing. I was the Marketing Director for a hospitality company that had a portfolio of hotels and resorts, mainly Marriott and Choice hotels. I definitely learned a lot from that experience. Corporate accounts have very strict brand guidelines with very little flexibility. I had to make things happen without taking too many risks.
Okay. Tell us about your role as Digital Marketing Strategist at Divining Point.
I handle strategy, SEO, digital marketing, analytics, and all the data and research. I have to decide where we go with a client’s marketing strategy, what changes we need to make, and what we want to happen. So, it’s really just staring at a computer, which I really don’t mind. I enjoy it, because it keeps my mind active all day.
As someone who stares at research and data all day, what’s one mistake you see companies make with their marketing strategies?
There are a couple of things.
For one, marketing is always changing, and while you might know your business and your customers, you also have to consider that the way people consume media and make purchases is always changing. We deal with it every day… For example, a change with Google’s algorithm, well, that messes with everything! These kinds of changes require a change in strategy. So, I think the mistake companies make is not understanding the value of having someone leading marketing strategy who stays up to date on the trends and changes in marketing.
I also think businesses make the mistake of sticking to the same strategy that worked five years ago, even though they’re not really seeing results. They’re just not willing to step outside of their comfort zone. It’s tough to make decisions if you don’t fully understand the changes that are happening, the value of different types of marketing, and how this can affect your business.
Coming back to hospitality and destination marketing. Is there something these businesses should do to stay competitive in today’s economy?
When I was in corporate, the best tool I had was research. I trusted the statistics and data that I found. We had resorts that were in destination areas where they not only had to bring in business from travelers, but also locals. They had restaurants, attractions and wedding facilities that needed to survive the off season. There are so many revenue streams that can be created. If you know the different demographics and understand the data, you can capitalize on those opportunities.
If you are a tourist destination marketing organization, it’s not only just about making money for your group, but also all the local businesses and the entire economy in your area. If you do the research correctly, and if you have a marketing team that can execute your vision, there is unlimited potential.
That’s interesting. So, what you’re saying is destination marketing organizations should do more research and analysis into the opportunities out there and potentially find ways to bring more people to their destination.
And trust your marketing team! When they suggest, for example, that Facebook is a strong way to attract travelers over the age of 50, they’re telling the truth. That demographic spends much more time online now. They’re not really reading newspapers as much as they used to. The data shows this over and over.
It can be pretty frustrating for marketers when a business disputes the actual data. Some businesses are afraid. They’re putting money into something that they want to work, and they’re scared to make any changes. But we’re not in the business of developing a strategy so that you won’t get a return.
They’re trying to manage risk. They’re making an investment and putting so much on the line, particularly for any destination marketing organization. They’re not just making decisions that affect businesses, but also for the entire economy, right?
That’s right. The research and the data should make those decisions easier.
That brings up something we’ve discussed internally how we’re marrying brains and beauty, letting data dictate marketing strategy and supporting that with great creative and visual storytelling.
Absolutely. I’ve noticed over the past few months several campaigns from different states and cities that have chosen to develop good content and smart advertising campaigns for their destination marketing. And for me, it really stood out, whereas others who were not doing that didn’t have the same effect.
There’s so much opportunity to reach new travelers and capture their attention to build up their desire to visit your place. You have to reach them on social media, especially Instagram, and in Search and Display. And you have to create beautiful content to let people know about all the things your place has to offer.
Want to put your destination on the map? Give us a call. We’re here to help.