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Additional Marketing Tools

Additional marketing tools you may want to consider -1) Some of the basics: Logo, letterhead, business cards, brochure, rate card and confirmation letter.   2) When you're ready to promote:
Use the Internet - for Developing your website and linkage with your website and also positioning / key words. Mass media advertising – 1)-Travel guide ads and listings; 2 -Magazine advertising  **Ask for first-time advertiser rates; **Does the publication offer a response mechanism ("Bingo Cards" or free listing)?; **What is their editorial calendar?; **As for rate kits (costs, magazine copy, calendar, demographics, etc).  3) -Newspaper advertising and   4) -What about broadcast advertising?
Publicity: Generating interest by telling your story; FAMS (journalist and travel agent); press release; calendar listings and consumer/trade shows.  Travel agencies: 1)-Develop a travel agent kit to include: folder, color copies of ranch photos (including hosts), five - ten brochures, rate card and discounts to be used as a selling incentive for travel agents and a cover letter and business card.  2)-Make your promotional materials travel agent friendly. Other promotional materials: 1)-Newsletter; 2)-Promotional or event flyers (Christmas gifts); 3)-CD-ROM and disk-based media; 4) -Videos (3-5 minutes)

Ideas for adding to your marketing tools - Continue your own marketing education by getting involved in the industry and network with others.  Attend conferences on tourism and recreation and look for workshops or courses offered by colleges, non-profit organizations and other community groups.  Get help when you need it most by considering using the expertise of graphics design studios or advertising agencies when you want to invest in the quality of your appearance.  Enhance your impact by using quality photographs that tell a story; your own snapshots may not be enough. A good writer may increase the interest and readability of your materials and can help make sure all the right information is included. When hiring help for your marketing materials, look for enthusiasm and ideas, samples you like and estimate you can live with and people you're comfortable working with.   Take advantage of partnerships and alliances that provide marketing opportunities at a lower cost, i.e. Utah Travel; Regions (e.g., Great Salt Lake Country, Castle Country, and Color Country); Chamber of commerce and other tourism marketing groups (Utah Tourism Coalition, Farm and Ranch Recreation Associations, e.g. Farmstop.com). 

Develop your own database as you receive inquiries that will show where market response comes from and establish a list of target potential customer. Revise your marketing plan periodically- a. Review at least once every six months to reflect on market conditions, competitive price structure and flexibility to meet natural disasters, weather conditions, and cancellations. Stay optimistic, but cautious by building slow, comfortable business base, rely heavily on testimonials and ask current clients if you can use their statements and don't over-promise.

SAMPLE MARKETING PLAN PREPARED FOR ONE-OF-A-KIND RANCH --Target Markets:  Upscale travelers with families living in the East, Pacific Northwest, and California who have an interest in this part of the country. Attempt to reach them before their trip.

Goals for Year One:  Initially have 500 names on list, 1,000 inquiries, and 50 bookings (3 percent conversion).    Budget for Year One:  Figured on 50 bookings with an average gross income of $1,050 per booking: 50 x $1,050=$52,500; 20% of $52,500 = $10,500. Add $4,500 for first year start-up costs. Total marketing budget = $15,000.    

Calendar: List activities by month, who does the work, and the budget needed to work with.

September Activity:
Create mock-up of letterhead copy; take to freelance designer; Organize and develop your prospect list and customer screen-
WHO:___________________________________________ BUDGET:_________________________

October Activity: Critique final brochure design and copy; take to printer; pay designer; Determine ad buys; create mock ad; Make introductory visits to key contracts; regional and state travel offices, chamber of commerce, trade associations and other similar businesses; Write to friends and acquaintances, ask for referrals; Establish a media list to who you will mail to regularly; Go to hospitality workshops; Update website.
WHO:___________________________________________  BUDGET:_________________________

November Activity: Pick up collaterals; Begin distributing brochures; Have graphic designer produce ad; Continue introductory visits; attend appropriate local business seminars, mail to your list, Begin contracting booking and travel agencies, learn commission rates, update website.
WHO:__________________________________________ BUDGET:___________________________

December Activity: Continue distributing brochures, place ad in two publications, contact media about the business, put together and send out press kits and news release, send brochures to referrals list, send brochures to booking and travel agencies, add links to your website and update website.

January Activity:  Join trade association, consider attending trade show, have client screen perfected in computer and update website.

February- April Activity: Respond to advertising inquiries; follow up two weeks later, expand media list by 25%, send press kits and news release, respond to publicity inquiries, follow up two weeks later, respond to travel agency inquiries; follow up two weeks later, do second mailing list and update website.

May-August Activity: Open for business; get names of referrals from customers and evaluations. Give excellent service. Keep selling!!  Have three different travel writers experience your ranch, update website.

September Activity: Review plan for first year; make changes as needed; begin cycle again and mail brochure to names on your list in late September. Update website.

Total Budget:_____________________________

Usually, the best time of year to put a marketing plan together is in September or early October, after summer guests have departed and before advertising and publicity deadlines.  Successful marketers always think from three to six months in advance. Source:  William L. Bryan, President, Off the Beaten Path, LLC   

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE WEBSITE FOR YOUR FARM & RANCH RECREATION PROGRAM-- Your website should be designed to accomplish two things: 1) Draw prospective quests to your site; 2) Convert prospective guests to paying guests. Whether you are designing and building your site yourself, or using an outside professional, consider the following:

1. PREPARATION --a. BUDGET: you can design and build a website yourself if you have the time and aptitude, but in this web-competitive world, consider hiring a professional. It may seem expensive, but compare the one-time cost of creating a professional website with the ongoing costs of printing and mailing brochures. Compare the effectiveness of a website's constant presence on the Internet to that one of a one-time print advertisement in a magazine that gets tossed. Your website will continue to work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with minimal additional expense and time from you. It's worth the extra investment to make sure it's done right the first time.  
b. RESEARCH: Review other websites. Look at your competitors' sites, as well as any others that you fine appealing. Determine what you like and don't like about the overall design, tone, features, and functionality of each.
c. CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE:  (1) Sophistication: If you're trying to attract a higher-end clientele wanting a higher-end experience (gourmet cuisine, boutique toiletries, typical activities, etc.) consider more sophisticated or elegant graphics and images. Likewise, if you're all about a "downhome" experience (family-style meals, simple cabins, focuses on riding, etc.) project all of this in your webpage's style and photos. Use your website to fully communicate who you are, but don't try to be something you're not.  (2) Audience goals: Ask yourself what you think they want to see on your site. For content, they probably want to know about you, your ranch's history, activities, lodging, dining, rates, policies, etc. For images, they probably want to see beautiful scenery, wildlife, and people engaged in ranch activities...and, of course interior shots of guest accommodations, including bathrooms. (3) Technical Issues: Your audience will be viewing your site with different Internet speeds, browser types, monitor resolutions, and computer platforms. All of these will affect how quickly and nicely your site loads for them. For instance, if your target audience is more likely to have (dial-up) internet service, consider using fewer images and other slow-loading features. If your site loads slowly, they'll quickly move on to the next ranch's site. This is especially important with your home page. You can find more information about these issues on the Internet, or ask your Web professional.

2. DESIGN --a. LAYOUT:  Sketch out a basic layout/design before doing any programming. You can do this in an outline or flow chart format. When in doubt, keep it simple. As one web design company   states, "A simple website is often more professional than an extravagant one." Remember that it may be your customer's first impression of you. It should be both compelling, as well as distinctive from your competitors (but so should your ranch recreation program!).   b. CONSISTENCY: Be consistent in design features such as fonts, colors, images, and functionality. Create a template with the same background, banner, sidebar, etc. to use as a "blank" for each page. This is also quicker than creating each page from scratch.
c. FONTS: Do not use unusual fonts since not all browsers can read them. Don't use more than two or three fonts on each page.  d. SOUND: Do not use sound files that load automatically. Consider that some viewers are looking at your site in public places (or are sneaking time surfing the web!). Sound files also slow down the page's load time. If you want to include a soundtrack to your website, include an option for viewers to turn it on (and then off again!).  e. PAGE LENGTH/WIDTH: Keep each page short. Viewers may not take the time to scroll down too far. Make sure your page isn't so wide that viewers have to use the horizontal scroll buttons to see any of it.  f. NAVIGATION: Keep navigation simple. Include a navigation bar that is the same on each page that allows access to all the main sections. This is usually along the top or side. If the page is very long, include the same navigation options at the bottom. On any page, it should be easy to tell where you are, where you came from, and where you're going. It should never take more than three "clicks" to get to any important piece of information and it should never take more than one "click" to get back to the home page.  g. BACKGROUND: Avoid using printed or photo backgrounds because they distract from the text. A solid subtle color is a good choice.
h. WHITE SPACE: Don't be afraid to leave space between photos, text, and other design elements. It helps to focus the eye on specific aspects of your page, and avoid a cluttered look.  I. CONTACT INFORMATION: Include complete contact information on every page! You never know which page might spark an interest in the consumer wanting more information.  Consider your (and your customers') preferred form of communication. For example, if you'd rather have an opportunity to speak with a prospective guest over the phone, make your phone number more obvious than the rest of the information. But always list all available options (email, phone, fax, and mailing address) so that your viewers can choose what works best for them.

3. BEFORE YOU "GO LIVE" -- ACCURACY: Spell-check all of your content. And keep the information accurate and up-to-date. Outdated rates and policies are unprofessional. Consider updating your site more often than is necessary by adding a "What's New" or "In the News" page to report on recent happenings at the ranch. This will draw return visitors and keep their interest longer. Regular updates also keep your site active with search engines.  TESTING, TESTING, 1, 2, 3: Review all of your pages and all of your links. Broken links are unprofessional. Nothing drives away potential customers faster than websites that don't work (except for those that load too slowly!). As one web design company states: "Your website will ultimately be judged by what your customers can do over what they see."
BACKUP: Keep a backup disc of all of your webpages and images in the event your web server has technical problems.

4. CONGRATULATIONS, YOU'RE DONE!  OR . . . ARE YOU?  --Your beautiful website is out there on the Internet for everyone to see. The problem is that no one can find it unless they know your exact website address. When prospective clients type a few relevant keywords into their favorite search engine, (Google, Yahoo, etc.), your ranch doesn't appear in the first page of results or the second page. And no one's going to look beyond that. So, what went wrong?

One technical issue not discussed at length here is search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is a phrase used to describe the specific actions you can take when creating your website to ensure that search engines will list your site before other similar ones. Examples of these actions include using the right code to build your site, including the right keywords in the right places on your site, and how you submit your site to the search engines. It may also include paying to have your site listed on search engines.  It's always best to incorporate SEO features during the initial design/development stage of your site. Otherwise, if you wait until after the site is built, it's like trying to retrofit your house with energy saving features after you've moved in - not impossible, but more expensive and time consuming than if it had been done in the first place. Because SEO requires an extra level of knowledge beyond basic programming, consider hiring a more experienced programmer who is familiar with SEO as well. It may be money well spent in the long run.     

Popularity of Activities received from respondents who were offered the activity -- Ratings: 1= not popular to 5 = very popular

Activities of tennis and gold panning received a rating of 1 & 2. Activities of river float trips, horseback riding lessons, history programs/tours, children’s programs, skeet shooting, photo safari, ranch chores, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, and swimming received rating of 3. The popular activities (rating 5) include wagon/sleigh rides, rafting/canoeing, pack-trips, guided fishing, cook-outs, hiking/nature walks, cattle drives/riding herd, unguided hunting, family-style meals, guided hunting and horseback riding.   
     
MARKETING TIPS- (Reproduced with permission from GL Ness Advertising & Marketing (now Sundog) www.Sundog.net - Off the Beaten Path, LLC, 7 Beal St. Bozeman, MT 59715- www.offthebeatenpath.com/ 

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