Linda Pophal

As summer approaches, tourism around the Chippewa Valley picks up significantly. There are few places around the country that are more pleasant and amenable to summertime activities than Wisconsin and, with so many new tourism options and events here in the Chippewa Valley, the summertime can mean a big boost for businesses of all kinds.

But how can your company effectively connect with travelers to ensure that 1) they know you exist and 2) they believe spending their time and money with you will provide higher value than spending their time and money elsewhere?

Here are some easy-to-implement tips and best practices that you can use to help put your products and services at the top of the lists of travelers this season:

Think search!

How do travelers find out about local attractions, restaurants, shops and destinations? By searching for options online, these days through their smart phones and other mobile devices. This means two (or maybe three …) things for your business:

  • The “maybe three” thing: having a website! It may be hard to believe but even in this digital environment, not all businesses have a website presence online. Unfortunately, for travelers, if you’re not online, you virtually (pun intended) don’t exist. Bottom line: You must have a website.
  • Your website needs to be optimized for search, meaning that you need to have a good idea of the types of words and phrases that people are likely to use when searching for what you have to offer — and you need to make sure that your website will show up relatively high in search results. Some useful tools that can help here include free services like Google Adwords, and tools like SEMRush, or Ahrefs which, for a monthly fee, offer the ability to evaluate keywords and phrases based on usage as well as competitive performance.
  • Your website needs to be built in a responsive design manner so that it will be easy to read, and easy to navigate, when accessed on tablets and smartphones. Busy travelers (like busy consumers in general) aren’t going to waste time trying to figure out what businesses have to offer. You need to make it quick, easy and convenient for them to learn about you!

Importantly, when considering how to best get your name in front of travelers, local search will come into play. Hungry travelers, for instance, aren’t likely to simply enter “restaurant” or even “seafood restaurant” into their browsers. They’re far more likely to enter something like “seafood restaurants in Chippewa Falls,” or “steak joints near Eau Claire.”

Get listed in directories

Travelers like lists and they often go to lists of top destinations while traveling to find out about the most popular places to visit and things to do. Do you have a presence on sites like Explore Menomonie, Visit Eau Claire or Go Chippewa Falls? On area Chamber of Commerce sites? On specialty directories that are related to your business niche? National sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp! (more about this one later) also offer opportunities to get your name in front of potential visitors and customers.

The Power of Reviews

Consumers, and especially travelers, are increasingly relying on online reviews to help them choose the destinations, dining options and lodging choices they’ll select while traveling. Not only should you make sure that you have a presence on these sites, you should also make sure that you monitor what’s being said about your business online — both positive and constructive — and that you’re responding promptly and appropriately to consumer feedback. Because online reviews are so important, don’t be shy about asking your customers and guests to post their positive feedback about their experiences online. Yelp! Is one of the more popular sites, but here’s a list of some others that may work well for your business.

If you receive a negative comment, respond quickly thanking the individual for the feedback (so others see that you haven’t ignored it), but then take steps to move the conversation offline (e.g. “Thanks for your comment; I’m sorry you didn’t have a good experience. I’d like to learn more about this to see how we can make things right. Please give me a call, or send me an email.”

Local News

Travelers often follow local news through area media outlets so these can be both a good place to consider running paid advertising and to consider for opportunities to spread the word about newsworthy events or activities taking place at your business. That kind of coverage can also be posted to your website, hopefully with corresponding links from the media site, to help boost traffic and awareness for all you have to offer.

Partner with other destination options

Other area businesses can represent good opportunities for partnerships and collaborations to help promote each others’ businesses. Restaurants, for instance, often offer special deals or coupons to hotel/motel patrons. If you operate a bar that doesn’t serve food, you might provide patrons with information about local eating establishments. Be creative as you think about ways that you can team up with other area businesses to ensure tourists have information about the top spots in the area.

And, one final best practice tip. As you visit various online sites that travelers might also frequent, pay attention to other local businesses that have a prominent presence there. Then reach out to see if they would be willing to share best practice tips with you. When one business in the Chippewa Valley benefits from tourism, we all benefit, and most will be willing to share their tips and tricks with you.

Linda Pophal of Chippewa Falls is a marketing communication consultant, business journalist and the owner of Strategic Communications in Chippewa Falls. She is also the author of “The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement.” Contact her at linda@stratcommunications.com or 715-723-2395.

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