Destination Marketing Organizations need a data strategy and effective data tools to support their strategic goals, drive operational excellence and to enable agility in a fast-moving marketplace.
By Jay Kinghorn, Co-Founder, Chief Data and Analytics Officer, Entrada Insights Inc.
The proliferation of digital channels, targeting options and the ability to quantify the results of digital campaigns through clicks, web visits and conversions provides a great opportunity for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to have more control over their marketing investments, understand how these elements support a positive visitor experience and quantify the economic impact of their efforts in their communities.
Unfortunately, many destinations continue to struggle to derive meaning from the many streams of data coming into their organization. The volume and diversity of data creates greater stress than it relieves. In talking with DMOs and Convention & Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) around the world, they know data can be powerful, but their organization lacks the people and tools to harness it effectively. To add to this, DMOs are facing increased pressures from lawmakers and other powerful stakeholders insisting on greater accountability to quantify the economic impact generated by investments in destination marketing. DMOs are awash with data, yet starving for insights.
DMOs can lean into these challenges and become more effective at putting data to work for the DMO staff, and using automation to equip DMO staff members with superhuman powers of data processing and analysis. This isn’t necessarily the acquisition of more data, but the right data, combined with a data strategy powered by the right tools and expertise. This combination can amplify the capabilities of DMO staff to improve outcomes for destination residents, visitors, stakeholders, and employees, helping them to remain effective and efficient champions of their communities.
DMOs who use data most effectively will organize their efforts around the following key principles.
1: Measure what matters: Closely align KPIs and reporting with the goals of the DMO.
Some destinations are grappling with too many visitors during peak seasons, while others are just trying to get on the map. That’s why it’s critical for a data strategy to extract insights that directly relate to organizational goals and objectives. A data-centric DMO has its own set of strategic goals shaped by:
Maturity of the destination’s marketing programs.
Characteristics of the destination.
Political landscape the DMO operates within.
Owing to these unique characteristics, each destination’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) need to bring into alignment agency goals, stakeholder expectations and staff/vendor activities.
2: Align measurement and analysis with the scale of decisions being made.
The metrics gathered and reported within the organization need to match the ways they are used to influence decisions. Typically, strategic decisions are made around wide-reaching, slower moving metrics like overall traveler spending or tax revenues, whereas a social media team might be making tactical decisions on a social ad spend from data gathered on a daily cadence. These different needs require different datasets to be collected and must include reporting views that are closely aligned with decisions to be made. Decisions that are fundamentally different at each of the organizational levels within a DMO.
This is where a single organizational dashboard falls short. One unified dashboard, will never enable a DMO, with its multiple roles, to uncover insights as efficiently, or effectively as one can by unifying data sets to drive actionable outcomes. To stay agile and maintain high performance, DMOs need to facilitate distributed decision making at the program level. To enable this, data needs to be distributed to each of the program leads and the front-line employees making tactical adjustments. This data needs to emanate from a centralized data warehouse, serving as a single source of truth for the destination. This bridges the silos often found between marketing and research, where each team keeps a tight hold on their data. In truth, for marketing and research to operate effectively, these two programs need to marry their data, insights and expertise for a more complete understanding of their destination’s performance.
3: Treat automation as a strategic investment to amplify employee talent.
An effective data system does more than collect streams of data. It provides your employees with superhuman capabilities. Much research and analysis in DMOs around the world is still done manually in Excel, on files downloaded from data providers and insights created by copying/pasting cells and manually writing formulas. These labor-intensive processes are great for small jobs, one-off analysis, and simple data processing. As the volume and velocity of data increases in your organization, these tools, and the people operating them, quickly become overwhelmed. With manual analysis, the time required to process and clean data results in much of the most valuable analysis simply going undone because it takes too much time to get the data in the proper order to begin.
An automated data warehouse eliminates the manual labor associated with data acquisition and cleaning, automatically tracks progress against your key metrics and generates actionable insights. These are data power tools, allowing your staff to focus their attention on using their expertise to make decisions, exercise judgment and collaborate—the highest value activities for your staff to focus on.
4: Data should be like water in a stream. Your reporting tools need to be automated to ensure insights are free-flowing, fresh, current and clean.
Discrete sources of data provide only a snapshot of a destination’s performance. More holistic reports may offer more connections, but are typically provided annually, or well after a campaign has ended. This data still has value but is insufficient to fully meet the needs of a modern DMO.
Data systems are most effective when they display current data, in an easy-to-consume format in an easy-to-access environment. When the system provides data in near real-time, teams can quickly make decisions that have an immediate impact on your marketing efforts, weeding out underperforming aspects of an ad campaign, optimizing for the most effective ad units and concentrating ad impressions in the top-performing markets.
5: Bring the data to the people.
The full value of data isn’t realized when only top-level leaders or researchers can derive insights from it. DMO’s need the data to speak for itself through narratives that don’t require the user to have specialized technical skills and don’t require additional processing to derive insights. Bringing the right data to deeper levels of your organization facilitates decision making agency-wide, amplifying staff expertise and effectiveness.
6. Make data central to the culture of the DMO. Invest in the data-savvy of employees and stakeholders.
Many marketers today rightly believe that the most effective marketing is a combination of art and science. Effective analytics and creativity, built on top of a well-articulated business strategy is a potent combination. And, DMOs are most effective when everyone is on the same playbook. Investing in data training for your employees and stakeholders is an investment in the future of your DMO. When these elements continue to drive optimization, experimentation, and insight, the entire organization is propelled by a sustaining tailwind that allows the DMO to be more responsive to opportunities, shifts in industry trends and stakeholder feedback.
Data are no longer king, intelligent insights are and those insights will help empower the next wave of mastery in forward-thinking DMOs around the world.