Product development is as much part of marketing as it is part of business planning. No amount of marketing will overcome a poorly conceived or outdated product, yet many tourism operators labor for years without changing or even tweaking their core ‘offer’. Rather, they may try to offset falling patronage by continually reducing prices; a strategy bound for business failure.
Start-up businesses are in the best position to create a product from ground-up, which is attuned to the needs and aspirations of the target market. The amount of research data available to businesses makes this relatively easy and cheap.
More problematic is the person who buys an existing business, or who has operated a business for some years but now finds their ‘offer’ is no longer relevant to the marketplace. Your due diligence when buying a tourism/hospitality business should include an objective analysis of the product-market match. Engaging an external business and/or marketing analyst to help in this process can save much money and a lot of heartbreak down the track. The Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of your business is that single aspect that sets it apart from the others. Without a USP you can be lost in a sea of “me too’s”.
You probably started out in the business with a fairly loose USP, but over time your knowledge of the industry, product development techniques, and target marketing should enable you to better determine exactly what it is that sets you apart. It’s important to remember that tourism is an experiential activity. Your accommodation house, restaurant or tour bus is not the attraction in itself, but simply the means for guests to gain the experience they seek (e.g. pampering, freedom, escape, adrenalin rush, etc.).
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your USP is your ‘bricks and mortar’. It is the experience and benefits that guests receive by using your business. Good sales people know that ‘Features tell, but Benefits sell’. In other words, don’t just tell them what your product is, but concentrate on what it will do for them and what benefits it will bring them.
When you have determined this, build the USP into all your marketing material, campaigns and selling procedures. It should be reflected in the text and design of your brochures, advertisements, website, the images you use, and even how you answer your phones.
How well your product is perceived by the market may also be influenced by the perception of your town, city, or region. It therefore pays to know and understand how your area is being promoted in the wider marketplace. Not only might there be cost efficiencies available by linking to regional marketing programs, but a single product that does not have a comfortable ‘fit’ with the regional image may struggle to attract patrons.
You can read more on developing the ‘product’ on tourismexcellence.com.au