Maximizing Impact: How Destination Marketers Activate Full-Funnel Marketing

Discover how DMOs are shifting their focus to full-funnel campaigns.

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January 25, 2024

At this very moment, travelers around the world are considering visiting your destination. They’re at different stages of their search, with many still discovering where they want to go, many in the planning phase, and others ready to book and learn more about your destination. In recent years, there has been a big shift in how destination marketing organizations (DMOs) see their place in the visitor cycle, and our new report, the State of Destination Marketing 2024, revealed where their priorities lie.

Currently, 70% of DMOs are investing in campaign activities that are full-funnel, compared to traditionally focusing on upper-funnel marketing or the discovery phase. Not only that, nearly 60% said that they invest in paid media year-round. When it comes to prioritizing media investments, 21% of them focus their investment on specific opportunities, while 38% focus primarily on seasonal campaigns.

Here’s our full-funnel breakdown of how destination marketers around the world are prioritizing their full-funnel marketing activities to successfully attract new travelers. 

Top of the Funnel - Attracting Awareness

Because destinations don't typically sell products on their website or worry about conversions, most prioritize top-of-funnel content designed to build brand awareness. They’re building a strong online presence by creating engaging and informative content on their website and using social media and content marketing to reach a broader audience. On average, DMOs spend the majority of marketing budgets (60-80%) on paid media and the remaining 20-40% on content creation. This heavy reliance on paid media allows DMOs to use creative content to reach the right audiences while delivering clear and measurable results.

From partnering with influencers and content creators for brand exposure to running targeted paid advertising campaigns, they’re casting a wide net across channels to meet travelers where they are. For example, social media advertising and search engine marketing (SEM) dominate the paid media mix for 96% of DMOs. Native advertising or sponsored content are also a high priority for DMOs at 94%, while paid display and video ads come next at 85%. Using KPIs such as website traffic, social media engagement, and brand mentions, they’re measuring the success of their campaigns so they can adjust their strategies to increase return on investment.

Middle of the Funnel - Generating Interest and Desire

In the middle of the funnel, DMOs are creating compelling content that educates and inspires potential visitors to move further down the funnel and into the booking phase. During this phase of the funnel, DMOs are taking a more tailored approach, and many are hiring teams of experts to execute. Currently, the most common core skills and capabilities that exist within in-house teams are social media (91%), content marketing (83%), and email marketing (73%).

Strategies can include leveraging email marketing and newsletter campaigns to nurture leads, developing personalized marketing automation sequences,  collaborating with local businesses for package deals and special promotions that make the destination stand out, and using search engine marketing to increase website visibility. Email click-through rates, lead conversion rates, and content engagement are key measurements for success that indicate if mid-funnel efforts are pushing travelers toward conversion.

Bottom of the Funnel - Brand Advocacy

The further down the funnel a traveler goes, the more targeted campaigns become. Given that DMO websites usually don’t have the option to book directly, conversion is often classified as a potential traveler responding to a call-to-action, such as clicking through to a campaign landing page. While many DMOs reduce their campaign investment at the bottom of the funnel, this phase presents a unique opportunity for industry partners to take over and deliver clear digital fulfillment. 

They’re offering value-added incentives or discounts to encourage visitation, showcasing user-generated content and positive reviews, and cultivating a sense of community among past visitors and advocates. Each tactic can serve as the tipping point that turns an uncertain traveler into a new visitor. Partners will often measure success with KPIs like conversion rates,  revenue per visitor, and post-visit advocacy.

Note: Co-op marketing is a great way for DMOs to work with multiple industry partners work together to invest a bigger campaign budget in an end-to-end marketing funnel. Learn how to use the expanded resources of each partner to reach a larger audience from an insider’s perspective.

Make the Most of Your Destination Marketing Funnel

In today’s always-on world, destination marketers are learning that they can attract more travelers by deploying campaigns year-round. By taking an always-on approach in conjunction with a solid full-funnel strategy, you can understand where your ideal traveler is in the marketing funnel and deliver tailored messages that resonate and inspire them to choose your destination over a world of others. 

Discover the significance of full-funnel marketing and why it matters by downloading our State of Destination Marketing 2024 Report.

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