THE BOTTOM LINE
Some practical advice for naturist businesses on how to generate more revenue.
Every sector of industry has its stock phrases and clichés, none more so than the world of advertising, PR and marketing.
From “there’s no such thing as free publicity” to “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, I just wish I knew which half,” we’ve probably all heard them. But they didn’t get to be clichés in the first place without more than an element of truth in them.
In an increasingly competitive world, all businesses need to find the best ways to promote themselves, and optimise their return on investment. Customers don’t just walk in through the door anymore, and if you sit there waiting for the phone to ring, the next call is likely to be from the bailiffs.
Whether we are talking guest houses, apartments, hotels, holiday complexes, clubs or campsites, then naturist businesses - with a few notable exceptions - tend to be on the small side, and rarely have huge promotional budgets. All the more reason to make the most of the money, time and effort that has to be put into effective (and measurable) marketing. Here’s a 10-point plan that should help:
Editorial can often be a case of ‘you-scratch-my-back,’ with more publications expecting you to advertise in exchange for coverage. If that’s the case, spread it out, by asking for your editorial to be run in a different issue from your adverts. Many readers turn the page if they know editorial space has been ‘bought.’ You’ll also benefit from exposure over a longer period of time. And you need to be creative. Naturists (and potential naturists) don’t just read the specialist naturist publications. Look at ways of also getting your venue mentioned in the local press, travel and inflight magazines, and the general consumer media.
Little and often has to be the maxim if you’re on a tight budget. An expensive one-hit advert might create impact, but if you’re regularly featured in a publication, more people will find you over the course of a year. And everybody’s holiday-buying habits are different, from those who plan ahead to those who book on a whim. Less is also more. Nobody reads great swathes of text. Keep the information succinct. Use one great photo rather than cramming in several average ones. If there’s a naked person featured, people will get the idea! And make sure the vital information, like location and contact details, are to the fore.
Give a publication an annual budget - they know how much they can count on, and you’ll get a better rate. And work out what you expect back in terms of business. What are your running costs? How much profit do you need to make? How much business already comes from word-of-mouth, referrals and forward bookings? How many room nights do you then have to fill? There will always be an element of speculate to accumulate. But you also need to be a little scientific about it.
Printed literature has largely given way to the web, but if you do still need brochures, flyers, invitations, etc make sure they’re well-written, designed and printed. Poor presentation makes you look amateur. Digital printing can often be cost-effective for smaller print runs, and offers you the opportunity to change things more frequently if you need to, rather than being stuck with out-of-date marketing collateral. Make sure you have a strong, recognisable and modern design. If you’re computer-savvy, there are numerous design programmes. If not, shop around for a good, inexpensive designer - not one who wants to charge just for taking the brief. Online business networking sites like LinkedIn are a great way of sourcing contacts, and with technology, designers don’t need to be based on your doorstep. Fix your budget and tell them how much you have to spend - don’t ask them how much they charge.
Most people now have at least a half-decent digital camera. Learn how to use it. Surf the net for self-help sites. Buy a book. Go on a course. Or just use trial and error. There are also some basics to naturist photography. Shoot on a sunny day. Photograph people who are relaxed being naked. Avoid poses that are too explicit. But be prepared to be creatively coy if the medium you are using is non-naturist. Don’t give the wrong impression by using sexy models instead of real naturists. But target your market. If you’re after a younger, fun clientele, don’t make it seem that all naturists qualify for a bus pass.
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MARKETING INITIATIVES AND EVENTS
Raising awareness that you’re there, and getting people through the doors, are the sole aim of events. If they don’t achieve that, they haven’t worked. Throw an open day. Encourage day visitors. Advertise promotional rates for quiet periods. Devise special packages based around food, gardening or discovering the local area. Organise residential courses and workshops for special interest groups like photographers, painters, writers or walkers. Or target naturist clubs and associations without accommodation and get them to use you for holidays, meetings and regular get-togethers.
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Despite the Internet explosion, there are still a lot of bad websites out there. Some are too basic, others over-elaborate. Unless you require sophisticated tools such as booking engines or an online shop, all a website needs to be is an online brochure. As with promotional literature, keep to the basics. Map out what YOU would need to know if you were looking at your website for the first time. Make it easy to navigate. And brand-build by making sure it is consistent with your corporate identity. You’ll need a third party ISP to host your website, but ensure you have control of the content management system, and can make changes when you want, without relying on a possible here-today, gone-tomorrow website design company.
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Your lifeblood. You should know who all your past customers are. And who your future ones might be. Make sure you’re aware of how people discovered you in the first place - an advert, the Internet, a recommendation? What their likes and dislikes are. When they book their holidays. Who their friends are. Keep in touch. Don’t swamp them, but consider sending them regular email promotions or a newsletter. Run incentives for referrals. Outlook is probably the best database management system for small businesses - it’s simple, easy to store client information, and allows you to target specific market sectors.
It’s a lot easier and cheaper to keep existing customers than it is to find new ones. Make sure your administration and service standards are as good as they can be. Handle any queries or complaints efficiently and politely. The customer isn’t always right, but they will vote with their feet.
Tourist boards long ago discovered that you have to promote the destination first, then the places to stay. You might be in competition with the hotel or campsite nearest to you, but for both of you, your main competition is a rival region or country. Whether you’re in Cornwall or Croatia, you have to make naturists want to visit your part of the world. Then they’ll decide exactly where to stay. Try working together with your local ‘rivals’ to promote the benefits of visiting your region. Look at joint advertising or websites. Encourage two-centre holidays. If you’re full, recommend the place down the road. And get them to reciprocate. You’ll all win in the end.
WORD OF MOUTH
Personal recommendation is one of the best ways of generating new business. But these days it doesn’t have to be literally one person ‘speaking’ to another. The Internet has changed the way we communicate. Encourage satisfied customers to send round-robin emails to their friends or post reviews on sites like TripAdvisor. Start your own Yahoo group, Facebook page, Instagram page or blog. And contribute to other people’s. It’s amazing how quickly you can get to ‘know’ people via the Internet.
Broaden your horizons. Look at how you can encourage visitors from various countries, rather than just your normal source markets. And don’t confine your efforts to preaching to the converted. Surveys have shown that lots of people who wouldn’t classify themselves as ‘naturists’ enjoy skinny-dipping or sunbathing nude. There’s a lot of potential new customers out there.