Juicing Tourism Marketing

CiderCon 2018 Baltimore

Below are speaker notes from Kevin Clay and Caroline Logan's CiderCon 2018 presentation.

I’m Kevin Clay with Big Spoon Co. We’re a PR and marketing firm focusing exclusively on food and beverage brands. We represent the Virginia Association of Cider Makers to coordinate media relations Cider Week Virginia and manage the organization’s social media accounts throughout the year. Personally, I have over ten years of hospitality experience managing coffee shops, serving at several restaurants and working in brewery taprooms. I love this industry.

I’m Caroline Logan, Communications Director for Virginia Tourism Corporation-- home to the nearly 50 year old brand “Virginia is for Lovers.”  Tourism is an instant revenue generator for Virginia, with a $24 billion economic impact on the Commonwealth.

Today, we are going to walk through building a tourism marketing program. By the end of this presentation, you will have everything you need to go back home, build relationships, and start collaborating with your neighbors to drive traffic to your cidery. Best of all, most of what we’re discussing today is free.

Virginia currently ranks 8th in the nation as a tourism destination, in no small part to our culinary and craft beverage industry. Travelers are coming to Virginia to get an authentic travel experience, which includes our robust agritourism industry. This industry provides a $2.2 billion economic impact on our economy-- and cideries play a big role in that.

Experience First

Tourism IS selling an experience. With my marketing firm, the first thing I tell my clients, is we focus on service first.  If we’re not delivering a great experience -- meaning your product aligns with your atmosphere and service, you’re going to miss out on that powerful word-of-mouth. You may have the BEST cider, but if these things fall flat, you’re not hitting 100%.

Okay, what does selling an experience mean to you? What does the word experience mean to your customers? I want to take a pause here and see what you’re thinking right now. Give me some feedback. Shout a few words that come to mind.

Conduct A Hospitality Audit

You need a strong foundation before you devote more resources towards marketing. This is a quick audit we’ve included on your worksheet. Walk through this and if you need a less biased opinion, ask a friend to be your “secret shopper.” 

So this hospitality audit is a reputation grower. Remember, hospitality is not only for local guests  --  word-of-mouth starts at home, but travels. So let’s talk tourism and numbers.

Tourism Overview

United States

The International Trade Administration says the U.S. travel and tourism industry generated over $1.5 trillion in economic output in 2016, supporting 7.6 million U.S. jobs. One out of every 18 Americans is employed, either directly or indirectly, in a travel or tourism-related industry. Look for data in your area.

Food & Beverage

According to the World Food Travel Association, 93% of travelers have engaged in a unique or memorable food or beverage experience other than dining out.

Start With Your State Tourism Office

Virginia Tourism is always looking for ways to partner with friends in the tourism industry-- from farms to tasting rooms, outdoor outfitters to historic attractions. Businesses like YOU are at the core of what makes Virginia such a special place to live, work, and play. Here is our flagship spot, showing visitors why you’ll LOVE a Virginia vacation.

co-branding

Screen Shot 2018-02-02 at 1.12.37 AM.png

Everyone knows the familiar slogan of Virginia is for Lovers. Over the years, we noticed that people were using our slogan to insert their own thoughts on why Virginia is for Lovers. So, we decided to lean into that idea. We now boast more than 10 “sub-brands” that promote our lures to what travelers are specifically looking for- including Virginia is for Cider Lovers. This allows the industry and consumers alike to determine what they love about Virginia in a succinct, simple way.

Funding

Virginia Tourism offers our partners many co-op opportunities, from Google Search to Facebook, Blue Ridge Outdoors to Matador Network. Your local or state tourism office is likely to run similar programs.

Virginia Tourism also offers a Marketing Leverage Program grant, which is a matching, 3:1 grant program that helps localities and tourism businesses, like cideries, leverage critical marketing dollars in order to compete in an overly-saturated, overly-competitive marketplace. This public-private funding opportunity has funneled millions of dollars back into our economy, and created unparalleled opportunities for small businesses to thrive through marketing efforts.

Since 2014, Virginia Tourism has awarded more than $3.3 million in matching tourism grants across the Commonwealth.

There are often opportunities to partner with your tourism board for event sponsorships, as well. 

Loveworks

LOVEworks from the Virginia Tourism Corporation

Virginia Tourism is sharing the LOVE in a big way, and you can too! We offer LOVEworks rentals, like the lighted set you see here. We also offer a reimbursement program for attractions to create their own. These can be used for special events and are a great way for consumers to engage socially. It’s nearly impossible not to take a selfie in front of these LOVEworks and share it on social media!

Here is a great video showcasing our LOVEworks across the state. We launched this video to show that Virginia stands for LOVE, always.
 

Partnerships

You just learned about statewide tourism efforts, let’s dig deeper.

Cheerleaders

  Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe

Look at this guy. This is our former Governor Terry McAuliffe. He just left office, but he made a big impact in Virginia’s beverage industry. At the beginning of his tenure in 2013, Virginia had 61 breweries. Today, we have over 180. This does not include our 30 cideries, but to give you an idea of his support, he installed a kegerator in the Executive Mansion to win a bid to bring Stone Brewing to the state. 

This guy understands that beverage producers are big drivers of tourism. 

So start small and reach out to your local city government to show how cider is generating revenue. This will push policy changes to benefit your business, drive sales, and raise visibility. 

For example, a policy change now allows Virginia farm wineries to have up to five retail locations across the state. Five retail locations! That’s a big expansion of business.

Destination Marketing Organizations

Next, find your region’s destination marketing organization - or DMO. Your DMO promotes your city, town or region to increase the number of visitors. They could be marketing to tourists and business travelers, or working to bring conferences and meetings to your town. Many are funded by hotel and lodging tax revenue..

Here are search terms to find yours.

  • Tourism Office
  • Travel Office
  • Visitor’s Center
  • Tourism Bureau
  • Welcome Center
  • Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Economic Development
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Beverage Producers

Your DMO can be your most valuable partnership. Watch how Richmond, Virginia has partnered with its local beer community. 

The Richmond Beer Trail

Visitors get a stamp from any five breweries to receive Beer Trail swag.

I love this feedback from one of our breweries…

Being a newer brewery in Richmond, and being a smaller one, it’s easy to be overshadowed by the bigger ones. These maps have helped to put us on the map! We continue to get new customers on a daily basis, because of these maps.
— Rhonda Groves, Taproom Manager at Castleburg Brewery

I’m sure many of you can relate to Rhonda. You don’t have to be one of the big guys. Don’t be afraid to partner.

Carter Mountain

  Carter Mountain

Carter Mountain

Take a look at Carter Mountain. It’s beautiful and it’s in Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s part of the Chiles Family of orchards where Bold Rock Hard Cider sources its apples. Carter Mountain has become a major destination especially in the fall. There’s a mile long line of traffic to get up the mountain.

  Photo Credit: Bold Rock Hard Cider

Photo Credit: Bold Rock Hard Cider

What’s unique about the collaboration between the two is that it’s a true partnership. With Bold Rock there, Carter Mountain found a new way to bring locals to the orchard. And Carter Mountain tourists now stick around for a hard cider. This is a great example of brand experience and business colliding. And now, Bold Rock is a top cider producer nationally.

Engage Locals & Find Your Dream Partner

Carter Mountain is a big example but what can you do to start small. Think about what’s special? 

Some examples to get you started...

  • Hotels & B&Bs
  • Restaurants & Chef Dinners
  • Farm & Cidery Tours
  • Yoga
  • Craft Fairs & Farmers Markets
  • Weddings
  • Pairings & Blending
  • Specialty Cocktails
  • Workshops

One of my favorite things that are big right now is cider dinners with local chefs. Fitness classes have been popular recently too -- Poses and Pints, Retox & Detox

Step-By-Step

  1. Service First. Conduct a hospitality audit and deliver a top-notch experience people will talk about.
  2. Build relationships with your state tourism office and your region’s destination marketing organization. Make sure you’re receiving all the benefits available.
  3. Find cheerleaders. Is it your town council, your mayor? Show them Virginia as an example. Ask, how can we support each other? Continue hosting events in your community to build your local following. 
  4. Create partnerships with brands that align with your own. Reach out to restaurants serving your products to collaborate on events. Combine efforts with beverage producers, orchards, or tourist attractions to raise visibility for your region as a destination.
Remember, visitors love to live like a local.

Questions, comments? Contact Kevin at kevin@bigspoonco.com and Caroline Logan at clogan@virginia.org.