In my previous column on converting tourist center visitors into clients, I covered the cost involved to have your brochures distributed at the state visitor information centers. You can read that column online at the Bangor Daily News Web site. I would also like to mention that in addition to the seven Maine Tourism Association visitor centers, there is a privately owned visitor center: the Maine Coast Welcome Center in Belfast.
There are basically three subseasons within the Maine tourist season. The shoulder seasons are generally referred to as May-June and September-October. Prime time is July and August. An argument can be made about seasons, but for this example I break it down into three. Your business may be different, so apply my strategy based on your business seasons.
Here’s a marketing strategy: Run a multiseasonal, brochure-rack card campaign using discount coupons and tear-off offer specials. Run three different campaigns, so you’ll have three different printings throughout the year. Print in April for the first shoulder season, May and June; print again in June for the prime time July-August season; and print a third time in August for the September-October season.
I realize that some businesses will be unable financially to run three campaigns. This is fine. Just run one campaign and one printing as you traditionally have. The discount coupon and tear-off offer strategy will work with only one campaign and one print run.
By creating multiple print runs, you can test your rack card offering and see which specials, coupons and pricing work and which do not. You can adjust your rates based on your current reservations, availability and sales. The idea is to avoid being static, to be constantly moving and adapting your pricing and offerings based on what the marketplace is telling you as you move through the season.
If you are in a pinch for cash, try these online printing companies. I am a proponent of buying local and buying Maine-made products, so try your local printing company first. If you don’t have any luck, you can try these: www.psprint.com, www.uprinting.com, www.overnightprints.com, www.48hourprint.com, or www.vistaprint.com.
These online companies print inexpensive rack cards, and you can choose the number of rack cards you want printed. You can generate print runs in the hundreds to the thousands, and the online printers ship within 24 to 72 hours. I suggest you use a rack card size 4-by-9 inches. Please check with the Maine Tourism Association regarding the shelf sizes at the centers because you should make sure the top of your rack card is visible to the perusing visitor.
Each visitor center accepts 100 to 150 rack cards-brochures per business. If you are distributing to three centers, you can print 500-800 rack cards for each of your three campaigns during the season. Knowing how many to print is a tough decision. I recommend that you call the Maine Tourism Association or the centers directly and ask them to provide guidance on print runs.
There is most likely a trend in July and August of brochures flying off the shelves, so adjust accordingly.
Once a center goes through close to all 100-150 rack cards, the Maine Tourism Association will either call you requesting more or send you a postcard. It’s best to have at least 100-300 available and ready to ship. You can ship these to the Maine Tourism Association, and it will store your rack cards, then send them on directly to the centers when your brochures run out.
My next column will talk about creating the perforated or tear-off coupon as the sales offering or marketing message on your rack card. The coupon will offer a special or discount to the traveler.