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DMOs: Are you misreading your visitor data?


While prepping for a keynote in Iowa, I stumbled over some interesting data collections.

It reminded me of a recent article I read about the desktop publishing program QuarkXpress? Remember that one? In the 90′s, they had 95% market share.  How’d they lose it?  The CEO (Fred Ebrahimi) misread the data.  Figures showed Microsoft sales growing, so they neglected the Mac versions of the software and focused on Windows.  What Fred missed was that while Windows users may have been on the rise, the graphic designers were all hardcore Mac users. So when their software complaints fell on deaf ears (Fred said if they didn’t like the Mac product, they should “switch to something else”) they turned to a company that was listening: Adobe’s InDesign. Within five years, QuarkXpress had just 25% of the market.

Jumping back to Iowa, the data on demographics and visitor behavior is coming from two places.  One source is from those who request a paper version of Iowa’s visitor guide and the other is from a survey at visitor centers.   Who typically requests free dead-tree booklets by mail and fills out surveys at rest stops?  Older people.  Pardon the stereotype, but I think we’re talking older than the median age visitor.

What about the people who downloaded PDFs of the visitor’s guide? Very few people do, it turns out.  Why? I’ll take a crack at it: young people aren’t even on Iowa’s website. No offense Iowa: they aren’t on any DMO’s website.  They’re on TripAdvisor, Google, Yelp, Frommers, Lonely Planet, etc.  

True story: At last year’s Simpleview conference in Tucson, a group of us were heading into town. Someone asked: Where should we eat? Everyone took out their phones and started looking.  After a quiet 30 seconds, someone asked: “Just curious… anyone looking at Tucson’s website?”  The group laughed.  Not a single destination marketer even considered looking on Tucson’s site.

If this is how DMOs are getting data, they’re not likely getting solid information. What’s more, it’s not likely going to be skewed toward the preferences of your future travelers.

More on this tomorrow.



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