Marketer talks tourism to chamber

Marketing manager Lana O’Hollaren stopped by Fenwick Island (Harpoon Hanna’s) on May 5, to share advice with members of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce.
O’Hollaren, with ad agency Aloysius, Butler and Clark (AB&C), mainly markets for Rehoboth Beach retail outlets, but many of her tips could just as easily apply to small business.

She focused on marketing during the busy summer season, but touched on the not-so-busy shoulder season as well. O’Hollaren cited a study estimating travel and tourism sales in Delaware at $968 million in 2002, with 61 cents out of each tourism dollar remaining in-state.

And, from another study, she noted shopping’s popularity with adult travelers (63 percent made it part of their trips, in 2000).

While she recognized summertime could be tough on the locals, “We need to remember — tourism is a good thing,” O’Hollaren said. “It puts a lot of our kids through college.”

She advised treating tourists as if they were year-round, because they talk to neighbors (potential customers) back at home.

According to O’Hollaren, “Nothing kills a bad product faster than great advertising.” She reassured the gathered chamber members they should be proud of their businesses – the point was, word spreads.

“Make-believe you’re a tourist,” she advised. O’Hollaren said she’d taken a day off specifically for shopping, and even though she never left the area, she said she’d felt herself slip into a completely different mindset — more relaxed, maybe more willing to try out a new product or restaurant.

She said free samples were always a big seller, and shouldn’t be limited to food/drink. Other businesses might have to get creative — offer a 30-minute workshop in home décor, for instance.

O’Hollaren recommended business owners ask around, find out what had worked to entice the newcomers. “Talk to visitors, find out what draws them, where they’re coming from, why they come here,” O’Hollaren advised. “Each and every one of you are the biggest chamber of commerce you’ll ever get.”

Getting that information first-hand would help everyone figure out what items to stock and how to get the most out of their advertising budgets.

For loyal customers, she suggested some direct mailings — “It’s not that expensive, not that hard to do, once you have your message,” O’Hollaren said.

She said many businesses followed a seven-to-10 percent of gross profits guideline to determine their advertising budgets (although that wasn’t set in stone). O’Hollaren said available time was always a factor, but recommended a media mix — not all paper, not all radio.

Finally, she reminded everyone to take care of the permanent residents — they were “bread and butter” of local business, she said, and few operations survived the winter doldrums without their support.

After O’Hollaren’s presentation, the chamber’s Executive Director, Karen McGrath, reported on recent Ocean to Bay Bike Tour success. Despite windy conditions, she said 550 people participated. This was the 16th year for the chamber-sponsored event.

In other business, McGrath said they hoped to have the chamber’s Visitor Center reopened by Memorial Day (renovations proceeding apace).

She also reminded everyone to start preparing for the upcoming Taste of Coastal Delaware (June 5). Tickets are on sale at the South Coastal Library, the Den at Bear Trap Dunes, Di Febo’s Restaurant and the Parkway.