7 Key Takeaways from the 2017 DMA West Tech Summit

I just got back from my first DMA West Tech Summit held in beautiful Salt Lake City. It was my first time at the Summit and also my first time in Utah.

I had heard good things about the event, and now I know why. It’s a perfect size gathering, small enough to really get to know people, and large enough that there is a variety of topics to appeal to different interests and skill levels.

In case you missed it, or just want to get a quick summary to share with your team, I’ve put down some thoughts on what I took away from the talks.

I didn’t make it to every session, so if I skipped any important points, Tweet me and let me know!

1 | Facebook is in, Snapchat is out.

The marketers on stage as well as those I spoke with were focusing on Facebook (and Instagram as part of the Facebook family), whether for its audience research tools or ads or live video. The volume and quality of data Facebook is producing is hard for marketers to ignore.

While many DMOs still use Snapchat, it’s harder to extract insights and measureable impact from that platform.

Jurek Lipski from Sparkloft made a really good point about how Facebook manipulates its algorithm to focus on the products they are pushing. So if you share the same content on an organic post versus as a live video, the latter is going to get way more views. Food for thought.

2 | Video, especially live video, is hot.

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last year, you know that video is continuing its meteoric rise as a media channel.

No longer just about YouTube, video is being created and consumed on every social platform, from Twitter/Periscope to Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. The challenge is that this is yet another medium destination marketers need to get comfortable with.

But on the upside, anyone with a decent smartphone can create video content, from live streaming a local parade to creating engaging Instagram Stories that show off a region’s parks.

3 | The data shows that digital marketing and social media delivers.

Digital marketing folks still have work to do to be understood by senior management and Board members.

Digital and social is still siloed from others to be integrated into a DMO’s overall marketing and business goals. Digital marketers need to communicate and educate their colleagues on how digital contributes to the bigger picture.

One stat that was shared from a recent study by Miles showed that for every unique web visitor a DMO attracts, $37 is generated. So if you spent $10k on getting 10k new website visitors, you would generate $370,000 dollars for your destination.

4 | DMOs fall short in engaging with visitors when they are in the destination.

DMOs are succeeding in driving visitors to a destination, but once the visitor is in market, many DMOs are failing to continue to serve those visitors outside of their visitor center.

The folks at Visit Stockton are using Chatbot software to have real-time conversations with visitors via text, when they are in market. So, if you are in Stockton and want to know if it’s going to rain tonight, you can text a number, and amazingly, the texts are answered by rotating members of the Visit Stockton staff.

5 | The DMO marketing tech stack is made up of multiple vendor solutions.

DMOs, like their counterparts at other brands, need to get comfortable with building a marketing tech stack from multiple vendors, rather than expecting one platform to deliver it all. Integrations and ecosystems exist that make it easier for different vendor platforms to tie together.

There is no single solution that will do everything a destination marketing team needs and smart marketers can see through attempts by vendors to push a single-platform-for-all approach.

6 | Storytelling and brand are where DMOs can rise above the competition. 

That is, against products like Google Trips and AirBnB Neighbourhoods come into the travel market. Marketing a destination is as much about the inspiration and experience as it is about transactions.

We saw wonderful video storytelling from the Visit Seattle team, who created hundreds of videos in less than 18 months for their Seattle.tv channel. And our friends at Yakima Valley showed how transforming their website to a more visual experience led to a 3x increase in time on site while also reducing their photography budget by 90%.

There is a place for DMOs to be the curators of their brand story, whether that content is being created by themselves or visitors and locals.

7 | Size doesn’t always matter.

One of the most positive takeaways for me from the DMA West Tech Summit is that there was really smart creative marketing being done by destinations of all sizes.

It does help to have bigger budgets, but smaller size marketing teams are doing a great job of focusing on what their destination is really about, and who they want to target. And using a creative mix of ideas and tools like the video marketing strategies shared by TwoSix Digital to the live video tutorials in the Emerging Social Platforms lab.

Some final thoughts

As much as the DMA West Tech Summit was packed with great marketing content, what I loved most were the people I met and the experiences I had.

The pre-event networking ski day was a ton of fun, even when I was falling down alongside my friend Miguel from Visit Stockton and Andy from Noble StudiosAnd the social at Squatters Brewery was where I got to taste some yummy honey and lavender craft beer while looking out at the snow-capped mountains. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I want to give a shout-out to the organizers of the Summit, in particular Teresa, and our hosts at Visit Salt Lake City for pulling off an excellent event. I will definitely return next year, and can’t wait to hear what destination will play host next year.

Interested in destination marketing technology?  Get our free eBook on Understanding the DMO Marketing Tech Stack.