One of the keys to successfully marketing a destination is identifying its USP. Have you done this for your city, state, or geographical area? If you haven’t, or you’d like a refresher course on the whole process, this post is for you.
First we’ll discuss what a USP is and why it’s so essential. Then we’ll layout a simple three step system you can use to define your destination USP and attract more visitors.
Let’s get started.
What is a Unique Selling Proposition?
According to BusinessDictionary.com, a unique selling proposition (USP) is a:
“Real or perceived benefit of a good or service that differentiates it from the competing brands and gives its buyer a logical reason to prefer it over other brands.”
Applied to destination marketing, it’s what makes your city, state, or geographical area unique from every other tourism spot in the world.
Why should travelers visit your destination? What can your location offer that others can’t? Perhaps it appeals to a specific type of visitor — adventure seekers, for example.
Maybe your state offers incredible natural wonders travelers won’t be able to experience anywhere else. Think Yellowstone or Niagara Falls. Your location USP could be as simple as its affordability compared to other areas in the region.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t attempt to discover what makes your destination better. Rather, find what makes it different. Differences, when marketed to the correct audience, will instantly make your city, state, or geographical area more appealing.
Ultimately, defining a USP for your destination means you’ll need to take a stand for something. What should your location be known for?
Define Your Destination USP
When marketing a destination, your organization is faced with stiff competition. The world is a big and beautiful place. Travelers have a wealth of options when choosing the location for their next trip.
To further complicate matters for DMOs, stunning photographs and in-depth traveler reviews are readily available online. It’s nearly impossible to even browse Instagram without seeing some beautiful and exotic locale!
The current digital landscape gives your organization the ability to reach just about anyone with your destination marketing message. But it also makes cutting through the noise difficult with so many locations competing for attention.
A destination USP will help you help mitigate this challenge and reach your ideal target audience much easier. Here’s how to find yours:
Step 1: Know Your Ideal Customer
This is the foundation of every successful marketing strategy. If you don’t know who your customer is, you’ll have an incredibly difficult time reaching them. To hone in on your target audience, you need to create buyer personas.
A buyer persona, also known as a marketing persona, is a fictional character created to represent a specific subset of an audience. When you’ve created one (or two, or three, or five!) for your organization, you’ll be able to humanize your marketing efforts and better reach ideal customers.
A proper buyer persona will include demographic information such as age, gender, physical location and family size; and psychographic details like goals, motivations, and fears. All this data should then be assembled into a formal document complete with persona name (e.g. Kayla the Millennial) and picture (a stock image off of Google.)
Knowing your customers is also essential when determining your destination USP.
You need to get inside their heads and determine what they really want out of a trip to your area, what main factors motivate their travel purchasing decisions, and how your destination can either solve their problems or meet their desires.
Your past and current visitors are a great source of information on this topic. Ask them why they decided to travel to your location rather than somewhere else. Of course, research can (and should) be conducted on the internet via review sites and forums, etc., as well.
Step 2: Solve Their Problems
People don’t buy things for the sake of it; they do so to solve problems. A problem like a headache has an obvious solution: take medicine. Other problems are more complex and can be solved in a variety of ways.
For example, those with the problem of low self-esteem may attempt to solve it by purchasing a new car, shopping for new clothes and makeup, or spending time at the gym.
Your ideal customers, the people you hope will travel to your destination, have problems too. Or, at the very least, have strong desires they want fulfilled. They need adventure or relaxation. They want big-sized fun on a small-sized budget. They think a trip to your area will make them appear more sophisticated or powerful to their circle of influence.
Once you know who your target audience is, you need to identify the main problems they face and help them resolve those issues. This is the foundation of your destination’s USP.
Step 3: Create USP Driven Content
You understand who you’re trying to attract and how a trip to your destination will solve a problem they encounter. Now what? It’s time to convey this to your audience.
Tell them — through your organizations website copy, social media posts, email marketing efforts, etc. — why they should travel to your destination instead of somewhere else. Show them how a trip to your city, state, or geographical area will benefit them and solve their problems. These are the details that will help your destination stand out.
Think of this stage of USP creation as making a promise to your ideal customers. You’re basically saying, “If you travel to our destination, we promise you’ll get (fill in the blank).”
For example, Nashville is known as Music City due to its abundance of record labels, recording studios, and live music venues. The tourism site, Visit Music City, embraces this and makes it a focal point of their advertising.
One look at their website and travelers know that they’ll be able to catch a concert or tour a historic music site on their visit. This then opens the door for everything else the city has to offer such as professional sports teams and award winning restaurants.
A Few Destination USP Best Practices
Before we move on to the next section, it’s important to cover a few more things regarding your destination USP:
- Your USP must be strong enough to attract people. This probably goes without saying, but the USP for your destination needs to entice travelers to visit. Your city may invest in renewable energy solutions, but will this encourage your target customer to spend money on a trip? Maybe, maybe not. Your USP should attract people.
- Don’t be unique for the sake of it. Rather, capitalize on what’s already different about your location. You don’t need to create a goofy mascot or a hokey tagline. Instead, focus on the things travelers won’t find anywhere else: the scenery, the history, the opportunity, etc.
- Condense your USP down to just a few sentences. You won’t always have a full webpage to explain what sets your destination apart. Make sure your message can be conveyed in just a sentence or two.
- Use your USP! It needs to become an essential element of your marketing efforts. Your organization’s web copy, marketing videos, and Google ads should be infused with it. When travelers think of your destination they should think of its USP. This will only happen if you promote it.
Destination USP Examples
You now know how to craft a USP for your destination. But if you’re having trouble really nailing down what makes your city, state or geographical area unique, use these three examples as inspiration.
Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas is a city that’s built its entire reputation on bad (or at least carefree) behavior. Just recall these catch phrases: “The City of Sin“, “America’s Playground“, and “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas“.
Travelers from all over the world know that when they visit Las Vegas, they’ll be able to experience things they can’t anywhere else. From the casinos to the world-class live entertainment, the city is one giant party. And they’ve done a fantastic job of marketing themselves as such.
Portland, OR is one of the most unique cities in the United States, maybe even the world. It’s citizens are fiercely independent and pride themselves on being different — as evidenced by giant billboards saying, “Keep Portland Weird”, and cultural phenomenon, Voodoo Doughnut.
The cities main tourism site, Travel Portland, fully embraces its city’s free spirit and extensive activities list with a slogan that reads, “No matter what it is you’d like to be, do, eat or drink — even if you’ve never tried it before — You Can, in Portland.“
They’ve done a great job embodying the spirit of their city and promoting it to travelers.
The Caribbean is composed of 28 recognized island nations and over 7,000 individual islands. How can any of them stand out? With a strong USP, that’s how!
Dominica has branded itself “The Nature island”. Images and videos on the island’s main travel website, Discover Dominica, depict beautiful mountains, emerald waters, and an abundance of sea life — a nature lover’s dream trip destination.
By promoting their USP, Dominica has built a thriving tourism industry for itself.
Know Your Destination USP
Finding and promoting your destination USP is extremely important. The tips in this post will help you narrow down what makes your city, state, or geographical area different and why those differences matter to your ideal customer.
Speaking of ideal customers, make sure you know who you’re marketing to. Buyer personas really help with this. Once you know your target audience, you can investigate the problems they’re trying to solve, or desires they want fulfilled.
The final piece of the puzzle is combining what your audience wants with what makes your destination different, and expressing it in all your marketing copy. Good luck!