Business owners told, 'You can do this!'
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Tue., Nov. 19, 2013
A tourism marketing boot camp was held at Quinebaug Valley Community College on Nov. 15. Workshops on using Facebook, Twitter, and Google analytics were combined with sessions on brochure design, public relations and good marketing practices. Hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut and the Eastern Regional Tourism District, the event brought the expertise of state officials and marketing professionals to northeastern Connecticut business owners.
ERTD Executive Director Edward Dombroskos, Matt Lipman with the CCEC, and Rob Damroth with the Connecticut Office of Tourism were on hand to talk about specific opportunities for tourism-related businesses. Chief among them was the ability to connect with the state’s tourism website, www.CTvisit.com, and the ERTD website, mystic.org, so that event listings and organizational data could be accessed by a potentially huge market.
The CTvisit website is a conduit to get information out to potential visitors, said Damroth. “There are 2.1 million visitors annually,” he said. Not only can business owners reach that market, they can update information on accommodations, events and travel packages as needed. Some of that information feeds into an electronic newsletter with more than 500,000 subscribers. Estimates are that businesses can reach between 10,000 and 20,000 views a week, said Damroth.
The state website feeds into the Mystic Country website which covers the eastern portion of the state. Lipman called www.mystic.org a hyper local site with three million annual visits on average. These visitors know they want to do something in the area, and the website gives them ideas, he said.
“Connecticut is a multi-visit state,” Dombroskos said. People don’t necessarily come for one- and two-week vacations, but they will visit several times a year. The state is on a short list of where people want to go for weekend visits he said. “We provide the latest information about what’s going on.”
Businesses will want to have their information updated by noon on Thursdays, Dombroskos said. That’s the day and time most people make their plans for the weekend. Weather forecasts are fairly accurate and people are thinking about what they want to do with their free time.
Workshop topics included making use of the soaring popularity of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and keying into applications available to smart phone users. The ERTD website has seen a 40 percent increase in mobile traffic and has become more mobile-friendly to keep up with that trend. The state’s Facebook page is the most popular state-sponsored tourism page in New England, with 185,000 fans, according to Damroth.
“Tourism is an economically-based industry,” Dombroskos said. “It brings millions of dollars to the area. It’s important that businesses reach that market.”
Business owners didn’t have to be tourism-related to benefit from the workshop, however. The 56 participants included municipal officials, non-profits and a host of small business owners.
“People realized that they could use the applications from this workshop for their businesses,” said Northeastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Betti Kuszaj. “They’re on Facebook. They’re on Twitter. This training applies across the board.”
Jet Tucker was pleasantly surprised by the information gleaned from a session on search engine optimization and online marketing. Tucker owns a CPA practice in Canterbury that provides tax and accounting services for individuals and small businesses. The workshop covered the basics and protocol for marketing your business properly she said.
“The content was useful for teamwork, collaboration, business and the community,” said Tucker. “There was good information across the board. Everyone could take something useful from it.”
Performing Arts of Northeastern Connecticut Executive Director Eliza Kimball was looking for ideas for marketing the non-profit to a larger audience. “I think we already do a good job,” she said, “but we want to improve it. We want to reach a larger audience.”
P/Arts Marketing Coordinator Ellen Silberman was specifically interested in optimizing their Facebook page so their mission could become better known throughout the region. “As a volunteer, updating social media sites constantly can be daunting,” she said, “but it’s a love of promoting arts education throughout the community.” P/Arts lists events free of charge to those promoting cultural events. She encouraged others to make use of the state websites.
Kuszaj said the Chamber is planning to make the session an annual or bi-annual event.