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Wendy Weijdema

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Wendy Weijdema is the marketing strategist for MarketingOost, a destination marketing organisation responsible for economic growth in tourism for the province of Overijsse. We are pleased to welcome Wendy Weijdema as a speaker at #DTTTGlobal on 30th November & 1st December in Brussels to share their story on 'Becoming an effective force in regional marketing'. Ahead of  #DTTTGlobal, we caught up with Wendy to learn more about the work she is doing at MarketingOost.

Biggest challenge as a DMO

Our biggest challenge is to use digital, marketing, transformation or innovation in such a way and at such a pace that we keep (potential) visitors interested in our province. A lot of hype or buzz words become magic words for marketers: jump on the bandwagon and all your goals will be reached. We often forget to take a minute and consider the impact it will really have on our target groups. Another challenge is to keep it simple. Destination marketing in digital can become a real maze.

Digital Marketing Opportunity

We see lots of opportunities in digital marketing, especially in truly adding up the physical and the digital/virtual experience. On the one hand simplifying the customer journey when it comes to information, on the other hand creating the best possible experience, combining our visitors' interests. Take for example singularity, which is becoming increasingly important. How can we integrate those values into our ‘products’ and in the meantime also use the collected data for our purpose?

Process of joining forces to become an effective and strong regional marketing lead.

The process took us a while and went on for four years. At first, we were small, independent organisations that decided to work together for back-office purposes. We were focused mainly on our own regions, trying to develop a better offer: creating routes for bikes, producing brochures, etc. Financed mainly by municipalities and entrepreneurs we concluded that a more structural and external oriented program was needed if we were to stay ahead of the game.

This led to the first ‘marketing impulse for tourism in Overijssel’, a province funded programme that was mainly branding oriented and used the entrepreneur and municipality funding as co-financing. At the beginning, the overall opinion was that regions were quite different from each other, not targeting the same target groups and therefore could not co-operate other than through occasional cross-selling opportunities. However, after a while, it turned out that the regions were not so different in their cores and target the same consumers.

Moreover, brand knowledge was small and due to tiny budgets could not increase. The only exception being Twente and an icon like Giethoorn. However, we also saw that whereas externally we needed to join forces, in our regions we needed to stay separate to stay connected to municipalities and entrepreneurs. Moreover, our focus has shifted to strategy and advice, instead of execution. For that purpose, we installed a research department and through education programs and new hires lifted the knowledge of our employees.

We also saw we needed to include more stakeholders, adjacent to tourism, in the process. Gastvrij Overijssel was created. A networking and lobby organisation for tourism that includes the province, universities, municipalities, nature, water and entrepreneurial organisations that with the advice from MarketingOost decide on a long-term strategy for Overijssel.

This process took and still takes a lot of talking, both inside and outside the organisation. After agreeing on the route to take within the organisation, our financing partners needed to be convinced as well. It needs a well-balanced formula between central strategy and decentralized decisions. Between joined efforts and individual results, between common interests and ‘getting what you paid for’. We learn by doing, but we have two main focusses: 1. The potential visitor and 2. The entrepreneur. If they stop gaining from our efforts, our strategy does not work.

Process to establish the effectiveness of the six organisations

At first, this process was mainly within the organisation. Our former structure had at least 8 captains on the ship and they all know what is best for their region, stakeholders, etc. To be effective both central and for each of the six organisations, we had to agree on the way to go. Of course, you have to deal with changing job descriptions, different responsibilities, etc and it also takes both more flexible and more focused activities. To what extent can the six organisations decide for themselves and at what point do they have to follow the main strategy? Will branding employees still be connected to a region, or will they work for the whole of the province? Will we have branding experts or should everyone be able to handle social media? How to evade creating an ‘us – them’ mentality?

Our first try at centralising failed completely: we overlooked emotions employees had in working for ‘their’ region, did not have a detailed vision of the goal on management level, we gave employees a chance to not agree with the strategy and act like that. So, we reset after a while and tried again more organically. On a management level, we worked on a better worked out strategy, created a better sense of knowing which behaviour was still okay and actually had to let go of about half our staff. Because our branding results were better during this process and the people in the field were still region driven, we managed to steer to calmer waters and are now finalizing the contents of the strategy.

Collaborative working across the different organisations

Since we have centralized branding, we are working in project teams which improve information and experience exchange. In the field of branding, we have inspiration meetings and we use Facebook to exchange interesting cases. There is a central strategy and only three persons can make exceptions to the strategy if needed. They are in close contact with each other.

Current structures of Marketing Oost

Each region has a brand leader and one or more brand advisors, following the size and importance of the region. They manage the brand, stimulate product development and make sure the customer journey is optimized. They are also responsible for acquisition. All of them report back to our managing director. For branding, we have centralised team that works both for projects, the regions, and the central strategy. They are divided into two teams: 1 basics team, responsible for year-round communication through online media, reactive PR, newsletters, etc. All the things we have to do to stay top of mind. Then there is the team responsible for PR and influencer strategy and finally, we have a small campaign team who care about concepting, creativity and making sure it all fits together. There is a service team responsible for back office and first line service to entrepreneurs. In staff we have our research department, routing / infrastructural department and the marketing strategist. Led by a management team consisting of the managing director, manager branding, financial manager and the marketing strategist is an advisor to the team.

Marketing activities and partner integration

We have segmented our b2b target groups. With ambassadors and top entrepreneurs we develop our branding activities and together we invest in the program. Then we have medium-sized entrepreneurs with valuable content which will be able to participate in PR, social media, etc. and finally we have many smaller entrepreneurs and for them, we have created an on- and offline sales program. In this program, they can select the tools and opportunities they want to use, ads they want to buy, etc. They can enter their information standardized and our service team will help them do this in an effective and efficient way.

Impact and results

What we have seen so far is an increase in client satisfaction, both from the governments we work with and from entrepreneurs. Moreover, we have seen higher branding results because of our combined efforts. Our main goals concerning increase in visitors and spending are also up, but it is too early to say that is because of our strategy. Within the company, employee satisfaction is on the rise again as well. The networking organization starts to pay off. Overall there is more clarity and collaboration with the province and along the complete customer journey.

Why should attendees of #DTTTGlobal not miss your talk?

We are actually all struggling with the same challenges and it is very worthwhile to listen to and exchange how we are dealing with that. DMO’s are always under pressure: what if we skipped the DMO. We are now actually seeing that we cannot be missed anymore. It still needs communication, proven results, etc. but I can safely say that because of our focus on strategy and advice, our collaboration instead of only competing, our main partners are looking for more instead of less.

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