Issue # 17 (893 Words/4 Minutes)
Metric Centric Vs. Strategy Centric? Are DMOs Missing the Forest for the Trees?
“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”
Let's face it destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have become incredibly data-centric over the last 25 years. Years ago, it was only the very biggest DMOs and State tourism agencies that could even afford marketing research of any kind on a consistent or regular basis.
Most DMOs were relegated to information requests, phone calls, counting coupons, or business replies to cards inserted into magazines. Metrics were few and far between, and for some DMOs, it was challenging at funding time for that rare City Council person or county supervisor that asked how do we know what you're doing works?
Because of the continual need for accountability to justify their funding and, in some cases, their existence, they have developed an appetite for metrics. But has this culture of accountability come at the expense of focusing on organizational and competitive strategy?
Starting with the Internet and websites became the central marketing tool because they provided DMOs with a new way to reach the marketplace. As importantly, it provided DMOs with something they'd never had, a low-cost way to count things. Gone were tracking phone, calls, coupons, and business replies to cards, replaced by website visitors and impressions.
Fast forward to today, and DMOs have more metrics at their disposal than at any other time in history. DMOs have everything from lodging performance, volumes of information on website use, search engine optimization, economic impact, transient occupancy tax, and even how many people open a newsletter. With all this data, it was only natural that the Key Performance Indicator or "KPI" was developed, enabling DMOs to develop dozens of KPIs for even more metrics. Big data has also entered the DMO metric space with Zartico, Symphony, and Placer.ai and more. These organizations provide a comprehensive way to store and manage data for use in metrics. DMOs and their creative agencies, be it advertising, digital, or public relations, are all well versed in KPIs for the projects they're working on.
The industry has oriented itself around metrics. Everybody wants to be data-driven, and there is nothing wrong with being data-driven. Since DMOs have so many metrics at their disposal and many use outside agencies to supplement their staff, they have lost their focus and concentrated too much on being metric-centric at the expense of developing effective strategies. Many DMOs have outsourced what they think is a competitive strategy to outside strategic planning firms and ad agencies happy to drive KPIs.
What's wrong with being metric-centric?
Have we reached a point of overreliance on analytic tools that are better suited to understand the current situation and context and not very influential in shaping an organization's future strategy and direction?
In many cases, metric-centric organizations often lose sight of the real goal. The goal is not to benchmark yourself with other DMOs but to develop a competitive advantage and win a place on a competitive chess board. The goal is not to focus on how many impressions, how many website users, and how many likes at the expense of asking a more fundamental question where should we compete as an organization? How should we compete as an organization? Do we have the capabilities to compete as an organization? And do we have the management systems to be effective? Developing strategy is more art than analytics; it's a creative process. The insightful strategist Kenichi Ohmae put it nicely."
"Insight is the key to this process because its creative, partly intuitive, and often disruptive of the status quo; the resulting plans might not hold water from the traditional analyst's view. It is the creative element and the drive and will of the mind that conceived them that give strategies their extraordinary competitive impact."
What Omani is suggesting is that an overreliance on metrics and analytics at the expense of the intuitive creative strategy development process can limit a DMO and its competitiveness. Something to consider if you are a CEO.
We got to this point because advertising and promotion with DMOs shifted from traditional marketing channels and platforms to more technology-oriented opportunities. Additionally, social media has blossomed in a way that an organization could have never imagined. Everything can be counted, every click can be quantified and analyzed, and metrics are tangible; it's something that DMO staff can put their hands around and understand. It's reassuring.
Strategy, in contrast, is messy and intangible. When an organization implements a strategy, it's unknown if it will be successful. The creativeness and insight to de