If you’re a Membership Director, Manager or staffer, or you work with one, this is for you.

I’m truly passionate about Destination Marketing Organization membership teams and the power they have to grow tourism. I had the pleasure to speak at the Destinations International Membership Summit in Palm Springs, CA, on October 24, 2018. The name of the talk? - “What I wish I Knew When I was in Your Shoes.” 

As I did in Palm Springs, here I am sharing what I wish I knew when I worked at a DMO; insights I’ve collected from more than 20 years within this profession.

Why do I hold this department so dear? Because the relationships built within the community through tourism stakeholders opens the door to creating programs that rally DMO staff and contribute to the internal team culture and tourism in general.

In fact, that DMO staff culture is what members see; it’s what they want to be a part of and is what spills out to other relationships in the community (like the Chamber or City Council). This culture helps to enhance your community’s overall appreciation for tourism.

And at the hub is the membership department, a group who needs access to every aspect of the organization. By knowing each DMO department’s goals and KPIs, these community facing DMO representatives can fully understand the value of your organization as a whole to accurately and effectively educate your tourism stakeholders.

With this information, the membership department is better equipped to translate how member benefits contribute to destination marketing to attract more members who want to be a part of that bigger vision—businesses which are bound to be more active and engaged in DMO programs.

When your stakeholders see the big picture, they’ll be asking you “how can I contribute” and “how can I assist my DMO with destination marketing?”

How do I know? Having been entrenched in both sides, I can say my perspective within the industry has changed, but my appreciation for the power of membership has only increased.

The Insider’s View

I joined Simpleview in 2014 and have since gained a valuable and humble appreciation of what it means to be an “industry vendor.” I’ve come full circle from being the “all-knowing queen bee of the membership hive” to learning about what powers our industry from a completely new angle.

What I’ve really found fascinating is the view I’ve had into dozens of DMOs. I’ve seen how the various personalities work together to build relationships within your communities and among your tourism businesses.

And what I see is the incredible power that the membership function has in shaping both internal DMO culture and your external member/partner relationships. I also recognize day-to-day duties can keep people so busy they don’t realize the power they hold.

DMO staff positions are very similar from DMO to DMO, and the personalities that go with them are too. Without ANY prompting you could identify all of the key staff positions just from their “Hello.”

  • The “destination cheerleader” Visitor Services Manager
  • The “hand-holder” Conventions Services Manager
  • The “keep-your-eye-on-the-monthly-goal” Sales Manager
  • The “master-of-their-universe “ Marketing Manager
  • The “bend-over-backwards” Member/Partner Manager

The Member/Partner professional is the person who takes on all of these roles at times, as a destination cheerleader, a member hand-holder, and a make-your-monthly-goal sales manager, all the while mastering their own universe of partner details, event planning, complaint response, and community education.

What I’ve learned is that member/partner managers can be even more successful by the very nature of the position they hold. But they have to become a “Learn-It- All”.

The more you know about the DMO, the more successful you’ll be, so make it your goal to learn the functions and key performance metrics for not only your department but of each DMO department in your destination and internalize the information. Ask yourself:

  • What are each department's goals?
  • How do other department activities and goals affect your department?
  • Where are opportunities to create new benefits, new revenue streams, or more partner referrals?
  • What conventions and meetings does your sales team go after?
  • What publications is your PR team trying to snag?
  • What are the co-op programs your marketing team is pursuing with your member/partners?
  • What are all of the revenue sources to your DMO and what percent of that is from membership dues? (Did you know? Membership often contributes the smallest percent of revenue but the biggest investment in relationship capital)

What’s more, how familiar are you with your DMO’s most important marketing tool—your official destination website?

  • Do you know how to navigate your website like the back of your hand?
  • Have you seen the Google Analytics report for your website?
  • Do you know the difference between page views, sessions, and users?
  • Can you reel off how many of these metrics your website receives on an annual basis?

But wait, there’s more—what honors and accolades has your DMO earned?

  • Convention, visitor or industry-related awards, know them all.
  • Are you Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP) certified? This program administered by DI defines the quality and performance standards for destination marketing and management.
  • Can you describe how the accreditation is a benefit to your tourism stakeholders?

Once I learned I could take ownership of this information, I was able to sell the value of membership to any tourism business!

I had a relevant point for every prospect—whether they wanted in on convention business, leisure traffic or connections within the local tourism industry. You can do this now!

The unique and in-depth knowledge membership department staffers have of every new member that joins the organization puts them in the catbird seat to make the connections that help other departments hit their goals. If this is you, just think…

  • You probably know of a new venue that will help your sales team land a convention.
  • You could connect two members to create a visitor experience unique enough to interest a travel writer.
  • You have the ability to launch a visitor awareness program that garners the attention of your Mayor and Council—and fosters a closer relationship with your hoteliers.

Membership programs have the power to enhance so many different aspects of your DMO; you just have to tap into your resources. Here are just a few ideas you might want to consider for your DMO:

  • Look for new sources of non-dues revenue—you don’t have to do it by yourself—ask your trusted members what they need more of and they will be your biggest supporters; put your marketing assets out for sale!
  • Initiate a hospitality training class or an all-volunteer visitors welcome program. Ask your local community college to involve their hospitality program students so you have help!
  • Take ownership of DMO stats and initiatives that touch your member/partners and be able to communicate the value. You are the DMO ambassador acting on behalf of all of your departments.
  • See trends and embrace change—include non-members in co-op opportunities at a higher rate and allow non-members a basic listing on your website to better showcase your destination’s offerings.

The key takeaways from what I wish I knew and what I hope you’ll do is become the “Learn-It-All” of your DMO. If you’re in the membership department, put that knowledge to work in your recruitment efforts. If you’re not, help your membership professionals learn it all by sharing your department’s insights.