What help does your tourism business REALLY need

Welcome to Tourism Upgrade. The podcast unpacking marketing trends from travel, tourism and marketing leaders. I’m your host HollyG and today we welcome Giovanna Lever, experienced marketer and Founder of a new business called Sparrowly. This podcast topic was originally going to be on how do you know when you need a marketing manager but we talk about a range of broader business issues in this vein with tourism business in mind.

Holly: Welcome to the podcast!

Giovanna: Thank you, good to be here!

Holly: Now Giovanna you have had a range of experience working for companies like Australian Rugby Union, Tourism Australia (where we first met), Intercontinental Hotels Group and Vanity Group, as well as running your own successful catering company – what are some of the marketing challenges you have seen and continue to see with businesses today?

Giovanna: We most often businesses and marketers go straight to trying to solve the problem before articulating or defining whats actually the problem. What is your business problem or what I like to call it – what is your conundrum? Not what we think is the issue – but what you know it is. What is the landscape that sits around this or the current climate that affects the conundrum you’re trying to solve.

Holly: I was mentioning before that I went to a great workshop on creativity and they were talking about looking at other industries to try and help you solve your challenges but what I said is it is sometimes really hard to identify what your challenge is!

Giovanna: Yes you are right! The best way to do it, is the understand your audience – and learn the art of listening. People just don’t listen! There is a big difference between what you think your audience want and actually knowing what makes them tick. We as marketers as people, as society we have forgotten how to listen. So if you get the what and the who right first (what’s your positioning of your produce or service), then the how and the when thats actually really easy.

There is a big difference between what you think your audience want and actually knowing what makes them tick…

Holly: You can spend a lot of time on the what and the who and trying to really nail that in the right way before moving on.

Giovanna: I think you need to. People think the tactical implementation or ideas are hard – well they are hard when you don’t actually understand who you are talking to and what your conundrum is.

Holly: With small & medium sized businesses, which many in travel & tourism are, they are often the owner, the accountant, customer service and sales where does marketing fit into a business?

Giovanna: Well first of all we need to stop putting marketing in a little bucket over to the right. We need to look at sales and marketing as one in driving revenue. Marketing done well should generate the bulk of the sales leads its then how you convert those leads. So essentially as a business owner, my big believe is that you need to understand all facets of the business and not bury your head in the sand. Up-skilling, re-skilling is vital. When you get to the point of building your network around you you need to have an idea and an understanding of how to do everything – at least the principles.

More on this around the 5 minute mark.

We need to stop putting marketing in a little bucket over to the right

Holly: What sorts of things do we need to look at first, or prepare before we decide to hire a marketing manager?

Giovanna: A lot of clients come to me and they are at a fork in the road of their business and they say, we need a marketer – and i’ll say hmmm i’m not sure its a marketer you need – most of the time I talk them out of it. What they need is really spending the time to define the issues and have a really clear picture of where they are heading or where they need to head. Business owners need to take the dedicated time out of their business regularly to get out of the operation so they can continually assess – so they don’t get that feeling of overwhelm and think they can just through in one more person or one more body to fix the problem. So often times when clients come to me and say I need a marketer, I’m like no. What you need to do is stop, recalibrate, you need to be clear and aligned on the direction moving forward. often times its not a marketer that they need, what they actually need to do is refocus what they are doing as they have spread themselves too thin and then they have lost focus.

Holly: So are their certain tips or techniques for how to take that time out or getting back on track?

Giovanna: Something that I do is to have a no meeting day every week. On that day I do all my follow up, I look at my business – have that time to think. It may be when you are out running or working from a coffee shop. You need to stop and give yourself time. It could be spending time with a mentor – your mentor doesn’t need to be in your industry. Talk to people across industries and invest in yourself and your development.

Holly: What do we need to look at first before we decide to hire outside help?

Giovanna: Sure. We can look at agencies or internal staff and both have merits. You need to find people that you have a really great gut feel about. I like to call it dating. Date the person for a while and don’t get excited or fall in love too fast. You need to do your homework first – you don’t want a bandaid. When you bring in extra bodies they need to leave you in a better place than they found you and leave you with the tools and the legacy to carry on. 

Holly: Its really about that information sharing

Giovanna: Yes you really do need to share. There is no point holding onto information.

  1. Define the deliverables for your business
  2. What are the key tasks of that person
  3. What is the budget (if its little or a lot it does not mater as long as thats defined)
  4. Make sure you know what success looks like (set those KPI’s)

And then ask yourself do you need a marketing manager or is it something else! Many times in small businesses it might be a sales coordinator. If you have the leads coming through and the owner is out there trying to convert and also trying to do proposals, maybe its a sales coordinator that you can build up and develop.

If you don’t have a lead problem it might not be a marketing person that you need!

We talk more on this from the 11.30 minute mark on the podcast – listen in.

Giovanna: As a business leader or manager or owner you need to believe in your ability. But if your ability is waning you need to know when to put your hand up – and ask for help.

You need to believe in your ability and that of your team. You need to empower your team to think for themselves, and bring new ideas to the table. And then you need to coach them on how to put the commerciality around these ideas. And if you don’t know how to do that as a leader, get the help. Don’t be ashamed, some people fall into management or leadership positions – especially business owners – but to be the best be aware.

You can’t just set a strategy and forget about it. It needs to be communicated INTERNALLY. But don’t chop and change your strategy just because you come up with another big idea, that shows you don’t have faith in your original idea/strategy/concept.

Another tip or point is define your positioning and compare regularly to market trends and conditions – you need to know what is happening in the broader landscape – get out of the bubble or it will pop when you least expect it. The GFC was a great example of this for tourism operators.

Next point, is it takes a village to run a successful business. You need to find your people. Listen in at the 16 minute mark for more about this.

” If you want to stand out from the crowd, give people a reason not to forget you.” – Richard Branson

And finally, building a nurturing your network as they will become your biggest advocates  and influences. “I believe you have the power to be an influencer in your own space if you are willing to work with your village”.

Read Giovanna’s two blog posts on this topic:



Holly: Where can people find out more about you and connect?

Giovanna: People can connect with me on Linkedin or through Sparrowly United on our Facebook page or group or www.sparrowly.com

Holly: If you only had a thousand dollar marketing budget, what would you spend it on?

Holly: Now what if you only had $100?

Tune into the podcast from the 18 minute mark for Giovanna’s great answer!