Does your destination, organization or company have an "Off Season"? Most tourism and hospitality industry suppliers have an off season or need period. The following strategies are designed to get you turned "ON" to create business in your "Off Season".

The first step is to identify your off season or need periods. What seasons, months of the year or days of the week are you in need of business. Are there certain market segments that you would like to grow and develop at certain times of the year? Orlando, Florida is a great destination that has lots of visitors on a year round basis. However, a few years ago before doing a presentation on off-season development I was told there were some very specific demographic customer groups that Orlando wanted to attract.

The second step is the focus your energy and resources on the periods and markets you have identified. This means allocating time and funds to target off-season initiatives that can be developed and measured. A second part of focusing your efforts also involves changing the lenses that you use when looking at your off season. Albert Szent Gyorgyi says, "discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different." How can you refocus your lens to see something different?

The third strategy is to open yourself up to your creative energy. Creativity is the cornerstone of getting your off season turned on. Creativity is an innate ability that we all possess; however, it is like a muscle and must be exercised regularly to be developed and fine-tuned. Creative ideas may come from anywhere and sometimes it is a combination of different ideas from various people and places that together produce incredible results.

Step four is to take an inventory and identify the intrinsic qualities that make your product, service or destination brand unique. What are your major selling advantages? How can your attributes be positioned differently in new products and services to achieve results during your need periods?

Industry intelligence on key market segments and your customers' needs will increase your success ratio. I suggest contacting three to four major wholesalers or customers in your key target groups to uncover the major motivators for travel to your destination. You may discover that your customers are willing to collaborate with you to develop a program or promotion to enhance your success. Also, look at clients who are traveling to your destination in the off season. Ask yourself on them: "What are their motivating factors?"

Creating space is the next strategy. Space is the necessary frontier and without it you will not be able to achieve results. Blocking space to focus on getting turned on forces a commitment and demonstrates to colleagues the importance of the off season development process. Leadership must take the initiative to create space in organizations and communicate the importance of new product development.

Assembling a team of partners for a brainstorming session is tip number six. Identify a group of colleagues that would be interested in investing some energy into development of your off season. This should be a group of open-minded individuals that are committed to trying new things and getting out of their comfort zone. The first stage should be to identify your assets, then concentration on generating large quantities of ideas. For best results, an outside professional should facilitate the brainstorming process.

Connecting raw ideas to the four Ts is the next tip. In reviewing your ideas, what are the Themes, Threads, Trends and Traditions that connect to your inventory of intrinsic destination qualities? By making a connection to one of the four Ts, you will be able to wrap your off season product in a unique and innovative way for new customers.

Once your ideas have been connected, the next tip is to develop packaged products for your market. Begin the Testing or Prototyping process and get up at bat with your clients. I advocate testing your off season ideas to targeted customer groups and tour groups annually. This will allow you to see what will and will not work. Testing annually keeps the momentum of new development high and enables you to move faster. There is no need when testing new product to develop a four-color glossy brochure. Use both a bricks and clicks strategy through mailings and also posting products to your web site to gauge interest. As Nike says, "Just Do It" and see what you learn.

Finally after getting an initial read on your new off season ideas and tested product from customers and associates, bring your colleagues together. Develop a process of critical analysis to sort through the different options to select those to roll out into the market. Be sure your plan incorporates the buying cycles of your customers as well as a promotional budget to insure success.

The above strategies form a process that will get you turned on to generate new business. If at first you don't succeed, keep on testing!

For additional information on workshops and consulting services contact Joe Veneto at joe@opportunityguy.com

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Joe Veneto, "The Opportunity Guy," is principal of Opportunities Unlimited, a management consulting and training company. He collaborates with organizations in Tourism, Hospitality and Service-related industries to achieve results by creating new business opportunities. His areas of specialty include sales development, innovative product development, destination marketing and customer service. Joe is a 20-year veteran of the tourism industry and has worked for national tour operators and major industry wholesalers.

Opportunities Unlimited provides management consulting services, custom designed seminars and results-oriented training workshops. Clients include government tourism agencies, marketing organizations, hotel groups, historic attractions & museums, restaurants, tour operators and others. Joe's unique industry experience enables him to create practical, results oriented programs tailored to his client’s business needs.

In addition to his consulting, Joe is a nationally recognized speaker on the Tourism & Hospitality Industries. He presents programs annually for National Associations, Regional Tourism Groups, Industry-wide Conferences and Convention & Visitors Bureaus. He has also authored several articles that have appeared in various travel trade publications.

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