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10 Keys to Creating a Low-Stress, High-Impact Visitor Guide

Visitor Guides at Sports Show

According to a recent study by Bentley University’s Center for Marketing Technology, travel destinations’ visitor guides are considered to be among the most important resources to hospitality professionals. These guidebooks are important opportunities for leadership at chambers, tourism councils, and economic development corporations to cull and distill the most attractive aspects of a tourism destination and put them in the hands of prospective visitors in published media.

But putting together visitor guides and other guidebooks is no small task and requires careful planning and collaboration. The staff of 5 Star Marketing & Distribution, in our work with more than a dozen chambers and tourism organizations each year to produce these valuable guides, is here to support our clients through every step of this journey, we’ve put together a list of 10 tips to reduce the headaches and maximize the success of the production and publication of your organization’s next edition of your visitor guide.

10 Keys to Creating a Low-Stress, High-Impact Visitor Guide

1. Establish your timeline in advance.

Consider a goal date by which you want or need to have your visitor guide in hand. Then work backward from there in order to create a schedule that works for your staff and the production team. You will want to carve out time for the following activities:

  • ad sales
  • ad creation and proofing
  • gathering photos and other graphics
  • gathering previous years’ ads and design files from designers
  • gathering information from community members for the calendar of events
  • updating and organizing information to include in various maps and charts
  • gathering your members’ business directory listings
  • crafting and editing articles showcasing your destinations’ attractions, activities, and history
  • the layout of the book
  • collaborating with the designer on the overall look of the guide
  • proofreading and fact-checking
  • sending proofs to your organization’s board and/or members, gathering feedback, and implementing changes
  • printing, delivery, and distribution

2. Create a clear channel of communication between advertisers and production staff.

Coordinate with the publisher of your visitor who will be collecting ad materials and who will be fielding ad proofs. If advertisers will be in direct contact with the publisher’s production staff, be sure to make it clear to the advertisers (if your organization is membership-based) that someone from an outside organization will be receiving their ad components and sending them ad proofs so they don’t miss important and time-sensitive emails. Also, make it clear for your members where to send the payment for their ad. Provide them with important details, such as ad deadlines, prices, ad dimensions, accepted file formats, and required image sizes/resolutions. Determine in advance how you will track the ads that have come in so you know that your organization, your members, and the production staff are all on the same page.

3. Streamline your production by creating a clearly defined communication channel.

Because there are a lot of pieces that come together to form your visitor guide, it’s helpful to declare a single point person who will be gathering all the pieces and sending them to the production manager. At 5 Star Marketing & Distribution, we have also made it simple for organizations to get all pieces to the right place. You’ll be sending all ads, photos, and editorial content to one email address, and we’ll take care of it from there!

4. Request samples of paper and finishes that you are considering.

There are so many options for paper finishes that sound similar—dull UV coat, soft UV coat, and satin, to name just a few. The finish of your guidebook has a strong impact on readers’ experience of the book, so determining the finish is an important decision. While the 5 Star Marketing & Distribution staff is happy to recommend options to suit your preferences, do not hesitate to ask for samples, so you can see how images look on the page and feel the paper’s texture and weight in your hands.

5. Gather local photos early and often.

5 Star Marketing & Distribution has a robust library of stock photos that capture the essence of many northern Wisconsin and UP Michigan towns, and we can supplement your organization’s photo libraries with stock photos in order to achieve an attractive guide. That being said, a successful visitor guide highlights the attractions, natural resources, businesses, and people that make your destination unique. Seek contributions from your business members and the community at large to capture what makes your destination worth visiting. Ask for contributions early and often! A classic supper club, a nostalgic ice cream shop, a memorable vista on a local trail, or a cheeky roadside statue, recognizable and iconic spots beg to be visited and shared through social media. Find photos showing people enjoying community events and activities. From snowmobiling to skijoring, ATVing to paddle boarding, inspire visitors to explore all your destination has to offer!

6. Choose cover options and the overall look and feel early in the process.

Does your organization have a style guide—a set of specific colors, fonts, and design elements to be used in its publications? If so, share this information with the graphic designers early in the production process so they can create a visitor guide that adheres to these style guidelines. It is also helpful to send the designers your cover photo options early in the production of your guide. Doing this prevents a last-minute scramble if your preferred cover photo does not meet print cover quality standards. It also helps you to establish an overall look and feel for your guide. This streamlines the layout of your guide when all the pieces are ready to be placed into a complete book.

7. Consider quality and budget when printing your visitor guide.

It’s wise to establish your printer and an estimated print date early in the production process in order to prevent unforeseen delays and extra expenses. Because 5 Star Marketing & Distribution prints a high volume of visitor guide magazines, and other print marketing materials, we offer our clients affordable printing prices.

8. Make a plan to distribute your guides to high-traffic spots.

After working to make your visitor guide attractive and informative, it’s crucial that the visitor guide be seen and picked up by as many potential visitors as possible. 5 Star Marketing & Distribution has a system of distribution racks that is unparalleled in the state of Wisconsin. Working together with various partners, we have access to distribution rack locations in thousands of high-traffic locations throughout the region. We offer many distribution route options, enabling us to create a distribution plan that meets your organization’s specific marketing budget and goals.

9. Share the digital guide.

Prospective visitors come to your website in search of information that will help them plan their stay at your destination. Empower them to find the information they are looking for and entice them with the beautiful graphics in your visitor guide by putting a digital version of your guide on your website. When you partner with 5 Star Marketing, you can opt to have our staff create a digital guidebook ready to be embedded on your site and shared with your contacts and your members’ contacts via email.

10. Let the visitor guide be seen by sports and travel aficionados.

Because people who attend outdoor sports, hunting, fishing, and travel conventions are looking for their next adventure, such shows undoubtedly perfect places to showcase your visitor guide. However, we recognize that your organization may not be able to send a representative to shows out of this immediate region. That’s why 5 Star Marketing & Distribution provides chambers and tourism councils who partner with us the option of having our staff displaying your visitor guides at regional sport and travel conventions throughout Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

Creating a high-quality visitor guide is an important part of the success of your organization’s marketing efforts. At 5 Star Marketing & Distribution, we value communication and clarity in each step of the process. Contact us today if you are interested in learning more about partnering with 5 Star Marketing & Distribution in the production, printing, and or distribution of your visitor guide.


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