The 2012 Belize marketing Summit held August 23 in Belize City represents a “quantum leap forward” for marketing not only for this tiny Caribbean country, but for smaller organisations and developing nations worldwide, summit speaker and Chaa Creek owner Lucy Fleming said today.
“It wasn’t so long ago that successful marketing, at least on a global scale, depended on a large budget and usually the services of a professional agency with contacts and industry networks. Your branding success was generally tied to how much you could spend.
“But, as many people learned during the marketing summit, global communications and social media have changed that forever and now the creative smaller operator with a great product can go up against the big guys and be competitive. It’s a very exciting time,” Ms Fleming said.
The highlight of the 2012 Belize Marketing Summit, sponsored by the Belize Tourism Industry Association, was a Marketing Masterclass conducted by David Meerman Scott, one the world’s most influential marketers and author of the international bestseller, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, which has been published in 26 languages.
During the master class, Meerman Scott challenged the participants to break free from out-dated concepts, methods and tools. “How many people here use the Belize Yellow Pages?” he asked. Predicting that these and other forms of advertising are reaching the end of their life span, he then discussed how the new generation of consumers research and shop for products. Successful marketers are those who engage with potential customers rather than merely push products.
Ms Fleming said the repercussions for a country such as Belize, which now depends upon tourism as its main income earner yet is still relatively unknown and does not have a large budget to promote itself, are enormous. She cited Chaa Creek as an example.
“We handled our own marketing from day one, and used all the traditional approaches, as much as we could afford to. However, during the last few years we’re increasingly finding that people are coming to us through our blogs and online and print articles written about us. Through our website people can see the beauty of the rainforest and what we offer, can hear testimonials from previous guests and can contact us with questions. This engages people and sets up a relationship that translates into more business and satisfied customers in a way that transcends budgets,” she said.
Chaa Creek’s marketing evangelist Larry Waight, who was instrumental in bringing Meerman Scott to Belize said that he is excited by the new opportunities and challenges presented by content and “real time” marketing. “If you have a great product and can communicate about it, the sky’s the limit. We’ve watched our search engine rankings soar the last few years, and more and more people contribute to our travel blog and respond to our different initiatives. We’ve developed a following and a great global reputation without using splashy expensive campaigns or pushy tactics.
“It’s a very effective way to market, but you need to have a good product, and you need to be passionate about it – that’s the most important thing,” Mr Waight said.
After a few days exploring Belize, staying at Chaa Creek, visiting the ancient Maya temple of Xunantunich, zip lining through the rainforest canopy and taking part in other distinctly Belizean activities, Mr Meerman Scott agreed that that Belize and Chaa Creek are indeed great products, and after the summit he said he was impressed by Belizeans’ passion to get the word out.
“It’s an extraordinary, beautiful country with very friendly people and a business community that is already adapting to a changing marketplace and making it work for them.
“Marketing is evolving, technology is evolving, and here amid all this pristine nature people are evolving along with it all, and it’s great to be a part of that,” Mr Meerman Scott said, adding that he plans to return to Belize, perhaps with some other notable marketers for another summit, but definitely with his family. “I’ve become a Belize and Chaa Creek evangelist,” he said.