Julie from the U.P. of Michigan has a question that I thought you all would also be interested in:
We are looking to collect data from travelers to our area this summer season. In particular, we are interested in WHERE our tourists are coming from, so zip code would be really helpful. A lot of our small town merchants do not have POS [Point of Sale] systems that can do that. We have considered giving merchants a survey card to give to customers/guests to complete and drop in a collection box, and we would then gather those together. Any other ideas for how best to gather this data across many different tourist-based businesses?
I threw the question out to a small group of smart folks on Facebook, and here’s the best feedback:
Sheila Scarborough, Tourism Currents co-founder
I’ve been thinking about this, and maybe Ye Olde Index Card is the best, simplest way to make some progress in this situation. Without a simple system, they will not get the data.
I was going to recommend some sort of Google Doc or other shared document in the cloud that people could leave open on a tablet/iPad at the register and make the data entries, but really, many merchants won’t use something like that.
The key to getting valuable data is that one person or persons who collates all the cards & enters the ZIP codes (or province codes from Canada, especially since they’re way up in the U.P.) into a document that must then be discussed and shared, NOT “stuck in a drawer” somewhere.
Sarah Tumlinson Page, Texas Association of CVBs
Ha! Yeah, I like simple. I would poll the merchants to see what would work best for them. A sign in sheet that customers could do self-service, or a Google doc the clerk could complete would do just fine. If you wanted to get fancy and have a kiosk, that would definitely help on the back end. But logistically could prove difficult for every storefront to have one.
Catherine Pfaff Sak, Texas Downtown Association
What about a clipboard at check out for zip codes only with an explanation about why they want this info at the top?
Leslie Saint McLellan, Tourism Currents and Visit San Jacinto Valley, California
We used old fashioned guest books with name, city, state and zip code. We asked pointedly for our visitors help and they responded extremely well. This approach lent itself to the small town feel and was a very warm and fuzzy community project. Merchants tallied the results and gave them to the chamber monthly.
The smart folks did not let us down! Great ideas.
One other point that occurs to me: do this for a limited time test. Specifically say how long the first test will run. That way you can learn from how well it works and make any changes before the next run. So you might run a one month test initially, then do a three-month span through the summer. You don’t want to continue asking visitors and merchants to keep putting in the effort long after you’ve stopped paying attention.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.