Marketing to families can have a big impact on a small business's bottom line.

The Smoky Mountain area lures travelers of all demographics but families are the largest travel segment for this destination. Honeymooners, retirees, and other groups all visit the Smokies during various times of the year, but families with children are the bread and butter of the average Smoky Mountain tourism industry business. That’s why it’s important to have a plan for marketing to families.

As you’re writing a marketing plan using focused marketing tactics, you’ll need to identify your target customer. Is your target the family unit? To help small local businesses reach this demographic, we’ve prepared some tips and tricks for marketing to families.

Marketing to Families with Your Brand’s Message

In the family unit, mothers are most often the decision-makers regarding traveling. However, mothers make decisions based on their children. Where to stay, what to do, and what to eat are all questions answered with solutions that suit the youngest members of the family.

Parents traveling with children are a huge segment of our visitor pool, and we can reach them in many ways. Here are three top methods for marketing to families:

Social Media

It’s a hot debate, but many kids and teenagers have their own social media accounts. With mom and dad also using various platforms, it’s a popular way to reach families. According to Pew Research Center, over 80% of adults under the age of 50 use social media.

Deploy a social media campaign to reach teenagers and their parents. Create content that entertains as much as it informs. This vintage ad from Dollywood Theme Park does the trick! We think that even today, this would be an effective ad. It captures attention yet informs the viewer of facts about the theme park.

Which platform is right for your business? Facebook is still a strong platform for reaching adults, although TikTok is prime real estate for teenagers and young adults. Does your business need TikTok?Whichever platforms you choose, distribute your content via paid ads for the biggest impact. If you need help creating a social media campaign, contact us for a free consultation.

Email Advertising

The internet is vast and while it’s the easiest place to reach potential customers, it’s a long shot for small businesses to make an impression. This is why email advertising is so strong for local businesses. Rather than chasing customers down on the World Wide Web, you can greet them in their inbox in a friendly and familiar manner. Obtaining access to the inbox is the key to email marketing success.

Attract new individuals to your company’s email list to build an audience. This can be achieved via social media posts and campaigns and with pop-up messages on your website. In-store advertising with special offers is another clever way to build your list.

If someone believes in your brand enough to provide an email address, they are interested in your message. For families who return to the Smoky Mountains regularly, this can be an indispensable way to build a relationship with them. Consistently emailing your audience keeps your brand in the forefront, educates them on the latest happenings, and informs them of offers.

With a strong call-to-action, email marketing is an affordable and effective way to entice families to visit your business. Tailor your messages to include all ages, and use the platform to highlight why your business is family friendly.


This Rafting in the Smokies brochure includes all ages on the cover, which is a great strategy for marketing to families.
Brochure from Rafting in the Smokies

Even with all the glitzy digital marketing streams, print advertising is still strong in the Smoky Mountains. Furthermore, it is a productive way to reach families. Rack cards, coupons, brochures, and publications are desirable pieces of literature, especially in an area so saturated with attractions and other businesses. There are so many things to do here; how will a family decide?

Imagine a rack card display in a hotel lobby. As a family checks in, children are scanning the rack for fun things to do. Their selections, like the Rafting in the Smokies brochure pictured above, make it into the hotel room and straight into Mom’s mind. Print may have had its peak, but it’s still a relevant way to reach visitors.

When employing print to reach families, use children in the ad’s photographs. Kids love seeing other kids! The cover of this Rafting in the Smokies brochures features a photo of rafters of all ages including a child. Front and center, the viewer can see that Rafting in the Smokies provides a family-friendly experience. Use vibrant colors and easy-to-read language to capture a child’s attention. With so many other ads competing for attention, the strategy of keeping the message simple is a smart way to reach adults too.

Other Tips and Tricks for Marketing to Families

Feature a Kid-Friendly Product

Flapjack's Pancake Cabin in the Smoky Mountains
Photo credit: Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin

The local breakfast restaurant Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin is a favorite among visitors and locals alike. With its made-from-scratch pancakes, waffles, biscuits, and sweet and savory dishes, the company has served millions of guests since it began in 2001. The brand does an excellent job appealing to kids. Everyone loves pancakes, but kids especially love the dish when it’s arranged like a bear. The cute and welcoming breakfast plate keeps kids and their parents coming back for more, and it makes for a memorable meal.

If your business doesn’t already feature a kid-friendly product, it’s time to start developing one. A kid-friendly product may just be the addition your business needs for a boost to the bottom line.

Showcase an Existing Product in a Kid-Friendly Way

The Melting Pot is marketing to families with this shot of an interactive fondue meal.
Photo Credit: The Melting Pot

When you think about The Melting Pot, you may envision a romantic date night or a special occasion. We love the fondue brand for its romantic and celebratory allure, but we also love how versatile the concept can be. Kids and families love fondue! The art of fondue is a unique way to eat, and the interactive meal allows kids to eat yummy cheeses and chocolates with their fingers. What’s not to love?

In this photograph, The Melting Pot took its ordinarily mature concept and made it more appealing to kids and families. Perhaps your business can do the same with your product or service. Think outside the box and showcase an existing product in a family-friendly way.

Promotions and Special Offers

Traveling is expensive, and working-class families are always looking for a break. If you’re considering running a promotion to gain more business, one that is geared toward families may give you a boost at the right time. A free or discounted price for children is an attractive offer for parents, especially during spring break and summer vacation. Communicate your offer via the three methods above for maximum impact.

Marketing to Families in the Smoky Mountain Tourism Industry

Focusing on the family unit is a smart marketing strategy, and it can reap major benefits for small businesses. Tactics like these can get kids excited about visiting your establishment and can put adults at ease with handing over their hard-earned money.

How can Kellum Creek Business Solutions help your business? We offer marketing solutions and other business services to help local companies grow and thrive. Learn more about us here.

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Authored in Appalachia || Amy Morton