Published: 17 January 2017

Too often in 2016 I spoke with Marketers who are too hesitant to try new things, because they’re too quick to dismiss them as a “flash in the pan”, or deciding to “wait and see” how a trend might play out, letting their competitors go ahead with it first. Despite the stats and evidence showing success and ROI with determined experimentation, too often people in our industry won’t experiment with new platforms, technologies or techniques until they’ve become the norm.

Today I’m going to detail 9 steps you can take this year to make a big change to your Travel Marketing strategy. All I’m asking for is a little faith.

1. Segment Your Content: Inspire, Inform, Story tell

Understanding this is vital, because it informs every other step we’re going over today.

Content Marketing has become a key component of all customer journeys, and with 85% of 18-34s (the dreaded M-Word, Millennials) seeking to spend money on “experiences” rather than material goods, Content should be at the forefront of your 2017 strategy. There’s a great deal to learn about Content Marketing (more than I can go into today), but there’s a very fundamental rule that is easy to follow, and will improve your Content’s potential value by making sure its speaking to the right people.

Before even thinking of writing a blog, decide what the aim of your blog is, using these three words as your bedrock: Inspire, Inform, Storytell.

These three aims take place at different levels of the funnel.

Inspire: Capture your customer’s attention with inspiring content, and get them thinking about travelling – not just with you – in general!

Inform: Now that your customers are thinking about travelling, provide them with useful information that will steer them to you, and show them that you’re the best Brand to give them the experience they now desire.

Storytell: This is where Brand Loyalty is born. Either through User-Generated-Content or your own creativity, establish yourself as the premier service provider in your niche. This level can also inspire travellers to travel with you again in the future, turning the funnel into a loop!

2. Immerse Your Customers in Your Brand

Now that we’re thinking about different stages of the funnel/your customers level of interest, we can talk about delivering your Brands message

Almost every one of our clients have Adwords campaigns running, and we consider Pay-Per-Click advertising is an excellent way to reach your customers, but it comes with a limitation: ads only show when the customer is actively searching for your Brand or service. If we look at that from an Inspire, Inform & Story tell perspective, which of these fundamental segments does Adwords cover? Most campaigns click through to a landing page with the product available to buy, which means most of these ads are serving customers who are post-Inform, but pre-Story tell. They’re somewhere in the middle. If you want your Brand to be guiding customers at each step, steering them ever-increasingly toward your Checkout page, this just isn’t enough. This is especially true when you consider that smartphones and tablets have instituted a “multi-screen” customer journey

For this reason, Multi-Channel Marketing is regarded by many as the number ONE trend for Digital Marketing – not just for Travel – everything. MCM means stepping outside of your boundaries and working in unfamiliar, yet fruitful territory, by way of video creation and video advertising, Social PPC, instigating a proper Content strategy, and finally Contextual Remarketing.

3. Get Real about VR

Bet you didn’t see THIS one coming!

As a Content-Enthused Digital Marketer and HTC Vive owner, I’m a bit nuts about VR in Marketing. And I love that in 2016, everyone was shouting about it, and some were even embracing it to produce inspirational and storytelling content.

However, the prospect of utilising VR for Content and Marketing is daunting for many, conjuring up images of computer games programmers, a budget on-par with NASA and a 3D camera setup like James Cameron.

Seven years have passed since the world became obsessed with the plight of Blue Cat People. Technology is cheaper, more readily available, and incredibly easy to use.

For as little as £150, you can begin experimenting with 360 images today (although you’ll have to go up to £350 if you want video). Google’s recent study on 360 Video Advertising revealed that while 360 video doesn’t over perform on traditional viewer metrics, it DOES motivate viewers to watch more from your Brand, share and subscribe to your channel (or ‘Like’ your Facebook Page).

4. Give Your Customers the Tools to Become Your Greatest Ambassadors

Earlier on, I briefly mentioned User Generated Content in regards to Storytelling and Inspiration

I’m dedicating an entire step to this, because there’s SO much potential for your developing your Brand’s strength here.

If you’ve wanted to step into video or video advertising, but don’t have the budget or know-how to produce a professional series of videos, cultivating User Generated Content is going to be your go-to.

Think of it like this: Smartphones have given every one of your customers a wireless HD camera, able to transmit footage from anywhere on the planet. That flood of data usually ends up on a Facebook wall, where it will be ‘liked’ and instantly forgotten about. Think of what you could do with a video editing program, and just a percentage of the footage being uploaded to Social Media every day.

Great Brands do this by running online competitions, inviting their customers to enter to win a prize by uploading vacation footage to Facebook/Twitter, with the T&Cs detailing the right to use said footage in Social Video compilations.

The really clever Brands offer a travel camera like the GoPro as a prize, to inspire the winners to travel again, just to test out their new toy in its intended environment.

 And then Brands like Contiki develop entire apps based around enhancing their customers experience, with the added benefit of receiving the images & footage for advertising.

User Generated Content can be developed at any level, and at any budget.

5. Tighten Up Your Reviews. Really.

A vital step of the customer journey (especially with Travel) is looking up reviews. Travellers are obsessive about this, and will check reviews for a single location across multiple platforms – TripAdvisor, YouTube, Lonely Planet – to seek as much information as possible. They are spending a lot of money to travel, and they want to make sure that they are 100% secure about where their funds are going.

Make sure to constantly search for negative reviews across the web, not just on the sites you know, and address them. Respond empathetically and with a conversational tone. Remember that your aim here is to be seen providing great service, not just please the upset customer.

When buying online, would you prefer a product with five 5-star reviews, or 600 4-star reviews? Don’t settle for the occasional review that comes in. Dedicate budget and time to creating campaigns that cultivate reviews. The higher the volume of reviews, the more a potential customer is likely to trust them.

6. This Time, It's Personal 

This isn’t just a tagline for the worst Jaws sequel – it’s a mantra for your User Experience.

Earlier on we mentioned that 85% of Millennials are seeking an ‘experience’ rather than a holiday – personalisation is a big part of providing that experience. 83% of Millennials are willing to offer up browsing habits and data in exchange for a better, more personally-customised itinerary. That’s a LOT of information to parse, but if affords Brands the ability to put the work in and offer a wealth of personalisation options, from user-specific content, to ‘Virtual Assistants’ and live chats.

7. Sponsor Storytellers

Travel-based YouTubers are a gold mine for Brand Awareness. As you can see from Google’s recent study, fans of YouTubers are incredibly engaged with their audience, largely due to their passion to speaking with and listening to all of their input. Brands can take advantage of this trust by giving these YouTubers a chance to create content – by sponsoring a trip, a YouTuber will inform their fans of your Brands and services. By offering a free night at your hotel and amenities, their fans will see for themselves how great your services are. You know these fans are interested in travel. Sponsor a YouTuber and allow them to inspire their audience to learn more about your Brand, or inform them about your unique selling points via their own Content.

8. Use Context to Unlock Remarketing Opportunities

Hidden inside your Google Analytics data, is the number of days and sessions it took for a user to convert. With this data and a little bit of experimentation, you can decipher why there might be a rise in conversion 90 days after a customer first views your website, or why a large number of customers won’t buy from you until their 8th session.

In most cases, adding experimental Remarketing campaigns to Adwords will unlock the hidden meaning behind these. Create a series of tests Ad Groups (with different contextual Ad Copy) and make sure they’re shown only to these anomalous groups to see which messaging they respond to. Is there a high Click-Through-Rate on “Last Minute” messaging? Or perhaps you’re seeing the most conversions on ads that speak to users seeking Reviews, or the “Best” experience? In other words, what kind of information are users seeking at this stage? Only testing will reveal the truth. Unlocking these answers is achievable, and working to do so should be a regular part of your strategy. 

9. Dare to Carry Out One of These Steps

What I’ve listed here today is not easy to implement, and I would not expect you to complete all of them. However I do believe you can achieve one of them, at the very least. Rather than simply liking, or sharing this blog on LinkedIn, or Twitter, set one of these steps as your marketing New Years Resolution. The aim here is to experiment with the idea, not necessarily to see instant results. When trying something new, it’s not likely you’re going to get it right first time. But that’s ok. Testing is a vital part of Digital Marketing, as I’m sure you know. The important thing is that you’re going to believe that success is achievable before beginning.

Best of luck.

I’m really eager to hear what you think. Which of these steps do you think is the most achievable for your Brand? Which is the least achievable? Which do you think is the most valuable?

Give me a shout on Twitter or LinkedIn and let me know.


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