It’s that time of year: when the post-holiday dust settles and those mid-winter blues kick in. For many, this means it’s time to get away – to enjoy a change in scenery or an infusion of warmth – while they count the days until spring arrives.
If you are in the travel industry, it’s also a critical time to market your services. Not happy with the engagement your marketing campaigns have been yielding? Here are a few tips and strategies to help optimize your effort and maximize your response:
- For starters, make sure each of your marketing channels is operating at peak performance. 90% of travel bookings are done from a desktop, while planning searches are spread between traditional computers and mobile devices. So:
- Make sure you will be found: Check to see that your ad words are up to date and broad enough to capture qualified leads. Don’t forget negative ad words to weed out unwanted clicks.
- Optimize your data. If you have an in-house customer list, update any address changes. You can also perform a customer profile (more on that later.)
- Don’t lose hot leads: Check all buttons and forms to make sure everything is working correctly.
- Be useful: Keep your website and social media pages current with the latest travel tips and trends. Make it easy to get more information and even easier to book.
- Stay engaged: Potential travelers who request more information will not wait long for a response. Whoever is responsible for responding to queries must check the Inbox regularly and get back to people quickly. Instant notifications are great for staying on top here!
- Target your message, graphics and special offers directly to the interests of each prospect. You have eight seconds to capture your audience’s attention. To do this, you need to target each customer sub-segment as specifically as possible. This brings us back to the data. Once your in-house database is clean and up to date, you should append key demographic indicators to gain more insight into who your customers are and how to divide them into smaller market segments. This way, you can tailor specific marketing messages to each group. Travel segment breakdowns to consider include:
- Special Events: Customize your pieces around key events such as a honeymoon, a milestone birthday, a destination wedding, or school breaks for families and college students. You can append demographics for your customers that indicate a 60th birthday, the ages of their children, or the fact that they are newly engaged. For prospects, data can be obtained with this information included.
- Travel History: To appeal to past customers, center your timing, message, and offer around when and where they usually travel.
- Budget Sensitivity: Customers who love a deal are often a good segment to cultivate. Individuals who are retired and do not have limitations on when they travel also are good prospects for deals.
- Incentivize a purchase. Stand out from the competition with a strong call to action.
- For most travelers, a trip is one of their biggest annual expenditures. So they typically spend a great deal of time researching to get the best value for their dollar. Inspire them to stop searching and start booking by appealing to their pocketbook with a limited time offer like free cancellation or best price guarantee.
- Research shows that for the right deal, 30% of leisure travelers will book a trip when they were not planning to! Your marketing plan should include special promotions and offers for your prospects and customers all year long.
- Multiply your hits. Utilize as many channels as possible (as long as they are relevant to your audience), combining both a hard and soft sell (push vs pull). Some examples:
- Make sure you promote your offer in the channel most preferred by your customers and prospects. Direct mail, email and Facebook ads are all good options. Google ads are great for getting attention at the first inquiry, but some studies have shown that individuals will go straight past the ads to the listing. Choosing strong Google ad words and increasing your bid price during a campaign may be a better way to go.
- Post helpful travel planning hints via your blog or an infographic on Facebook. This is another way to keep prospects engaged while they are in the planning process.
- Publish online reviews. In a recent report, 93% of consumers said online reviews impact their purchasing decision. Instagram, Facebook and YouTube are perfect channels for posting customer testimonials with either pictures or video.
- Consider a drip approach using several channels, such as direct mail, email and social media advertising. Here’s how: make the first hit a teaser, the second an enticing offer and the third a “last chance” offer with an added incentive to take action.
- Remember: Timing is everything.
- It’s critical that you not only hit each customer segment with your message during the booking cycle – but that you reach them before your competition does! Putting a smart, strategic plan in place and developing your ads in advance will help you get a jump on the busy season and keep your marketing efforts on track.
Long story short: focus on the fundamentals! A solid marketing strategy and clear, consistent messaging will engage current customers, attract new travelers – and entice them to keep coming back!