Travel and tourism companies are faced with tight budgets and tough decisions at the moment. However, strategic thinking, innovation and a strong marketing effort can ensure that your business will both survive and thrive.
Travel brands need better, cheaper and more effective ways to sell, and yet at the same time they need to build vital brand value with consumers. Credit crunch winners will be those who have approached their brand development and marketing in a holistic way, putting the customer at the centre of everything they do.
In particular, those that get their branding right in 2009/10 will have understood that their marketing buck has got to work much harder now to achieve the same bang that it did this time last year. So, what steps can a brand take to be a winner in a market where the emphasis is currently on losing? Why not start by saving huge amounts of money and getting a better result for your budget?
Firstly, look carefully at your above and below the line marketing and ask yourself a really tough question. Do you need to have a separate multi million pound budget with an advertising agency to build your brand value and consumer confidence? Or, can you achieve this, and all-important sales, within one campaign using just one agency?
I believe the answer is yes if you follow these simple rules:
One: Know exactly who you are talking to: By using brand response marketing you can make sure that every communication, with a customer or prospect delivers two things. A clear essence of your brand and a reason to engage “now” with you as a company. How well this works will depend entirely on the relevance of the audience these communications fall in front of so targeting is of paramount importance.Selling to the right audience first time is quicker and cheaper. Get your targeting right and you spend much less than you would do communicating with thousands or maybe with hundreds of thousands who might never be interested in your product. Use communications that sell (as well as brand build) in the right way. Killing two birds with one stone is more cost effective, and measurable.
Two: Narrowcast don’t broadcast: You will find that the traditional theory of brand building media channels (TV, press etc) and response media (direct mail, email etc) no longer applies. Pretty much all media can do all things, and quite well. The difference lies in where they appear, for example terrestrial TV is better for brand building, whereas the internet might be better for selling. A relevant brand will achieve standout with the right audience. As media has fragmented over the past 10 years we discover that marketing in niche media (like websites) can be more effective than a big full-blown campaign on the telly. It means that your marketing team have to know all the media and the profile of each audience – that can be quite a challenge – but it does also mean that your campaign will be relevant to the people that engage with it, for example, connecting through social networks.Get the creative right, both for the site and for the consumer, and by speaking their language you will not be regarded as an intruder.
Three: Encourage dialogue: Give your customers every opportunity to build a two-way dialogue with you and each other. Turn your brand into a community. A welcoming one. Thanks to the marvellous world of digital, it’s easier than ever to do this and track activity. You can set aside areas where holidaymakers can share experiences and tips or even ask for advice etc. It’s amazing how these things can take off. And even more amazing how simple it is to track. When combined with a joined up offline strategy you have the making of a beautiful relationship. In many cases making these adjustments can require a cultural shift in your marketing department. But developing this ‘long haul’ strategy will pay dividends in terms of repeat business, customer acquisition, brand awareness and recommendation. This doesn’t mean you can’t hit the market tactically with special promotions or offers. The difference is that when you do you’ll have a stronger point of reference with your audience. So you can pair offers to people more accurately, which delivers a more cost effective campaign that enhances brand awareness, lowers cost per sale and improves return on investment. You don’t have to be a huge company to pull this off. For instance thanks to google paid search & adverts and online banners getting your message to the right audience at the right time doesn’t require a huge wallet – just a good degree of intelligence and planning. By utilising google and ad networks you can quickly build a steady stream of traffic of interested people. The income from them will help you develop other channels of communication, including TV and enhanced press and print based activity.
Four: Build your brand value – don’t rush to discount: Brand response, if managed properly, will stop Brands eroding their own brand value through continuous offers and discounting. Credit cards are a classic example, where many chase the lowest rates, commoditising the market, whilst also associating their brands (many of which are premium banks) with “cheap” offers. In many cases this delivers “volume” customers, many of which are a short term cost with little or no long-term monetary value to the bank. So, brand response can be a powerful tool, attracting the right customer at the right price and leaving a lasting, positive, impression of the brand. It also fits both large and small brands and is probably the only sensible way that challenger brands (always with a marketing pot smaller than sector leaders) can credibly move up a rung or two on the success ladder, especially in a recession.