The 7 Secrets of Successful Advertising (for 9-year Olds)

Computer work

I’ve just had to explain advertising to 60 9-year olds.

Let me explain. My son’s class (year 4) is studying persuasive writing – they’re creating posters, radio and TV ads to promote their chosen country (in my son’s case, Norway) – so I offered my services to come in and give them some tips.

It’s a worthwhile exercise working out how you’re going to explain something to a room full of children. It forces you to go back to basic principles and simplify things – to drop the jargon we might use in a roomful of our peers just to prove we’re ‘one of the club’.

But why am I sharing this with you? Most of you, I’m sure, are older than 9. Well, many of us get so bogged down with the tools, the media we use to reach our audience, that we lose sight of the basics of marketing – human psychology and the principles of persuasion. I’m a great believer that the most important things for marketers to understand are human beings and how and why their brands appeal to them, and not get too bogged down with the technical detail of how some of the tools our trade work.

OK, enough preamble – if you were a 9 year old, you’d be fidgeting in the front row by now. Here are the 7 principles of successful advertising I shared with my son’s class.

1. Know Your Audience

Pretty fundamental and I know I’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, metaphorically speaking but I’m still surprised (well, a little shocked really) when I hear my peers talking about pushing destinations, hotels, room types, airline seats etc and not talking about the types of people they’ll be marketing those things to.

2. Grab Their Attention

I did my research and found out that estimates as to how many ads the average adult consumes in a day vary from 300 to 3,000. Clearly, if you want to deliver your desired message, you’ve got to get people’s attention first. To do that, you have to ignore your fundamental human instinct to fit in, and work out how you can stand out. You need to study what everyone else is doing and then do something that none of them are. That’s not as easy as it sounds, and it means you’re going to need to take some risks.

I worked on the very latest ‘Find Your Amazing’ TV ad for Kuoni (including an arduous trip to the Maldives to supervise the shoot – I don’t need your sympathy) and the first half of the ad was all about capturing the audience’s attention. Of course, a woman walking on water is pretty likely to capture somebody’s attention but, in this case, don’t underestimate the power of the music. The fact it started almost inaudible, compared to the instantaneous blaring of the ads surrounding it was just as important – it made people look up from what they were doing and give it their undivided attention.

3. Talk About Features, Not Benefits

This was the very first thing I was taught as a early 20-something graduate selling advertising space for Marketing Week. It means, don’t talk about your product, talk about what your product can do for your audience.

So for my son’s Norway promotion, I told him not to talk about the mountains but tell people what they can do in the mountains – walk, cycle etc. Tell a story and place your audience in that story as the leading characters.

4. Make Them Like You by Using People Like Them in Your Adverts

Showing your audience ‘people like them’ in your ads works on a couple of levels. It makes them like your brand more – people like people like them – and it provides a degree of social proof (I want to buy a product which other people like me buy).

Remember, people often buy things – particularly premium goods – to bridge a gap between their self perception and how they’d like to be perceived. They want to look at idealized versions of themselves – better looking, younger – rather than reality.

5. Tell Them What to Do Next

Ignore your advertising agency here, who want you ad to look all beautiful and clean and not get cluttered up with a call to action. If you tell someone what to do, they’re more likely to do it – it’s just the way we’re programmed. If you want your ad to exist as a work of art, then leave a CTA out. If you want it to deliver some sort of commercial return, put one in.

6. Make Them Think That If They Don’t Do Something Now, They’ll Miss Out

Again, we’re back to the fundamentals of human psychology – sales and limited time offers work because we hate to miss out. Nothing seems more desirable when it’s about to be taken away. Just witness the mayhem that Black Friday unleashed.

7. Always Include Your Logo and Strapline

Ok, I really am teaching my grandmother to suck eggs now. Nuff said.

That’s not a comprehensive list (I’m a sucker for alliteration and ‘7 Secrets’ sounded so much better than ‘8 secrets’) but it’s a not a bad little checklist and I hope you find it useful.

The other the piece of advice I’d give based on this little exercise? Next time you’re explaining your product, strategy (or anything really) to a roomful of your peers, imagine you’re writing it for a 9-year olds. Jargon clouds your meaning – simplicity is the key to successful communication, whether you’re talking to your peers, your customers or a roomful of children.

Marketing Measurement: Is Econometrics the Answer?

I recently chatted to the excellent Philip Gaudoin of marketing insights agency Piquant about the role econometrics can play in marketing measurement.

 

I learnt so much from our chat that I invited him to participate in a quick Q&A on the Navigator Marketing blog.

 

His view is that many see econometric analysis is only valid for huge brands with millions of transactions, whereas in fact it can be a useful way for much smaller enterprises to assess the effectiveness of their activity and determine the optimum marketing mix.

 

Ben: What marketing measurement questions can econometrics answer?

 

Philip: There are literally hundreds from the big, strategic questions (e.g. ‘How should we allocate our budget across our markets, brands and media?’) to the smaller, tactical ones (e.g. ‘What is the optimum number of TV ratings to deploy each week?’). It’s not all about above-the-line media, either. Econometrics can be used to evaluate and optimise your pricing strategy, promotional deployment, and your digital and direct media.

 

Ben:  OK, there are plenty of travel & tourism marketers that would like to know the answers to those. So how does econometrics work?

 

Philip:  The USP of econometrics is that it is the only technique capable of disentangling the effects of simultaneous drivers on, for example, sales. The key word is ‘simultaneous’. We don’t have the luxury of a lab in which we can perform endless test and control experiments to establish the exact impact of each marketing lever.  Econometrics gets around this by measuring the correlations among the variables in recent history. Think of it as a very precise eye. So, where you and I could eyeball two data series and see any obvious correlation, econometrics can, in effect, do this for multiple series at once, and much more accurately.

 

Ben: That sound almost too good to be true. Be honest, what are its limitations?

 

Philip: Econometrics is great at measuring immediate uplifts, but it’s less good at measuring subtler, long-term effects. For instance, we all know that the right media can build your brand equity. Eventually, this should translate into more sales. You would struggle to tie this back to the original media using econometrics (or, in fact, any other technique).
It doesn’t furnish you with explanations – it tells you the ‘what’ not the ‘why’. Sometimes the ‘why’ is obvious, but at other times more interpretation is needed. This is when the experience and calibre of your consultants comes to the fore.
Thirdly, of course, it isn’t a crystal ball. It’s worth stating the obvious here, as a lot of confusion is caused by talk of ‘predictive analytics’. An econometric model is a great basis for making this sort of prediction, but prediction always assumes that the future behaves like the past.

 

Ben:  Don’t you need masses of data, though? Surely it’s only for really big companies.

 

Philip:  The key principle is that you need to collate data for anything you believe (based on experience, common sense, insight from other sources) will have significantly affected the thing you are trying to model, e.g. sales. Sometimes this can be a lot of data, but at other times, surprisingly little is required to build a robust model. You definitely need data, there’s no escaping that. However, the amount you need varies, not all of it needs to come from you (your agencies and public bodies provide a lot) and you probably have more than you realise. On more than one occasion we’ve readily turned up data from the IT or systems department that the marketers didn’t know was available – econometrics also helps break down silos!

 

Ben: Can it really work for companies of that scale? Aren’t there too many variables and not enough transactions?

 

Philip: This is a common confusion about econometrics and aggregation. If we were to attempt to model each and every purchase of a product, even something purchased every week, we would quickly run short of suitable variables in the available data.
Econometrics works in the aggregate. By the time you sum every purchase made in a given week, you usually have enough transactions to work with. And working at the aggregate level means we can use aggregate driver variables (e.g. total media deployment) which are the ones we have plenty of.  Of course, there’s a limit to everything. It would not work for Lamborghinis, where the sales are about 4 a week globally, but it will work for, say, Toyotas, or Volkswagons or Fords.

 

Ben:  You hear about econometrics modelling failing in the economic world. I heard about one recent example where an IMF model was undermined by the exclusion of a relevant data input. Isn’t there the same risk when you apply econometrics to marketing?

 

Philip: Yes. Whenever an econometrics model fails it is because of misspecification. Sometimes you start with a correctly specified model, but the world changes around you and your predictions don’t come true. Many macroeconomic models are being revised, now, since the financial crash and the onset of ‘quantitative easing’ changed the rules.  You can’t do anything about the world changing in unpredictable ways. You can, however, ensure that your model is correctly specified for the current world. Again, the calibre of your modellers matters. Expert modellers who understand what they are doing have a good feel for when something is right. That experience, combined with the relevant statistics, is a powerful combination.

 

Ben: Isn’t it very expensive though? You could argue that the money would be better invested in media or creative rather than econometric marketing measurement, couldn’t you?

 

Philip:  But, how do you know whether it’s the right media or the right creative? If you know, 100%, in your heart that it’s right, then don’t build an econometric model – the chances are that you won’t be persuaded even if it says something completely different!  However, most of us aren’t nearly so sure. We’re also conscientious and want to know that we’re spending often very large amounts of money in the right way. Added to that, there’s the pressure of persuading your Finance Director, who may not have the same confidence in your gut-feel that you do! Suppose a project costs £40,000? That’s 2% of a marketing budget of £2m. £40,000 buys you an extra week in the national newspapers. Isn’t it worth being off-air one single week to know how the other £1.96m works? Now what if, as a result of the project, you find that newspapers don’t work, and you move £1m of your budget on, say radio, instead producing a conservative 20% improvement in ROI? The project has likely paid for itself and the missing week of magazines in one go.

 

Ben: Have you got any good examples of businesses that have benefited from econometrics?

 

Philip:  Every project we do is intended to solve business problems; it’s rare we do a project that is a ‘nice-to-know’ only. Thus we always kick off a project with an immersion session to understand the underlying business issues. The modelling approach is tailored to answer these questions.  So, for one client we used our models to change their media strategy towards their core product range, producing an improvement in ROI. For another, we used econometrics to measure the best level of media deployment, and avoid wasting money on unnecessary exposures. We’ve used models to define promotional strategy, optimise pricing, ranging and quantify distribution gaps. We’ve also used them to optimise investment across markets, brands and media channels. All of these cases have produced some amount of tangible business benefit – more sales and/or profit.

 

Ben: There must be occasions when it hasn’t worked, though?

 

Philip: I haven’t known an out-and-out failure. Sometimes a model isn’t able to answer all of a client’s questions definitively. This has been obvious from the outset (we can usually tell from our experience and understanding of your category) and we have managed the client’s expectations accordingly from the start. If everyone’s clear on what they will/wont/might get from a project, then that makes the risk minimal. Some plain speaking upfront is strongly recommended!

 

Ben: The final word is yours.

 

Philip:  Get good people. The recipe for econometric success is expert modellers working on a well-scoped, well-run project. That takes a certain amount of experience. Beware of paying too much (day rates of £1,500 probably mean you are subsidising corporate overheads, rather than paying for actual working time). Beware of paying too little (projects that cost £1,000 per model are probably of dubious quality and cross-subsidised by other purchases, so you are really paying for it elsewhere). Shop around, don’t buy the first thing offered you and always meet the people and make sure they fill you with confidence before you start.

The Who, What, Where, Who (Again) and How of a Content Marketing Strategy

So you’ve decided to make content part of your marketing efforts. How do you turn that intent into a concrete strategy? Here’s my who (x2), what, where and how of a content marketing strategy.

 

1. Who (are your customers)?

 

If you haven’t already, I’d create personas for your major customer types. Give them a names and occupations. Who do they holiday with?  What do they want to get out of their holidays (the cultural immersion model might help you here). The more you can flesh the out and make them real people, the easier it this process will be.

 

2.What (do they need to plan their holiday)?

 

Don’t forget, the reason you’re investing in a content strategy is to help your potential customers earlier in the purchase cycle. That means your brand is likely to be involved right at the top of the purchase funnel (and therefore more likely to be involved at the bottom too). It also means you’ll build up favours in the customers’ favour bank, which makes a final purchase more likely. What information will be they looking for during that research?  What information can you authoratively provide?

 

3. Where (will they be going to do their research)?

 

What are the authority sources that those potential customers will consult during their research process? Is it feasible to get your content onto these sources – even if just via comments? Google is going to be the first port of call for many. What keywords will they be using? Your content strategy will involve featuring the main keywords in your content. Don’t forget – the keywords potential customers use at the top of the funnel will be different – more generic – than the ones that drive traffic to your site.

 

4. Who (will create the content)? 

 

Having decided what content you’re going to create, you need to look at who’s going to create that content.  What can you staff create? What can your existing customer’s create? If there are gaps, you might might need to bring in some outside help. The other ‘who’ here is the person you’re going to put in charge of the delivery of your content strategy – the person that’s responsible for it’s delivery, coordinating the various creators and making sure they deliver.

 

5. How (well is your content strategy performing)?

 

You’ve decided what content you’ll be creating, where you’re going to be distributing it, who’s going to be creating it and who’s going to be coordinating it. Now, you need to get on with it – but not before you’ve set some measures in place.  Which pieces of content are driving the greatest amount of visitors to your site and what is the quality of those visits (are they ‘bouncing’ after reading the content or going on to explore your site in more detail)? The content that is driving the greatest amount of quality traffic is the type to focus on. Be agile and constantly adjust your strategy based on your metrics.

 

Of course, the alternative is to jump straight in and, metaphorically speaking, just through content ‘at the wall’ and see what sticks – but you’ll waste a lot of time and effort (and potentially money) that way so it’s best to take a structured approach. You’ll reach the optimum solution much faster.

 

Content Marketing – It’s All the Rage But How Well Does It Work?

Content is quite the thing in marketing at the moment. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already invested in it or are thinking about investing in it.

 

If you don’t know the theory behind it, it’s all based on Cialdini’s first law of persuasion – the law of reciprocation (or the law of ‘if you scratch my back, I’ll probably be prepared to scratch yours’). If you help someone with useful content, they’ll feel the need to do you a favour back, and that favour will hopefully be some business in the future.

 

So that’s the theory but does it actually work in practice? Yes, according to a new study produced by inPowered in association with Neilsen.

 

They took a sample of 900 Americans, recruited off the casino floors of Las Vegas (which seems like an odd recruitment method until your realise that it’s a great way to source respondents originating from all corners of the US) and gave them online questionnaires to complete both before and after being exposed to content related to different product categories.  The content the respondents were exposed to was of 3 different types – 3rd party expert, user reviews and branded. The online surveys measured changes in attitudes in 3 different segments of the purchase journey – awareness, affinity and purchase intent.

 

Here are the results:

 

Contents_Influence_on_Consumers

 

To save you examining the chart in detail, here are the main findings:

 

  • Expert content was influential at all stages of the purchase journey for all product categories. It was believed to be more credible than branded content (no surprises there) and more informative then user reviews (well, they are experts after all).  Thinking of it from a travel perspective, a write up in a national press travel section is going to carry more weight than copy on a product’s website (be it an hotel, airline etc) or a user review – no surprised there.

 

  • Where product specification was important (in the study, for things like car seats, smartphones or digital cameras), branded content become more influential.

 

  • Where users were deemed to be ‘experts’ then user reviews came into their own. In this study, the prime examples were video games (where gamers trusted other gamers) and car seats (where parents trusted other parents).

 

  • Expert reviews become more influential the more expensive the purchase. User reviews become more influential the lower value the purchase.

 

  • In general, although expert content was the most influential, for most products at most stages of the journey, all 3 types of content had some influence.

 

Thinking about this study with regard to travel and tourism marketing, the following thoughts occurred to me:

 

  • We all know the value of 3rd party endorsements of our products from the likes of newspapers, magazines, guidebooks, bloggers etc but if we’re not product owners, but rather product recommenders (tour operators, conference & events companies, affiliate sites etc) is our content ‘branded’ or ‘expert’? I’d argue that it’s the latter, so not only can it be highly influential in the purchase journey, we should write that content as if we’re expert reviewers i.e. on the consumers’ side, not on the suppliers side. How often do companies fall into the trap of writing content to appease their suppliers rather than their customers?

 

  • How influential are user reviews? Clearly, the more ‘expert’ those reviewers are, the more influential they are.  A Conference or Event Manager would trust the reviews of another Conference or Event Manager.  But how influential will someone who’s written a user review on TripAdvisor be? Perhaps the more detailed the review (taking them into the realm of an informative ‘expert’), the more influential it is? Or perhaps it’s the wisdom of the crowd – people look at the aggregate of the feedback and that elevates user reviews on the likes of TripAdvisor onto an ‘expert’ level?

 

  • Product specifications, an area where branded content was seen to be influential, are very important in travel purchase decisions – selecting the best conference room, selecting which airline is best for you, selecting which hotel is best for you, even selecting which destination is best for you relies alot on the ticking of certain boxes.

 

In general, my impression from this study (other than it’s a pain they didn’t include a travel-related product) is that content is influential, branded content is more influential than perhaps some would expect (50% of the survey didn’t trust branded content to be impartial, but that means 50% did) and the more ‘expert’ (impartial and informative) that branded content can appear, the better.

 

So if you’ve invested in content, you can breathe a sigh or relief and if you haven’t, what’s stopping you?

Still Judging Your Online Advertising By Its CTR?

Ah – the good old click thru rate. It’s a logical metric for measuring online advertising, surely?  People see your ad and if they like what you have to say they click on it and visit your site, right? Wrong.

 

Tell me, when was the last time you clicked on an online ad? OK, now tell me the last time you clicked on one and it wasn’t an accident?

 

You don’t, do you? Neither do I. In the same way I very rarely leap out of my chair to pick up the phone or boot up my laptop in response to a TV, press or magazine ad. You’re doing something else and the message isn’t relevant right now. Does that mean that ad isn’t influencing you? That your brain isn’t filing it away, even if subconsciously, for future reference? I don’t have to respond the second I see it for it to be effective.

 

Still not convinced? Let me point you in the direction of a study conducted last year by Sequential Media.  They tracked 263 million ad impressions across 9 months across 18 advertisers in numerous verticals (I don’t know if any were travel-related) and found the click thru rate was the metric that had the least correlation with conversion to booking. On a scale where 0 was no correlation and 1 was a 100% correlation, CTR scored 0.1 – that’s pretty pathetic.

 

The metrics that did score well were ‘viewable impressions’ (as opposed to just ‘impressions’, which don’t take account of impressions that occur below the fold) which scored 0.35 and ‘hover/interaction rate’ which scored 0.49.

 

This isn’t an isolated study either. In 2010, MediaMind came to the same conclusion and championed dwell rate and dwell time with an online ad as better metrics by which to judge online advertising.

 

I make the point because I still hear peers in travel and tourism marketing ruling out online advertising – with the notable exception of retargeting – because the click thru rates are poor.  The trouble is that they’re comparing online advertising with search – more of a direct response medium operating at the sharp end of the purchase funnel – were CTR still has relevance.  The consumer is coming to Google with intent.  Online advertising is more likely to operate at the top of the funnel – influencing brand metrics such as awareness, favourability and purchase intent. You wouldn’t judge an English Literature student by how the did in a maths exam – you need to use the right measure based on what role that medium is playing.

 

You need activity which drives prospects into the top of your purchase funnel and develops a preference for your company at the early stages of research, otherwise everything comes down to a ‘bun fight’ over price. Good, interactive online advertising, especially video, can do this for you.

 

My advice, give it a try. If you can afford it, work with your agency so you can measure post impression performance of your online advertising campaign right through to site conversion. I think you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.

Advertising Creative – Why You Should Go with Your Gut

When I started my career in travel and tourism marketing, an old boss of mine (who now, I should add, is a good friend) had a particular habit when it came to appraising creative that used to drive me up the wall.

 

‘I don’t like it,’ he used to say. ‘Just get them to do it again.’

 

‘But what don’t you like about it?’ I would ask.

 

‘I just don’t like it. Get them to do it again,’ he would repeat.

 

No further promptings or pleadings would yield me any further information so my only feedback to an often perplexed agency would be, ‘Sorry, he doesn’t like it. Don’t ask me why. You’re going to need to do it again.’

 

Back then, I was hot out of sales. I was numbers driven and analytical – I wanted reasoned argument, not gut reaction.

 

Of course, I still appreciate numbers and analysis. But I understand my old boss better now, because there are times when the gut is better.

 

When someone shows you a piece of creative, go with your initial reaction. If you like it great. If not, throw it out.  Don’t try and second guess your target market if you’re not one of them. Why? Because:

 

A. You can’t.

 

B. Human beings tend to react to things in similar ways, so if you love it, your customers will probably love it. If you don’t, they probably won’t.

 

You can make this process more robust by showing it to some people who are in your target market, but then just gauge their gut reaction – don’t ask them to analyse it. It’s a false situation – only marketers analyse marketing – customers have better things to do with their lives.

 

And guard against all those agency tricks they use to get you to like their favoured creative.  All that preamble about their thinking and how they arrived at that solution. Your customers aren’t going to get an introduction when they see that ad. They’re not going to have 3 other versions to compare it to. They’re just going to see it – pure, unadulterated, unexplained.  You need to replicate that experience. Tell your agency to cut to the chase and show you their favoured creative – they shouldn’t need to explain it to you.

 

And while I’m on the subject of agencies, they always make your logo too small – probably because they know that whatever size they make it you’re going to ask them to make it bigger. ..

Satisfied Customers Won’t Grow Your Travel or Tourism Business

On face value, I realise that would seem to be a rather dumb statement. What else are you supposed to do other than satisfy your customers? Well, the problem is, satisfied customers don’t talk. They’re satisfied, but not blown away. You’ve done a good job, but a good job isn’t enough in these competitive times.

 

So what do you need to do?  ‘Exceed expectations!’ I hear you cry. Well, that’s good. But a bit of a cliché, frankly.   It’s a phrase that’s trotted out time and again and not many people who recount it out are very good at explaining exactly how those expectations are exceeded, or indeed, what those expectations were in the first place.

 

So let me put my own 2 penneth worth in – if you want to exceed people’s expectations and get them talking about your brand, you need to surprise them.

 

Before I go on to explain, l should take a couple of steps back and explain why I’m talking about customer service on what’s meant to be a marketing blog. Well, it’s my view that exceptional customer service is the new marketing.

 

Look at wildly successful brands like Apple. The money’s invested in the experience – the products, the environment in which they’re showcased and the service that surrounds them – not in fancy-dan advertising. The products do the talking – the advertising just showcases them.

 

The fact is, the age of social media has made it more and more difficult to coat a brand with a clever marketing ‘varnish’.  If you don’t deliver an experience that lives up to your promise, you’ll get found out and exposed in a very pubic way – on review sites, forums, Twitter, Facebook et al.

 

We all dream of creating fantastically clever and successful campaigns, but they’re few and far between in any industry, not just in travel and tourism.  That shouldn’t stop us striving to find the message and the media that best connect our brand’s vision with the customers who are going to identify with our vision, but shifting investment to the customer experience, for premium brands at least, is the way to go.

 

As I’m sure you’re aware, the biggest new business driver for any company is word of mouth. And the best way to get people talking about your brand is to surprise them. And you surprise them from doing things differently to other companies in your sector. Something they’re not expecting. Something that’s going to have an emotional impact.

 

Let’s be frank, that shouldn’t be overly difficult.  The experience at most companies in the travel industry – be they airlines, tour operators, car hire companies – is pretty samey. And consumer expectations of the service they’re going to receive in any sector, not just travel and tourism, is not exactly stratospheric.

 

So let me give you an example.  At Black Tomato, we used to organise ‘Back to Reality’ kits which were sent out to clients to arrive the day they got home.  They consisted of a DVD and a takeaway voucher with the aim of extending the holiday vibe for one more night.

 

What are client expectations when they get home?  A written questionnaire to fill in at best but probably no contact from their travel company at all. The ‘Back to Reality’ kit was a big surprise compared to what people were expecting. Did it get people talking? Of course it did. Not just clients but travel journalists too – plenty of PR was generated off the back of it.

 

But it was also great customer service – recognising an emotional low for consumers, the return from a holiday, and doing something with no obvious commercial rationale that just showed that we cared. Exceeding expectations? I’ll say.

 

There are companies out there that specialise in entertaining people while they wait in queues – a great piece of customer service and a great surprise for airlines to offer for busy flights. Frankly, any car hire company that didn’t bombard me with insurances I didn’t need when I got to the counter would be a pleasant surprise and would exceed my expectations. See – there’s plenty of opportunity.

 

So once you’ve read this article, go away and write down the experience your customers have from their first contact with you until they return home. Then brainstorm how you could do it differently. It needs to be something surprising, something which seems to have no commercial rationale (although it does – more business through word of mouth), an idea perhaps you’ve borrowed and adapted from a company outside your sector.

 

Once you start down this route, they’ll be no stopping you. And you have to keep innovating because today’s surprises are tomorrow’s expectations. But you’ll reap the benefits in the long term – of that there’s no doubt.

3 Effective Ways to Build a Twitter Following

In most things in life, size isn’t everything.

 

And people might have told you the same when it comes to Twitter – it’s the quality of your followers that matters, not the quantity.

 

Well in my view, that’s not true. Quality in itself isn’t enough, you need quantity too.

 

That’s because of the very nature of the medium. There’s simply such a volume of material that it’s difficult to get noticed. If you want your content to have a chance of going viral, then you need a decent following.

 

And that’s really the purpose of Twitter from a marketing point of view.  It does allow you to identify influential individuals in your industry – for example, travel journalists and bloggers – and build an individual rapport with them. And it does also allow you to identify your ‘tribe’ – in this case, those interested in travel and tourism – reach them and interact with them to modify, deliver and amplify your own messages.

 

But how do you find your tribe and ensure they’re following you?  Well, the easy bit is the 2nd bit – if you follow them, by the law of reciprocation, many will follow you back. Identifying them is the hard bit.

 

Here are a few tips and tools to help you along the way.

 

1. Find Your Tribe via Hashtags

 

‘Tribes’ congregate around hashtags. All you have to do is identify the hashtags that your tribe is using, search for that hashtag on Twitter or via your Twitter client (Hootsuite, Tweetdeck etc) and then follow those that are posting using it.

 

For example, type the hashtages #travel, #ttot (travel talk on a Tuesday), #cruise or #honeymoon into the Twitter seach and see what you find.

 

2. Find Your Tribe Using Their Bio

 

People’s bios are a great way of telling the sort of things they’re interested in. But, how on earth do you search people’s bios quickly and easily? Well, you use a tool called Twellow.  Twellow allows you to search for a keyword and then it will search Twitter accounts for people with that keyword in that bio. So you might search for ‘travel’, or ‘holiday’ or ‘cruise’, or even for a locality or town if most of your business is local.

 

Twellow will list the results from most followed users to least followed, so you start by following those most likely to be able to amplify your message. And if you sync your Twitter account with Twellow, you can follow people in Twellow – no need to flick back and forth between web pages.

 

3. Find Your Tribe By Who Else They Follow

 

I manage social media for a flight comparison site.  How can I build my following?   By finding and following the followers of other flight comparison sites.

 

That sounds complicated until you discover Tweepi. Tweepi is a wonderful tool that enable you to find out who’s following other accounts and, if you sync Tweepi with your Twitter account, to follow them.

 

It’s also rather handy for flushing out those who you’ve followed by who didn’t follow you back – useful when you’re reaching follow limits – and following those who have followed you but you haven’t yet followed back (remember, they could use Tweepi to flush you out too).

 

Unfortunately, these tools don’t do all the work. You still have to go through a manual and time consuming process of following people one by one. But at least you know who to follow.

 

Of course, another way of building a following is creating effective tweets that are more likely to go viral. But that’s a subject for another day!

 

 

 

‘Pull’ is the New ‘Push’ When it Comes to Travel Marketing Strategy

Unlike most doors of my acquaintance, a combination of push and pull is usually the best way to proceed when contemplating your marketing strategy.

 

And as I contemplate another lates booking season approaching, it occurred to me the travel industry has a tendency towards pushing rather than pulling.

 

How many times do you hear in meetings this ‘resort needs a push’, ‘we need to push this room type’, ‘this destination needs a push’.  I remember sitting in trading meetings and listening to the same old chestnuts coming up again and again.  You’d expend 80% of your time ‘pushing’ 20% of the product – often showcasing your least desirable holidays to the public just because they need a ‘push’.  Think of the damage that you could be doing to your brand.

 

Clearly things need pushing because they’re not selling, and they’re not selling for a reason. Before ‘pushing’ something Pull_is_the_new_pull_when_it_comes_to_travel_marketing_strategyfrom a promotional perspective, you need to look hard at the rest of the marketing mix to see whether there’s another reason behind it’s reticence to sell. Perhaps the pricing is uncompetitive, perhaps the photography is poor, perhaps your sales team don’t like it and perhaps it’s just a poor product that shouldn’t be in your portfolio at all. Only when you’ve unturned all these stones should you push it. You wouldn’t catch a fashion retailer putting a sub standard dress in the shop window.

 

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of push – there’s no doubt that customers can be influenced in their choice of destination by a good deal.  But the whole emphasis in marketing is shifting to pull – find out what customers want and then giving it to them.

 

You should be analysing your metrics like mad – what are people looking for on your sites search but can’t find?  What destinations are people looking at? Which search terms are getting the greatest impressions?

 

And with the advent of social media, there are so many ways to tap places your potential customers are buzzing about using one of the social media listening tools on the market. And you mustn’t forget how influential the media are in determining destination trends – you need to keep on top of what’s being written about.

 

Then think about how you can draw more of those people who are interested in those destinations to you.  Creating more relevant content to draw them to you via SEO and email, upping the bids of your search terms to get a more prominent share of voice, getting more of the sort of product in the places that people are interested.

 

You’re going to need to be able to be flexible.  But we live in times when destinations can see a flood of visitors turn into a trickle in a couple of weeks.  In such an environment, the fleet-of-foot will thrive and 12 month planning cycles become an irrelevance.

 

It may be challenging but much rather that than pushing at a door that refuses to open – as I’m sure you’ll agree, that can make you look rather stupid.