Create Engaging Content and Create More Customers

More, engaging content means more prospective customers and better conversion of those prospective customers. So how do I create engaging content? Think like a publisher.


I’m connected to a chap called Jeff Ogden on Linkedin. I bumped into Jeff when he was working for Greenlight Search. Now, he’s gone out on his own and runs a company that specialises in B2B lead generation. He’s doing very well, before you ask.


Now those of you that read my earlier post on marketing to high net worth individuals will know that us B2C marketers can learn alot from the very best B2B ones, expecially when we’re targeting HNW individuals.


Recently, Jeff put out a podcast on content strategies for B2B enterprises to generate leads called “Think Like a Publisher” which got me thinking – many more companies in the travel and tourism sector should be thinking like publishers.




  • Well firstly, more content means better conversion. As a rule of thumb, the more content a potential customer can find on their chosen subject, the more likely they’ll trust your expertise on that subject and the more likely they’ll get in touch. Of course it can’t be any old rubbish – it needs to reflect areas on which your company is an authority, be consistent with the brand essence and values, be interesting and topical, and be part of a well structured site so that it channels your prospective customer rather than confusing her.


  • Secondly, it means more potential customers coming to your site. More content leads to more relevant links being swapped on social media, RSS, bookmarking sites and via email. It means more content being indexed by Google, Bing etc and more frequent visits to your site by those search engines which can lead to improvement in your PageRank.


More and more companies are adopting ‘branded’ content strategies but for the only part of the right reason (if that makes sense). Content strategies shouldn’t only be used for search engines, and I’d always advocate creating content for people first and robots second.


I’ll cover some content generation ideas in another post, but bear in mind when you start out on this process that you’ll need to think about how you’re going to integrate this content on to your site (or on another site you create for it) and where, commercially, it make sense to focus. By that I mean if you have a wide product portfolio, which areas drive you highest margins – those are the places to start.


Emails – When Personal is Better Than Polished

Content and personalisation win over overt branding and aesthetics.


There’s no doubt about it – there are some really beautifully designed email templates out there.  Ravishing pictures, short impactful copy, personalised (sometimes even in the subject field if you delivery system is that functional) and smothered in branding.


You nod proudly as your survey your own template.  Problem is, your open and click thru rates seem to be on the wane.


Polished though they are, and deeply appealing to our heightened sense of the aesthetic, personal for me will always win over polished.


Would You Prefer This or Something from Clinton's?

Would You Prefer This or Something from Clinton's?

Ask yourself what has greater impact on you – a well-designed birthday card bought in a shop, or one, perhaps not quite so professional, that a friend or family member has made just for you.


Do you feel more special when you read a comment a friend has posted on their FaceBook wall or when they send an email just to you?


I do a bit of B2B work for marketing service providers looking to target companies in the travel and tourism industry and I wouldn’t dream of sending out a templated email – it’s always a well-researched, personalised email from their Outlook account.


At the very least I’d suggest that some email communications to your very best clients and prospects are personally composed, individually tailored and sent from Outlook – even if this dovetails with other, more mainstream communications they are receiving.


You may lose some trackability, but the enhanced relationship with the client (and hopefully extra business opportunities) will more than compensate.

‘Liking’ – There’s Not of It Happening on Travel Websites (But There Should Be)

I’ve been meaning to write a blog on Facebook’s Open Social Graph ever since it was launched back in April, and having finally got round to it, I decided to do some research on which travel companies had integrated the functionality into the site. How many did I find? Well…..none actually.


That’s not hugely surprising. The adoption of these features has been much quicker over in the US as you’d expect, and in environments frequented by social media savvy types such as


So what is the Open Social Graph and why should you be paying attention to it?  Well, it’s a way of making the web a more social experience – with other Facebook users, and particularly your Facebook friends, guiding you around.


Facebook's 'Like' Button Replaces 'Become a Fan'

Facebook's 'Like' Button Replaces 'Become a Fan'

The first thing to note is that nobody ‘Becomes a Fan’ of your site or brand anymore. This has been replaced by a ‘Like’ button – something you’ll be familar with when commenting on your friends’ Facebook postings. So people don’t ‘Become Fans’ of your brand anymore, they ‘Like’ it instead.


Once a piece of content is ‘Liked’, a story appears in the ‘Liker’s’ friends’ newsfeeds – a nice piece of potential viral marketing. At the very least, it namechecks your brand to your Liker’s friends – and we all know how important friends recommendations are in generating new business. At best, their friend might be intrigued and click on the link created to find our more – valuable qualified traffic. And let’s not forget, you’ll have an incoming link that’s just been set up – great for boosting your search engine rankings.


But there are 2 other interesting things about the ‘Like’ button. Firstly, you’ve now got more than 1 bite of the cherry.  Previously, people ‘became a fan’ of your brand once. Now, they can ‘Like’ all sorts of content on your site – be it a product , an article or an offer – that’s lots of opportunities for different aspects of your offering to spread virally. Secondly, if you tag the content using the Facebook’s Open Graph guidelines, the ‘Liked’ content can form a permanant part of that person’s Facebook profile, becoming part of the ‘Likes and Interests’ part of their profile. Even more interestly, the ‘Liked’ page then becomes the equivalent of a Facebook page showing up in the same places pages show up in Facebook – namely in search. Hmm – lots more potential traffic.


The other way the Open Social Graph is manifested is via a number of social ‘plugins’ – little bits of Facebook functionality that you can ‘plugin’ to pages of your site just by dropping in a few lines of code. And it’s these that really power the social shopping experience.


For example, the ‘Comments’ plugin enables users to comment on your site’s content – be it a webpage, article or photo. And then the ‘commenter’ can share the comment on their wall, and in their friends streams. A nice way to capture comments but also a nice way to ensure they’re shared with as wide an audience as possible.


The ‘Activity Feed’ plugin shares the most recent activity taking place about your site or content- displaying if the content has been liked and shared and how many times. Also, if a visitor’s Facebook friends are among the ‘likers’ or ‘sharers’, they will be visible to that visitor, as long as the visitor is signed into Facebook. Hence, an overt recommendation, that may not have been made via word of mouth, has been made via the power of Facebook.


Facebook's Activity Feed Plugin on the CNN Site

Facebook's Activity Feed Plugin on the CNN Site

Now I’m a little sceptical about how powerful the ‘what have my friends liked/shared’ aspect of the social graph might become. The chances of one of my Facebook friends ‘liking’a particular piece of content I stumble across on the web when looking for a holiday are pretty remote. The chances of it being a friend who’s opinion I rate when selecting my holiday are even more unlikely.


However, I can see the ‘Like’ button taking off as an easy and less involved way of ‘commenting’ on content on the web without actually having to comment. Few people ‘create’ content, but lots of people are prepared to anonymously push a button to express their preference. And sites that are ‘Liked’ by more people, and content on the site that is more popular, is going to mean a higher conversion of visitors to bookings as people see that the company or product is legitimised by the favourable response of so many.


And I can see travel companions expressing preferences to each other by ‘Liking’ pages – why cut and paste links and then email them when you can ‘Like’ your preferred holidays and then tell your partner to check out your newsfeed entries to see if he/she ‘Likes’ them too.


So if I was you I’d be talking to my web developers and integrating the ‘Like’ button in particular and the the Activity Feed plugin on to all my company, product and article pages, unless you have compelling evidence that your audience isn’t using Facebook (and to be honest, they’d have to be positively geriatric for that to be the case).The response may initially be slow, but it will pick up as word spreads.


And as my research has proved, you’ll be at least one step ahead of your tardy competitors.

Effective Social Media – Don’t Let the Tools Rule the Roost

Too many social campaigns are ‘channel specific’, isolated, unintegrated and therefore doomed to have a fraction of the impact they could have had if planning had started with the objectives and audiences, rather than the tools to connect with them.


I don’t know about you but when I’m planning a bit of DIY around the house (a rare event I’ll admit), I don’t make a beeline for my toolbox and look in there for inspiration as for what I should do (hmmmm – what could I make with these….).


I start off with an objective that I need to achieve (usually allocated by my wife), like putting up a shelf, and then head for the tool box for the tools I need to achieve it – in this case, my drill, some wallplugs and screws, a pencil and a spirit level (should I be starting a DIY blog?) – with the aim of communicating a message to my target audience (e.g. I do do stuff around the house other than work).



Effective Social Media - Don't Forget Your Objectives and Audience

But I see so many examples in modern marketing of the tools coming first, and the objective and the message coming second – especially with social media. People jump on the bandwagon and start letting the tools drive them, rather than working out the best way the tools can help them achieve their objectives and engage their audience. Worse still, this activity becomes discrete, isolated from the other tools their using – like putting a set of shelves up with just a spirit level – and so therefore doing only part of the job.  And even worse, customer relationship implications are not thought through – the niche audiences that use these tools are afforded better service, discounts and offers than the customer’s core client base.


My advice would be would be to start with your objectives and your audiences and then look at the tools at your disposal in the context of these. What social media tools are my audience using and how? What can these tools help me achieve?


Best Job in the World - How to Use the Tools Not Get Used by Them

Best Job in the World - How to Use the Tools Not Get Used by Them

Of course, make sure you understand these tools and the unique features they offer for you to connect with your clients and/or prospects and get your message across, but be wary of creating an effective 2 or 3 tier service where niche audiences who use these tools get something that others aren’t. You could end up upsetting alot of loyal customers.


I love the ‘Best Job in the World’ campaign as an excellent example of a way to use social media tools to amplify a message communicated through a wide range of channels to support a specific objective. So much better than all these gimmicky ‘channel specific’ campaigns which if properly thought through, could have been so much more effective.


Which reminds me, I really need to get that coat rack up….

Has Social Media Re-Written the Rules of Travel & Tourism Marketing?

Have the rules of travel and tourism marketing been re-written with the emergence of Facebook, Twitter et al? Or are we simply playing the same game with a different set of tools at our disposal?

We’ve all heard quotes like ‘social media is a game changer’ or ‘you’ve lost control of your brand’ from the new crop of social media experts that have sprung up due to the rapid adoption of services such as Twitter and Facebook.  But have the rules of marketing really been re-written? For me, the answer is ‘no’.


A very clever chap called Marcus Codrington-Fernandez, a man who has worked on brands such as IBM, Mercedes and Orange (and has now invented a cricket bat) explained to many years before the social media revolution that a brand was communicated by a series of conversations. Some of these conversations the brand would be directly involved with and some not (see fig 1 below). A large part of the marketer’s brief was to get the right sort of conversations going about their brand.

Brand Conversations - the Good Old Days

Brand Conversations - the Good Old Days

So brands have always been about conversations, and people were having conversations long before social media came along. So what has social media changed?  Well I’m not sure ‘change’ is the right word. ‘Amplied’ and/or ‘Multiplied’ would be more appropriate.


What it has done is engendered new social connections, multiplied the level of conversation, increased the speed of diffusion of those conversations and made them much more visible (see fig 2 below).


Brand Conversations - Post Social Media

Brand Conversations - Post Social Media


To give you can example close to home, my wife is an avid ‘Facebooker’ and I dabble with Twitter. We’ve have both made new social connections as a result of these services with people we may not have been in contact with otherwise. For my wife, its old friends and colleagues she’d lost touch with and for me its people who share a professional interest.


And there’s no doubt that the number of conversations we have has increased. Both of us now have conversations with new and existing contacts that simply wouldn’t have happened before. You post something about your day you think your friends might be interested in, and ‘hey presto’ they respond. But we still email, we still skype, we still text and, heaven forbid, we still occasionally talk to people face to face.


Of course we’ve all heard the ‘wildfire’ effect of social media. The Jan Moir/Stephen Gately furore was whipped up on Twitter and most people who complained about the Jonathan Ross/Russel Brand incident never ever heard it live. But ‘old’ media could spread good and bad news – the Mail in the case of JR/RB – it’s just speeded things up and allowed us to more readily connect directly with the people in the heart of the firestorm.


And social media conversations, especially on Twitter, are much more visible than they were before – Google can’t index personal emails and IM like it can Twitter for eg. As a travel company, you can use twitter search to find someone looking for honeymoon ideas and make some useful suggestions. Or find someone moaning about your service and nip the problem in the bud.  But then again, you could find someone complaining about your service on TripAdvisor – it just that social media makes it easier to identify and connect.


As individuals. social media enables us to do things that we’ve always done and always wanted to do – have conversations with people we share an affinity with. It’s just made it a darn site easier and therefore encouraged us to do it more often. When push comes to shove, it’s people using these things, and people’s motivations are the same as they’ve always been.


So the game hasn’t changed – engender the right sort of conversations about your brand – you’ve just got a few new tools in your locker which means you need to re-think your tactics.  But don’t throw out the old rulebook.


And the de rigueur phrase that irritates me most of all – ‘you’ve lost control of your brand’. Rubbish.  You haven’t suddenly lost control of your brand because you never had complete control of it in the first place. Conversations were always taking place about your brand that you never had complete control over. But by focusing on delivering a customer experience consistent with your vision and values, you could influence those conversations in the same way you can influence the new conversations happening as a result of Facebook, Twitter et al.

Want to more than Double the Effectiveness of Your Online Advertising? – Here’s How

Two recent developments have suggested ways to more than double the effectiveness of online advertising – a combination of ad content, frequency and placement.


It seems a little premature to be blogging on the subject of online advertising again but there have been a couple of developments in the past week that have compelled me to put ‘fingers to keyboard’.


The first is a report released by Eyeblaster based on a study of online advertising by the airline industry. How I know the airline industry isn’t representative of the whole travel and tourism industry but I do think some of the learnings can be applied more widely.


The report covers how online creative, environment and frequency can optimise the effectiveness of online travel advertising.


The biggest win, if you haven’t actioned it already, is to replace your old fashioned banner ads with interactive or rich media ones. From Eyeblaster’s study of the airline industry, this change was found to increase click thrus by a factor of 2.7 and to double conversions. This makes sense – not only are rich media ads more prominent, they’re also by their very nature more interactive and, if you’re clever, more dynamic and therefore more likely to be relevant.


Eyeblaster also investigated the optimum frequency. The figure they arrived at was 4 – that is 4 impressions per target user was the optimum to maximise click thrus. The conclusion was that even the airline industry was significantly under-investing in online advertising as 82% of campaigns served users 3 or fewer.


Online Ad Conversion  Rate by Placement - Airlines

Online Ad Conversion Rate by Placement - Airlines

The really interesting stat however was to do with environment. Most travel companies would opt for ‘travel’ sites and/or travel sections in other more general sites as the optimum place to serve their online ads. Eyeblaster’s study found that travel sites were not the best environments for either direct response or branding.


For direct response, news and finance sites performed better when both good ‘post click’ conversions (conversions from those who click thru from an ad) and ‘post impression’ conversions (conversions from those who see an ad but don’t click thru from it) were analysed. Travel sites delivered good ‘post impression’ conversions but poor ‘post click’ conversions, probably due to the competition with other travel advertising.


For branding campaigns, Eyeblaster used Dwell Rate (proportion of users who see an ad who interact with it in some way) and Average Dwell Time (the average length of that interaction) as the key metrics for success. In this case, travel performed well for Dwell Rate but poorly for Average Dwell Time, again most likely to do with competition from other advertisers. News, lifestyle and finance sites were the best performing overall, with finances sites warranting an mention as a particularly good place to engage a more upmarket user.


Dwell Rates and Average Dwell Times for Online Ads - Airlines

Dwell Rates and Average Dwell Times for Online Ads - Airlines

So these results are suggesting that you should be looking beyond pure travel sites to news, finance and lifestyle sites which can yield more fruitful results dependent upon your objective.  However, I certainly wouldn’t rule out travel sites’, it’s just that in this environment you’re going to have to work harder to stand out.  That could be by using rich media, including video, it could mean by ad synching (running 2 related creatives on the same page) or it could be by making the ad content dynamic and personalising it to the user.


And it’s on this latter topic that I move on to the 2nd development – the launch of the personalised ad service by Google. Now totally personalised ads are not new – as you know I blogged about Struq only a few weeks ago. But the launch by Google of this service means that it has moved into the mainstream.


So how does it work? Well, in the same way that Struq does in that visitors to an advertiser’s site will be receive an ad with content bespoke to their actions on that site when they visit any part of the Google content network.  Hence, if a user visits your site, searches and clicks on a holiday and doesn’t go on to book, you can serve an ad to that user when they’re on a Google content network site (which includes YouTube) which offers a discount on the very same holiday they’ve been looking for.  Clever stuff.


It’s by doing clever things like this that services such as Struq have claimed better CPAs than search. And the reach of the Google Content Network, over 1m sites in total, makes this launch even more exciting and significant.


The one caveat is consumer reaction to behavioural targeting. Services such as Phorm have run into difficulties in the UK over privacy concerns.  Cookies are ‘anonymous’ but the launch of services like these not only make personalised advertising mainstream for advertisers, but more visible to users to.  I think it’s unlikely but a backlash could result.


* Eyeblaster found that for every conversion ‘post click’, 6.7 conversions were generated ‘post impression’. So when judging the effectiveness of your online advertising campaign, you should be applying a multiplier of 7.7 to your ‘post click’ conversions.

Online Display Advertising – Time for a Re-Think?

Online display advertising has always been a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’ in my own promotional plans.  But recent developments have prompted me to re-think my position – in fact, its poised to make a leap between the 2 camps.


I must admit that online advertising is one of those disciplines I’ve probably misjudged.


I remember having a conversation with a senior online marketer at TUI 5 or 6 years ago in which he revealed to me that online advertising was very much an after thought in his digital marketing mix, trailing in a poor third behind search and affiliate activity.


That impression has stayed with me ever since, and although I’ve dabbled, I’ve never found the results so compelling as to make me divert significant budgets from other activity.


But new research is leading me to reappraise my opinion for 2 reasons. First of all, I’ve been too simplistic in the way I’ve been measuring it. Secondly, the targeting options are getting ever more sophisticated.


Let’s tackle the measurement issue first and let’s be frank, the click thru rates for online ads are not that great –  somewhere in the region of 0.1% is the industry average and your search campaign is probably delivering at least 10 times that. So surely it makes no sense to divert any budget from search to online advertising, right? But that’s precisely what some recent research would suggest that you do.


The argument is that search works at the sharp end of the purchase funnel, so targets those most likely to convert. The problem with taking a pure search approach is that consumers may already have formed brand preferences by then, making it hard to for you to change their mind so far down the track. It’s also super competitive down at that end of the funnel – who hasn’t already invested in search engine optimisation and PPC?


Online advertising, however, has more impact at the wide end of the funnel – in fact, it pulls people into the funnel in the first place, which in turn, makes your search campaign more effective as you’ve built awareness and hopefully preference before they see your search ad.


New ad formats like on also make online advertising more attractive

New ad formats like on also make online advertising more attractive

‘Sounds logical but where’s the evidence’ I hear you cry. Well Eyeblaster conducted some research in the US and found that across all business sectors for those businesses running cross channel search and display ads, 23% of the conversions came from search only and 5% came from search and display.  5% may not sound much but effectively online advertising is making search campaigns 20-25% more effective, and that’s on top of the conversions the campaigns are delivering themselves.


And of course online advertising is doing things other than deliver conversions and make your search campaign work harder. It’s building awareness and shaping preferences, if done in the right way.


OK – that’s the measurement issue dealt with so let’s move onto targeting.  Put simply, the options available are becoming more and more specific and hence more and more attractive, especially if you’re a smaller or medium sized business without huge sums to throw around.


These days publishers and ad networks (organisations that sell advertising on a range of sites, often in addition to the publishers themselves) offer a range of targeting options from geographic, to contextual (i.e. content on the page relevant to your offering), to demographic to behavioural (i.e. interested based, from data collected anonymously on the individual’s browsing habits). And in some instances, you combine 2, more or all of the above.


Imagine as a tourism attraction being able to target your marketing geographically (within 30 miles of your attraction), demographically (families) and contextually (things to do locally) – you’re going to be in front of a highly targeted audience.


However, it’s with behavioural targeting that things get really interesting.  Take the service offered by Struq.  It uses information collected from web browsing behaviour, combined with 3rd party data, to deliver what it calls ‘totally personalised’ ads.  Try the online demo and you can see what I mean – not only can the system ensure your ad is delivered to the right audience but it personalises the ad aswell.


Behavioural targeting has had a bit of a bad press – if you’re curious just google ‘Phorm’ (in fact, I’ve done it for you) and you’ll see what I mean – but it’s nothing new. How on earth do you think that Amazon works out which books to recommend (although as my wife and I both use the same PC it offers up a strange mix of historical non-fiction, marketing text books and chick-lit)?  Once people understand the anonymity of the data, how to opt out and realise that it makes the web more relevant for them, objections are likely to fade away.


So my advice – free up some budget for online advertising, explore the options and see what it delivers. And by that I don’t mean click thrus or acquisitions alone – look at how it influences the effectiveness of your search campaign and whether it drives an increase in your branded search traffic. My guess is that you won’t regret it.

Reeling in those Big Fish – Marketing to HNW Individuals

High spending customers take time, creativity and focus to reel in, but the rewards far outweigh the efforts.


I mentioned in my recent post on marketing segmentation and targeting that as long as a segment was profitable, it didn’t necessarily need to be substantial. Hence, a marketing segment can be as small as one.


Big Fish - Worth the Effort

Big Fish - Worth the Effort

I’ve worked right at the top end of travel & tourism and I’ve seen this phenomena plenty of times – the client who spends £100,000+ every year.  These clients are like rare diamonds to be polished and cherished. And because it doesn’t take 20 times longer to service a £100,000 holiday than a £5,000 one, the return on investment for your consultant’s time (and your marketing efforts) are so much higher.


So how do you market to a segment of one?  My advice would be to take a leaf out of the marketing journals of our B2B colleagues, who have much more experience in developing and nurturing one-to-one relationships.


Take an example of a high net worth individual that’s made a initial enquiry to your business – here’s how I’d coach a Sales Consultant through the process:


  • Thoroughly Research Your Client – if you work at this end of the industry, your Sales Consultants should be in the habit of googling all new prospective clients to identify if they fit into this  category.  They’ll probably find a Linkedin profile at the very least. Tools like Ebsco (free with CIM membership) can be used to fill out your profile further.


  • Leverage Every Conversation to Find Out More – make sure your use every conversation orf contact point with them (or their intermediary, be it PA or concierge) to find out more about them. When do they go away? (when we go on holiday is largely predictable, if we ask the right questions.  What interests them?  Who else is in their DMU (=decision making unit – husband/wife, children etc)and what roles do they play?  My experience is that everyone has the same favourite topic of conversation – themselves. Forget about yourself and practice the fine art of conversation – ask them about them and listen.


  • Thoroughly Research Their Requirements – for these people, you need to go that extra mile. Share the information you’ve gathered with your partners,  be they hotels or DMCs, so they can give you the best advice. Scour the internet for alternative options – you really want to demonstrate your expertise and understanding of their requirements. And don’t be over-awed by their status – they’re experts in they’re field but you’re an expert in yours, that’s why they’ve come to you.


  • Maintain a Dialogue – you’ve sent your quote, you’ve even followed up by phone and nothing. Your assumption – they’re not interested. They’ve booked elsewhere.  Wrong assumption.  We’re talking about seriously busy people and you have to accept that it’s your responsibility to keep the conversation going. But don’ become a pest – ensure every contact point adds value from the client’s perspective. Their prefered room type is about to sell out, a special offer is expiring, a new activity which they’d enjoy has just come to your attention. And mix it up from a channel perspective (email, phone, letter) – if a message is extremely time-sensitive, pick up the phone.


  • Don’t Let the Trail Go Cold – even if it’s been weeks since the last contact, don’t give up.  Your focus may shift, however, to communications not directly related to your recent quote and reduce in frequency.  When you see ideas that would interest them, send them over – be they luxury hotel openings, new adventure activities etc.  RSS feeds are a great way of keeping on top of the latest travel news.  If you have an event that might interest them, send them details.  In every case, remember to look at things from their perspective and bring value.


You can continue this approach until the client tells you to stop.  Your rivals will give up after 3-5 contacts.  In my experience, it can take anything up to 12 contacts to get a response – that’s going to require some careful thinking and creativity from you to craft each contact.


Just think about the potential rewards – future high value business and hopefully recommendations. But don’t rest on your laurels once you’ve got that initial business in.  You’d be foolish to assume subsequent bookings are going to come your way.  You’re going to have to maintain an ongoing dialogue to reinforce that initial positive impression and secure that loyalty affirming 2nd piece of business.

Want to Predict When Your Customers are Going to Travel? Try Talking to Them.

Ask the right questions of your customers and a pandora’s box of marketing opportunities opens up before you.


Like in so many other of life’s tasks, timing is important.


Successful retention programmes are dependent on the right offer, at the right time, delivered to the right audience via the right medium with the right execution (it’s that simple…) If you know when they’re going to travel, you’re well on your way to answering the first 2 questions.


But how do you find out? Sophisticated data mining tools to analyse your customer’s past behaviour and extrapolate trends for the future? Nope – I find talking to them alot more reliable.


OK – we’re living in less predictable times. And there’s definitely a trend towards using our annual leave in more bite-size chunks than before.  But we’re still pretty predictable.


I’ve got a pre-school son, so I don’t need to go away in the school holidays, and I’m not going to pay a premium for no reason, so overseas breaks tend to be in May, June and September. Of course, the September after my son turns 4, its school holidays for me – a change in my travel pattern, but highly predictable if you’ve captured the right information (i.e. you’ve asked me my son’s date of birth).


For professionals, even high flyers, they are going to be patterns – quieter times at work, school holidays if they have kids etc.  I remember chatting to a young, high flying banker at a function once – committed to his career, no kids, no ties – surely his breaks would be difficult to predict? Nope. He went away at the same 2 times every year when work eased off and he didn’t have to live in fear of what was awaiting him on his Blackberry. He’d only booked holidays in one of these time periods with the company I was working for – by opening a dialogue, I suddenly had a marketing opportunity.


Some holiday’s are less predictable but create predictable offshoots – those organising honeymoons are going to have hen and stag dos, often abroad, and then they have anniversaries (and if you’re clever, you can base your suggested anniversary trip ideas around the various themes – paper, wood etc) .


It’s all about thinking about each market segment that you serve, briefing your sales team to capture the right data at the time of booking or in a post trip survey, and then marketing in an intelligent way to them subsequently.  Believe me, it works.

‘Half the Money I Spend is Wasted, the Problem is I Do Not Know Which Half’

Lord Leverhulme’s dilemma has come back to haunt us but a bit of effort from you, and some buy in from your sales team, can yield results.


I remember a halcyon period in the 90s managing a plethora of promotional telephone numbers. I knew exactly where all my enquiries were coming from (different telephone number for each source) and largely where the business was coming from, if I could trust the sales team to ask the right question.


Then the internet came along….


Suddenly there were thousands of people visiting my website and for a large proportion of them, I had no idea how and why they’d got there. OK, we’ve all got website analytics we can pore over to study traffic sources, but what about all that ‘branded’ search traffic? It may be search engine traffic, but something drove them to the search engine in the first place – but what?


We all know that effective tracking is key to optimising budgets, and marketing teams have never been more accountable for their results than they are now, so a solution had to be found.  So what was my solution? Ask your client or prospective client, and if you don’t get an answer, ask again.


Or, put another way – ask for this information at each point of contact with the client or prospect until you get it or die trying. To elaborate:


  • Ensure you’re asking for this information each time the client’s asking something from you– when they sign up for emails (if you’re nervous, you don’t have to make the field compulsory), when they ask for further information. You going to give a little, so they’ll be prepared to give a little back.


  • Lord Leverhulme's Dilemna Comes Back to Haunt Us
    Lord Leverhulme’s Dilemna Comes Back to Haunt Us

    Get your sales or customer service team onboard – if sales people are incentivised, then the more information they get for you, the better the leads you’ll deliver to them and the more commission they’ll make.  Ensure you explain this virtuous circle.


  • Make sure your IT systems back you up – a compulsory source code field (or fields) that can’t be skipped.  A reminder to the Sales Consultant when they open a customer record that the field is “Unknown”. The ability to combine different sources of data in one place.


  • Don’t Just Rely on Your Sales/CS Team – if you’re sending out further communications, ask again. Perhaps in a “why didn’t you book” survey or on a customer service questionnaire.


However, a few words of warning.  As Einstein once said “not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted”. As we scamper towards the new, measurable media we have to retain a dose of common sense, so remember these few key things:


  • No information is better than misinformation – don’t force people to choose seomthing. Always offer them a “sorry, I can’t remember” or “Unknown” option.


  • Don’t get channels confused with sources – “website” is not a source. They didn’t just spontaneously appear on your website – something prompted them to go there.  Find out what.


  • Try and get the whole story – search engines always look like they deliver fabulous results, but that’s because they’re often at the sharp end of the decision making cycle.  A piece of PR or, heaven forfend, offline advertising might have sent them there.  I’d recommend offering more than one source option to get a fuller picture.


  • Apply your marketing common sense – something may not appear to be working that well, but you feel it’s driving people into other successful channels. If so, stick with it.  But don’t be afraid of a little experimentation – reduce the budget in the offending discipline and see what impact it has. You’re not going to optimise your mix if you’re afraid of breaking a few metaphorical eggs.


The more effort you put into it, the more you’ll get out.  OK – this isn’t the fun, fluffy market we got into the profession for, but turning up with a spreadsheet outlining what’s working and what’s not is a surefire way to enhance your credibility in the business and build a more harmonious relationship with your FD.