‘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.

Are You a Travel Marketer or Simply a Travel Promotion-er?

An old boss of mine once said to me, ‘Our job is to get the phones ringing’.


Granted, this was in the days before the internet but it does really seem to be a pretty limited ambition for a marketer, and it’s not a mantra I’ve pursued throughout my career.


Sitting in my CIM Diploma classes, I seem to remember there being 7 P’s in the service marketing mix (Product, Place, Price, Promotion, People, Process, Physical Evidence – I’m quite impressed I can still remember them!) so why should we only be interested in one – Promotion?  It is a ‘marketing’ mix after all and we are marketers, not promotion-ers.


Worse still, if we hunker down in our promotion silo, we’re really onto a hiding for nothing. In the world of user review sites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter et al you can’t throw a promotional veil over a substandard offering. It just doesn’t work anymore. So if you’re doing your job properly, you’ve got to get involved in those other ‘Ps’ so that the message your delivering is consistent with what you’re offering.


I’m not advocating megalomania here – you don’t have to control those other 6 Ps – but you do have to influence them.  The best way any marketer can do that is lead a process to define the brand vision and values and then undertake an exercise to roll out those values across the company. The aim is to ensure everyone understands and internalises those values, and identifies ways in which they can deliver their part of the mix in a manner consistent with them.


Whilst we’re in a more holistic mood, it struck me that perhaps we need to look at the marketing budget in a different way too.  Of course, we fight tooth and nail to maintain every penny of our budgets but if the core aim of marketing budgets is to bring in customers, then perhaps we should be prepared for parts of budget to be re-allocated to other Ps.


For example, is a CRM budget best spent mailing people on a frequent basis, 95% of whom aren’t interested in your message at the time you’re delivering it, or would it make sense for elements of that budget to be spent on surprise gifts for top clients.  The latter would be a better way of achieving the goal of a CRM budget – customer retention – with the added benefit of positive word of mouth.


Let’s be honest – our role as marketers is to maximise the profits of the company for the minimum investment. We need to think more holistically about the levers we pull to make that happen.