The Educational Travel Community conference offers alumni travel planners, tourism boards and tour operators the opportunity to network and share ideas that help the educational travel community thrive. At this year’s conference, David Henry, Go Ahead’s VP of Marketing, spoke about the digital landscape for travel marketing and how it can be used to help recruit travelers and raise awareness. Read on for David’s valuable insights about the customer journey and how to reach your audience with the right marketing tools.
Think about the customer journey
The average American consumer is exposed to 5,000 advertising messages every day. Google “vacation” about 643,000,000 results in 0.39 seconds. How can we stand out in a world of clutter?
Appealing to a customer’s emotion in travel is more important than appealing to a customer’s reason; it is about getting the right mix of emotional elements such as dreaming and functional elements like price. As travel marketers, we need to help our travelers have a wonderful journey with us, rather than make them gather wood and listen to orders.
We need to think about the overall customer journey, and the most important part of this journey is happiness. Happiness is distinct from satisfaction, as happiness is what turns people into advocates who help you build and grow your customer base. As an alumni association, you have an incredible competitive advantage because your consumers trust you and want to hear from you. This makes you well-positioned to share rich, valuable content, but it’s essential to consider where your travelers are in their particular journey with you.
Brands often think about communication as a funnel, but we want you to think about it as a loop: the happiness loop. Engage your customers in this loop from the time they dream about an experience to the way they celebrate upon their return. Talk to your customers about what they dream about, make it very easy for them to plan and book, prepare them by producing content that builds anticipation, set the precedent for the whole experience, and celebrate the afterglow when they return home.
In the simplest form of this journey, customers fall into one of three core areas:
1) They are dreaming of a destination or taking a break;
2) they have a trip planned and are anticipating the adventure ahead of them, or
3) they have returned and are bathing in the afterglow of their enjoyable experience.
These three emotions are powerful and create an opportunity for you to help your travelers celebrate these moments. How can you use content to inspire a dream destination and amplify the anticipatory aspects of travel? How can you help travelers enjoy the afterglow of the trip–and how can you use this to draw them back?
Reach your audience
While it can feel easiest to follow a shotgun approach to marketing and send your entire audience the same mailers and emails in large numbers, we recommend segmenting your communications based on the tour and target audience. To increase the number of travelers, and therefore your engagement and alumni support, be strategic in your approach. Receiving multiple tour brochures can overwhelm your alumni with too many choices, as seen in The Harvard Business Review’s “More isn’t always better.” Having multiple tour operators create print materials can also lead to inconsistency in your messaging, so we recommend collaborating with your tour operators to develop a style or template that gives you a distinct tone and brand.
Digital advertising is also a very cost-effective way of driving returns, as it allows you to really segment your audience based on their interests. Social media, Facebook ads and digital remarketing are just a few of the methods that allow you to measure and track consumer engagement. Whether it’s the subject of an email or a story in a Facebook post, aim for copy that is relevant and inspiring to ensure your audience sees and engages with your message. Remember that you don’t need to cram all of your messaging into one place. Most importantly, never think of a communication touchpoint as an isolated event; think about how your channels work together to amplify your messages and tell your story.
While all of this can feel overwhelming, remember that you are not alone. There is no better place to search for experts than your university, so consider hiring a marketing intern or working with a professor to turn your work into a project. There are also numerous sites to help you with data collection and analytics, including SurveyMonkey, MailChimp and Moz. Website personalization and optimization tools that require very little web development include Qubit and Optimizely. To learn more about the digital marketing landscape, check out Hubspot and eConsultancy, or look to these beginners’ guides to SEO and email.
Interested in learning more about how to most effectively reach your alumni? Give our team a call at 1.800.438.7672.