Hospitality and Travel Marketing, from A to Z


January 4, 2012

NOTE: Today’s post was inspired by a well-written piece by @jenn_seeley on the Radian6 blog yesterday, titled The ABCs of Social Media Strategy for Travel. In order not to be redundant, but rather to complement her approach, I thought I would share my own version with a slightly different perspective: key concepts in hospitality & travel marketing, from A to Z.

A – Applications – Mobile platforms are increasingly popular with an accelerated rate of adoption for smartphones in every corner of the world. Travel industry will need to embrace this phenomenon with applications and mobile web sites so customers can access and book from their finger tips, on-the-go.

B – Blogs – At the centre of any good hospitality virtual ecosytem is the blog. It holds a different mission than the website, social media and email marketing tactics, yet it complements them all by allowing more in-depth content while helping your SEO.

C – Connected Customers – As @briansolis mentions it in his most recent book, The End of Business As Usual, customers are no longer solo individuals. Because friends, colleagues and parents are all connected via social networks, customers now represent audiences with their own audiences. We ought to talk through our customers, rather than at our customers, in order to reach these audiences.

D – Deals – Flash sales sites came into the spotlight last year, and travel industry will have to fine-tune its strategy: Groupon, LivingSocial, Jetsetter, Tuango, etc. Great deals for customers, however, do not mean retention and repeat business for hoteliers and tourism businesses.

E – Echo – Sharing stories on Google+ or Facebook, retweeting content on twitter, liking a post on Linkedin, a video on Youtube or a picture on Flickr… These are all ways brands can echo their name, their story, their essence. It goes both ways, though: customers can now echo their experiences, good and bad, on these sites or travel review sites, such as TripAdvisor.

F – Frequency – If your brand holds a presence in social media, one of the golden rules is frequency. Whether you post once a day on Facebook or blog once a week, it’s all good as long as you find the sweet spot between customer engagement and having the proper resources to manage it all. Then, you need to stick to a set frequency in order to meet expectations and avoid going AWOL for a while…

G – Giveaways – Nothing like contests, giveaways and quirky promotions to get your audience to participate in social media, or to grow an audience. Beware, however, of using this tactic too frequently or else you risk damaging your brand and cultivate an audience who responds only to contests.

H – Help – Whether offline or online, hospitality brands that stand out are those who go out of their way to help customers, even at times when it doesn’t relate with the product or service. A great customer service culture starts with the customer in mind, at every touch point, including on premises AND in social media environment.

I – Inbound – With shrinking advertising dollars and an explosion of media possibilities, both in the traditional media and online, brands now look at developing a proper inbound marketing strategy. That is, become your own publisher to increase your earned and shared media, instead of relying uniquely on paid media.

J – Jay Baer – There are a few people, blogs and web sites I would recommend following, but without a doubt you need to put @JayBaer on your list. His Convince & Convert blog is an awesome resource for everything social, and then some.

K – Klout – What is influence online, and how do you measure it? Are there people out there that can make or break your brand reputation with a single tweet or blog post? There are tools out there to help measuring online influence. Klout is probably the better know of them all, but you can also check out Kred or PeerIndex.

L – Listen – My old man used to tell me we have two ears, one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we talk. Sound advice, applicable to the business world as well. Too many brands are busy posting and tweeting away, when simply listening to what’s being said out there could shed lots of insights and generate sales leads, among other benefits.

M – Monitor – In order to listen properly, one needs to monitor what is being said. Is the sentiment changing? Are there more negative comments being made than before? Who is most active talking about your brand, and can it affect your brand (positively or negatively)? There are many tools out there that help monitoring conversations. Free tools include Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Seesmic. Paid tools include Sysomos, SAS and what many consider to be best-in class, Radian6.

N – Now – More than ever, tourism & hospitality industry needs to be ready for real-time marketing. Customers no longer send letters to complain, or even emails – it’s much quicker to vent on facebook or twitter. Some will take a few minutes to vent on travel review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor or Expedia. Watching this happen and doing nothing about it is not an option, what will you do about it?

O – Offline – Social platforms, web sites, blogs… it’s all fine and dandy. But in the travel industry, experiences happen in real life. Thus, it’s important to deliver a consistent quality experience. It’s also a reminder to connect in real life events, such as consumer shows, conferences and seminars.

P – Photos – In our business, photos tell a 1,000 words. Those we publish in brochures and our corporate web site, but also those posted by customer during and after their trip. Photos are often most commented parts of articles, posts and Facebook status.

Q – Q&A – Social media are great platforms for crowd-sourcing ideas and getting customer input. It’s also a great place to handle customer service complaints and concerns, feed them into a Question & Answers thread once a topic becomes very popular, and have them readily available on your web site for future reference.

R – Relevancy – If brands are to become better publisher of their own content, a key aspect to bear in mind is relevancy. Sure, frequency is important, but if the content is not relevant to your audience, you might as well not publish at all. Segment your content, know why you are on facebook versus twitter versus your email newsletter. Publish accordingly.

S – Social – Social media has been pretty much a marketing responsibility up until now. In some companies, it may fall under PR, Public Affairs, HR or even IT. Moving forward, brands will have to empower front line to be proactive online, in order for companies to be social, rather than do social.

T – Tablets – According to a recent study, 60% of tablet owners booked a trip via mobile. Expedia tapped tablet devices with applications for iPad and Android devices in 2011, while Orbitz and Hotels.com developed tablet-only booking capabilities. Embracing mobile means also integrating tablets into the equation.

U – Unmarketing – As Scott Stratten says it best “Stop marketing. Start engaging”. Engagement is the new golden rule of the online world where connected customers interact. If you’re wondering what is meant by engagement, please read above definitions from A to T… 😉

V – Videos – Just like photos, videos are quintessential to the travel industry. In order to capture attention of customers, make into their decision-making process, brands need to have presence in every step of the decision funnel: aspirational videos, explanatory or how-to videos along with testimonials will go a long way.

W – Why – At least once a year – now would be a great moment – ask yourself “Why”. Why are you in business? Sure, to make money. But what’s your differentiation from competition? In other words, what’s your strategy? Who’s your target audience, how should talk to them? What are your goals and how do you measure success?

X – eXcel – Instead of adopting a “me-too” approach to your online marketing, ask yourself what it is you are awesome at, or what feature of your brand resonates most with customers. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, find your strong points, excel at what you do and deliver consistently.

Y – Yelp – What are people saying about your restaurant, your golf course, your hotel or your ski hill on Yelp? Or on TripAdvisor? Claim your venue on these sites, and respond when appropriate. Simply acknowledging complaints can go a long way, often changing customer opinion about the property that showed reactiveness.

Z – Zappos – An online shoe store in this list for travel marketing? What’s it got to do with the topic? Nothing, and everything. Here’s a company that really understands the importance of customer service and innovation, both elements equally at the heart of any hospitality brand wishing to sustain long-term growth. Click here for more on this topic.

So there you have it. Any other concept or key words you think should have made this list?

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Frederic Gonzalo
Frederic Gonzalo

Senior marketing and communications expert & speaker with more than 20 years of expertise in the travel and hospitality industry. Consulting since early 2012, I provide strategic planning, social media & mobile development counseling to small and medium businesses alike. Reach me at frederic@gonzomarketing.biz

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