Top-notch Travel Marketing Tips for 2020

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If your start to the new decade is as bloated as your post-Festive Season stomach, consider these top-notch travel marketing tips for 2020 that will put new energy into your travel marketing efforts.

Travel Marketing Tips for 2020

As we set out well-intentioned on our New Years’ Resolution journey this 2020, it’s worth adding a marketing overhaul to the mix for your travel business as I have this past week.

When the rest of you were sipping champers at the pool in the southern hemisphere sunshine, I was wading knee-deep in keywords, marketing strategies and content pillars. At a certain point, I confess, I couldn’t see the Kreepy Krauly for the murky pool water.

So, I did what any good procrastinator would do and spent a couple of hours washing the dishes, rearranging my desk and surfing through podcasts. Perhaps I would have benefited from reading Jenna Berndt’s blogpost on good time management.

That is until I stumbled upon Fire Nation by John Lee Dumas and a particular podcast interviewing Austin Netzley, author, investor, and the Founder of 2X. How I managed to drag myself away to get any work done, is beyond me, but I did.

Now, Austin’s lessons had very little to do with travel marketing per se, but they did make me think about how we market, not only Big Ambitions but any travel business.

John Lee and Austin’s 30-minute odd chat literally lit a fire in my distended Christmas belly and made me rethink how I was going to approach 2020 from a travel marketing perspective. I can hear the collective groan from the Big Ambitions staff now.

So, if like me you’re in need of a shiny new year, here are my top-notch travel marketing tips for 2020 to get you in shape as we begin another journey around the sun (sans champers).

Tip 1: Revisit your core purpose

Why do you exist? And more importantly, why is it important to your customer? Marketing Guru Seth Godin speaks about “what’s it’s for and how will we know if it worked?” We’ll deal with the “whether it worked later”. More often than not, however, in travel marketing our response to “what it’s for” is company-centric, not customer-centric.

We spend a great deal of time and marketing budget on telling our target customers about what we do, what we can offer, why we’re so super cool. We spend an inordinate lack of time and marketing budget on finding out what’s important to our target customer. We don’t consider what they want and why what we have, what it’s for, in fact revolves around them.

So, the first step in your 2020 travel marketing journey is to take a step back, park your ego back in 2019 and answer why you exist for your customer, not for you.  We’ve written about this before.

Create a table with the list of features that you offer in column 1, what the attributes thereof are in column 2 and what the functional and emotional benefits are… to your customer in column 3.

Tip 2: Revisit your brand pillars

Next on my list of things to do was to define properly what the pillars of my brand were. What the points were that set us apart from the rest of the crowd. Let’s face it, travel marketing is a noisy place!

What are the three or four things that are distinctive about your brand? In our case, one of the key things is the depth of actual travel industry experience and knowledge we have within the Big Ambitions team. This means we know a lot about the nitty-gritty of all aspects of travel.

That’s quite unusual for a travel marketing firm and it helps customers who don’t need to spend months onboarding us before we can get down to meaningful work. See what I did there? Feature > Attribute > Benefit (to the customer).

We know what IATA is, how tough it is to work in travel, and why a travel RFP is a royal pain in the neck to compile, never mind responding to.

So, I set about re-plotting our pillars and re-created my content calendar to speak specifically to those pillars.  Each pillar becomes a content pillar. Each content pillar is developed into one long-form piece of content like a whitepaper or an eBook.

That long-form content then gets sliced and diced into many pieces of cluster content which we then share across our blog, opinion pieces, social media, and in media. Think about those platforms you use to reach your end customers and again with the focus on helping them. You can’t take if you’re not prepared to give.

Hubspot has a brilliant blog on the future of content strategy which is worth reading as you embark on any content marketing / PR journey. This will also help you avoid Content Churn as my colleague, Chelsey Hale, recently wrote about.

Tip 3: Do what only you can do

Like any self-confessed control freak, this one is going to be the toughest one to master. Austin says you need to “get free from the weeds” and “only do what you can do”.

Lovely, who am I going to work through that ever-expanding ASANA list of To-Dos that have this annoying tendency to turn red? Who’s going to double-check Mary’s article? Who’s going to follow up with Customer X for this month’s priorities? Who’s going to write that travel marketing strategy for Customer Y?

Austin’s warning that you can’t work on the business if you work in the business is something I’ve been mindful of for ages. I’ve pushed it to the back of my mind along with toilet breaks, lunch and being nice to my dogs.

Not having been able to be strict with myself in the past, I decided one step at a time was better than none at all (a New Years’ Resolution to live by) and started making a list of:

  • Stuff that I do every day
  • Critically assessing which of those things:
    • Could be done by someone else
    • Could be automated based on a system or process
    • Shouldn’t be done at all

I’m not done with my list, but it has already helped me to eliminate some of the marketing and admin tasks I was doing…. well because I’ve always done them.

Tip 4: Implement systems and processes

For the tasks that are repetitive or can be automated based on a system or process, I’ve started creating checklists and templates. I’ve added those to Onedrive so the entire team has access to these. Any time they need to create a proposal, a spreadsheet, a strategy, they have an online resource they can turn to before asking me.

Instead of email feedback, I’m using screencasts via Zoom. Another great tip from Austin was to record training videos for repetitive tasks. Have these available for all new staff so that you don’t have to show each new staff member how to do it. As I write this, I have to wonder at how I hadn’t thought about it before. Doh!

I’ve also hired a Virtual Assistant to help me with those administrative tasks that someone else can do. I’ll let you know in a future blogpost how that’s working out, but if Tim Ferriss can do it, so can I. Bring on the four-hour Work Week!

Tip 5: Did it work?

Bringing it back to Seth: I confess that I am guilty of having done things without having had the benefit of putting in place strong KPIs, or worse still putting them in place but not monitoring them consistently.

Again, Austin to the rescue. He suggested identifying 8 to 10 top KPIs to tell the health of your business. So, here’s me stealing like an artist and suggesting you define 8 to 10 top KPIs to tell the health of your travel marketing.

This can be a monthly checklist that you populate to see how your marketing efforts are performing. The idea is to help you identify quickly if something isn’t working and needs to be fixed, e.g.

  • Social media engagement
  • Unique visitor or repeat traffic
  • Newsletter sign-up links
  • Sales enquiries

In the spirit of marketing minimalism… less is more, quality is more important than quantity and, without measuring what you’re doing, you’ll have no idea if your core purpose hits the sweet spot for your customers. – your whole raison d’etre.

Of course, there are a ton of travel marketing tips for 2020 we could pursue. However, doing more tomorrow than today sounds like a good enough New Years’ Resolution. Plus, it may give me more time for podcasts, champers at the pool and being nice to my dogs.