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DIGITAL STRATEGY:
Practicing Digital Promoflex

Practicing Digital Promoflex marketing in your online Travel & Tourism offering – don’t lock it in

Published in Hotel Business Review. Adapted with permission.

by Ron Caughlin – SVP, Brand & Digital Strategist, RadonicRodgers Strategy+

WHEN ACCESSING AND CONVERTING potential travellers to your airline, attraction, tour or hotel, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns or Social Media Marketing. The most valuable tool you have in the battle for Google’s favour should be the ability to evolve – I like to call this “Digital Promoflex” in today’s marketing environment. We all know, just like chess, we need a plan in order to play a decent game.

This is exactly the same premise in digital and social media marketing. In order to determine what kind of channels to target your audience, we must have some general idea what our goals are and what we are trying to accomplish from a marketing perspective.

Consistently following a plan is crucial to success, yet at the same time maintaining flexibility and the ability to learn and adjust is critical in today’s fluid Travel & Tourism space. The plan is not the State of the Union, rather it’s like a living and breathing organism, that adapts and changes with environmental and market conditions.

I can remember a time when marketing plans were set in stone. Back in the day, we thought we were measuring our success and making changes to reflect market conditions. We actually had a term for this called – Promoflex. This meant we would watch how campaigns and global world events were affecting bookings and sales results, and then respond accordingly by changing campaign offers, reducing room prices and even shifting media channels six months into the plan. We thought this was a fast and flexible way to respond.

Actually, traditional media and national networks would only give you a 30-day period to make a change or cancel a campaign, which made it difficult to change the plan. In today’s digital landscape, the environment has vastly changed how we market and react. Your efforts therefore need, and can be, much more flexible. Digital media channels allow flexibility and give you the ability to make changes mid-course. This is what I like to call – Digital Promoflex

Of course, Digital Promoflex isn’t easy and can be a painful process at times. You may have a great idea that you thought would break sales records. Yet you may have to let go of something you had hoped would be successful, but in the end, was not. Monitoring and paying attention to your campaign will give you the ability to respond to your online marketing and re-consider the overall messaging, imagery, offering and channels you are using. Your plan isn’t finished until the campaign period is over and you have started to craft a new one all over again.

According to Jim Joseph, President of Cohen and Wolf, “Your plan needs to remain flexible.” He goes on to explain, “You can’t possibly predict what will occur over a 12-month period, so you can’t be certain that the plan you’ve written will be effective throughout the year. Look what can happen in one week, let alone a year!”

Jim states: “…be ready, willing, and able to respond to:”

  • New, unplanned competitive activity:Your competitors may have pulled a fast one on you, requiring either a quick response or a change in your plans.
  • Evolving customer attitudes and behaviours: Something may have changed the way your customers think about your business and how they are engaging with it, which could cause you to rethink some of your plans.
  • Marketplace fluctuations: Let’s face it, virtually every category is a dynamic one, and there’s no way to foresee all the ebbs and flows. You may need to change your thinking while on the ride.
  • Sales attainment: As you track your sales performance against your forecast, you may want to change up your plans to push even harder or to refocus your efforts.”

Change is good

A general rule of thumb is “Change is good.” With every tack, and every trim, you will learn something while gaining experiential cause and effect. Analyze what the results were and more importantly, why they were!

Digital marketers should consider the following four steps to ensure you get it right, developing effective ways to be nimble –making changes efficiently, while staying active and engaged:

1. Understanding Behaviours

Start with a good understanding of who your target audience is, as well as your past and future guest(s). Know their behaviours and how they use and consume the Internet. Be flexible by testing offers and messaging and how your audience responds to these messages. Stay in tune with what’s happening online – you may see something happen in the news or entertainment world that require participation warranting brand involvement.

2. Implementing Digital Tracking and Social Listening

Before you launch your digital campaign, ensure you have invested in solid tracking tools with advanced and meaningful reporting, beyond basic analytics reports. Measuring the digital environment prior to the campaign, mid-campaign and post-campaign, will give you what you need to make fast decisions that justify making a change to the original plan. By watching the people who respond to your campaign online, it becomes simple to get a good perspective of your market and how they are responding or converting. If you have good information about your online target and neighbourhoods, you can adjust your content to suit their interests and drive better results.

3. Benchmark, and then Test, Test, Test

By determining what market actions you want your audience to take or what level of brand engagement is desired, you can test what tactics are effective. A digital market action is also called a conversion. You may define your realistic conversion as a destination video played, number of airline seats booked, or as hotel rooms booked… keep your wishes realistic. It may not be feasible, initially, to achieve dramatic purchase volumes on a single campaign tactic, for example. Desired conversions may need to be tweaked to be more realistic. To obtain those objectives, don’t be afraid to test new offers, try new wild ideas or use unique engaging content or imagery to achieve the desired conversion. Test everything and learn as the campaign evolves. Applying flexibility will allow you to eventually get it right and drive better conversion success with a measurable ROI for your digital marketing efforts.

4. Broad Strategies, Nimble tactics

Remember good strategies that are broad allow you to be nimble and flexible with your tactics to help drive digital success and positive results. The ability to change your tactics and strategies to adapt to changing conditions is one of the best ways to ensure you are using your marketing dollars most effectively and delivering a strong ROI with positive sales results.

Adapting your marketing approach to include and apply Digital Promoflex will give you the ability to transform your campaigns and drive a better ROI for your marketing dollar. This will take real patience – allow the results to drive your decisions and your audience to tell you how to speak to them. That will help you stay ahead of your competition through-out the year. Measure everything and react accordingly with content that will inspire action and drive conversion.

When thinking about your plan, remember to devise tactics that will Access your target group where they live online. Also use content that delivers a heart-level appeal and can deliver an emotional punch. This is content that will Engage your potential passengers or guests and get them to act or share your content on social media to their family and friends. Sharing content is a key ingredient in advocating for a brand. Advocacy is where the fans of your brand take over and do promotion for you. Many brands such as WestJet Airlines do a good job at creating an emotional appeal that ends up going viral, this is where the brand fans of WestJet take over and share the content over and over again. Lastly, converting your potential leads into real paying customers is what it is all about.

Measuring converted traffic from your online campaigns will allow you to understand the proper methods to reach your target and get them to book travel. Flexibility in your approach and media tactics will give you the ability to adjust your plan mid-stream and make changes to the plan while focusing on the winning digital media channels. Ongoing tracking and setting metrics will also give you the benchmarks to have the courage to change your plan. Knowing when to act and adjust is a dexterous combination of art and science that can be built on over time. In summary, access the most profitable target through the proper channels, develop engaging content that creates advocacy within your target audience, and achieve the desired conversions while maintaining flexibility for marketing success.

Ron Caughlin is Sr. Vice President, Brand & Digital Strategy for RadonicRodgers Strategy+, a brand and digital marketing agency specializing in Travel & Tourism marketing. Ron leads RadonicRodgers client brand strategy and training, client workshops, digital PR and marketing initiatives at Canada’s leading firm in award-winning Travel & Tourism marketing.

Ron built the marketing program at the GTAA (Toronto Pearson) and created the digital marketing partnership with Air Canada, Tourism Toronto and OTMPC. He also developed the “There’s no place like” campaign for the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership (OTMPC).

Mr. Caughlin is also a part-time professor at Humber College, School of Hospitality, Recreation & Tourism where he teaches PR and Social Media, Consumer Insight and Marketing Research, Sport Tourism, Sport Finance, Mobile Marketing and e-Business and Technology.