When accessing and converting potential guests to your 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 favor should be the ability to evolve, I like to call this "Digital Promoflex" in today's marketing environment. We all know, just like in 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 is 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. There is no absolute way to predict how your campaign will respond. 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 is not 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 -"You have to 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 behaviors: Something may have changed how 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."
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.
To help marketers with this new changing online environment, digital marketers should consider the following four more detailed categories to ensure you get it right, developing effective ways to be nimble and flexible with the ability to make change efficiently and effectively. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind to manage and be flexible while staying active and engaged in your digital marketing effort:
Start with a good understanding of who your target audience is, as well as your past and future guest(s). Know their behaviors 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 and warrant involving your brand.
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.
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 hotel video played, or as 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.
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 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 what we like to call Advocacy. 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, Senior Vice President of Brand & Digital Strategy for RadonicRodgers Strategy+, has over 20 years of marketing and brand experience in both the agency and client sides of the business. His areas of expertise include marketing, brand strategy, digital, PR and social media. Mr. Caughlin is a brand and digital marketing specialist in Travel & Tourism marketing. Ron leads client training and workshops, and digital PR and marketing initiatives. Mr. Caughlin honed his marketing communications career at some of Canada's top agencies starting with BBDO as an Account Director and then VP, Clients Services at Cossette as well as the Managing Director for CIM, - LAUNCH.
Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from www.hotelexecutive.com.
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