//Comment: How to re-align marketing efforts

Comment: How to re-align marketing efforts

Now is the time to look forward and encourage your audience to do the same, writes Farhad Divecha, MD of AccuraCast 

As we approach the festive season, uncertainty surrounds us all. And not least for travel brands around the world, many of which are unsure of how their typically peak season will play out. With recent socialising restrictions ringing out louder than the sounds of Jingle Bells, what can brands do to avoid suffering a Rule of Six Christmas? The answer lies in re-aligning digital marketing efforts and being laser-focused on loyal customers.

Where are your customers coming from? 
The very first step that brands must take is to collate and analyse customer data. Look at the user analytics from the past six months and compare with the same period from the last year.

Explore which channels your customers used, where their journeys originated from and at which point a purchase was made. Whether it was through Facebook ads, Google searches or an Instagram post, by establishing these data points and comparing with the same time last year you can identify your current most important channels.

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Where do you need to focus? 
Zooming in on the past six months, since Covid-19 first gripped the world, start identifying which channels your customer use, where have purchases been initiated, and if there is a correlation between the two sets of data. If not, why not? It could be for simple reasons, for example, the brand was running Facebook ads which have now ended.

Next, you need to establish what exactly people search for to come across your website. What are they commenting on? What are the questions in people’s minds? Put bluntly, what are people looking for? By going through these questions, you can then frame the answers that are leading people to your business.

It should come as no surprise that currently people are searching for providers they can trust with their health – issues regarding social distancing, cleanliness, and safety are front of mind.

The importance of communication 
Many brands are too nervous to continue posting on social media, but research from Facebook* has found that 70 per cent of people surveyed still do want to hear from brands during this time. Brands should edit their messaging according to the situation – in fact, 64 per cent of those surveyed agreed that companies should acknowledge today’s crisis in their advertising. Sensitivity is crucial, but humour and fun are welcome, though opportunistic and irreverent messages are not.

In the world of travel, continuing to inspire wanderlust is important. Brands should engage with audiences. Ask followers to share their memories, or where their first holiday will be when all this is over. Inspiring the desire to travel is the backbone of all travel brands, but at the same time, it is important to be mindful not to put out too much ‘Remember when…’ content that makes people look back wistfully. Now is the time to look forward and encourage your audience to do the same.

Don’t forget to rebuild your brand 
The first lockdown caused reputational damage for many tour operators, often for reasons beyond their control. The next few months should be used to repair that damage. Communicate with your audience to address what went wrong, talk about how you could have done better and what you’re doing now to ensure it won’t happen again. In retrospect, if you could’ve handled the situation better, now is the time to admit that. Trust can be earned back – the travel industry needs to do so now.

Finally, this is an ideal time to not only step back and look at customers, but also your business itself. Pre-Covid, the travel industry was thriving, which meant there was enough business for all. Post-Covid, that’s unfortunately not the case and those that survive will be the ones with the deepest pockets or the ones who clearly add value. Return to the grassroots and ask: what makes your brand unique and separates it from every other tour operator out there?

Once your raison d’etre has been identified, along with really getting to know your customers and what drives them, you can reform your strategy in preparation for recovery, and move confidently ahead.

*Facebook research and McKinsey report – Coronavirus Covid-19: Facts and Insights