“Every single one of us needs customers,” says CEO of ADMA Jodie Sangster, speaking at the Travel DAZE conference this morning. And it might seem obvious. But the amount of brands putting their product ahead of their customer warrants this kind of statement. All of you need customers, otherwise what else is there?
“The customer is at the centre of everything you do, and anyone who thinks, ‘No it’s not, it’s my product’ is missing the point,” Sangster said.
“We have to treat them properly, we have to treat them as individuals and make sure we’re providing the service they need.”
And there are five areas she wants companies to focus on: technology, content, creativity and data. And the fifth? The digital channels you’re reaching them through.
Customer service is critical, Sangster stressed, with “relevancy” one of the more important buzzwords to remember.
“Every single step that a customer touches, you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I providing the best service I possibly can?”
“It’s about every touch-point that customers come to, and your job is to make sure that experience is great.”
In terms of data, Sangster believes “not all customers are created equal”.
“You need to know who your customers are, what’s important to them, and how to get that to them.
“Every customer that comes through your door is different and you should be able to put them into ‘buckets’ or categories, and serve them in a group of people.
“One example of the power of data is a travel insurance company that was spending a lot of money advertising during the TV show Getaway, but through research found that none of their customers were actually watching Getaway.
“The people watching that show are not the ones going on holiday, the ones going on holiday were reading the Financial Review, so they advertised there and the changes in bookings were phenomenal.
“Content marketing is probably the single biggest change in marketing in the past five years,” Sangster added.
“We’ve moved from ‘please buy my service, destination, or resort,’ to actually being be of use to customers and creating content that’s engaging and useful and communicating differently.”
Sangster borrowed a diagram from Caitlin Domske on the stage of customer experience.
At the top of the inverted pyramid was inspiration, during which Sangster said it’s about shareable content that inspires what your customer is looking for and aims to begin long relationships.
The next stage was research & discovery, where brands can help customers with specific content and further inspiration, without the pressure of sales.
Third in line was the booking & preference stage, where you need to prove what makes your brand and company unique, and telling those stories through testimonials and other avenues. Finally, it’s important to retain those customers, and “keep the conversation going”, which Sangster admits is difficult, given content marketing is a bit of an insatiable beast.
“Once you start you have to keep going, which is why a lot of people move to user generated content.”
And a great example of user-generated content can be seen in three classic examples:
- 1888 Hotel offered people with 10,000 or more Instagram followers for free on the proviso they share photos from their experience. Sounds generous, Sangster said, but $250 to reach 10,000 people is pretty good.
- Airbnb and its ‘Hollywood Vines’ created by users and hosts
- Contiki Legends using celebrities to act out dream trips, like Natalie Dormer in this video:
“Now, digital is the way you can reach with your customers, and which channels you use depends on how you want to engage them.
Sangster explained that, in the case of travel marketing, travellers will typically visit 22 sites before booking a holiday, with 92 per cent of visitors to a website never returning – making remarketing absolutely essential.
“Sixty-nine per cent of travellers begin their search online and on mobile,” Sangster said. “So you only do one thing, make sure your website is great, easy to use, and give people what they want.”
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