How a 360 degree communication strategy can help you market your product or destination to the trade
Home working agents and an explosion of social media channels have changed the way brands interact with the travel trade. OTT’s CEO Julia Feuell explains why adopting a 360 approach to your communications strategy can help you reach and engage agents
Marketing your product or destination to the travel trade is not as simple as it used to be. Travel back in time just 10 years and you were limited to regular trade advertising, event sponsorship, hire a sales team to dish out doughnuts and model aeroplanes... and you’re done!
Fast forward a decade and the travel industry has undergone significant changes. The two most significant being a massive increase in homeworking travel agents in both leisure and business sectors and an explosion is social media and digital marketing. This has left some more traditional companies scratching their heads trying to work out where to prioritise their budget to deliver the best results.
Today, agents are scattered across the country and they’re using a variety of traditional and online channels to gain the latest information. This raises the question...how do you reach them all?
The answer, according to Linzi Boyd in her bestselling business book ‘Brand Famous’ is to create a ‘joined up approach’ or ‘360 degree communication strategy.’ According to Linzi, the 360 degree approach considers every aspect of your business. It is geared to determining, then sharing your key message and brand objectives.
With messages and brand objectives clearly defined, the 360 approach can be used to help your brand to grow using ‘touch points’ to communicate effectively using all available channels. Touch points, according to Boyd, allow business owners to link five points to create a perfect circle. Taking one idea and communicating this through traditional PR, (print and digital), social media, digital engagement (using product training), brand partnerships plus experiential events makes the circle complete.
Why a 360 communications strategy will help you to reach the travel trade
So what does this mean for the travel trade? How do you put a 360 communications strategy into place to reach and engage travel professionals?
Firstly, you need to identify and decide which are your key trade marketing channels and harmonize your campaigns through each of them.
One recent example of this strategy put into practise was by the Slovenia Tourist Board. They created product training to inform the travel trade, then brought the training modules to life by hosting an experiential event. The Tourist Board collaborated with partners as hosts and kept the momentum going through PR, sending photos and press releases through to the trade press.
Putting all of your budget into traditional advertising and events, may be an easy option, but it means your brand will be missing out on the many other channels that the trade is using such as Instagram, LinkedIn and online training.
Use video and online training - agents’ number one choice
Creating product training or a video enables your product or destination to be viewed over and over again – this was virtually impossible years ago. As your sales team builds rapport with the trade, they can extend their reach using training and video tools to engage remote workers and vastly increase your company’s brand awareness.
Customer experience and data specialists Spike Marketing surveyed 1,000 travel agents in 2017 and found that online training was the number one preferred method of learning about brands and products. Events was the second favourite.
Now, I’m not advocating sacking your sales team just because these channels are number one and two! Brands need to embrace all channels to create the multi-faceted approach Linzi Boyd describes to achieve the best response. Increasingly online product training, a relatively new kid on the block, has been added to UK government tenders as a ‘must have’ item.
This is true for Visit York, English Parks and English Coasts - destinations which promote their unique offer to agents overseas. It is good to see these destinations adapting to the changes and broadening their marketing budget allocation. But this can still cause a dilemma for marketeers - creating product training can seem like an incredibly daunting task compared to running a series of adverts in the trade press.
Product training: measurable marketing which truly engages agents
OTT can help brands to take their first steps into product training. Our account management team can alleviate time pressures by uploading content, video, photos onto the platform on behalf of the brand. It’s true that building the product training course will take longer than creating an advert but, as US department store merchant John Wanamaker observed: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
Product training is measurable as it data captures engagement. It is also long lasting and live 24/7 - agents can engage with it at any time, place, even using the preferred device which suits them. OTT has recently integrated a powerful email marketing tool to the platform so brands can communicate with their engaged agents. Teamed up with an event strategy, a good marketeer will leverage this engaged audience to ensure the right agents are invited to their event.
So is advertising in trade media no longer cost effective? Should it still be one of the trade marketing channels? Advertising still has an important role to play in brand awareness and teamed up with PR, can amplify your brand exponentially. Adding a unique url to an advert driving engagement to a trade website or to OTT training can also help provide ROI on the spend as it increases visibility about who is engaging. Cruise operator APT are very good at amplifying their product training – they ensure the url is used in all their presentations, exhibitions and advertising.
Three tips for creating your own 360 degree communications strategy
So far we’ve looked at the benefits of a 360 degree strategy for trade marketing. Here are my top three tips for getting started - creating your own strategy to leverage your channels and increase your brand exposure:
- Firstly decide the key channels you’re going to need. Do you need a media partner, product training company, and have you highlighted events to attend or sponsor? Think about which social media outreach channels are relevant to the agents you are looking to reach.
- Next consider the reach of each channel. Will you need to hire a specialist PR company or marketing resources? Ensure you consider the ROI you can measure from the channels.
- Lastly, consider how to integrate your chosen communication channels in a joined-up way. Prepare the key messages and themes that you wish to communicate to the trade - these are the key things you want them to know and take away. Cost this all up to allocate to your budgets.
Marketing today requires a higher level of strategic thinking, more data to inform decisions plus the skills required to use the relevant channels - there’s a lot more to consider. Costs haven’t necessarily risen, but I believe the new marketing landscape brings opportunities for even greater engagement for those who create the right balance.
OTT is the world’s largest product and marketing platform for the travel trade reaching more than 95,000 travel agents and tour operators in the UK and 165,000 worldwide in 15 languages. It is an essential B2B marketing channel for the travel trade. Visit www.ott.travel for more information or contact Julia Feuell [email protected]