Marketing

Basics of Inbound Marketing for Travel Brands

Basics of Inbound Marketing for Travel Brands

Consumers are relying more and more on websites for their travel decisions. According to Google Insights, travellers visit 22 different sites over an average of 9.5 sessions before booking. In fact, a destination, airline or hotel website could be the most impactful area of all marketing.

Apply the inbound methodology to travel and hospitality brand marketing

Consumers are relying more and more on websites like TripAdvisor for their travel decisions. According to Google Insights, travellers visit 22 different sites over an average of 9.5 sessions before booking! That's a lot of research. In fact, a destination, airline or hotel website could be the most impactful area of all marketing.

Introducing the Sales Funnel

The sales funnel is sales and marketing terminology for how the seller of a product or service plans to draw leads (potential customers), nurture them to the point of purchase and retain them. So it is business-focused, helping you map out your sales processes and determine your marketing activities.

But to achieve this, you, as the seller, must understand the buyer’s journey (the active research process someone goes through leading up to making a purchase). Knowing the buyer’s journey of your ideal customer — in this case, your ideal traveller — is key to creating the best content possible to target them, and at the right time.

The Buyer’s Journey for Travellers

The buyer’s journey is focused on the potential customer. It comprises three stages: the awareness stage, the consideration stage, and the decision stage, portraying the experiences your potential customers go through. 

Buying a holiday is an investment and prospective travellers go through a significant amount of research before deciding on a holiday. First-time visitors to your website can arrive in any of the buyer’s journey stages, so you need to have content prepared for each stage.

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During the awareness stage, prospective travellers are dreaming and researching. This stage usually includes reading up on different types of holidays (an island getaway, perhaps, or a family ski trip). Whether a traveller is dreaming of experiencing relaxation or embarking on a bucket list adventure, the driving force behind this stage is “I want to go somewhere”.

Travel is experiential, so it is important to meet this with your content. A prospective traveller needs to see themselves relaxing on an island, skiing down the slopes of a mountain or hiking through a rainforest. You as a marketer, in the lead-nurturing stage of the sales funnel, can meet this stage of the buyer’s journey by producing visually inspirational content that engages travellers’ imaginations.

  • Your marketing content in this stage should be broad, shareable and inspire travel.
  • Aim to foster long-term relationships (don’t punt your brand too much, but do include a call to action (CTA).
  • During this stage, your marketing content should answer these questions for the traveller:
          - What kind of holiday do I want to experience?
          - Where should I go on holiday?

Once a traveller has decided on a type of holiday, they will enter the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey. This is where they drill down their choice from an island holiday to a specific destination or experience. You can nurture them during this stage with comparative content (such as, Mauritius or Maldives? or Where to go on an island holiday blogs or infographics) and user-generated content (such as influencer campaigns).

  • Destination-specific content during this stage can help your customers plan their holidays, but shouldn’t be too brand-heavy.
  • Don’t pressure them into bookings, but do include a CTA.
  • During this stage, your content should answer these questions for the traveller:
          - Is this destination suited to a romantic getaway, family holiday, solo journey, or a big group?
          - What are some of the experiences I will have when I’m there?
          - Could I potentially add another destination to my holiday?

Now that your potential customer has committed to where they want to go, they enter the decision stage of the journey. This is where they decide on things like when to go, whether or not to opt for an all-inclusive package (according to their budget), and what they would like to do when they’re there (itinerary). Once again, you need to meet them in this stage with useful content, such as travel promotions (kids fly for free on Air Mauritius), hotel deals and optional inclusions (like destination excursions).

  • During this stage, your content should highlight what makes your brand unique. If you’re all about hassle-free holidays, make sure you’re letting potential customers know what you can do for them.
  • During this stage, your marketing content should answer these questions for the traveller:
          - When is the best time to go to this destination?
          - How long will it take to get there?
          - Will I need a visa?
          - Should I opt for an all-inclusive package, guided tour, or go it solo?

Types of Content

Travel-related content can take many different forms, from infographics, articles, press releases and social media posts to photos, videos, images and newsletters. Some content will work better during the awareness stage (such as videos and photos) while other content is more suited to the consideration stage, such as infographics, or the decision stage, such as e-brochures.

No matter how you’re presenting your content, and on which platform, there are four types that a travel brand must use:

1. Earned Content

The most valuable type of content is also the most difficult to achieve. Think of earned content as ‘social media word-of-mouth’. Earned content includes social sharing, blogs about your product or service, or placements on aggregator sites (e.g. BuzzFeed).

2. Owned Content

Owned content is content that your brand has produced and distributed across channels and could include your hashtag, blog, article lists, video, e-newsletter and more.

3. Curated Content

Content curation, such as influencer marketing, is an effective tactic to curate content that tells your story.

4. Sponsored Content

Not the same as traditional marketing, sponsored content integrates a marketing message into the content that consumers are looking for and can come in the form of social media.


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