Choosing the Right Digital Marketing Channels for Your Travel Business

Editorial note: HUNTER is a partner of the Travel Disruption Summit, the annual symposium bringing together thought leaders and innovators in the travel industry in New York City on May 22nd, 2019. During the event, participants will discuss the opportunities for innovation in the discovery phase - namely, optimizing travel content to engage would-be customers at this earliest stage of their travel experience.

Rapid advancements in technology are making the world smaller and more accessible today than it ever has been before. The influence of new technologies in the tourism industry is felt at every level - from how consumers choose a destination, to how they get there and interact with their surroundings.

It is a shift reflected similarly in the marketing industry, where to keep abreast of the ever-changing landscape, digital marketers need to stay in step with the evolving way that consumers are encountering and interacting with brands. For just as technology shrinks the world, it also grows the world marketplace. Technological advancements allow businesses to reach a growing number of consumers, while at the same time encouraging an ever-increasing field of competition.

How do you ensure that your brand’s voice is heard, and that it is reaching the right people?  As digital marketing experts with over two decades experience in the industry, there are a few tips we would give to any travel or tourism company looking to optimize their digital presence. The following is intended as a guide to some of the “building blocks”. Each come with their own advantages and disadvantages, but most successful digital marketing campaigns are formed out of a combination of two or more. It is also not necessary to adopt their approach entirely, as elements from each can be taken to form the digital marketing strategy that works best for your business.

Stay up to date with digital marketing trends in your industry. Consider how those strategies can be adapted for your business, and which channels they would be best implemented through:

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As an example, one of the key trends for travel marketing this year include an increasing shift away from paid “influencer” campaigns. It is becoming clear that User-Generated Content tends to be more trusted by consumers, and therefore has much greater influence upon their decision-making. We would recommend a two-fold strategy of Customer Relationship Management to grow your base of brand advocates, as well as promoting UGC visuals and testimonials through paid channels such as search and social media.

When you are choosing which channels you will use to reach consumers, there are four key strategies to bear in mind:

Search - Organic and Paid

Influencing search engines by taking steps to persuade their algorithms of the relevance of your content to search enquiries and of the general importance of your website is a process known in digital marketing as search engine optimization (SEO).

As awareness about processes to influence search engine results has grown, so too has the sophistication of the engine’s handling of such efforts. It is no longer enough to simply garner links from a high-profile website and directories to your web page. Search engines today are primed to look for natural-looking content, and substantial patterns of links from external sites. The content of your website is therefore critical to its chances of success at drawing people into your website, as well as to capturing impressions once they have landed there.

When a search engine returns results, it gives you two types, “Organic” and “Paid”.

Organic results: Web page listings that most closely match the user’s search query based on relevance. Ranking high in organic results is the core aim of SEO.

Paid results: effectively advertisements; the Web site owners have paid to have their Web pages display for certain keywords, so these listings show up when someone runs a search query containing those keywords. On a search results page, you can tell paid results from organic ones because search engines differentiate between the two, putting paid listings above or to the right of the organic results/ give them a shaded background, border lines, or other visual clues.

Some advantages of Organic Search are:

  • The relevance of results: all good search engines will attempt to automatically match up searches to the best results on the Internet for the search expressions entered

  • It is authentic, promoting trust in search-savvy consumers.

  • Organic search is effectively free advertising for businesses, with no cost per click.

Some disadvantages of Organic Search are:

  • There is some inherent bias within search engines towards longer established webpages, due to their focus on a good volume of high-quality back links and related factors e.g. age of the domain registration as indicators of quality and reliability. This means that content of a comparable quality on a younger site is likely to be ranked lower than equivalent content on a well-established, prominent site.

  • The evolving algorithms used to determine positioning can lead to sometimes dramatic changes in the number of visitors led to websites from organic search over time, regardless of whether or not changes have been made to the site. Webmasters may find that one algorithm change decreases their traffic, while another boosts it.

Some advantages of Paid Search are:

  • Instant visibility: no matter how new your website is, the amount of content it hosts, or how competitive your field is, a PPC search campaign puts your website in front of browsers straight away.

  • There is a level playing field with your competitors, as only your advertising text and landing page is assessed for quality. You do not need to have an established reputation or history of back links to compete with larger companies.

Some disadvantages of Paid Search are:

  • The charging model is based on cost per click, meaning that each click through to one of your advertisements costs you, regardless of whether it results in a lead or not.

  • When it comes to competitive queries, it can get expensive; in fields which are profitable and for which there are strong competitors in your target area also using PPC, you may find that you need to pay upwards of $12 per click to appear on the first page of search results.

  • Some well-versed browsers distrust paid ads and prefer organic listings, even if they appear further down the page.

ABM - Account Based Marketing

ABM falls under the umbrella of B2B marketing. B2B marketers often try to cast a wide net with their marketing campaigns, in the hope of appealing to as many companies as possible in their target market. ABM is an alternative B2B strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market, and employs personalized campaigns designed to resonate with each account.

WIth ABM, your marketing message is based on the specific attributes and needs of the account you’re targeting, hence the name account-based marketing.

Some advantages of ABM are:

  • Many companies, particularly those seeking to acquire specific high-value customers, find that they are better served with an ABM strategy, as opposed to taking a broad-reaching approach to their sales and marketing efforts.

    • The Alterra Group surveyed 50 American marketers and business development executives across professional services sectors in 2017, and 97% of their participants reported that ABM had a somewhat higher or much higher ROI than other marketing initiatives.

  • Although ABM has historically cost more to implement than other marketing initiatives due to the higher levels of account personalization it requires, advancements in marketing technology have enabled marketers to employ ABM for much less than was previously possible, and at a much greater scale.

  • In the age of customer-centric marketing, ABM is a more personalized way to speak to customers, giving you valuable insights into your most important customers from a marketing perspective that you can translate into the kind of campaigns and content that offer real value.

  • Particularly where cultivating relationships with current customers is concerned, ABM can play a key role in producing customer advocates.

Some disadvantages of ABM are:

  • The amount of content you need is multiplied by the number of accounts you’re targeting, which means more time and labor spent on a campaign.

  • For each of the accounts you target, you need to identify the right tone and messaging, and then create enough appropriate content to sustain a campaign. This is where the services of a professional marketing team become invaluable.

  • Having closely aligned marketing and sales teams are essential for this strategy, because how and when your sales team distributes your content will need to be perfectly aligned with each of the many disparate campaigns, in order to deliver a truly seamless customer experience.

  • ABM works best when its focus is narrow, and deployed to just a few key accounts.


CRM - Customer Relationship Marketing

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Not to be confused with “Customer Relationship Management”, a related concept that shares this acronym, CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Marketing.” It is a business process in which client relationships, customer loyalty and brand value are built through marketing strategies and activities. CRM allows businesses to develop long-term relationships with both established and new customers, while helping streamline corporate performance. CRM incorporates commercial and client-specific strategies via employee training, marketing planning, relationship building and advertising.

Some advantages of CRM are:

  • CRM allows businesses to glean insight from customer feedback to create enhanced and focused marketing/ brand awareness.

  • Key motivating drivers for adapting increasingly innovative CRM strategies are evolving web technologies, and a sharpened global focus on customer loyalty.

  • CRM provides a way to directly evaluate customer value, e.g. a business that is genuinely interested in its customers is rewarded with customer and brand loyalty.

  • Provides cross-selling opportunities, whereby, based on customer approval, a business may pitch proven marketing/brand strategies to more than one client.

  • There are multiple avenues for CRM today: social media allows brands to make an immediate 1:1 impact on customers, and they can use their social media platforms to reinforce their value proposition.

  • Positive experiences help to create customer advocates and viral, positive 1:1 marketing.

  • Customers leave reviews for brands or businesses when an experience exceeds their expectations. This is why businesses can often receive negative reviews if their CRM is mismanaged; a customer expects to receive a positive experience.

  • When your marketing is focused on the value proposition you can provide, then it becomes possible to exceed expectations to generate a positive review/word-of-mouth marketing/endorsement via sharing on social media channels

Disadvantages of CRM:

  • The primary disadvantage of CRM is cost, and providing value to an existing customer base does not guarantee an increase in repetitive sales.

  • This is especially true for a business that provides products or services that offer a long-term user experience, because it takes time for CRM to take any measurable effect.



Business to Consumer (B2C), or Business to Business (B2B)

B2C and B2B are two forms of commercial marketing strategies. Marketing B2C, which stands for business-to-consumer, is a process for marketing products directly to consumers. Marketing B2B, meaning business-to-business, focuses on selling products or services to other businesses. Although both strategies are at their core focused on selling a product to a person, the difference between these two types of markets runs deep.

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When you focus your marketing strategy on B2B, it is important to consider that businesses work hard to streamline the buying process to save time and money. For this reason, B2B marketing campaigns should be be laser focused on value proposition, and underpinned by logic. There is little to no personal emotion involved in the purchasing decision, so you should focus on understanding your buyers, and how they operate within the confines of their organization’s procedures (What is their role/What is important to them?) This type of marketing is about people using the product, more than it is about the product itself. Marketing materials should be more in-depth than B2C, and the most effective messages communicate how the product/service saves time,money, and/or resources. It is also a fact that the cost of a sale for the B2B market can be more expensive than the B2C market. Put simply, a B2B transaction often takes more consideration, involves more people, and requires more decision-makers. B2B clients often need to prove ROI for their purchase before buying.

By contrast, successful B2C campaigns often play more on the emotions of the consumer than their logic or the product’s value proposition. The marketing campaign should focus on the benefits of the product. Whilst B2B campaigns should be in-depth, consumers are less likely to be interested in a lengthy marketing message, and want the benefits to be pointed out to them clearly and concisely. The message must be simple and easy to understand. Consumers are also different from businesses in that they demand a variety of distribution channels for convenience, yet at the same time they have a much shorter purchasing process than businesses. They may decide to make a purchase with a matter of a few minutes or days, as opposed to weeks or months for B2B sales.

For all of these reasons, it is important to critically assess which strategy will be most effective and bring the most value to your business before deciding which to adopt. The advantages and disadvantages of working within each market segment depend on the nature of your product or service. Knowing where your business fits is the first step, and the first goal to determine the advantage/disadvantage of B2C versus B2B is to understand your industry’s supply chain.

The supply chain can be roughly summarized as the full continuum from the consumer’s need to the finished product sale and all the entities involved in the process of getting it from seller > consumer. In travel, this supply chain can be remarkably complex, with many different businesses, intermediaries and stakeholder playing a role in a travel product’s development and journey to the customer. While there are many opportunities to focus on both the B2B and B2C markets in travel, tourism and hospitality, some businesses may choose to sell products or services to both market segments. For example, restaurants are a B2C market, but may also provide B2B catering services.

The advantages and disadvantages of each strategy, regardless which you pick, stem from the same source, which is the inherent market that your business is choosing to target. One is not superior to the other as a marketing strategy, it is merely a matter of determining the best fit:

B2C Advantages:

  • Targeting a vast and varied market; can appeal to a large number of consumers/specialize in selling to a niche group.

B2C Disadvantages:

  • The consumer base is large and segmented; you must determine who needs your product and get the attention of the consumer group that is most likely to be a prospective customer.


B2B Advantages:

- Dealing with a target market that stays in need of products and services to keep business moving.

B2B Disadvantages:

- The market is smaller, compared to the general public.

Hunter Digital is an Award-Winning Digital Marketing Agency.  Contact us for a Free Consultation! Call (212) 202-1431 or email info@gethunter.com