What separates good travel marketing from bad? What makes it more likely your marketing will result in bookings?
It’s not how clever it is. Nor how creative. No, what differentiates good marketing from bad is how well it connects with travelers. Because you can write a symphony of words, but if your customers prefer rock ‘n roll, they’re probably not listening.
The importance of knowing your buyer
Most business owners come at marketing from the wrong angle. Their focus is on what they have to offer. But in order to break through your customer's natural BS-detector and grab their attention, you need to change your focus to them. What do they care about? What motivates them to spend their hard-earned money? Why would they choose you over your competitor?
And you can't possibly answer those questions unless you know who they are!
Customer profiles and their limitations
Perhaps you’ve created one or more customer profiles for your marketing. If so, that’s great.
But if you’re wondering “what’s a customer profile?” then I’m glad you're here. Because customer profiles are the foundation of effective marketing.
A customer profile is a written representation of who your ideal customer is. They’ll usually include information like age, ethnicity, gender, occupation, income, location, objectives, and challenges. Here’s what a simplified customer profile might look like:
|Family Status||Married, No Kids|
|Lives:||New York City|
|Type Of Traveler:||Experiential|
|Challenges:||Limited Vacation Time|
Having a customer profile is a great start. But here’s the problem: they’re often generic descriptions of imaginary people filled with irrelevant details that lack insight into the reasons people buy.
If you want your marketing to truly connect with buyers, you need to dig deeper.
The value of market research
If you’re thinking “how am I supposed to know all of that about my customers?” you’re not alone. Many entrepreneurs (myself included) struggle to understand more than the most basic facts about our buyers. Which is why if you can afford it, you should invest in market research.
Market research takes many forms including focus groups, surveys, and Big Data analysis. It is meant to provide you with actionable information about your target market.
There are standardized reports available that examine specific industries or market segments. You can also hire a market researcher to investigate your customers specifically. The problem is that it can be pretty pricey.
Why I started conducting customer interviews
Most of my customers don’t have market research at their disposal. And even when they do, it doesn’t always answer the questions I’m after.
For example, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a certain luxury travel business for several years now. Before they hired me, they’d invested in market research and it was very helpful. But... when I started asking things like, “Why do people choose one travel provider over another?” the answers weren’t so clear. So I said, “Hey, let me talk to one of your customers, maybe I can glean some good information from them.”
That decision changed how I develop marketing materials.
After just one customer interview, my target audience went from an abstract list of characteristics to a real-life human being: he had a family and a demanding job and needed a day or two to unwind before he could relax and enjoy his vacation. Suddenly, I was writing for a person, not a profile.
I found the experience so valuable that I’ve added customer interviews as a standard part of my copywriting proposals.
What I ask during customer interviews
Each customer interview is going to be different because the underlying business is different. However, here are some standard things I’m looking for:
1. Information about the individual.
I want to understand the customer’s life in the context of their purchase. For example, I want to know how often they travel, where they like to go, and who they travel with. This information helps me see the product/service through their eyes.
2. How did they start their customer journey?
What triggered them to begin shopping for this product or service? What problem were they looking to solve? What were their concerns and emotions at the outset? This helps me understand early-stage buyers and I’ll use this information to shape the content I write including articles and ads.
3. How did they go about researching this product/service before buying?
This tells me what is important to the buyer as they comparison shop and what tools they used to settle on their ultimate purchase. This information helps to frame my product descriptions and the middle-of-the-funnel content. It also reveals where we need to be marketing because if the answer is “I Googled it,” we may need to work on SEO or invest in Google Ads; whereas, if they looked up a review site, then obviously we need to be on that site.
4. Why did they choose to buy from this company over any other?
This question is designed to reveal the company’s unique selling proposition. I’ll use this to choose which benefits I highlight in the copy and help my customer stand out from the competition.
5. What has their experience been with this company?
This question can draw out both positive and negative feedback. Negative feedback should be used to improve the product or business as a whole. But positive feedback can yield customer testimonials and anecdotes that we can use as social proof to bolster our messaging.
How do I use this information?
I like to record my customer interviews and go back to them whenever I need inspiration on a project. Often the interviews will not only guide my word choice while writing copy, but can determine the direction of an entire campaign.
You might be surprised what you learn when you take the time to interview your customers. It may not all be what you wanted to hear. But understanding their point of view is crucial to growing your business and creating marketing that speaks your customers’ language.