Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Leveraging data to boost content and customer engagement has proven a powerful way to remain competitive in the fast-paced tour and holiday marketplace, according to Booking Boss co-founder and CEO, Renee Welsh.
The Sydney-based startup launched in April 2012, and was co-founded by Welsh and Andy Welsh (CTO). The two brought a combined 25 years of travel industry experience together with a team software engineers, customer service representatives, business developers and accounting managers to create an online booking system that enables tour and activity operators to streamline their booking and manage processes, platform.
Since its launch, it has received significant capital investment and seen annual revenue grow 45 per cent year-on-year.
Speaking at the ADMA Data Day in Sydney, Welsh said while the company initially focused on building great customer experiences and relationships, it needed to do more to show its industry thought leadership position.
“In 2015, we had hundreds of loyal customers that really loved our product and we had really good experiences with building strategic partnerships,” Welsh said. “But what we didn’t have was a wide reach of market awareness or even a way to measure any growth in this area.
“We also didn’t have a way to get our products in front of people who were ready to invest in an online booking platform, a way to boost our reputation as the forefront of our industry, or a marketing effort that had a cumulative impact which would help us boost our ROI. So we needed to find a way to show we were thought leaders within the industry and boost our brand awareness.”
1. Leverage the pull of inbound marketing through automation
Welsh said the immediate solution was to embrace inbound marketing, and attract Web traffic using powerful and strategic content to address Booking Boss’ audience’s most pressing problems.
“Instead of pushing a product out to market, you need to focus on providing valuable information to solve your ideal customer’s problems,” she said. “And this promotes brand awareness and ultimately builds trust. When you do this in a data-driven way, it has the ability to turn those leads into loyal customers.”
2. Embrace the four-step conversion process
In order to leverage the power of inbound marketing, Welsh said Booking Boss used Hubspot’s automation offering.
“We chose Hubspot because it was easy to use and it had great granular tracking and reports,” she said. “There are cycles though which people go through before they make a decision, but as marketers we can do our bit to push them along the process.
“Demographic and behavioural data gives us insights into what stage each buyer is at and to do this, we use corresponding methodology.”
Welsh outlined a four-step process to boost customer engagement through content marketing: Track, convert, close and delight.
The first step is to attract Web traffic using optimised blog content that contains strategic keywords, promoting your content further through social media to convert that traffic into visitors, Welsh explained.
“We began by workshopping and profiling our buyer personas,” she said. “We went to a lot of detail when we did this. Then we went into the process of attracting our audience using search work optimisation, social media advertising and strategic back-linking.”
Secondly, you convert online visitors into potential leads through strong and clear calls to action on the blog and landing pages.
“Offering valuable downloadable content encourages our potential customer to submit their contact details and more information about their business,” Welsh said. “This allows us to provide personalised information that will nurture our customer along the buying process.”
At the third stage, you convert these leads into customers by closing opportunities using effective email strategies and streamlined workflows.
“This is where we provide a host of information to support our potential customer’s buying decision like self-assessments, free demos, pricing and compelling sales offers,” she said. “We also use Hubspot to set-up email nurture campaigns to guide our customer through the sales process in a logical way, while monitoring it closely and adjusting our content strategy accordingly until we find the optimum conversion.”
The final stage is to surprise and delight customers, turning them into promoters of your brand using events, social engagement and smart content.
“This stage is often overlooked, but it’s vital to ensure your customer becomes evangelistic towards your brand,” Welsh. “We hold events, monthly webinars with industry leaders, we celebrate client events on social and we have also launched a very successful referral campaign via Hubspot.”
3. Discover what content trends generate traffic
Throughout the process, Welsh said Booking Boss analysed the data around the company’s content marketing carefully, and found certain trends that helped to shift and shape their strategy.
The following content trends helped generate traffic:
- State the benefit at the beginning of the copy: This could be tips and tricks, or discovering travel industry trends
- Add action words in your CTA: Such as ‘download this action plan now’
- Provide a solution in the copy: An example could be ‘Here’s a 7-step action plan to whip your business into shape’
- Show energy excitement: This could be a success story, or announcement
- Using a number in the title: For example, ‘7 nuggets of networking for tour and activity operators’
- Using ‘how to’ in the title: For example, ‘how to get more indirect bookings for your tour business’
- Using relevant words in the title : In Booking Boss’case, this included ‘tour’ and trends’
“This strategy has really helped improve our click through rates and landing page conversions considerably,” Welsh added.
4. Keep focused on the data
Welsh said the next focus for Booking Boss’ data-driven marketing is to enable the insights to: Reduce the cost of customer experience; improve marketing ROI; more accurately predict sales and dial up marketing where required; and produce more content that converts.
“Data-driven marketing has helped us to identify who our market is, find out where they are online, what content best attracts them and what content nurtured them through,” she concluded.
Read more about how you can improve your content marketing strategy:
- 6 ways marketers are using technology in content marketing
- Content marketing – why there’s still a long road ahead of us
- Report: Most companies can better leverage content marketing
- How Domain's marketing chief is using editorial to drive audience and brand engagement
- 7 CMOs share their content marketing dos and don’ts