Last week, I attended and ran a workshop at AdventureELEVATE 2018, an adventure travel event that challenged business leaders to “Empower Your Edge”. This idea of ‘empowering your edge’ can apply throughout your company: your offerings, your creativity, your quality, and more.

Kevin Roberts, Founder of Red Rose Consulting, spoke to this message in his session Empower Your Edge Through Powerful Leadership. The core of Kevin’s keynote was that leaders need to evolve past the “Era of New”. For decades, businesses have focused on being disruptors. In the Era of New, everything needs to be bigger, faster, and better. You find yourself constantly reworking your strategy for the next best thing — instead of focusing on what your audience is actually looking for.

This generation of consumers is different. They want progressive, meaningful, life-changing experiences. In fact, over 75% of millennials would choose to spend money on an experience over spending money on a possession such as a car. This applies to the customer journey as well. Your customers want you involved in their discovery process. They want you to enter the Age of Now.

In real terms, for how this can apply to your digital marketing: don’t reinvent the wheel. Understand what your customers are looking for and answer their questions before they ask them using simple marketing tools. It’s not about the technology you use, it’s about how you use it. Even the most basic strategies will see significant returns if you focus on intent and execution.

Digital Marketing in the Age of Now

To illustrate this concept, let’s go through each high-level stage of the customer journey and connect it to a digital tool that you may already have in your marketing stack. In every case, it’s a matter of proactive development and communication. You need to identify what questions your consumers are going to ask before they ask them and either lay a trail of breadcrumbs or open a line of communication for them to find the answers.

As you follow along, you’ll notice I’m using specific examples relevant to how an adventure travel company would align their strategy to each phase.  

In this stage of the customer journey, potential travelers are still uncertain if they want to go on an adventure travel trip at all. At most, they’re identifying their requirements. You want to position yourself as a valuable partner in this discovery process.

Remember: be proactive. What questions might an adventure travel customer ask at this stage?

  • “What kind of trip do I want to go on, what are my options?”
  • “Will an adventure trip meet all of my family’s needs & requirements?”

 

Digital Marketing Tool: Paid Search

The goal of paid search advertising is to set up the answers to your customers questions before they ask them. Paid search is most popularly done through Google AdWords, and it’s simple to set up an account if you don’t already have one. If you have a current account and need some ideas on how to optimize or clean it up, we’re more than happy to give you a jump-start with a free AdWords audit and consultation.

Digital Marketing Tool: Landing Pages

After you set up paid search advertisements, you can send click-throughs to various pages on your website. However, the most impactful strategy is to create dedicated landing pages for each topic. This way, you can provide information in the context of the question and the stage of the customer journey. It’s easy to create stand-alone landing pages in your Content Management System (e.g. WordPress) and in many marketing automation platforms (e.g. HubSpot).

In the Consideration stage, your customers are researching different providers (your competitors!). On your part, you need to have a mix of passive and active engagement. There still needs to be a framework in place for potential customers to learn more, but once they start a conversation or give you contact information, you need to kick off a nurturing process.

Questions adventure travel customers may ask at this stage:

  • “How is this provider different than the others?”
  • “What will I get as part of my trip?”
  • “Is this the best price for the value?”

 

Digital Marketing Tool: eBooks (And Other Gated Content)

Now that potential customers are further into their journey, they might be ready to invest in learning more information. This investment should come in the form of data — a name and email address at the very least. To gather this data, you need to provide worthwhile conversion points in the form of an eBook or similar pieces of gated content.

An eBook will require more effort to put together than a blog post and provide a deeper level of information. For an adventure travel company, an eBook could cover topics such as “Top Ten Summer Vacations for Families”, or detailed guides to travel in different destinations. But, you can still put them together using simple tools. Once you write the content for the piece, you can place it in a template you find online (see these from HubSpot — a great example of gated content!), use a publishing software such as Adobe InDesign, or hire a freelancer from a website such as Upwork.

Digital Marketing Tool: Email

Once a prospect has converted and given you their basic contact information, you can start a conversation. While this prospect isn’t a qualified lead yet — you shouldn’t jump to call them — you can begin an automated email nurturing process to answer their Consideration stage questions.

An easy tool to set this up in is MailChimp. MailChimp is free to use while you have less than 2,000 contacts in your MailChimp database and allows you to set up simple automation workflows, so it’s the perfect tool to test out different strategies. Once you feel more comfortable and have hit the ceiling of capabilities within MailChimp (which will happen quite quickly if you’re leveraging email automation!), upgrading to a platform like HubSpot will give you more options for audience segmentation, workflow actions, and post-engagement follow up. 

 

These two stages go hand-in-hand, because Delight should overlap with Decision and extend afterward. Here, customers have finished the nurturing process and your sales team has reached out (or the customer reached out themselves) to close the deal. You need to offer the customer peace of mind in their choice and continue to provide value.

Questions adventure travel customers may ask:

  • “What should I pack for my trip?”
  • “What can I expect each day while on this trip?”
  • “What other trips could I do someday with this provider?”

 

Digital Marketing Tool: Email

Once again, email is king. Email is a great tool to keep in contact with your audience in a way where they can remain in control of the engagement.

An adventure travel company can send out packing tips, “day in the life” expectations, staff bios, and more to get customers ready for their trip. After the trip, customers will move fully into the Delight stage. Now, you need to take their experience to the next level, gather data, and get them to re-book. You can send communications with feedback surveys, referral bonuses, and incentives for rebooking.

Digital Marketing Tool: Photo Gallery

Customers in the Age of Now are excited to share their experiences with others. Post-trip, you can use this excitement to build on your brand and online community. Create a social media hashtag that customers can attach to their photos, with a monthly prize as an incentive. Or, simply offer an easy way for customers to upload their photos on your website. You can display these in a photo gallery or use them on your own social media.  


Final Thoughts

Reflecting on what I learned, the conversations I had, and the unforgettable day of adventure I experienced as part of the ATTA AdventureELEVATE event, I’m excited for a great year encouraging travel through innovative digital marketing solutions.

To get a headstart on empowering your year, we’re sharing our guide to Crafting a Digital-First Marketing Strategy for 2018. It’s challenging to get in front of a new, younger audience and elicit interest from millennial travelers. Download this free guide for tips on how to best reach them!

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