HOW TO FIGHT ABOVE YOUR WEIGHT: TIPS AND TRICKS FOR MARKETING SMALLER LUXURY AND EXPERIENCE-BASED BRANDS

The mass proliferation of media channels and platforms has caused a lot of distraction and confusion for marketers. But, at the same time, more choice and more personalisation has allowed smaller, focused businesses — particularly in the travel and hospitality realms — the ability to fight well above their weight in terms of articulating their message, value, and attracting an audience. But you have to approach things in a smart, balanced way. Following are a few key tips to maximise your return:

#1
Be a platform thinker

Sometimes it’s important to place yourself where the audience is, rather than asking them (or paying for traffic) for the audience to reach you.

One great example is the Drift in Cabo San Lucas. The small hotel occupies an interesting space between Airbnb and a boutique. It has amazingly-designed rooms, but minimal fuss and frills for those that want to spend their days in the surf and not on the property. The owner, Stu Waddell, ditched a complicated reservation back-end system for Airbnb. The owner doesn’t need to handle the pain of reservations, payments, cancellations, etc. Also, it is built in sales and marketing for the property. By placing himself on a platform where people are already ravenously looking for a cool place to stay, Waddell eliminated the need to play the old-school SEO game, and pay for qualified traffic to convert. He simply operated as a platform-based thinker and is reaping the awards.

As more and more audiences migrate and spend time on platforms — think Airbnb or Facebook or other communities — going to where your audiences are rather than hoping they visit a website is an important insight.

#2
Don’t ignore the top of the marketing funnel 

Many businesses are very much focused on conversion and the lower parts of the funnel. But don’t ignore mediums that are amazing for efficient brand building, such as Instagram. For travel and luxury, hiring a photographer that understands the nuances of the medium, as well as aggregating photos from people who have experienced your offering with simple hashtags, can be an important part of building perception and offering discovery without spending a lot of money. Instagram can be powerful for visually communicating your brand. Simply look at some of your favourite properties on their search functionality to see why.

#3
Add depth and texture through long-form writing

True, we do live in a highly visual world and that is incredibly important. But there’s new places that celebrate and elevate longer form, smart writing. Medium.com is a perfect example. Bigger brands have experimented on the platform, notably Marriott underwriting travel reportage in key markets, but there’s a huge opportunity to do some old school travel writing and present it in a new context. Think of how many great stories that have come out of Abercrombie and Kent expeditions that should live on in perpetuity on the web from a great writer’s pen. For people doing serious research on where they are going to stay, or what operator to go with, this detail from previous trips can be much more valuable than boilerplate content on a central website. Let experiences tell the story.

#4
Don’t ignore the old school

Facebook is a moving target. Many brands have rushed to have presences on there, but the fact is it is a “borrowed” property. They can change the rules on how your posts show up, or what you need to spend to reach an audience. And it can be very unpredictable. First, it was amass likes as much as possible. Then, it was you need to spend to reach this audience. Then, it was tweaks to the algorithm to show what actually appeared in the newsfeed. This can be difficult for brands with limited marketing budgets. Sometimes it is worth doubling down on channels you can control. For example, email marketing and old-school CRM can still be very effective if written and approached with the right nuance and care. And no one can take that audience away from you once you’ve built it over time.

#5
Transparency is key 

The internet has made everything much more transparent. You can’t get away with perfectly crafted photos that don’t tell the entire tale. Taking a more authentic approach to your photos, elevating great reviews and feedback from your audience, and generally keeping a very good eye on online comments is vitally important. People aren’t just looking at your website; they are trawling reviews, looking under the figurative rocks and getting really deep in terms of sussing out what an experience will be like. Thus, it is vital to understand all of these touch points and figure out how to make them work for you.


colin-nagy-hed-2016Colin Nagy is a New York-based communicator, public speaker and customer experience columnist. A regular columnist for Skift, The Guardian and Quartz, he has also contributed opinion pieces for publications including AdAge, AdWeek, PSFK and Forbes.