Otherwise Known as: Value-Rich Content
As marketers and business people we walk a fine line between explaining our product in a manner that achieves sales, and over-selling our product.
The holy grail of marketing is selling 100 percent of your inventory at retail price. The way to do that is to locate the audience that: wants your product, can use it, and has such a great experience with it that they buy more and tell other people about it.
Finding that audience is a bit like fishing. Where you look are the fishing holes, and what you say is the bait. It’s the bait we want to talk about today.
Keeping a steadfast commitment to providing value-rich content actually starts with your advertising copy and continues through your product delivery. It might sound airy-fairy, but are you enriching someone’s life? When someone clicks on your ad, are you taking them down a path of value?
The Internet is filled with those who shill. (How much time do you waste on click-bait?).
at buZZgen, we call it advertising haiku: an authentic representation of your product in 10 words or less. It’s not easy.
Avoid the potato chips of digital marketing – high volume keywords and ad content with no conversion.
Don’t gratuitously use a competitor’s high-volume trademarked brand name (even though Google lets you).
Avoid baseless emotional pleas – a child will die if you don’t click now; or everyone’s favorite: you should have seen what happened next!
Truthfully, we all know the don’ts. It is the do’s that are a little harder to consistently apply.
Does your ad pass the sniff test? Does it accurately represent your product to your target audience.
Once someone clicks, do they get something of value? Something that enhances their life (and that might not just be the product purchase).
Every business is an expert in something. Are you offering your customer your expertise? Is it easy for them obtain? If you are sending someone to a landing page, besides the conversion is there something on that page (or the Thank You page) that breaks off a little bit of what makes you special and shares it with your audience?
Perhaps that is a white paper, an insight, or a blog. Include something valuable on the autoresponder (selling travel? Maybe it’s the top 10 places to get a hamburger.) Think about it not as an opportunity to continue to sell yourself, but an opportunity to share your knowledge and passion.
At the end of the day, it is what most of us want: an experience that transcends the ordinary; knowledge that helps us grow; an affirmation of community. Your advertising can be the first step in achieving that. Seriously.
In the beginning, there was the Travel Agent. She (or he) was your guide to all things travel. A trip to their office entailed long fanciful explorations of beautiful brochures and conversations about what insider tips could be imparted, or what deals could be found. Once a price was negotiated, the trip was booked and you spent the next three months (or more) saving to pay for it while you gazed lovingly at the brochure now propped up on your desk next to your family snapshots.
Then the internet came, and it was good. The online era of DIY travel opened up and instead of ringing your favorite airline (remember Continental, TWA, Pan Am?) AND the hotel brand you loved the most, access to databases for prices and availabilities that used to only be the domain of the Travel Agent opened up. It was heady power, and the public began booking their own travel at a rate that almost spelled the complete demise of the Travel Agent profession.
The problem then became the lack of insider knowledge, where were the deals and how to find them? Comparing prices became a pretty involved process and included a lot of effort and a little anxiety. The user had no way to quickly aggregate data to compare prices until some hot-shot Silicon Valley types put together computer programs that started doing just that.
Those aggregators, when they first started, offered a very valuable service to the user looking for the best price.
But then came consolidation and the 80 pound gorilla.
You might be aware that most of the online fare aggregators and travel meta search engines (also known as OTAs – Online Travel Agencies) are only owned by two major companies. Expedia has Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Trivago, CheapTickets and eBookers, among others. Priceline owns Booking.com, priceline.com, KAYAK, agoda.com, rentalcars.com, and OpenTable.
Very quickly travel companies, such as hotels and airlines, who used to negotiate separate contracts with different booking engines – separate contracts with separate rates – now have a clause that calls for “parity.” In this case, parity means that your airline seat or hotel room can’t be sold to a competitor for less. And even in many instances, that same room can’t be advertised on the brand’s own website for less than it is offered to Expedia (for example).
So whether you love or hate the Trivago guy, (and there’s a whole online discussion with its own hashtag even #trivagoguy about if he’s cute or creepy and the fact that he should wear a belt if his shirt is tucked in), you are probably not going to find rates online that vary much for a single brand. For example, if the Napa River Inn is advertising a Standard Queen room for $299 a night – it will be that price on Expedia, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and NapaRiverInn.com.
Does that mean there really aren’t any deals left? Lots of times you can look online at a brand’s site – or call — for their “Book Direct” or other packages which have become some of the best values available. In order to incentivize guests, some hotels offer free parking, gift baskets, waived resort fees, or even an upgrade, and these packages are not available to the OTAs. Those hotels are also 100% dedicated to handling the needs of their guests and their properties. Unlike the OTAs who have tens of thousands of properties, and not necessarily the best record at dispute resolution.
Where the OTAs do excel is in showing multiple hotels, rental car agencies, and airlines head-to-head. However it’s up to you to determine if you are comparing apples to apples — room type, star rating, location, etc. can all vary wildly.
And to make it even more interesting, not everyone places all of their availability online. Some companies, hotels in particular, will often have room types that aren’t available via OTAs and might only be discovered via a phone call or quick trip to their website.
Another thought-provoking tidbit about the aggregators and meta search engines is that if you book through them, you are their customer and not the customer of the hotel, airline, or rental car. That aggregator hides much of your personal data from the end business and making updates or cancellations to your reservations has to be done through the aggregator. It’s an interesting relationship for the traveler – previously you were a shared customer with the hotel/airline/rental car. Today, the aggregator wants to keep you as their customer and manage as much of your travel business as they can, getting big commissions for pushing your toward their preferred clients.
Wishful travel planning has become almost a daily online activity. 2017 statistics say that travelers consume 23 hours of digital travel media before booking online. Interestingly, around 30% of travel is still done through a Travel Agent, and another 30% booked direct.
Clearly, the ease of online price checking has open whole new worlds of travel opportunity, but you may want to consider the benefit of old-fashioned relationships if the discount isn’t eye-popping enough.
Pivoting isn’t easy, and it looks very different for every business out there. It is complicated by the fact that we don’t know how long the current environment will remain, nor what the aftermath will look. Pausing, though, could be more damaging in the long run. When you remove yourself from the equation completely that gives your competitors the opportunity to take over your mindshare/marketshare. And getting it back isn’t nearly as easy as giving it up*.
Here are some questions we think will help you construct a pivot for your business. You may be surprised by the insights or breakthroughs that come from answering these questions.
- What do your customers need more of right now?
- What are you uniquely positioned to offer?
- How could you take advantage of technology to make your offering more appealing?
- Revisit your buying/selling persona, have they been impacted as well?
- If your personas are impacted, how are you responding on your editorial calendar?
- Does your pricing structure need to change for a temporary period?
- If you had an abundance of resources at your fingertips, what would you do differently during this period?
- How could you be using social media and content creation to boost your business right now?
- How do you want to be perceived as showing up during this time?
- If you need to pause, could you pivot the experience so that you can still deliver, but in a different way?
We would love to hear how you are handling the pivot.
*Footnote: There’s great examples in this Forbes article
In the 1920’s, Post was the category leader in the ready-to-eat cereal category. During the Great Depression, Post cut back significantly its advertising budget and rival Kellogg’s doubled its advertising spend, investing heavily in radio and introducing a new cereal called Rice Krispies, featuring “Snap,” “Crackle” and “Pop.” Kellogg’s profits grew by 30% and the company became the category leader, a position it has maintained for decades.