DR Marketing Takes Flight1 Nov, 2010 By: Jackie Jones Response
For travel marketers utilizing direct response, the adventure comes from opportunities in the digital sector.
Whether due to language barriers, social differences or travel inexperience, it can be too easy for key information to get lost in translation between travel marketers and their consumers — especially when it comes to international jetsetters unfamiliar with the countries they’re going to. The latest and most effective solution to bridging this cross-cultural gap has been direct response marketing employed through social media and online platforms.
The most successful marketers in this area have quickly learned that digital technology is key: Nearly 74 percent of travelers polled at airports worldwide reported that they booked their flights online without an in-person trip to a travel agent, and 58 percent of passengers said they would be interested in mobile check-ins, according to the 2010 SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self-Service Survey. It’s one of many recent statistics highlighting the increasing trend of travelers to turn to the Internet for more extensive pre-destination information, aid and interaction.
“Social media gives you an immediate doorway to your client,” says Lauren O’Reilly of Tablet Hotels, an online hub of information on boutique hotels. “It allows you to get instant and direct feedback from your customer, so that you can better cater the experience to their needs and wants. Instead of sending every user one blanket message, you can have a two-way communication with a client on a more personal level, or engage a group of customers interested in a specific topic. These more relevant interactions give the consumer significantly more value when interacting with your brand.”
Personalizing European Tours
It is that personal touch provided by social media that companies like Rome-based La Dolce Vita Style Inc. (LDVS) tout as an advantage when marketing to their target audience: students and younger travelers from the United States.
“Facebook has become not only a personal networking site but an additional marketing avenue for companies, and we use Facebook in a number of ways,” says Chaia Benes, operations director and creative assistant for LDVS, which aims to give tourists a more “personal concierge” feel than other European tour companies. “We promote trips and events by creating Facebook events, inviting students and posting links and status changes in reference to the services we provide. We are able to connect to many students pre-departure from the States, which allows us to gain trust and build relationships with them prior to their move abroad.”
Founder and Creative Director Stephanie Gabriele launched LDVS seven years ago. The travel company concentrates most of its marketing efforts on the digital sector and word-of-mouth advertising to engage with its target audience and book most of its trips. In addition to its traditional Web site, www.LaDolceVitaStyle.com, the company maintains a Facebook page, Twitter account and a blog, and utilizes outside sites such as StumbleUpon.com to drive traffic to their sites.
“We like to channel our marketing and social networks accordingly: Facebook for events, posts and images; Twitter for contests and short-and-sweet status updates; blogging for storytelling and sharing our customers’ and team’s personal experiences while studying abroad, (traveling) during our trips and dealing with culture shock,” Gabriele says.
Every Facebook post includes a link to the company’s main Web site to generate traffic to the official LDVS page, and Gabriele adds that LDVS plans to channel all their external social networks into a community-specific section in the future to direct traffic back to their main Web site.
For those going abroad — and especially younger students who may have never been overseas before — the earlier back-and-forth communication with LDVS afforded by DR marketing has been a crucial ingredient to the young company’s success. The official La Dolce Vita Style Facebook group has more than 1,000 members, and the LDVS Fan Page features near-daily posts of trip deals, contest details and photos from past adventures to give potential travelers a better idea of what to expect once they are abroad. The company’s blog (blog.LaDolceVitaStyle.it) features guest posts and extensive traveling tips on everything from packing right, to sticking to a budget, to time management, all to ensure customers follow the LDVS motto of “travelling in style.”
The consistent interaction with LDVS travelers even before they hop aboard a plane has another benefit to the team’s long-term marketing goals: Establishing a relationship with customers online has made the transition to in-person friendships and trust much smoother, according to Sarah Wagoner, LDVS public relations director. This in turn has created a loyal and dedicated customer base that not only returns to LDVS for future travels, but also creates an effective word-of-mouth campaign for the company.
“(In-person) orientations are huge for us,” Wagoner says. “Whether the students have heard of us through friends who have previously attended our trips, or from messages on Facebook, their faces light up when they meet us in person, as if we were fictional characters they didn’t believe existed.”
Providing LDVS’ digital customers with personalized face time once they are abroad is an extension of the company’s superior online marketing skills, Gabriele says.
“We are a very dynamic team, each with our own vibrant and distinct personality, and getting to meet one of us in person, having a face matching a Facebook profile and answering all questions with a smile instead of through digital text means a great deal to me,” Gabriele says.