Being Different When Everyone Else Is Doing The Same Thing


The ocean of ideas is not quite as large.

The ocean of ideas is not quite as large.

A while  ago we talked about resolutions for 2009…New Year’s Resolutions…I Will…which garnered a few thoughtful comments.  One of which, was simple and to the point, but quite thought provoking for us.

Teresa from Travel Portland wrote:

This is all about social media…how can we be different?

How can we be different?

A question which we have discussed a little on the Travel 2.0 blog.  In the past we have commented that the travel industry, like most industries, has a habit of copying good ideas or strategies from peers and other organizations.  Nothing wrong with that…copying is the sincerest form of flattery.

So, how can we be different…how can we stand out…how do we gain the consumers attention is a world where everyone is constantly exposed to brands, commercials and products?

While I am sure there are more answers to this question, for the purposes of this post, we will focus on the three: Content, Creativity and Customer Service.

First, an assumption about our marketing plans.  More than likely, regardless if you are a hotel, tour operator or adventure outfitter, you probably have the following elements listed on a strategy document:

  • Website
  • Display (banner) Advertising
  • CRM / Email
  • Database
  • SEO / SEM
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Mobile Marketing

And you have started your Twitter account, sent email newsletters to consumers for several years and seen some success as a result of your SEO work.

However, you have also seen other destinations, local hotels and attractions follow the same path.  Suddenly everyone is on Facebook and running banner ads across a wide range of sites.  Certainly not a bad thing, but the perception of an advantage due to few competitors within the space is dwindling.

Secondly, the question of ‘this is all social media.’  On some levels, all marketing and advertising is social, but the buzzword of social media has certainly taken up a large spot in our marketing minds.  I would simply say to look upon social media marketing as another delivery method for your message.  Regardless if it is Facebook or Twitter, the basic idea is that you are sending out your message, just like an outdoor board or print placement, but with some obvious advantages and challenges.

In either case, online or offline, social or traditional media, the 3 areas we are highlighting today can answer the question of how to be different.

With that in mind, let’s look at those 3 areas that can make a difference:

Content

Content is king.  If we had to have a motto for the Travel 2.0 blog, that would be it.  But don’t think of content as simply the text on your website, content is your answer to the consumer’s question of ‘why?’

Perhaps more to the point, quality content is king.  As we have seen, anyone and any organization can tweet any number of messages, however a factor in the success of Twitter campaigns such as @VisitPhilly or @BaltimoreMD is the quality of the content they produce.  In these cases, users have asked to receive updates from your organization with the expectation that the content received will be of value.  That is the agreement you enter into.  Poor content equates to poor participation.

Part of the rapid growth in user or consumer generated content (we prefer user or UGC) within the travel space was a lack of quality content.  Specifically, unbiased, rich content.  Sure, the hotel or CVB website had some information about the benefits of staying or visiting, but it lacked the honest and detailed information that UGC provides.

With so much competition for the traveler’s attention online…DMOs, CVBs, OTAs, guide book publishers, attractions, portals, social travel sites, review sites, blogs, etc, etc, etc…a primary differentiating factor is quality content.  The SEO benefits alone should be cause to invest in quality content.

The reach of quality content also extends beyond your organizations website.  Consumers visit, view and interact with a wide variety of digital media on a daily basis, let alone a wide variety of websites.  Your content needs to be available to the consumer in a variety of locations around the web, places where the consumer feels comfortable.  Places besides your website.

Creativity

An obvious answer, however creativity is one of the best areas to separate your message from the competition.  How do you take your message, brand or content and present it to the consumer in a creative way?  Of course, a solid ad agency or interactive agency should be able to assist with this dilemma, but don’t put all of your creative hopes and dreams on the agency.  As the person closest to the brand, start brainstorming sessions, internal creative meetings or strategic planning outings to develop this creative edge within your own organization.

Additionally, don’t limit yourself to thinking that your only outlet for creativity is via your logo, ads or copy.  How can you begin using the tools and information available in a creative way?

One of the best examples of taking basic content and presenting it in a unique way would be our counterpart Mo’s Oregon 365 campaign from Travel Oregon.  A simple calendar of events, one event per day.  Overall pretty basic content, however the presentation and work that accompanied the organization of this information is what clearly sets the campaign apart.

Unfortunately, unless there has been a breakthrough, determining a formula for a creative campaign is, well, tricky, which is exactly why it can set your campaign apart from the competition.  So, start scheduling that internal creative meeting.

Customer Service

Is there anything more differentiating than good customer service?  In both the online and offline space quality customer service is a key building block of brand reputation, consumer perception and word of mouth.  Obviously, it goes without saying that the rapid pace of online interaction has accelerated the benefits and pitfalls of customer service.

Good customer service is certainly rewarded, however poor customer service is quickly spread throughout the internet.  From a simple online perspective, how to you ensure good customer service?

Well, let’s run through some of the essential pieces, some obvious, some not-so obvious:

  • Easy to find contact information
  • Helpful information sections…i.e., FAQs
  • Responding to emails
  • Ensuring that a good customer relationship strategy is in place…i.e., do you send auto-reply ‘thank you’ emails once a visitor orders a guide.

Once you have those pieces in place, then we can start taking advantage of the wonders of the internet and social media.  Taking your customer service beyond your own website and helping consumers on social sites where they are having conversations about your product, offering or brand.  Think TripAdvisor, Yelp or Twitter.

My current favorite example of good, pro-active customer service is Travel Portland’s recently launched ‘Twisitor Center.’ Honestly, it is really just tagging tweets from Twitter so that the staff can find them, but the idea behind it, to provide customer service to consumers not on the Travel Portland site is not only generating a fair amount of interest, but also setting Travel Portland apart from other CVBs.

Where to begin?   Well, start a listening campaign to determine what is being said about your organization, and then determine the most advantageous locations to communicate with consumers.  Ideally locations where you can create the largest impact on the consumer’s decision to travel, as well as opportunities where your participation either solves a problem or answers a question.

With that, I am sure there are more opportunities out there to ‘be different,’ let alone in the three categories we talked about today, so what do you think?  How is your organization answering the question of how to be different?  Let us know in the comments section.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.