Industry insights from Luke Gibson, director of VAX VacationAccess

Marketing is Dead. How to Build an Engagement Plan that Works, Part 2

Part 2, Tips for Better Engagement

The marketing tactics that worked for you years ago just don’t cut it anymore. Today there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to customer engagement. To be interesting to your customer, you have to get interested in them – which means you have to really understand them and reach them on their level, not yours. And to be successful, you need to develop an engagement plan.

Here are eight steps to building an engagement plan that works:

  1. Define the ideal customer: Who are your customers and, just as importantly, who are they not? Yes, you need to consider demographics like income, but you also need to consider psychographics: What emotionally appeals to them? What do they react to? What types of destinations and vacations interest them, and why?
  2. Study that customer: When you create a profile and study your customers’ habits, you’ll be able to focus your engagement efforts in a targeted way that makes the most of your time and resources. For example, where do your customers live? What activities take up their leisure time? Where do they shop and go out to eat? You can even test your theories locally. Maybe your ideal customer is the type that will frequent your local farmers market. Make the effort to engage with them there.
  3. Define your conversation: Between what you want to say and what your customers want to hear is where the magic happens. What are your priorities, and what are theirs? In order to create relationships, you need to be open – so what do you want them to know about you? What messaging will make them interested in buying from you? What makes you an expert that they can trust? What are your areas of specialty?
  4. Define your channels: Where do you engage with your customers? They might be willing to engage with you at the local farmers market or on various social media platforms, but where do you want to invest your effort and finances? What can you realistically manage? Posting an ad in the Sunday paper is different from maintaining a daily Twitter feed. Be selective. Figure out where and how your consumer spends their time, and focus there.
  5. Create opportunity: Whether it means passing out leis at the local farmers market or buying an affordable green screen to create photos of your customers in potential destinations, it doesn’t have to cost you a billion dollars to make lasting impressions on your customers. Get creative and position yourself effectively along each phase of the vacation-planning cycle. Be a part of the dream, the vacation and the memory. One travel agency gives beautiful wooden cutting boards to newly wedded couples when they arrive home from their honeymoons. It’s a considerate gift – newly married couple will be making a home together – but it’s also an affordable gift that creates a lifetime impression and a lasting relationship. Seems worth it, right?

    What do you do that makes doing business with you not only smart, but enjoyable? Do you always offer your customers a take away? In a traditional agency environment, that can be a business card or travel magazine that inspires them; but what about when they visit your website? They need a takeaway there, too. Consider sending them a personal email after they visit, or follow up using online or social retargeting.
  6. Foster evangelist customers and employees: Why does the power of referral seem irreplaceable? Because it is. Are you treating your customers and your employees in a way that makes them speak highly of you? If your employees and your customers aren’t your best brand ambassadors, then who will be? Find customers and employees that share your core values. Strive to engage with customers in a way that makes referring you to their friends not only easy, but enjoyable. There is no better advertisement than a referral from a customer or a friend.
  7. Engage: Time to get scrappy. Get out there and get your hands dirty. There are choices to make, but you’ve put in the thought and now it’s the time to act on the foundation you’ve established. Stick to it and be patient.
  8. Evaluate: It’s not over yet. You can only get better, and the best way to improve is by analyzing the data you have at hand, which can be as simple as knowing how your customer’s vacation was. That way, when you re-engage, you will have armed yourself with knowledge that makes your connection to them even more precise and productive. So, when you have another vacation that you think could interest a second-time customer, your conversation with them doesn’t have to rely on the sale. Instead, it can recall and rely on that individual’s previous experience and joy. When you adjust and revise your tactics based on fact and experience, you can re-engage at an even higher level.

When you leave marketing behind and apply engagement to your business, you’ll find that you know your customers even better than you did before – and appreciate the fact that your customers are indeed human, not just sales. Engagement can create relationships that simultaneously nourish your business and your spirit. Maybe that’s why you started this career in the first place. To provide beautiful experiences and memories that no one can take away. You already had the expertise, and now you have a plan to do it even better.

About the Author

Luke Gibson Headshot

With more than 18 years of business experience in brand marketing, media and sales development, Luke has tackled issues across multiple categories of business including travel, automotive, technology, luxury retail, media, e-Commerce and manufacturing. His breadth of experience across consumer direct, wholesale and e-Commerce distribution channels makes him an effective omni-channel thinker.  Luke currently serves as Managing Director of VAX VacationAccess.

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