With 2019 just around the corner, now is the perfect time to get your content marketing plan in place, says Abra Dunsby
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the most successful B2B marketers spent 40% of their budget on content marketing in 2018.
Having an actual strategy in place for creating content means that you can target what you’re sending and to whom, making client conversions much more likely. Here, we speak to the marketing gurus for their tips and tricks for creating and rolling out a successful content marketing strategy for 2019.
Stephanie Mitchell, content strategy manager at tour operator Trafalgar, explains why having a content strategy in place is helpful. “Content marketing is increasingly more effective for brand awareness and engagement compared with traditional advertising,” she says.
“In a competitive travel industry, feeding into customers’ desires through engaging content is essential, so it’s vital to implement a strategy that aligns with a brand’s core USPs and stands out from the crowd. Creating content for the sake of it will not benefit a brand in the long-term – it needs to be strategic.”
Specialist agency Honeymoon Dreams’ entire marketing plan is now built around content. “We are increasingly shying away from traditional marketing – such as print, display, outdoor and broadcast – as it has not proven to provide us with the value that content marketing has,” says Tom Pestridge, head of marketing at the Birmingham-based agency.
“Over the past few years we have managed to achieve some fantastic SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages) through our content plan, saving us several thousands of pounds each week. Nowadays, there is very little of what we do that is not driven by content.”
Sian Webster, marketing manager at the Global Travel Group, explains that research is key to ensuring agencies get the right results.
“Knowing which type of content to serve up to which segment of your target audience is half the battle,” she says. “Travel agents will first need to understand who their target is, which channels to use, which metrics to employ to measure the success of the content marketing plan and what resources they have to execute it all with.”
This can all be ascertained through market research, smart data segmentation and using tools such as Google Analytics. The latter will allow you to measure online content and social media success, and to adapt and optimise content according to what is doing well.
The types of content that will work most effectively very much depend on your agency and your target audience. Meon Valley Travel in Petersfield has found its blog to be particularly successful.
The agency’s marketing manager Ed Texier explains: “Blogs are incredibly effective for organic search, and ours is largely responsible for contributing in excess of a 400% increase in website traffic in the last 12 months.”
He adds that the agency promotes its blog across relevant channels: “For example, our business blogs are exposed through our monthly “Friday Fix” corporate email and LinkedIn, while our leisure-orientated blogs will receive similar treatment in our weekly leisure email and on Facebook.”
Trafalgar’s Mitchell also believes in the power of blogs. She adds: “Long-form blog editorial, often in the form of listicles, works well for organic traffic. Content themes that are topical or seasonal and based on a particular destination are most likely to be successful.”
Webster has further insight. “A good content marketing plan needs to entertain, inspire, educate or convince,” she says.
For the “Entertain” category, Webster suggests producing content in the form of quizzes, competitions, branded videos and games. Inspirational content includes customer reviews, personal experience blog posts and testimonials. To convince, include case studies, checklists and
video show-rounds, while to educate, include travel guides, infographics and trend reports.
Honeymoon Dreams has had success with inspirational, “experiential” content, in the form of first-hand accounts of trips from staff and clients. “Every fam trip that our staff takes will appear on our website, and all our clients will be given the chance for their honeymoons to be featured too,” explains Pestridge.
Planning content around events is a sure-fire way of ensuring brand visibility and increased sales, Pestridge says. “We have specific campaigns planned for each significant event around the year.
As our web traffic in January is roughly 50% more than any other month, this is when our content needs to be right on point to take advantage of the extra exposure.”
Global Travel Group members are given access to a marketing campaign calendar, allowing them to plan their own content marketing plans around seasonal campaigns. “Our marketing campaign calendar is built off the back of information gathered during supplier meetings, so we can ensure our campaigns are launched during peak periods for certain types of holidays – so September to October for cruise, for example,” says Webster.
As well as focusing content around travel’s seasonal events, it’s important to piggyback on other popular events too – Honeymoon Dreams centred plenty of social media around the royal wedding, for example.
Creating your own calendar identifying annual events, regular sales, or even national days that are likely to trend on social media, can be a good way of helping plan content, agrees Mitchell.
Agents can also look to TV programmes and current trends for content ideas, says Si Morris- Green, group marketing director at the Travel Network Group. He adds: “Use of imagery and GIFs, videos, polls and engaging questions are also effective.”
Meon Valley Travel also harnesses the power of TV, promoting offers around celebrity programmes such as Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure and Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railways.
Suppliers are more than happy to work with agents on content marketing, and will often provide ready- prepared content for them to use.
Pestridge advises sending any campaign ideas to suppliers early, as they tend to finalise budgets and plans well in advance. “We try to plan our schedule and budgets as early as we can so that we can present our proposals to suppliers,” he explains.
Agents who are part of consortia such as Global will also be provided with regular content throughout the year, freeing up more of their time to concentrate on selling.
In terms of handy content tools, Morris-Green recommends that agents use Asana as a project management software tool to keep content plans on time, as well as Hootsuite to schedule content across multiple social media channels.
Additional tools can help agents and travel companies identify content themes that are most relevant to their audience. Mitchell recommends Google Search Console and SEMRush to help identify keywords that might help drive organic traffic to your site.
Whatever tools you might use to help you on your way, one major takeaway is to be original and to stand out from the crowd with the content you promote, while using it to get your brand message across.
It’s just as important to analyse the success of your content, as this could help shape your strategy for the following year. Content should provide value to your customers, drive engagement, and ultimately, secure you new business.
Global’s Sian Webster gives her pointers for drawing up a successful content marketing plan for 2019: