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Why knowing your customers is crucial for successful marketing

David Forder, Advantage Travel Partnership’s head of marketing, tells Abra Dunsby why talking to members about customers’ needs is vital.

David Forder.jpg
David Forder.jpg

Know your customers' needs to keep your marketing insightful and relevant, says Advantage Travel Partnership’s David Forder

In marketing, it’s important to try new things – if you fail at nine and succeed at one, you’re doing something right,” says David Forder, head of marketing at the Advantage Travel Partnership.


True to his mantra, since he began working at the consortium in April, the company has shaken up its marketing approach for the better.


“We put the end customer in all that we do,” he says. “In theory, we’re disconnected from the end customer as it’s not our customer – the member is.


"We’ve changed our views internally now and we’re working on marketing activity for members that fully understands their customers, and has their interests at heart. It helps our members and suppliers in turn, making for a happier supplier chain.”


Integral to this change is communicating with members more effectively. Advantage plans to create a detailed email preference centre in time for the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).


“We’ll be making sure that all of our CRM systems are in order and that our data is clean,” Forder asserts.


The team will create a “tailored, bespoke, automated preference centre” that will allow members to opt in or out of other forms of communication, he explains.


“We’ll look at how many emails members are getting from suppliers and corresponding open rates. The benefits of the changes mean that our members are getting relevant communications,” he says. Forder predicts an increase in open rates and happier members in the process.


The consortium is currently working on a fully integrated turn-of-year campaign, providing offline and digital assets for its members.


“They might not have big budgets for paid-for search, so instead we’ve created social banners, site banners and social content for them to use for organic search,” he says.


The initiative also includes the creation of “how to” documents, helping agents to make the most of the assets.


Future changes also include updating the point-of-sale offering for members. We’ll be running a survey to see what our members use,” Forder explains.


“We hope to create a system where members log in and order the point-of-sale every month, and where they can request di erent options, allowing marketing to be more targeted.”

Going places

Previously, Forder spent 11 years at Flight Centre, learning about travel marketing “from the ground up” and moving up the ranks, working on everything from developing strategies for retail stores to managing Flight Centre brands including the Travel Club and Flight Centre First and Business.


“I learned a great deal there,” he says. “I had a lot of autonomy, and plenty of opportunities to try new things.”


He left to become senior marketing manager at Wanderlust Travel Magazine, where he worked on driving subscriptions and developing their reader events before moving to Advantage.


He says the landscape has changed significantly since he first started out.


“There are lots more tactics available now and everything is more commercially focused. Marketeers need to demonstrate ROI more than ever for people to invest, especially as margins are reducing on selling net products.”


The arrival of Google and Facebook advertising also means the online world is forever evolving. “Marketeers must keep up with the changes on all platforms to develop a sound strategy,” he advises.


Forder's top marketing tips

1. Get up to speed with GDPR and get to grips with your responsibilities to customers
2. Use a “test and learn” approach if trying new things
3. Make time to learn and continue learning in your trade
4. Understand your customer and always put yourself in their shoes

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