Agents agreed their marketing emphasis had shifted towards the “longer term” during last week’s TTG Agent Matters panel discussion.
Two months after their first Agent Matters appearance, acting features editor Abra Dunsby caught up with Meon Valley Travel’s managing director James Beagrie; Kiri Dulay, marketing and social media manager of Midcounties Co-Op Personal Travel Agents; and Strawberry Holidays director Kate Holroyd.
Holroyd said marketing had “definitely shifted to the more long term”, looking to 2021. She was building partnerships with bloggers, podcasting and doing SEO work “looking at my best-performing pages and asking what I can do to improve conversion”.
“It’s been a prime opportunity to look at those longer-term relationships,” she said. Holroyd added she planned to develop a chatbot for her Facebook page and send postcards to clients “past and present”.
“Our value as travel agents is peaking. I’m at the end of the phone in crises like these, I’m there 24/7. That’s more of the offering I’m pushing forward.”
Holroyd has also appeared extensively on radio. “It came about from building relationships on Twitter with a local journalist and commenting,” she said.
“When Flybe went into administration, she recommended me to her colleagues at Capital FM, Heart, Hits Radio. That’s been a regular occurrence when travel is a heavy news story.”
Dulay outlined Midcounties’ strategy, which focused on creating a yearning for travel. “We’ve focused on more of the soft marketing, including ‘nostalgic’ marketing. We’ve transitioned from what would have been more of a sales focus running into the late season,” she said.
Midcounties ran a customer survey in April asking about travel intentions. The largest percentage was for a beach holiday, but 38% said they wanted a city break.
“We took that and did a lot of marketing on February departures to Krakow, Budapest, Barcelona – those types of cities,” said Dulay. “They just rocketed because the price-point is so attractive at the minute.” She said a similar campaign with bucket-list trips had also been successful.
Beagrie said marketing at Meon, which has a dedicated team for it, “had become a lot more personal”. “I think there’s a lot more authenticity to the communication and it’s human,” he said.
He added: “Open rates on our social media and newsletters at 25-27% are deeply encouraging. In my old insurance days, we were thrilled with 2%. We’ve got something people really love and want. They are looking, they will book.”
Beagrie said Meon would be investing in data for the first time to communicate with the local community and hopefully secure new business.
Dulay said PTA clients were now happy with video consultations, “with everyone doing Zoom quizzes with their family and an older generation quite comfortable doing FaceTime and WhatsApp calls”. Only a year ago, she said, PTAs would not have considered video appointments with customers.
Meanwhile, dealing with refund issues had become an integral part of customer relationships, the panel felt. Dulay said: “Sometimes when you show your vulnerability and say ‘this is me... this is how I’ve been affected’, it shows you’re human.”
Holroyd added: “I sent an email to all my clients saying ‘I act as an agent, a middleman, your money is here’. That effort to be transparent will continue.”
Tune in to Agent Matters at 11am on Tuesdays on the TTG Facebook page.