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04 Jul 2017

BY Abra Dunsby

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Marketing magic: Advantage talks the benefits of direct mail

The power of direct mail shouldn’t be underestimated, as Advantage Travel Partnership’s campaign advances prove. Abra Dunsby finds out more about its successes.

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We chat to Advantage Travel Partnership’s Carolyn Hardy about the perks of direct mail

In today’s social-media obsessed, digital-focused world, it’s easy to forget that more traditional marketing methods are still alive and kicking.

If used wisely, direct mail can be a hugely powerful marketing device – as Advantage Travel Partnership’s Carolyn Hardy is well aware. The marketing manager helped craft the concept for the consortia’s January peaks and June lates campaigns.

“For our January campaign, we tested a 24-page magazine, featuring lots of editorial content, with offers fitted around it,” explains Hardy.

“We wanted it to be more editorial-led rather than offer-led, and we included lots of useful, inspiring content and images.”

“For example we produced a page about making family getaways unforgettable, including holiday ideas, advice, plus family-orientated offers,” says Hardy.

She adds that the magazine showcased the USPs of using an agent to customers, focusing on agents’ knowledge, expertise and understanding of customers’ needs.

“People like to read and do their own research when planning holidays, so it works perfectly for our members and their target audience,” she says.

The results have been excellent, too. “The mini magazine mailing generated an 8.2% booking response rate, which is the highest rate from a peak season campaign ever,” says Hardy. She puts the increase largely down to the change in format of the magazine, and also attributes it to Advantage’s smart targeting and segmentation of customers.

Spreading the news

For the January door drop campaign, Advantage analysed members’ customer data based on their postcodes to determine which postcode sectors to target.


“We looked at the number of bookings per household and the total value of the bookings, and compiled a postcode sector rankings report from that,” she explains.


“The door drop is also based on how near customers are to the member’s shop – our members’ customers are usually very local.”

Hardy then analysed bookings to compare the new database with the existing one. While the average number of new households per branch remained the same as in January last year, the average revenue per branch increased by 18%, which Hardy dubs a “really positive result”.

Advantage’s January campaign managed to entice in members’ customers who hadn’t booked a holiday in more than a year. “The January campaign proved that it’s not just about acquisition, but it’s about customer reactivation too,” she explains.

Paul Cusack, managing director at Cockermouth Travel and an Advantage member, was pleased with how well received the magazine was among his customers. “It looks very slick and professional. We had lots of customers calling me to congratulate me about how it looked,” he says.

“It would just be too much man-power for us to produce something like this ourselves.” Cusack says the effects of the door drop are always good for business: “We often get people calling up to book holidays after the door drop – it’s usually the same day or the next day, so it’s really immediate.”

Rebuilding relationships

For the June lates campaign Advantage worked alongside new marketing agency 6rs to design a 12-page holiday-offer booklet. “We focused on the message of turning customers’ dreams into a reality, urging them not to delay booking a holiday,” explains Hardy.

The booklet features the words “one day” crossed out, replacing them with the words “day one”. “We thought the juxtaposition was quite emotive,” says Hardy. “Booking a holiday is an emotive experience rather than a functional one, so we wanted to make our creative route something emotive, too.”

The booklet moves away from travel cliches, instead providing key information and facts, such as details about baggage allowances and relevant regional departures.

 

It is currently being sent out to almost half a million new UK households as part of Advantage’s door drop campaign, and is being posted out to an additional 35,000 existing customers. “In terms of targeting, we selected households who need more of a push to book again,” says Hardy.

“We created two versions of the booklet: one for the mass market and one for an upmarket audience, to ensure the members’ customers are receiving holiday offers that are really relevant to them.”

Initial feedback from agents has been very positive once again. “The June campaign has just dropped through letterboxes and it’s impressive, with strong offers from our local airports and suppliers we trust,” says Jeanne Lally, joint managing director at Travel Bureau in Gosforth.

“The creative is inspirational, too. We are delighted with the quality and it will once again raise awareness of our brand,” she adds.

Another Advantage member agent, Sharon May, owner of Worldwide Travel Solutions in Leeds, is similarly enthusiastic. “The format in June for the door drop campaign was only sent on June 6 and we’ve already had a couple of enquiries. The quality of the door drop gets better each time,” she says.

“I find it essential as a small business owner to be part of the marketing campaigns as I would be unable to produce anything of that calibre for the cost, let alone have the time to do so,” she adds.

The January campaign also provided a lift in business for the agency, which received 24 bookings from new clients as a direct result. It’s proof that the direct approach still carries plenty of client-boosting clout.

Carolyn's tips for using direct mail

1. It’s very important to keep in contact with existing customers. It’s a competitive world so it’s a useful way of staying front-of-mind.

2. Be careful about the language you use. It’s about presenting the benefit of using an agent to your customer, so focus on their needs – use phrases such as “your holiday”.

3. Direct mail allows you to be selected and targeted with your customers. We can create great response rates for our members and generate good booking levels. It’s the old adage of “right message, right people and the right time”.

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