Marketing and branding is an area that will see great benefits from new, creative ideas. Innovative marketing will transform the way you present your products while accelerating the growth of your business. In this strategy article, Eilis Williams talks to five experts who share innovative ideas for marketing in the modern day.

Ever look at something and think it should sell itself? Even perfect landscapes and exquisite hotels need promotion to encourage customers to visit. That’s where marketing comes in to grab someone’s attention and hold it until they’re a customer.

Cultivating a story is one way to grab and hold the attention of potential customers.

These days most travelers will share their experiences across social media platforms intending to evoke envy from friends at home. This can be harnessed to generate future custom if the photos are tagged with your business or location.

Travel and adventure naturally make great stories. Nurturing a customer’s desire transforms a dream of visiting somewhere into reality, turning them into the next story teller. This can be done with a consistent message about what customers can get from an experience: blog posts, photographs and videos tempt people with what’s on offer.

Independent travel and marketing consultant Andy Parkinson, who has been leading custom fly-fishing and adventure tours across Mongolia for 10 years, believes a story is significant to generating sales, particularly for more expensive trips.

Andy Parkinson. Independent travel and marketing consultant

He explains that being an early influence during a customer’s decision making process with frequent blog posts, photos and videos about the countries and experiences available will maintain interest until they’re ready to book.

Parkinson said cultivating interest from idle dreamer to paying customer can be a long process. This echoes the advice of Jason Lusk, communications consultant and director of Clickable. Lusk said the steps to booking can be long but customers can be nurtured through each stage.

“The idea is simple: construct a customer journey that turns a stranger into a promotor of your tour, resort or hotel. You do this by creating a process that suits how they buy and think.”

“The idea is simple: construct a customer journey that turns a stranger into a promotor of your tour, resort or hotel. You do this by creating a process that suits how they buy and think.”

The five steps of planning a trip begin with a dream, followed by research, booking the trip, experiencing it, and – last but not least – sharing that experience. “Whether sharing is simply among friends or broadcast across social media, it’s essential that the trip doesn’t end with one customer,” Lusk added.

Jason Lusk. Clickable Vietnam’s Managing Director 

The urge to share travel tales isn’t new but social media makes it quicker and easier. Oversharing can be problematic for marketers, though, because it leaves people jaded by beauty. Many are also skeptical about authenticity because so often images are altered or filtered by anyone with a smartphone.

Today’s travelers want authenticity and want to believe that the image will align with the experience.

Today’s travelers want authenticity and want to believe that the image will align with the experience. People, places, food – everything can be improved with a few filters, airbrushing and clever camera work, which has meant that people lose trust in the images they see.

Ngoc Nguyen, Vice Director of Clickable, said people no longer believe a photo of paradise will be a faithful representation. Therefore marketers should opt for real experiences rather than unbelievable pictures.

Ngoc Nguyen. Clickable Vietnam’s Vice Director 

“When we see pictures of model-like people we don’t think it’s real. People are overexposed to images of perfect people and know it’s fake. You need pictures of people who look like you and me – real people who you would see on the beach,” she said.

So if photographs aren’t enough to convince customers, how about video?

Ha Rika, Digital Art Director, said video has advantages. Firstly, it’s often deemed more trustworthy because video isn’t as easy to edit to perfection.

She advises companies should opt for ‘realistic’ videos because customers will value the raw footage. “They want something real and believable about the tour,” Rika said, “This makes customers trust a company more than something fancy.”

Ha Rika. Clickable Vietnam’s Art Director 

She added this is especially relevant for economy-minded travelers who crave adventure from a trip: “Tour companies should have an in-house video maker, even if that’s just the tour guide making 20 second videos during a tour.”

Another advantage is that video feeds short attention spans: a short clip can tell a story in 30 seconds without scanning through pages of photographs. The action and sounds captured on video lets a traveler see themselves in the midst of the action.

To truly touch an audience it helps if the promoted story reflects the ethos of the company selling it. That’s according to Mike Ellis, marketing manager at Buffalo Tours, which offer tailor-made, guided trips throughout Southeast Asia. Ellis said threading the message throughout all marketing and promotion has helped Buffalo maintain authenticity and set them apart in a crowded market space.

For Buffalo this is responsible tourism and sustainability.

He said: “There’re lots of people connected to the tours telling their stories. We have ever changing stories because the people in different communities are all different: marketing can tell these stories. Marketing taking hold of responsible tourism pushes the rest of the company to focus on it too.”

Jade House, social media and marketing leader at Buffalo, added: “Responsible travel has gotten the company much more attention and media outreach than anything else.

“It’s a holistic view of marketing that often gets lost: it’s about finding what clients want or need and doing that. People want to travel responsibly and to do good. Incorporating that into our brand has brought us great success.”

Finally, once dreamers become visitors, the most important step is ensuring the experience they expect is what they get.

Ngoc Nguyen said operators must think longer term than one individual’s experience because a disappointing experience will send guests straight to TripAdvisor to complain and put off potential guests.

Professional brochure photos could be undermined by authentic guest photos that show the seemingly pristine beach is actually covered in trash or the ‘welcoming’ hosts are rude to guests. Therefore, the industry should be working to ensure that guest expectations and experiences are aligned.

“If you think the job is only about selling an experience and getting people there without thinking about what happens after then the experience will not last,” she said.

This content is also available in: Vietnamese