When working with luxury travel agencies, member clubs, or advisors we often are confronted with a situation where the owners, marketers, and sales representatives in the business are simply targeting everyone who has the right affluency and can afford their services. This can mean that they are doing a lot of local outreach or referral network activity to generate warm leads, or they carpet bomb in terms of digital and offline advertising without much regard to whom, how, and where they should show their content as long as enough wealthy people see it. This, in turn, leads to high costs of lead acquisition and low marketing budgets since effectiveness becomes hard to measure and investments become harder and harder to justify over time. It can all be remedied though if some time is spent on persona work, funnel design, and correct targeting for your luxury travel marketing campaigns.
Start with the destination if you are a specialist
Most affluent travelers would rather book with an advisor or travel designer who has specific expertise in the type of experience or destination they are looking for than with a generalist (unless a long-standing relationship exists). In itself, it is a no-brainer. While we do acknowledge that there are travel curators out there with no particular niche or focus on the types of travel they offer, the majority of luxury travel advisors will tend to have a fixed set of destinations they offer regularly based on their current supplier relationships and profitability calculations. Here is also where we can start profiling our ideal affluent travelers for the future lead generation campaigns by looking deeper into what type of person would be interested in the particular niche or destination that we have to offer.
Affluent travelers are not faceless clones
Even if we know which of our destinations or experiences we want to promote, we still need to create unique profiles that describe the type of traveler who is looking for these particular sets of experiences and destinations. Breaking down affluent profiles into things like age, gender, geography, income, and net worth are all useful exercises in itself, but usually not enough to create a truly useful targeting strategy for digital advertising and content creation. We need to also look at media consumption patterns, technology affinity, and other behavioral and psychographic traits.
Some travelers love to discover new travel ideas via visual social media posts or videos, others react well to long-form email promotions, digital magazine articles, or travel influencers they follow, just to name a few ways of engagement. Some can be influenced by emphasizing the adventure and excitement of a potential luxury vacation, while others will react more positively to themes of tranquility and ample opportunities for mindfulness. Some high-net-worth individuals are drawn to status symbol type brands and high-end white-glove service, others need to make sure that the companies they hire and travel with do something to be sustainable and eco-conscious.
How to match them up with your campaigns
Let’s say you have three destinations or luxury experiences that you sell all the time with some variations in terms of design and price point. After sifting through your data and analyzing your past sales experiences you arrive at some basic demographical profiles that seem relevant. After taking industry data, external research, and neuromarketing profiling into account you can then enhance these personas or archetypes that have clear distinctions in terms of interests, likes, dislikes, behavior, and so on. Finally, you can evaluate these personas for economic potential and amount of effort that is required to market and sell to them effectively while still satisfying their needs.
You should now be able to eliminate the personas that are the most high-maintenance while being the least profitable from your shortlist of profiles. The remaining ones will either match up with your three destinations or reveal that there is a lot of potential in creating maybe a new luxury travel product that you hadn’t considered so far. Overall, you have now matched up your offerings to their respective personas. The next step is translating that into an actual campaign plan that executes on the work you have done so far.
Creative, channels and targeting
If you are running any kind of digital marketing for your company, you should have at least a rough outline when it comes to your brand. Your brand policies or guidelines should extend beyond just design, colors, and fonts but should actually include intangibles that your customers expect of you or things that you want to communicate through everything you do in the market. This can be beliefs, values, or a certain heritage.
These kind of comprehensive, fleshed out brand guidelines in combination with the data-driven personas you have created (that are in turn based on the luxury travel products that you sell) should be the basis for your future art direction and copywriting. Every element of your digital marketing campaign like your ads, landing pages, lead magnets, emails, copy, and visuals (images, video, audio) should be briefed and ultimately produced in a way that they match up with your overall presentation for your brand. This can sometimes also mean stretching, shrinking, or reimagining your brand if necessary (without sacrificing luxury brand equity).
Once all the creative is produced and ready to go for your campaign you need to select the right advertising or outreach channels that fit your personas. By now you should have a clear picture of what the most popular digital devices, apps, social media platforms, and websites are that your personas frequent (and how often) when they research travel or go about their daily business.
Depending on how much marketing budget you can spend on your campaign (after the costs of creative have been deducted) you might want to focus on one product and one persona in terms of advertising spend for the beginning. It is better to have one solid campaign with well-thought out creatives based on one persona and one type of luxury travel experience that you can sell profitably (with maybe 1-3 channels max) to achieve market penetration than to spread yourself thin with several campaigns and small or insignificant budgets.
To pick up the example from earlier, let’s say we identified three channels that fit the persona and product we want to run with for our next digital lead generation campaign. Since our sample persona is a millennial by age, we will opt for Instagram, a YouTube travel influencer, and a digital luxury travel blog that has high engagement from its affluent audience. We would then proceed to create an interest profile targeting setting on Instagram via the Meta Ads Suite based on our chosen persona first.
Afterwards, we would identify couple YouTube luxury travel influencers and reach out to them or their representation with a pitch message that highlights our intention and why we think our brand would a great fit for a potential collaboration. Last but not least we would download the media kits of several fitting luxury travel online publications and arrange sales calls to discuss our brief, persona, and potentially advertising and email packages we can buy with our campaign budget and KPI goals in mind.
The next step (full-funnel advertising)
Now that we have creatives produced, channels selected and our targeting settings (media partners) in place it is time to start thinking about actual campaign timelines, budget allocation, and execution. Ideally you should have a rough outline of these before you start diving into creative, channel and targeting (maybe there is seasonality for some of the luxury travel products that you sell, so keep that in mind) but sometimes the actual campaign framework manifests out of the planning process itself and that is fine as well.
Depending on your budget you can potentially only run a short campaign (1-3 months), in this scenario you should accept that your CPL or cost-per-lead will be pretty high since your market is not yet warmed up to your brand and your offerings. The overall amount of warm, inbound leads will probably also be lower than what you could achieve if you would run campaigns consistently for a year or two. Just be aware that in this case you might have to be willing to just break even or take a small loss in terms of marketing investment versus actual revenue generated to start making a dent in your market. Couple sales should be more than expected though.
If you can afford to think more long-term you should also consider running one or two big campaigns per persona per year. This will allow you to use what is called the “full-funnel advertising” approach. You can split your campaign in three parts to take advantage of that approach: the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel, and the bottom of the funnel. You can start with creative videos and unique ads to warm your client up to the idea of booking with you at the top, in the middle part the goal is to collect their information and preferences for follow up and outreach by providing more information about your brand and your products, and in the last part you offer them a direct conversation with you or one of your advisors directly.
As you can see there are obviously different ways you can use the full-funnel approach if you want to get sophisticated with digital ads and maximize your ROI. If you need help designing personas and advertising funnels for your next campaign reach out to us.