Editor’s Note: This is part three of The Zen of Travel Content Marketing series on building an inspired (and inspirational) content strategy for your hospitality or tourism business. (Still not convinced you need content or a blog? You do.) As I publish each new installment, I’ll link it at the bottom of this post.
By now, you know your audience. You’ve started developing your travel content strategy. So it’s time to talk content types and distribution channels. We’re getting close – so very, very close! – to actually writing, snapping photos and shooting video. I promise.
First things first: You absolutely, positively must keep your content goals in mind throughout this process. What is the purpose of your content marketing? One of them must be to build your email database. Remember that with social media accounts and even RSS followers (if you still have any), you don’t own your follower list. You don’t have access to their direct email addresses or phone numbers. But with an opt-in database – say, when customers exchange their emails for travel guides or their phone numbers for customized itineraries – you slowly build this incredible, amazing business asset: a list of warm leads from travelers who have sought you out.
The second thing to always keep in mind is that your content strategy for each channel is a miniturized version of your overall travel content strategy. Before you launch (or revamp) your blog, your newsletter, your travel guides or any other content channel, ask yourself these questions:
- Who is my target audience? These are the personas you developed back in Part 1.
- What are my personas’ pain points? These are your audience’s concerns and anxieties – the problems that you will solve.
- Where are my customers? What social networks and other distribution/marketing channels are ideal for this type of content?
- What is my story? This is the message you want to communicate to your readers.
- What’s the point? What are your goals for this content? Do you want to attract subscribers, build your reputation, or promote your destination?
- Are you passionate? I mentioned back in Part 1 that 80 percent of corporate blogs fizzle out before reaching 5 posts. Find topics and channels that make you excited to write – or, at the very least, passionate enough to hire a writer.
Once you’re clear on your answers to these questions, it’s time to talk content channels – and decide which ones will work best for you:
Blogging is one of the most versatile content channels in existence, and is especially powerful for travel and hotel content marketing. It is an informal, fun and visual platform that allows you to build community and rapport, establish thought leadership, promote your destination and services, execute sophisticated SEO strategies, and so much more.
Done right and leveraged well, blogs are an incredible tool to reach the traveling masses. I promise we’ll get into the nitty gritty of your travel blog in a future post, but for now, here are a few pointers:
- Write killer headlines: Don’t know how to write a must-click headline? Check out Jon Morrow’s genius headline hacks.
- Focus on pain points. These are the problems your blog posts will solve.
- Weave in your keywords. Keywords aren’t dead, and a blog is great way to create awesome content about target keywords and phrases.
- And whatever you do, don’t forget your call to action! Ask them to sign up for your email list, leave a comment, download a travel guide, request a brochure/itinerary quote, etc. Remember that most of your blog visitors will never be back. Find a way to capture their contact information.
Travel Guides & Other eBooks
Travel guides are a spectacular way to market your business and destination. Almost every, single traveler reads a travel guide, in some form, somewhere along the travel-planning process. Creating these guides –how-tos, top 10s, insider secrets and destination information – help you help your travelers, while you build authority, establish trust, and get the word out about your business.
And the great thing about your blog and other content channels is, you may be able to repackage them as travel guides. Just remember, these informational treasure troves are a little more sanitized/formal than a blog, and are often much longer.
Travel newsletters are a type of permission-based marketing: regular communications that travelers opt-in to receive. They’re usually emailed weekly or monthly, and may also be available online. And more and more often, e-newsletters are a way to redistribute your blog posts (as I do with The Travel Copywriter). They can be informational or promotional in nature, and are a wonderful way to stay in regular, direct contact with prospects.
But just because e-newsletters are opt-in doesn’t mean you don’t need to make an effort. An incredible, amazing, pull-out-all-the-stops effort. There are lot of travel newsletters out there today, so you have a lot of competition. Remember to write killer subject lines (headlines) so that your newsletter gets opened, and fill your newsletter with valuable content your readers won’t find anywhere else. Don’t be spammy. And always, always offer an opt-out at the bottom of every newsletter.
Testimonials are social proof. You can’t brag about yourself (well you can, but it’s not very attractive), but you can certainly let your travelers do so on your behalf. Then, scatter your most glowing testimonials all over your site.
So how do you get customers to consistently write testimonials? You need to develop a process to encourage testimonials, and even to reward your loyal clients for their service. One of my clients, the awesome Costa Rican Vacations, runs a monthly $100 Amazon gift certificate raffle for clients who have posted a Facebook testimonial that month. Needless to say, they get a lot of testimonials!
Other Content Channels
Content marketing for the travel industry is incredibly diverse and a lot of fun. If you can imagine it, you can probably do it. Here are a few more channels you might consider:
- Video Publishing
- Guest Blogging
- Custom Print Magazine (or the digital Flipboard alternative)
- Print Newsletters
- Contributed Articles & Brand Journalism
- Mobile Apps
- Printed Guidebooks
Outsourcing Your Content Marketing
According to the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs research, nearly 50 percent of all companies outsource at least some part of their content marketing (North American | U.K. | Australian benchmarks).
Why? Because while content marketing is a major task, it’s also one of the most cost-effective to outsource. You can get your travel blog off the ground for as little as $500 a month. You can publish a short monthly newsletter for under $1,000. In traditional marketing terms, where one print advertisement can easily run you five figures, content marketing is cheap. And very, very effective.
Woohoo, assignment time! This one’s fun: Tell me, where do your travelers live online? What do you think are the most effective content channels for your business?
Other installments in The Zen of Travel Content Marketing series: