As marketing budgets continue to shrink, marketers of all kinds are forced to look for cost-effective and useful ways to reach consumers. For those in the travel and tourism sector, direct mail is considered a reliable marketing tool because of its ability to bring a tactile, visual campaign straight to a recipient.
Any destination, after all, needs to be seen — at least in pictures — to inspire consumers. Strong visuals, enticing descriptions and relevant offers can easily allow direct mail recipients to imagine traveling to the destination. It’s all about giving the recipient a “10 second vacation,” says Eric Tolkin, EVP of client services and CMO at Javelin Direct.
“With travel and tourism, perhaps more than with other industries, there is a tactile benefit to sending something palpable to recipients,” he continues. “When you can feel and touch something, and really experience what it’s like to be there, it sells the product better.”
Chris Kelley, managing director at G2 Direct and Digital, notes that another benefit of direct mail is that it allows recipients to view travel and tourism offers at their leisure.
“The question is, what is the audience willing to open and look at?” he explains. “There’s also a nice pass-along effect with mail and the ability to leave it on your coffee table until you’re ready to read it. With e-mail, sometimes it’s too easy to hit the delete key.”
This is where direct mail triumphs over e-mail and other electronic messages. E-mail inboxes are flooded with spam and other marketing offers and recipients can delete messages by judging the relevance of a subject line. But with mail, marketers have the opportunity to grab a recipients’ attention and to spend more time with them, says Martin Riesenfelder, COO and managing director at Wunderman Germany. However, as people’s mailboxes are also inundated with mail on a daily basis, there is a real challenge for marketers to make their piece “rise above the clutter,” says Tolkin.
“The challenge is making sure your piece isn’t considered junk,” explains Jessica Halter-Powell, account director at David and Goliath. “If [the piece] is relevant and is something that the recipient recognizes, he or she will take the time to read it, keep it or go to the Web site. The recipients will want more information.”
Creating a relevant tourism offer is dependent upon several key factors. First of all, a mailer must ensure that they are mailing their piece to the right people. If a piece is sent to the wrong person, then there is little to no chance of getting that person’s attention, says Riesenfelder. Extensive research and database mining is essential if a marketer is going to find the right audience to target. For some, this means sifting through a house file to find prospects that match the offer being proposed.
“If you try to cast too broad a net, you’re going to miss people,” explains Tolkin. “What needs to happen in the travel and tourism industry is that marketers need to mine their databases, they need to be very precise in their targeting and they need to build offers that are specific to a customer’s needs and desires. The more targeted your market is, the more appropriate direct mail is for your offer. Within the world of direct marketing, the offer is critical.”
For other travel and tourism marketers, such as destination marketers, creating a relevant offer sometimes means sending mail to people in the immediate vicinity of a certain destination.
Today, travelers may want to “jump in the car and go somewhere close instead of jumping on a plane,” says Halter-Powell. “It’s really incumbent on the marketer to make the customer realize that [their destination] is an option that has not been considered before.”
Furthermore, people are beginning to expect more out of the travel and tourism offers they receive. As a result, marketers like Powell-Halter see a future in bundled package offers for potential clients. For instance, “not only will there be a room rate offer, but it will probably be combined with a spa and restaurant offer so that you are giving the guest more value and a complete experience.”
This tactic is particularly relevant when marketing to past clients. By data mining and looking through a house file, marketers can learn about previous customers’ preferences and what sorts of offers they responded to in the past, information that is vital for building a relevant offer.
“Knowing when a guest traveled, what amenities they used and which restaurants they went to [helps] properties craft an offer that is relevant to that guest,” says Halter-Powell.
Kelly agrees that former customers can be an impactful data source for marketers. “We do a lot of our existing direct mail to former customers,” says Kelley. “You know their preferences and you know where they want to travel. It’s all about the relevance of the offer that’s on the table.”
Direct mail for travel and tourism is used as a means to open a dialog and establish contact with prospective clients or generate loyalty amongst previous customers. A mail piece can be the first step in the establishment of a relationship between a business and a customer. Tourism and travel mail can draw a recipient in and make them take the next step.
“Direct mail is all about starting a dialog, and the challenge is to find someone who is open to talk to you,” says Riesenfelder. “This is what we try to do, start impactful conversations. This can only happen with someone who is ready to talk with you. You have to be very specific and selective about whom you target and with what message.”
The Mystic Coast and Country Travel Industry Association and the Eastern Regional Tourism District teamed together to create a direct mail piece that would entice people to visit eastern Connecticut during the fall. The organizations targeted New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut households in May of 2008. Internet traffic spiked 30% in that month and there were 815 telephone inquiries about the piece and the offer it marketed.
When Mammoth Mountain Ski Area launched its new brand positioning and tagline, the resort wanted to roll-out the concept to its best customers first. Season pass holders were introduced to the resort’s new tagline “Play Big” with the mailing of a VIP kit designed by David and Goliath. In addition to their season pass, the one pound package included a DVD showcasing the summer and winter activities available at Mammoth, exclusive pass holder offers and a giant trail map, measuring almost seven feet wide.
Wunderman Germany sent out direct mail pieces to promote tourism in Ireland — this one promotes the South Region’s scenic roadways, which can be travelled during a five day trek via rented car that Wunderman suggested. The campaign was targeted to reach an audience of 17,000 proven sightseers and culture seekers in Berlin and Munich during June, 2008.