Commentary

Helping To Overcome Audience Fatigue In Affluent Travel Marketing

One of the biggest challenges travel marketers face is that the typical affluent audience pool is fairly finite. Much of marketers’ efforts go toward addressing consumers who have traveled in the past and are assumed to have the financial capacity to do so again. While these may be valuable indicators of future purchases, they may also apply to a very small group of consumers. In all likelihood, this is a group that receives multiple competing offers throughout the year, helping ensure they’ve almost become immune to travel advertising. 

This kind of audience fatigue frequently leads to stagnating conversion and response rates, and it’s generally happening across the travel industry. In travel marketing the customer you have today is often not reflective of the potential for your product; it’s only reflective of the marketing you’ve done to date. In order to better leverage that potential, travel marketing is in need of a total audience reboot. 

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Fortunately, marketers can do this fairly easily. They just need to employ two primary tactics: further segmenting their audience, and expanding the size of their audience.

Segmentation of current customers is a great place to start. Typically, the current customer base reflects past marketing campaigns and may be made up of well-to-do people with a known affinity for travel. Many travel marketers identify prospects by matching likelihood or affinity to travel with the appropriate income level for the offer, but marketers can go further and carve out smaller, more precise audience profiles for more customized messaging. By drilling deeper into the current travel segments, marketers may identify consumers with higher estimated financial capacity, and then deliver these affluent customers exclusive offers and VIP treatment packages. 

But that tactic can also quickly lead to fatigue if overused, which is why it can be equally important to grow the size of the potential audience. This means looking beyond consumers who have raised their hand as travelers; after all, if the current audience is burnt out by marketing, and their customer base isn’t growing, then it may be difficult for marketers to meet their revenue goals quarter after quarter. So, marketers need to find and reach an audience that may not have been contacted yet, one that may not have demonstrated any penchant for travel, but still likely has the financial capacity. 

A key here is to go back to basics, starting with some very broad qualifiers. Fortunately, estimated financial capacity is still a worthwhile indicator to identify new consumers. If the audience is potentially affluent enough, then the right kind of offer may persuade them to invest in travel. The trick is refining the audience by determining how consumers respond to the offers.

For example, marketers could start by segmenting consumers in the Southeast with an annual income estimated to be greater than $250,000. Once identified, they should reach out to this new audience with introductory messaging and offers. After this initial wave, it’s time to look at the respondents and then further refine the audience by identifying the segments that could be most likely to respond to future marketing offers. Perhaps they are younger, with higher incomes than the existing (and fatigued) audience group. Perhaps they are older consumers nearing retirement who may have time to travel. 

Based on the responses, marketers might want to classify these segments as primary, secondary and tertiary marketing audience groups. If and when the primary group becomes fatigued, then the secondary group can move up. 

At this point, the marketing effort has gone full circle, and we’re back to segmentation again, where different offers can be tailored for the different consumer segments, based on the likelihood of a response. It’s a significant challenge, but once marketers identify segments that typically are highly-responsive, they’ll see that there are unique types of consumers in each group.

Travel marketers should continually seek to expand their audience and then further segment that audience with different offers. Failure to bring new people into a shrinking customer base means the business risks withering. Fortunately, travel marketers can access tools to avoid that fate.

2 comments about "Helping To Overcome Audience Fatigue In Affluent Travel Marketing".
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  1. Ron Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, October 14, 2015 at 2:26 p.m.

    I understand and sympathize with the author's position. She is essentially promoting direct mail, as it is the best way to reach an audience as targeted as she is suggesting. Unfortunately, most marketers seem to think direct mail is dead, when in fact it is alive and very effective.

    A good example of what she is talking about is the cruise industry. Some of the cruise lines spend a fortune on direct mail, but only to their past passengers. I receive 2 or more brochures weekly from 2 cruise lines I have cruised with previously. I am amazed that this practice is considered cost effective, but one company president told me the mailings always pay for themselves.

    I wonder if they would not get a better ROI if they expanded their audience by mailing to new prospects.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 14, 2015 at 2:44 p.m.

    Better by not angering the people they are trying to reach. As soon as something is booked, you get sent a message that the same hotel/trip/pollution boat has now discounted prices and you are not getting them. That's one.

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