TORONTO — “Big ideas drive change.”
That’s one of the key lessons industry veteran Larry Klopot says he’s learned in his 30+ years of experience.
Here’s another lesson: “The industry has proven time and time again to have the organizational commitment to succeed, due mostly to the relentless attention from all stakeholders to stay customer focused and to keep improving.”
Of course the industry has never seen anything like COVID-19, and the challenges are still very real.
That means marketing may be the last thing on the minds of many travel retailers and suppliers as we look ahead to a second summer with travel restrictions still firmly in place.
But now is the time for marketing prep work, as the industry gears up for recovery this fall and winter.
As part of Travelweek’s ongoing Marketing Series, as the industry continues to grapple with the pandemic and its hurdles, we ask Klopot what questions he’s hearing from travel industry clients right now, misguided social media decisions, his take on influencer marketing and more.
Well-known from his years at Jade Tours, Thomas Cook, World Travel Protection and Deak International, in 2004 Klopot founded The B.O.S.S. Group, a digital solutions company specializing in digital design and development, digital marketing, tech solutions and strategy and consultations. Specialties include web and mobile based social media, user analytics, web design, and unique technology solutions.
1. What questions are you hearing from your travel industry clients right now?
Klopot: “Perhaps for the first time in a very long time, our travel industry clients are looking to achieve much more by applying technology to solve BIG issues and not just make small bite-sized tweaks to their marketing initiatives. Our clients are asking how to reach more potential clients and how to manage that relationship once they have made contact. We are seeing the need, again, for smaller footprint technologies delivering huge ROI, simplifying the pain-points of the marketing team, whether that’s better ways to address groups, new revenue sources from expanded ancillary offerings, rewards, offers. That comes with what seems like an annual review of email, salesforce automation and social media.”
2. What are some well-meaning but ineffective social media decisions you’re seeing from travel companies at this point in the pandemic?
Klopot: “Less so in the past year, but certainly early on, we know brands were struggling with making and keeping connections – and were using tactics that seemed to be ‘postcards from a beautiful place you can’t go’ rather than campaigns that were focused on the long game, with empathy, while seeding the future travel engagements.”
3. What do you recommend for social media strategies right now, for anyone selling travel?
Klopot: “There will be two main issues that social media strategies can be aligned to address. First, in leisure travel, as the U.S. is already seeing, there will be huge pent-up demand, and brand loyalty has been forgotten. Second, in business travel, the business need has severely diminished, likely for a very long time. Both issues require significant effort in social media, aligning brand building with improved traveller knowledge. We don’t expect everyone is aligning their socials to a customer data platform, but it is time to understand sentiments, play the long game, build your brand back up from scratch, and find ways to enhance the traveller’s planning process – it won’t be about bums in seats or heads in beds, but rather a smarter, more sophisticated social engagement, more than ‘Happy Monday, here’s a cat video’.”
4. Influencer marketing has been a powerful tool for many companies, but it can also backfire. How do you see influencer marketing evolving and stabilizing going forward?
Klopot: “Influencer marketing is still a powerful tool. Companies need to treat influencer marketing more tightly, knowing your influencer(s), what values they represent, probing their sentiment scores on key attributes that align (or worse, misalign) with your brand values. Influencers are being judged more on performance, and expecting to be paid for that performance. I’m not a big fan of the influencer FAM, paying to send Becky to Cancun to write about the dolphins. But, positioned properly, engaged with brand values, and delivered again with a smarter, more sophisticated campaign, perhaps as a tactic of a larger social engagement, we believe it can still be a powerful opportunity to leverage millions of followers, and their millions of followers.”
5. What 3 things can travel agents and suppliers do, with their website, or their social media, or whatever digital presence they might have, to position themselves well now that the recovery from the pandemic is hopefully in sight?
Klopot: “A) Freshen the look-and-feel. There is still too many tired looking websites out there. B) Make the traveller’s visit short, sweet and successful. Don’t hide the good stuff below the fold. You can use SEO tactics to get people to visit below the fold. Your natural visitors want simplicity! C) Treat your website, your socials and your email as three facets of each campaign. Even if it’s just a common banner, tie everything together and refreshen regularly!”