I’ve long been impressed with Tesco’s sense of timing. Walk into any of its larger supermarkets and there – waiting near the entrance – you’ll be greeted with a range of products perfectly pitched for the time of year. Gardening tools in April, barbecues before a heatwave, Halloween outfits in mid-October. Often, you didn’t know you needed those items until you walked through the door.
That’s how your travel content should be. It may seem obvious that planning and buying holidays is, for the most part, seasonal too. But it’s surprising how many travel brands push their content at the wrong time of year – typically when they want to start selling their products, rather then when potential customers want to research or buy.
Obviously, adjusting to these natural rhythms takes work. So too does having the spare capacity to exploit unusual opportunities. But as we know from experience, good timing can lift results to another level - helping to increase your open rates, click-throughs and engagement significantly.
Here’s how to get your timing right.
Know your customers’ rhythms
How well does your content marketing team know your customers’ behaviour? The clues are already there – in your sales data, in the Google Analytics stats for your website, and in your feedback forms and surveys. But what if your editors haven’t been properly briefed about them? Carve out time to combine all the information into a user’s guide to your customers’ year. It’ll be an invaluable tool at planning meetings.
Your content marketers should also know what can change these rhythms. Most ski holiday specialists, for example, will tell you that when Christmas and New Year’s Day are on a Saturday or Sunday, Easter ski holidays are more popular than normal. Meanwhile, news of spectacular snowfalls in the Alps can stoke demand at odd times of the season. These are key selling opportunities. You don’t want to miss them.
Of course, experienced content editors will be well aware of seasonal trends in travel, but they’ll be thankful for the detail your data provides. And if your editors aren’t experienced, they’ll need a top-to-bottom briefing. That way, they’ll understand why, even though the sales team wants Christmas markets pushed in the September newsletter, they should wait until the weather turns cold. Otherwise, they’ll get dismal open rates.
Create a content calendar
Once you understand the shape of the year, you can start to plan your content calendar. First, establish the key phases of the year, and which ones are most likely to be fruitful for content marketing.
To revisit the world of the ski holiday specialist: no-one wants to hear about skiing between late June and mid-August, but many wintersports lovers have a light-bulb moment once autumn hoves into view. So you need to be ready to guide their initial research towards your products, and then tempt them in when they’re in the mood to book. You’ll need a strategy for the last-minute brigade too. They’re often obsessed by snowfall and pricing, so cater to those appetites.
Then, just before key departure dates (New Year, February half term, Easter), hit them with advice on how to travel, and how to have more fun when they’re actually away on the slopes. It won’t sell any more holidays in the short term, but it will generate goodwill and loyalty.
Be creative: but be ready to send simple messages as well
Don’t get down to the nitty-gritty of individual blogs/mail-outs until you know what themes you’re tackling and when. But when you do, be creative.
Remember, think like a reader, not a salesperson. For the most part, readers want to be entertained and inspired, as well as informed. However, just occasionally, nothing beats a simple, direct approach. “Last-minute summer holidays that won’t break the bank” is an email subject line that can generate a lot of traffic – provided of course, that it’s sent at the right moment.
Your content calendar should not be written in stone. Last-minute changes to exploit unusual conditions can bring good results. If winter is long and bitterly cold (as it was in the UK and Ireland in March 2018), and you’re selling holidays to the Med, then the public’s longing for warmth is a fantastic opportunity. So put aside whatever you’re working on and feed that need.
Don’t expect 100% success
Finally, don’t panic if some of your blogs or newsletters are duds. Publishing is not an exact science. The trick is to keep learning, and stay light on your feet. Accurately measured results are essential, as is taking the time to discuss them. But so too is looking ahead, rather than becoming obsessed with past successes and mistakes.
For example, just because one of your emails has just achieved a huge open rate, that doesn’t mean you should use the same style of subject line every week. That’s almost definitely a recipe for diminishing returns. You need to keep your content fresh and fun - otherwise your readers will get as bored of it as you do.