Many UK tourism businesses who cater to the international market have some big questions on their hands ahead of summer 2021… Do I re-position my business for the UK market? And if I do, is it a temporary measure? How do I promote this successfully without alienating my current target market? There is a tightrope to walk in order to make a profit this year without damaging your future business prospects.
Although this blog focusses on a specific reason for re-positioning, many of the principles outlined here can be applied in a variety of circumstances. For instance, a lot of people are now offering their services over zoom meaning they are delivering services out-with the UK.
Many tourism businesses have spent years building their social media following by speaking directly to a very specific target market through their organic content on Facebook and Instagram. If all of a sudden you switch to speaking about ‘staycations’ and ‘mini-breaks’… it is going to confuse your current followers. They will be therefore less likely to engage with your content and may unfollow you. Furthermore, it is unlikely that you have a big UK following, so putting out organic content on your existing accounts won’t reach the right people. So, what do you do? I’m going to go over a few options for tackling this tricky issue.
The first thing you have to ask yourself is whether or not you want to market to UK customers long term? This will affect which option is best for you. Chances are you will be able to bring back your international customers in 2022 (let’s hope!) and it is hard to say what will happen to the staycation market in 2022 and beyond. Perhaps we will all fall in love with touring our home country, or maybe we will all be desperate to jet off for some sun as soon as we are allowed.
Paid Advertising and a New Landing Page
The most straightforward option is to use paid advertising via your existing social media channels and create a new page within your existing website. This is a good option for those who aren’t sure if they are ready to commit to providing to the UK market long term.
The first step is to develop your new UK based target market – just like you have a specific target market for your international consumer, you need to be specific with who you are marketing to in the UK. You don’t have a great deal of time to research and figure this out (unless you have already started.) So I would recommend ‘sticking with what you know’ and choosing a target market similar to your existing international market. This will also mean that if your new target market does come across your organic content and takes a tour of the rest of your website, hopefully what they find won’t be too far off what they are looking for.
Once you have chosen you target market, you have to really commit to it. Create Facebook/Instagram ads designed specifically for them (don’t just re-purpose your old ads to save time). However, assume you know nothing about these customers and set aside a decent testing budget.
Spend your first few weeks putting some time and effort into AB testing of different imagery and ad copy and do vary your target demographics too. (AB testing is where you run two ads at the same time which are exactly the same except with one tiny difference). Do this over and over to test smalls changes. Really view testing as an ongoing process – even if you think you have figured out the ‘perfect’ ad, keep running two consecutive ads with slight variations and study the results.
When you are creating ads think about the options for the action you want consumers to take e.g. are you trying to promote the post, trying to get more page likes/profile visits or do you want them to go to the website? I would recommend sending them to a new landing page on your website, created specifically for your new UK customers. Yes, this will take a bit of work, but it is worth it!
Be really aware of using the right keywords on this webpage and optimise it for this target market e.g. if you usually target the American market, you may use the word ‘vacation’ regularly within your website so focus more on ‘holiday/staycation’. Although synonyms are generally useful for Search Engine Optimisation, using Americanisms could put some UK customers off.
Also think about how you talk about your products. Remember your UK consumers may arrive by car, whereas international tourists have probably flown in. UK consumers could be holidaying anywhere from a couple of days up to two weeks… whereas your international clients are likely to travel to the UK for 10 days plus. Think of this landing page as the home page for your new clientele and put as much care and attention into it as you do your actual home page. By sending people who see your social media ads directly to this page, you are helping them ‘skip past’ the organic content on your main social media profiles which hasn’t been designed for them
All Brand New!
Another option of course, is to start from scratch; create a new website, new social channels and new products for your new market. This, however, will take a lot of work. If you want it done in time to bring in any 2021 customers, it will require a decent budget and outsourcing to a company that can create a great website… fast. For many tourism businesses the financial implications of this may be too great, but if you have any cash left over from digital or bounce back loans, this could be something to consider.
I would really only recommend this option if you are planning to market to UK consumers long term alongside your international consumers. It takes a lot of work and time to build authority on google for your new site, and to build a following on new social channels. In order to make sales this year, you will have to have a budget for great social media ads and search engine advertising . Unless this is something you are really good at, I’d recommend hiring a PPC Google Ads expert. Google Advertising isn’t an area I specialise in, but I can put you in touch with other marketers who do.
If you choose to go down this road, you might want to consider hiring a strategy specialist who can examine your marketing plan as a whole and give advice. While you may have to make some quick decisions on your target market for summer 2021, it would be wise to invest time and effort into researching who your target market will be long term. Unlike in the first method, they don’t have to be in any way similar to your international customers because they are less likely to end up on your existing website/social accounts. You can even give this part of your business a new name/brand to avoid any confusion.
Before you start marketing in earnest with paid advertising, make sure there is plenty of content on your new social media channels. You don’t need lots of new photography or videos, you can re-purpose much of the content you already have on your existing accounts to fill up your pages. Just change up the copy and hashtags so it suits your new target market. With this method, your social media ads can be set up to direct your consumers to both your new website and your new social media profiles.
Reposition your Existing Tourism Socials and Website
A final option is to completely re-position your existing socials and website. This could be a consideration if you have decided that you are not going to return to the international market or if you feel you can successfully target both UK and international clients with the same content. Depending on your product, the latter may be possible. For instance, if you own a hotel, then focus on a precise ‘type’ of consumer who will book rooms, rather than where they come from. However, if you run multi day tours, then the products you would offer to international clients vs UK clients are probably too different to market together cohesively.
If you decide to focus solely on the UK market moving forward, this method would involve re-designing your website and your social accounts to speak to your new UK target market. This may seem easier that re-creating everything from scratch and if you have a well-established website and social channels it could be the best choice.
However, do be prepared for a period of brand confusion. Your existing followers will engage less with your content and it will therefore be shown to less people. Paid ads are a way to bring more new customers to your existing page, but this will take time and for a good while you are likely see a dip in engagement and success on your social channels. You will have to put in a lot of work to rebuild them for your new market.
Hopefully this blog has given you some food for thought to help you with your marketing strategy. If you feel like you need some support with re-positioning your social media, get it touch and we can discuss how I can help. The staycation market is set to boom this year, and despite our best wishes, this will likely trickle into at least the beginning of 2022. So, strike while the iron is hot, and make the most of the next year. Best of luck!
Katie Mullen Digital Marketing – putting the passion back in your business communications