IN-DEPTH: As the online behaviour of consumers evolves there are some interesting technology developments on the horizon. EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta gets the inside track on one of the latest trends - ‘magnetic marketing’
Social, local, and mobile are lending a new dimension to the way marketers can reach and engage their customers. This can take a number of forms from spotting connections between consumers’ physical location and their behaviour to identifying how they share travel ideas with friends via social networks while they are on the move. For this reason travel companies are trying to be more customer-centric in the ways they target the audience.
Ron Callari, an expert in the social media marketing space, refers to the idea of tapping existing guests to let them become an extension of the hotel’s marketing force using social media channels.
Overall, from a specialist’s perspective, Callari still believes many industry consultants and thought leaders fall short in limiting their use cases to return-on-engagement (ROE) versus a true ROI. Talking about quantifying the value of social media, Callari refers to Foursquare and Flip.to as two examples. “With very different approaches, they both have tapped into a new marketing paradigm, I call ‘magnetic marketing’,” says Callari.
According to Callari unlike ‘push’ and ‘pull’ advertising, magnetic marketing is a by-product of the social medial space that bonds the seller and the buyer together in an intrinsic way to push past ROE, resulting in significant ROI. While Foursquare’s means to that end is ‘geo-location’ and Flip.to uses ‘time of purchase’, both tap into touch points on the brand-customer timeline continuum. “At the same time by traversing the same wavelength, the interests of buyers and sellers align and meld in a very natural way,” explains Callari, who assisted with the launch and the business development for Flip.to, a brand advocacy marketing platform for the hospitality industry.
Magnetic marketing is when the consumer and brand are drawn together at the right time and the right place, without the need for either side to take an aggressive action.
“Like a magnet, the customer and brand come together naturally because the mutual attraction is that strong,” says Callari.
For Callari magnetic marketing can work across all travel verticals including airlines, restaurants and airports. But for the highly competitive hotel market, magnetic marketing is a particularly powerful new construct that can make major contributions to online and mobile marketing ROI.
A unique approach
Magnetic marketing differs from traditional mass marketing by bringing the seller (hotel) and buyer (guest) together in a way that is natural, either at time of purchase or as the result of readers signaling their preferences when they visit a particular website.
It differs from push marketing because it is not pushing a brand’s messaging out to the masses like TV and billboards. It also differs from Web 2.0’s pull marketing and it goes beyond user-generated content. “While friends and followers can vet specific content or branding messages to help one make a buying decision, it is not until the buyer interacts with the brand on his or her own terms, that magnetic marketing can create the strongest of bonds between the two parties,” he says.
Explaining his point further, Callari says Flip.to is a social media service for hotels that demonstrates this paradigm by interacting with guests after they have confirmed a reservation for a hotel stay or airline ticket. At that point, the consumer is prompted to share their travel experience with followers on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn. In turn, that guest’s followers respond by telegraphing that message out to all their followers. In doing so a hotel has reached hundreds, possibly even thousands, of potential new customers that it could have never communicated with via traditional advertising channels. So Flip.to leverages social media to help turn guests into a hotel’s strongest brand advocates.
The process commences when Flip.to’s platform interfaces with the hotel’s booking engine and incentivises existing guests to become an extension of the hotel’s marketing force using social media channels.
On The Ave Hotel, a boutique hotel managed by Highgate in New York City, is among the many Flip.to clients that views the platform as a results-oriented means to facilitate organic brand advocacy. The early results were promising: in just two months of Flip.to participation, On The Ave registered 200 potential future guests as a direct result of the social networking platform’s interface with the hotel’s booking engine. In addition, the hotel was able to log 117 booked room nights in those first two months, equating to a significant return on investment.
Magnetic marketing is a relatively new business paradigm but Callari feels certain we will soon hear more about it as we start using some of the tools that are embracing this new form of customer interaction. “In the near future, I see augmented reality gaining more traction where its technology will only enhance magnetic marketing practices,” he says.
Going forward it is not hard to imagine the opportunities: take a restaurant, where you can find deals, compare local prices and get recipe suggestions for any product in addition to receiving geolocation offers, just by pointing your phone at it.
“In traditional marketing, we use to define revenue management as reaching the right price, for the right customer at the right place and time with the right promotion. With magnetic marketing, I would add ‘with the right technology’,” says Callari.
While the combination of push-pull advertising is still required by any effective marketing campaign, it seems a more comprehensive approach in today’s marketplace is the new combo of 'push-pull-magnetic' marketing.