According to Destination Analysts, 30% of travelers plan on going somewhere new on their next trip. This is great news for brands fearing loss of market share due to travel concerns because it opens the door to a new audience of prospective visitors.
My recent articles have discussed other consumer behavior trends within the outdoor recreation and tourism space – most notably the growing number of Americans who are ready to start traveling again, and the increase in consumer willingness to drive long distances. When putting all these pieces together we gain a clear picture of an emerging consumer persona; one who is hungry for adventure and excited about the idea of experiencing something new.
With that in mind, brands should be asking themselves an important question: Is our current brand positioning aligned with consumer demand and presented in a way that helps us stand out from competitors?
This type of internal brand evaluation should be regular practice, but it’s especially important today as markets reopen and growth opportunities arise. So, for those organizations looking to adapt and evolve within the ever-changing competitive environment, I’m here to share our strategic approach to brand positioning:
Step #1: Data Inventory Assessment
Combine, organize, and analyze the customer insights data you already have.
Too often we see our clients allowing the valuable insights they currently have to sit unused. Whether it’s because those insights are buried in high-volume data sets or they’re hidden in a library of fragmented data files, this resource can easily be brushed aside and forgotten.
Before getting started with any new project we ask our clients, what do you currently know about your customers? More times than not there’s a high-level, general understanding of key persona attributes, but there’s always the underlying truth that “we don’t know what we don’t know.”
This is why a Data Inventory Assessment is so powerful; because we dig into the known which helps us identify the unknown. Equipped with an itemized list of data types, customer profile elements, and a number of other insights sitting beneath the surface, we’re able to establish a clear set of next-steps in a way that maximizes value and efficiency.
Thinking in terms of customers who are seeking new experiences, forming detailed customer personas based on the insights you currently have will serve as a starting point for identifying how these customers have changed over time. As new details and insights are gathered, we can benchmark against this persona and identify changes in preference or purchase behaviors. By identifying these changes, we’re able to examine your current brand offerings and value propositions to ensure they align with what customers are looking for today.
Step #2: Market Mapping
Gain a holistic view of the environmental, competitive, and disruptive variables within your marketplace.
Sometimes we’re blinded by familiarity. This happens when we’ve been somewhere for so long, we lose sight of the smaller details that are having a big impact.
It’s like when we invite someone new to our home and they notice little details we completely forgot about or hadn’t noticed. Those fresh eyes and fresh perspective can point out things that were right in front of us the whole time, but we had been overlooking. This highlights the value of Market Mapping.
A detailed and thorough review of the surrounding environment will identify emerging trends, shifting consumer behaviors, new competitors or disruptors, and a number of other variables that may be sitting in blind spots. By clearly defining and understanding the marketplace as it exists today, we’re able to pinpoint where we currently fit within the matrix of variables and determine where we want to be in the future.
This step is especially important as markets reopen since the world as we knew it no longer exists. Without a thorough reevaluation of the landscape, there’s a great risk of making decisions based on outdated presumptions, succumbing to unforeseen pitfalls, and missing impactful growth opportunities. Furthermore, direct and indirect competitors may be different than they once were; so regarding strategic brand positioning, an updated perspective is vital to future success.
Step #3: Voice of Customer
Gather insights by actively listening to the target audience and apply the findings in support of ongoing decision making.
There are different methods and reasons for gathering customer feedback. So, what’s most important is regardless of how or when it’s done, the findings are applied directly to a specific objective. This integrated approach will ensure you collect actionable insights rather than just interesting observations.
Looking back to Step #1 for a moment, our Data Inventory Assessment gives us a clear understanding of the data we already have. Using this as a guide, we’re able to plan Voice of Customer research to build upon that data rather than repeating unnecessary steps, and provides benchmarks for performance tracking.
Having conducted Market Mapping as the second step, we’ve identified key aspects of our surrounding environment that warrant further investigation. Whether it’s a new competitor or a notable behavioral trend, we have specific objectives where customer feedback can be applied.
In regards to attracting new customers, we need to know how their preferences, perceptions, and expectations have changed over this past year. This is where we gather new insights to update and expand our customer personas.
Another area to consider is brand perception. In order to effectively position your brand, there needs to be a starting point based on how your brand is viewed in relation to the wants and needs of your target audience. As insights reveal the most important aspects of travel for customers, you must determine how your brand is perceived in those areas. Regardless of your intent or the true offering of your brand, what matters is how they customer sees your brand within the field of competitors. If they don’t like what they see, then they’ll choose an alternative.
Side note: whatever the purpose of your Voice of Customer project, it should be treated as a brand engagement opportunity just like any other. This means designing surveys and other feedback collection tools to align with your brand image. Rather than taking a “means to an end” approach, use this consumer touchpoint to reinforce brand identity and provide an experience that strengthens relationships.
Step #4: Readiness Toolkit
Harness and apply the power of data-driven insights by analyzing and reporting the most impactful customer insights.
The ultimate goal of the preceding steps is to create and deliver uniquely memorable customer experiences. In order to leverage data-driven insights in support of this goal, the findings must be clearly and effectively communicated to an audience of key stakeholders and decision makers. This not only requires a detailed understanding of the analysis itself, there must be a direct connection between what the data is saying and what that means in relation to brand objectives.
After results reporting, it’s time to put these insights into action. Here, we pull all the pieces together and develop a cohesive Brand Positioning Strategy based on what we now know about your customers, your market, and your overall goals. Working with a team of experts to build campaigns, create content, evolve value propositions, and implement updated processes will maximize efficiency and effectiveness.
While the initial focus of this article was on the travel and leisure industry, these concepts and principles apply to brands of any size, in any industry. For the past 35 years, we’ve been refining our approach to converting customer feedback into actionable insights. In doing so, we empower our clients to evolve their brand and achieve results that matter.
If you’re interested in learn more about how to capitalize on growing consumer interest, let us know. We’re ready to get started.