Today, businesses live and die by ratings and reviews. Reviews have become so competitive and important to businesses that consumers have attempted to extort businesses if they don’t get what they want. On the flip side, businesses have accused online review sites of raising and lowering customer reviews based on advertising buys or lack thereof. This dynamic affects all service-based businesses. Recently, a Skift (a global travel industry news source) columnist encouraged readers to break out of the online review bubble where personal service is a better influencer.
The columnist credits Eric Hrubant and his CIRE Travel team for clueing him into one of Jakarta’s best kept secret hotels. It’s not that this hotel caters to rich and famous guests and privacy protection. It’s that the pay-to-play culture of search marketing today keeps smaller hotels off the internet grid. They get buried so far down in the search results, making them undiscoverable by the average traveler searching “Jakarta hotels.” The columnist writes, “…our cookies may be betraying us as we peruse travel online,” and that “It is hard to find objective, solid information.”
Giving and Receiving Solid, Educational Information
Eric wanted to take the bull by the horns when it came to CIRE Travel’s marketing strategy. Though tactics cycle in and out of popularity, CIRE’s brand position has remained steadfast since joining EAG’s roster in 2013 – concierge-style service in a world of online travel booking. Whether sending out an e-newsletter, adding a new page of website copy, or posting to social media, the message always stays true to CIRE’s brand position.
Education – not sales – is CIRE’s marketing focus. After 9/11, the travel industry’s business drastically decreased. Lack of travelers led to distressed inventory, and airlines and hotels were desperate to fill seats and beds. Travel booking sites cropped up online, and some consumers never spoke to a travel agent again. But that’s okay. Those are not CIRE’s target clients anyway. Considering Tzell Travel, to which CIRE Travel is affiliated, is a $23 billion company, there are plenty of travelers who prefer the value of personal service over online stars and reviews.
“I own a service business. It just happens to be in travel planning,” states Eric, “My team and I are our clients’ advocates and allies. Anyone who is traveling for business, or taking their once-in-a-lifetime luxury vacation or honeymoon, really needs someone on their side who will be the superhero when there are delays, lines are seemingly a mile long or reservations are lost or require changing. For clients who’ve strolled right past those problems and arrived home in time for their kid’s performance, or a critical meeting or their anniversary, using CIRE to book their travel is non-negotiable. They believe in the value of our service.” CIRE’s marketing champions their clients whether regarding travel insider tips, favorite places or favorite things. They all boil down to travel intelligence, which clients like to respond to, forward and share.
For non-believers, facts are not easily dismissed. Take for example these simple social media posts:
Not to mention the time an airline cancelled a flight from New York to Fort Meyers and directed passengers to find a customer service agent. CIRE’s client called Eric. He had her rebooked on another airline and the cancelled ticket refunded within three minutes. That is service that no online travel site can possibly match. Nor can they offer CIRE Travel’s industry connections. Eric explains, “We have personal relationships with key connections in the travel industry. This gives our clients ‘unofficial membership to the masters of taste’ in dining, accommodation and more.”
Marketing strategy that focuses on service and education versus $99 flights isn’t just aligned with CIRE’s brand, but also it works. CIRE Travel has steadily grown and recently opened an office in Los Angeles in addition to its headquarters in New York City. Eric was selected to be featured in a video for VISA Small Business Spotlight and has been quoted in the New York Times and numerous other publications.
Effective marketing is what resonates and matters to your clients, not SELL, SELL, SELL. In an age of digital marketing, personal, five-star service still matters.