Three golden rules about the new world of travel marketingNewsBy Viewpoints | August 19, 2013Share This article was originally published on NB: This is a viewpoint from Josh Feuerstein, co-founder and chief product officer at Intent Media.Travel, the industry that pioneered loyalty programs, has eagerly embraced many of the newer data-driven marketing approaches and tools.Yet tried and true marketing rules remain in force. In fact, three of these "old" rules are even more important as we enter the latest brave new world of online marketing and segmentation.Rule #1: Always start with an objectiveThere has been a lot of loose talk lately that Big Data explicitly involves not knowing what questions to ask. That’s just not right and guarantees a lot of "interesting" but not particularly actionable findings.Simply, you should always start with a goal and then work backward into the data from there. Just because you have more data doesn’t eliminate the need to pick your objective first and then ask the data to help you get there.Even if the tools change, attracting more customers, improving customer profitability, and boosting customer retention remain core objectives.Rule #2: Marketing channels are means not endsWhy is it that every new marketing vehicle manages to get a waiver from this rule?Far too often we see marketers trying to prove they can make the latest shiny object produce results vs. treating channels as a means to an end. To that end, instead of doing a smart test of the new channel's actual merits, they roll out a big discount.The triumph of showing a nice response in the given channel overshadows the resulting margin destruction. Never mind that big discounts always produce a response.Should marketers really be in business to prove their vendors’ business models for them?Not everyone needs advanced segmentation and targeting, the newest, over-hyped way to send out a marketing message, to be successful.For example, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) has harnessed data to create a very powerful, targeted campaign to drive bookings. It drives into the loyalty program profiles and slice and dice the data to produce a set of finely tuned segments.It packages a series of staged point rewards to drive both bookings and loyalty.It went out and successfully delivered it through boring old email. Anyone who has followed IHG knows that they are adept marketers and not shy about working across formats and platforms. But they clearly get that marketers are nearly always best served deciding how to deliver the message AFTER they know what it is and who they want to reach with it.Rule #3: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the goodThis isn’t even a marketing-specific rule. And it’s one the industry rarely risked violating back in the days of "half of all advertising is wasted". But as data gets richer and the ability to target gets more precise, people are increasingly resurrecting the utopian vision of one-to-one marketing.Without a doubt, the explosion of data and tools to act on that data open up some amazing opportunities for marketers, particularly online.For example, it’s now possible to leverage the rich customer profiles many travel companies hold so that when you recognize a visitor on your site -- or even off it -- you can create an amazingly personalized experience for that visitor.But what about the 70%-80% of the time when you don’t recognize a given visitor? It would be a mistake if better data forced marketers into an all or nothing world.Some of the largest online travel sites are using predictive analytics to figure out the best content to put in front of a visitor to maximize the contribution per visitor, even when they couldn’t match that visitor to a known profile.It’s going to be a long wait for the Peppers and Rogers future to arrive. In the meantime, we can get the bulk of the value with far less work and without the massive privacy implications it would take to actually get there.None of this argues against trying new things and testing new approaches. If anything, these rules help ensure more actionable results from such tests.As the industry moves increasingly into the Big Data future it should be hugely comforting – if not at all surprising - that such practical and common sense rules still apply.NB: This is a viewpoint from Josh Feuerstein ,co-founder and chief product officer at Intent Media.NB2:Beach signpost image via Shutterstock.