What gets measured, gets managed.
This saying by Peter Drucker has become the battle cry of growth-driven marketers everywhere. But sometimes, with such a data-driven focus, I start thinking the only thing I can measure what’s successful, can all be found in Google Analytics.
I recently flew down to Los Angeles via Southwest Airlines to see my brother get married. There was great food to eat, great friends to see, and great places to go. Oh yeah, the wedding went well too.
But there was something else that also won my heart that delightful weekend…
Subtle Content Techniques Southwest Airlines Uses to Win Hearts
While staring aimlessly down the ramp to board the airplane, this poster caught my eye:
At first, I did not think much of it. I kept walking down the ramp when I saw another poster, just like it:
Did you catch what Southwest did here? Pure brilliance.
If you missed the brilliance of these posters, that’s okay. Let’s take a look at three ways Southwest Airlines nailed content marketing with these posters.
1. Southwest seizes an often overlooked opportunity.
When boarding a plane, in that brief moment, the passenger isn’t focused on their phone or buried in a book.
With nothing better to do, Southwest then educates their passengers how they stand out from the competition.
This is a primary goal of content marketing: educating your customers about the benefits of your service.
2. Southwest knew what airlines their passengers use.
There are 20 major airlines in North America and another 12 regional airlines. Instead of listing all of their competitors, Southwest focused on educating their customers how they stand out from the airlines that bargain shoppers use.
The other 25 airlines are not relevant to their target customer, so they don’t talk about them.
3. Southwest used content to increase customer loyalty.
A savvy content marketer knows getting new customers with content is just one of its many purposes.
Southwest isn’t expecting this poster to rank in Google. And if you check the hashtags on social media, you’ll see this poster doesn’t get shared much on social media.
What this poster does is it reinforces what makes Southwest airlines unique in the customers’ mind.
No checked bag fee. No fly change fee. No hidden fees. And if you use their loyalty points, you can fly for free sooner too.
If you see content marketing just as a tool to win a customer, you’re missing out on many other opportunities.
Take a look at this opportunity Southwest made use of, when I received my warm cup of black tea:
Southwest not only continues to educate their audience, but they bring in the product experience into their message. In other words, while I’m enjoying a refreshing drink (the product experience), Southwest uses that though to tie into their own message (i.e. no hidden fees).
Another brilliant move they made is bringing the offline experience to the online world. Here’s what it says on the cup:
One sip can make a world of difference. To learn more about how your enjoyment of Community coffee is making a difference, visit Southwest.com/coffee.
To top it off, the stir stick is in the shape of their logo. They could have saved a nickel using a boring, wooden stir stick (or a couple pennies more not including a stick at all).
But Southwest wisely saw this as an opportunity to reinforce their message: deliver a great experience, at a fraction of the price.
How to Apply These Multi-Billion Dollar Techniques to Your Marketing
Perhaps you are thinking, “That’s great Jason. But I do not run a multi-billion dollar company. Nor do I serve 145 million people a year.”
True. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t principles here you can apply to your business. Here are three lessons to take away from Southwest’s marketing:
1. Know your competition and what sets you apart.
Southwest Airlines is not focused on offering the lowest cost flights. Nor is Southwest focused on delivering the fastest flights, the most available cities, or the ultimate customer experience.
What sets Southwest apart is being world-class in two ways: great customer service, at a truly affordable price. They have a clear idea of who the competition is (cheap airlines that skimp on service, and high price airlines), and they educate their audience on how they stand apart from them.
This has led Southwest to have 43 years of profitability in the dog-eat-dog industry of commercial flight.
2. Focus on the lifetime value of a customer.
With the average passenger airfare costing $154.85 one way, it makes sense to spend a few dollars in delivering an exceptional experience.
More than likely, you charge more for your marketing services than Southwest charges per passenger. Why not take a few minutes this week to give your clients a better experience?
Increasing your customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%.
3. Share your message at every opportunity (and have fun doing it!)
Even if you have won a customer, that does not mean you need to stop providing education through your content.
Southwest airlines delivered their message through posters while waiting in line. Ramit Sethi links to relevant articles and educational press coverage in his online courses.
There are many opportunities to share your message. When, where, and how you deliver that message is up to you.
How Southwest Can Improve Their Content Game.
An easy solution would be to start a blog. With 76.5% of their passenger revenue coming from their website, there is a lot of potential Southwest is missing out on.
But for discussion purposes, let’s say Southwest was not interested in starting a blog.
1. Southwest should capitalize on winning customers from delayed flights.
In 2016, 16.7% of flights were delayed, 1.13% were canceled. If each flight carries 150 passengers, that amounts to 137,856,450 pissed off people that fly every year. Read that again: over 137 million people have a dissatisfying experience.
If we assume every airline carrier charges an average of $155 per one-way flight, that’s $21.3 billion worth of opportunity.
I admit most of this is out of an airline’s control, whether a delay is due to weather, security, or safety reasons. But that doesn’t mean Southwest can’t make the most out of this situation.
What if Southwest provided free activities for kids to enjoy? Happy kids, happy parents.
What if Southwest gave 1,000 free loyalty points? That’s a low cost, and may encourage more people to use their loyalty program.
Even just providing a free snack lets me know they are thinking of me.
2. Southwest should create more offline to online experiences.
Let’s do some quick math.
Southwest serves 12 million people every month. Let’s say only 1 in 1,000 people visit a link shared in-person, as they did on the coffee cup. That’s a free 12,00 visiting their site every month.
If 1% of those visitors buy another plane ticket, at $155 per flight, that’s an additional $18,600 in revenue a month, for just one link. Add another 10 links, and Southwest makes a cool $1,303,200 a year. These numbers are conservative and it’s pretty easy to find opportunities to add these links. And that doesn’t account for other added benefits, such as higher search engine rankings.
3. Southwest should consider doubling down on their content.
Surprisingly, I did not see any posters at the Las Vegas and Burbank airports. Again, this is an easy fix, so here’s a more innovative idea: What if Southwest considered how to improve more of the customer experience?
For example, many people travel when sick (I, for one, flew sick… and from the sound of it, perhaps another 8-10 people were hacking up their lung on the plane). The CDC reports that adults average 2-3 colds per year.
Southwest could provide complementary sanitary wipes and foam dispensers next to their gates. Maybe they go the extra mile and offer free orange juice at their ticket counter.
With a well-placed self-serve kiosk, Southwest can increase customer loyalty and win new customers who take advantage of these salesmen.
What are some unexpected ways you’ve seen companies do well at content marketing?
Perhaps you are not a marketer. But if you’ve been a customer, I bet you’ve seen other companies deliver great experiences.
I’d be curious to hear from you: What are some unexpected ways you’ve seen companies do well at content marketing?