Swedish business aviation marketplace says content marketing is just the ticket
"Avinode is a marketplace for business aviation," explains Alex MacRae, Head of Marketing and Head of Customer Experience for the aircraft chartering platform which has brought the technology and usability of marketplaces such as booking.com and eBay to business air travel. Avinode Group provides a marketplace for aircraft operators as well as travel booking brokers.
Avinode Group is a technology and data partner for the business air charter industry, its cloud-based ecosystem helps charter brokers, operators and flight departments. The Group's portfolio includes Avinode, Schedaero a flight operations software and Paynode a business flights payment platform.
"It is a very unique business. We are a technology business building softwares that happens to be in this unique industry," she says of how the technology company derives its revenue not from selling the software, but from the actions that take place as a result of the software; making Avinode a classic platform business.
"As an aircraft operator you list your aircraft with Avinode and there is a fee," MacRae explains from the Avinode Group Gothenburg headquarters.
"We were a disruptor 15 years ago, as there was not a technology based platform for this type of business," she says. Avinode has digitised a market that once relied on a paper guide and an analogue phone call.
"We have managed to change how companies booking aviation work and therefore we have influenced their workflow," but the marketing leader is honest to admit that a complete culture change to the digital model they offer "takes time".
Although the culture change has not fully taken off, Avinode is pushing ahead with developing new technology solutions that the CMO is taking to market. MacRae explains payment solutions are being developed in close collaboration with the customer base "to make sure we get it right".
Collaborating with the customers will benefit from a new in-application communications module.
Fog delays departure
Talk to airline operators, airports, business travel procurement leaders or the corporate travel sector and you will hear a common refrain - the travel sector, which is awash with data, lacks transparency. This lack of transparency is, they all say, holding their sector back. Avinode is no different.
"As a company we try to be transparent about why we do things the way we do and we would like that transparency to come back to us, but a lot of companies are sitting on information they just do not share. When we talk to our customers we get the same pain points back," she says.
MacRae is typical of the modern approach to technology marketing, the traditional role of bringing in leads and building the brand is important, but so too is a responsibility to maintain and deliver services to existing customers.
"We have to care about the customer lifecycle, we cannot just drop them off. What gets promised has to be delivered and we have to make sure that customers are happy to keep doing business with us," she says.
"We have a marketing team of five and I am also responsible for our customer services team and the two are blending into a customer experience group," she says. The small marketing team each has a special focus, such as content, leads, events, conversion and retention.
"I don't believe in a general marketer anymore. I think you are specialised based on your interest and if the team members have a high interest then that is where they need to grow," she says of building the team's skill set. "It is so important to keep good people."
MacRae says it is vital for her and her team to be close to the product and that content marketing is one of the most useful mechanisms for this platform to reach a new audience. "What is most successful is material that helps the consumer, it cannot be a direct sale. We have seen a high interest in thought leadership articles on what is relevant to business aviation. That content has to be optimised and that is really important," she says.
"Customer experience is a very important aspect of marketing. If you neglect it, you make your job a lot harder. For instance, you could create a new logo, but have no idea if the customer would stay loyal to the brand with this new change. At the end of the day, we're all here for our customers and we should all make sure we create as little friction as possible in customer experience.
"I have moved away, a bit, from KPIs to focus on engagement and retention, which is more important. As a result we are implementing a customer satisfaction score alongside the traditional net promoter score," she says of the blend that is leading towards customer experience.
"We need to manage the campaign return on investment, but what is more important is the effect it has on the customer and the behaviour change from the interaction," she says.
"It all depends on the type of metrics and the type of business that you're in. You have to identify the right type of metrics for your company, to make sure they're relevant.
At Avinode we are looking at NPS but are now also implementing CSAT customer satisfaction score and CES, which are more tangible and easier to trace, allowing us to act on them quicker."