The Value of Intent-Based Audiences: Grandma Likes Beer, Too!

Everyone loves vacation. However, vacation means something different to everyone. Some people like to hike, bike, and sweat. That sounds like hell to other people. The reasons why people choose to travel differ. And guess what? Those reasons have nothing to do with how many candles were on your last birthday cake or how fat your wallet is. The 1950s called and they want their marketing strategy back. Use intent-based audiences instead of demographics.

Targeting people by age, race, income, or gender alone isn’t just old-school. It’s ineffective. Building your marketing program around antiquated perceptions of people based on their demographics is a huge missed opportunity. That type of strategy disregards people who would be interested in visiting your destination.

Using intent-based audiences will maximize the visitations. By focusing on WHY people travel, you will reach travelers who travel based on their interests—like beer-loving grandmas.

As a full-service agency, we infuse intent-based audiences into every element of our partners’ marketing. From strategy to creative to media, every element will benefit.    

Successful Strategy

Build your strategy around why people travel. This approach leads to tactics that more strongly resonate. Your storytelling will be more engaging. Your media plan will more effectively reach people. The entire experience will speak directly to the decision making factors of your target audiences—leading to more trust and higher conversions. 

For example, our partner Atlanta CVB wanted their website to have a more personalized experience for their users. We began by analyzing the different reasons people visited Atlanta, and segmenting their target audience into eight intent-based audiences: 

  • Family Vacation
  • Last-Minute Weekend Getaway
  • Off-the-Beaten Path Experiences
  • Culinary Tour
  • Arts and Culture Trip
  • Sports Fan
  • Attending a Conference
  • Meeting Planning

From there, everything we did was built around these eight intent-based audiences. We tailored the site map to these audiences and created content that spoke directly to why they travel. Then, we integrated personalization technology that would recommend content to users based on how their behavior on the website. This strategy led to higher engagement from users:

  • 58% increase in pages per session
  • 30% increase in page views
  • 7% improvement in bounce rate
  • 6% increase in average session duration

Adjacent Advertising

Using intent-based audiences to build out your digital marketing strategy allows you to capture prospective traveler’s attention adjacent to what they are already doing. For example, someone shopping on Amazon for hiking boots would see destination specific hiking ads. The adjacency of the ad to their actions in that very moment improves performances and lowers the interruption threshold that advertising often has.

You can then move from that captured intent to expanding their view of multiple other activities they could engage with in the destination. You grow their intent by connecting them to adjacent intents—hiking and breweries; wine and fine dining with quiet beaches; etc. Once you understand their original intention to travel, the broadening of activities helps encourage travel to the destination during their consideration phase.

Engaging Creative

Your storytelling will be more engaging. Guided by your audience’s interests, you will know what destination attractions to highlight. Your creative assets and content will be tailored to speak directly to people’s travel interests. This compels people to see themselves in your destination. 

For example, our partner Visit Independence was creating a new Paranormal Path campaign. The campaign highlighted three allegedly haunted locations. In the process of developing storytelling for the campaign, we saw an opportunity to create content that would resonate with Visit Independence’s “history buff” intent-based audience. 

We consulted with local historians and created a dynamic blog post that told the real-life stories behind the hauntings. We developed a presentation layer that integrated period photography and old newspaper clippings. This gave readers the ability to investigate the people who inspired the ghost stories. Our work on Visit Independence’s Paranormal Path campaign was awarded a 2020 Gold HSMAI Adrian Award in the integrated marketing campaign category for its overall destination marketing excellence.

Smarter Media Tactics

Intent-based audiences lead to more impactful media buying. Budget won’t be wasted targeting people unlikely to visit. Just because a person seems like they were grown in a lab to perfectly match your target demographics doesn’t mean they will want to travel to your destination. Targeting people by likely to visit is a smarter use of resources. 

For example, our partner Traverse City is located on Lake Michigan. Their destination’s top experiences are related to outdoor recreation. So, we created an intent-based audience that included people in key drive markets who had recently purchased outdoor recreation equipment or showed interest in outdoor recreation based on their online behavior. This audience was then targeted with outdoor recreation specific creative and CTAs—generating over 26,000 attributed room nights during the summer of 2020.

Bigger Impact

Cavemen marketing programs built around demographics alone must evolve. Creating intent-based audiences around the reasons why people travel is more effective and efficient. Developing your strategy around them will lead to:

  • Smarter media tactics that reach people more likely to visit
  • Better leads that cut across gender, race, and age
  • More engaging storytelling that strongly resonates
  • Less wasted budget that was previously spent on targets unlikely to visit

Added together, intent-based audiences drive a higher ROI and maximizes the collective impact your organization has on your community. That calls for cracking a cold one with Grandma!

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