Train travel is the adventurer's unsung hero. With rail networks spanning the country from top to bottom, there are few places that can't be reached via train. The possibilities when boarding a train are endless, and it's this sense of adventure and potential that rail companies can harness in order to create and make the most of fantastic content.
Trains form the path to exciting events like family weddings or dream job interviews. They are the link between euphoric groups of friends and huge summer festivals, and they can even mark the start of a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. They help the elderly maintain their sense of adventure and independence, and are sometimes the first step in a journey to meeting up with a loved one. A quick browse of rail brand websites like Northern Rail, East Midlands Trains and Cross Country Trains shows brands missing a content trick in its simplest form – they share a lack of people-focused imagery and content, missing the opportunity to make an instant visual connection with potential customers.
Trains are more than just a means of getting from A to B, which your content strategy should seek to bring to life through storytelling, a focus on unique selling points and a personalised connection between your rail company and travellers as individuals. A strong content strategy that feeds into all stages of the customer journey, from wanderlust through to point of sale, can really help drive an increase in bookings.
A content strategy is the plan you use to best bring your brand to life – what you stand for, what you offer, why customers should choose you over competitors and how you can make their lives better. The things that make your brand unique and worth choosing are the things your content strategy should focus on.
It doesn't matter whether you use video, written content, interactive content, images or user-generated content. The most important aspect of your content strategy should be to be clear on what you are trying to say and what your objectives for the strategy are. How you bring it to life will then follow on naturally.
Spend time thinking about your marketing objectives and how they feed into your wider business goals. Driving more bookings is the ultimate end goal, but do you also want to raise awareness within a key segment of customers, or maybe you're trying to reach out to a new audience that you've not connected with before? Do your trains have new features or routes you're keen to promote?
Once you have your objectives clearly defined, think about how storytelling can help to bring your brand to life to meet your objectives. People are 22 times more likely to remember a fact that has been wrapped up in a story because they are memorable and help us understand messages better. Rail companies are in a fantastic position to make the most of the fact that 92% of consumers wish brands would tell more stories.
Every day, thousands of customers board trains for as many unique and personal reasons. Uncovering those reasons and learning more about the customer stories that sit behind train bookings is key to producing unique, authentic content that will resonate with your customers.
Virgin Trains recently used London Fashion Week to celebrate the diversity of its customers, bringing to life customer stories visually and through quotes on its Instagram page. This is a great example of using storytelling content to bring brand values to life and of using real-life customers to connect with potential customers.
Tracking an uplift in bookings is the obvious measure of success, but you should always also think about your objectives and the other key performance indicators that show that your storytelling content marketing is paying off. Use social listening tools to identify trends and themes, and carry out sentiment analysis – this will help gauge your audience's reactions to your content, and could help to inform where to take it next.
You could try incentivising customers to share their stories with you, to feature in your content marketing. Measuring their engagement will reveal how interested they are in what you have to say, and if your approach is working.
Rail companies are in a fantastic position when it comes to using content marketing to drive bookings. With reams of customer data at your fingertips, think about the best way to use what you know about your current customers to connect with potential ones through storytelling.
Greater Anglia is a good example of a rail brand trying to connect with its customers through storytelling, focusing on destination potential and using a 'discover' to engage customers into considering the possibilities offered by train travel. There's no way of knowing if its using customer data to drive its content creation, but we would recommend doing so in order to maximise engagement and bookings.
Learn more about the humanity and emotions behind train travel; why are your customers relying on your trains to travel and which important journeys are they taking? Uncover the meaningful destinations and potential scenarios that train-travel leads to and use these stories to bring your content marketing to life. By doing so, you'll create an authentic connection with your audience that will put your company front of mind when it comes to journey booking.