Define your product market fit with a top Etihad Airways marketer

Mark Vadgama has extensive experience building brands with a strategically focussed approach to the work he does. Beginning his career in London, UK he's worked for leading agencies and companies around the globe such as Landor Associates and M&C Saatchi. Mark is now based in Abu Dhabi as senior brand and marketing specialist at Etihad Airways. We managed to catch up with Mark recently to ask if his big brand experience can be applied to businesses of all sizes and levels. 


You have a wealth of big business experience with large budgets but in this age of digital disruption how can smaller independently owned businesses in the travel and tourism space stand out and attract the right audience on a limited budget?

In the world of modern ROI Marketing, getting your customer value proposition (your product) nailed is critical. Ideally, it needs to reflect the hierarchy of pains, needs, wants, expectations and motivations of your defined target audience. Steve Jobs recognised this. The features and benefits of your product / service should align to those pains, etc. From there, it's about creatively optimising the product story through the most appropriate channels. In other words, make sure you get the 'what' right before the 'how'. 75-80% of marketing strategies, campaigns and ads today underperform because they haven't address this. Big and small companies.

A lot of small businesses wouldn’t even know where to start to get a simple strategic marketing plan up and running. Where and how would you suggest they start a basic one for the the next 6, 12, 18 months…?

As an ROI Marketer, I use an 8-point strategy framework when developing strategy. There are a number of elements that ideally get done within each; but very simply, the 8 points are:

1. Business results - What KPIS does the business need to achieve (most notably revenue, profit, market share, ROI, customers)

2. PNWE - Defining the hierarchy of pains, needs, wants and expectations of the target audience

3. Targeting - What are the audience segment(s) being targeted? How big? Where?

4. Product CVP (pCVP) - Based on the PNWE, what's the product customer value proposition architecture (i.e. the umbrella, hero product and support product propositions that together make up the product)

5. Communications CVP (cCVP) - How is the product CVP translated into an optimised product story (messaging framework)?

6. How and where is the messaging framework brought to life (creatively) and through what specific assets / channels?

7. How will the effectiveness of the marketing be tracked?

8. How will the strategy be optimised (to address any areas of underperformance)?

With your combined creative strategy experience, business and leisure travel is there anything that stands out that accommodation business should be doing, or possibly more importantly stop doing to stand out and improve their reputation?

If you’re a relatively small player, establishing a clear and compelling proposition is critical. It's about being able to address two core questions: 1) What's so special about my product / service? 2) Why should someone want to buy it?

Sounds obvious, but it may mean shifting the battleground (to quote Sun Tzu) to compete on territory that's yours, rather than your competitors.

It comes back to what I'd call a 6-dimensional question: Which creative / media combination best delivers what I’m saying (cCVP), to my target audience, in order to achieve my business objectives, with the best Marketing ROI, within my timings?

Any practical secrets you’re willing to giveaway to help travel and leisure businesses attract more bookings?

That marketing performance, effectiveness and ROI is not rocket science. But it is science (and art). CEOs globally have defined modern marketing as: The science and art of generating business growth for the organisation, by 1) Generating more (profitable) customer demand for the current and future products of the organisation through spot-on customer value creation and delivery; 2) With the best ROI possible; and 3) While continuously growing and building the (positive) corporate reputation’