In this extensive interview feature, Mike Newman talks to Amy Moore about his early career aspirations, the birth of b2me Tourism Marketing and his future ambitions.
It was a scorching summer day in July when Mike and I met at a petit Costa Coffee Café outside The O2 Arena. Mike prides himself on his personalised approach to networking, detailing an unlikely development into the travel industry through multiple friendship connections. Mike speaks about how his early career influenced the development of b2me Tourism Marketing.
“I am a professional, passionate, consultative person who has spent the last 15 years trying to create something that is coming into fruition. I am a Londoner at heart who lives in the country, with a really good work/life balance. My background and career choice were completely independent. I grew up in London and initially wanted to be a Doctor. I did a degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Child Development. I thought I was going to be a Child Psychotherapist. Instead, I found myself working via a friend for Shakespeare’s Globe, in their education department.
“I became incredibly interested in the way they attracted groups and how they worked to engage with local schools and to members of the public. I ended up working in telesales, within the area of pharmaceuticals, which worked well with my psychology background. I learnt a lot about consultative selling. This led to being asked to work for a mapping company; selling advertising around visitor guides for UKinbound (formerly BITOA) and VisitBritain. I was the Sales & Marketing Manager on both of those projects. This eventually led to b2me.
“I had a variety of travel and tourism contacts I’d made through selling advertising, but sales wasn’t what I wanted. I spoke to people about my idea. No one else was doing it in the industry and I got a lot of very sage advice. I got a lot of fairly strong warnings. But by knowing what not to do, you can avoid it. Everything else you learn as you go. I recognised very early on that being called ‘Mike Newman Consulting’ was never going to be the way to grow a business.
“In 2003, everyone was talking about Business to Business (b2b) Marketing. I always thought it was more personal than that. That’s how the name b2me came up. b2me was built from the ground up. There was nothing like it, and the people that I’ve learnt from and the people that I’ve worked with have all added to that pot of knowledge and passion.”
B2ME TOURISM MARKETING
Since it was established in 2003, Mike has assumed the role of Managing Director for b2me Tourism Marketing. Last year, the company celebrated its 10th anniversary. Based in London, b2me functions on the basic premise of ‘engagement and understanding,’ focused on specific areas and markets within the travel industry.
“Tourism Marketing is about creating an experience. Whether I’m pitching to a Product Director or training call centre staff, they have to understand and they have to engage. That ‘light bulb’ moment is what I try to encourage. If you work for a tour operator and your job is to pick up the phone, your goal is to confirm that sale and to provide answers for whatever the consumer wants. I understand that pressure completely. I’m very much of the perspective that within b2me, I do the things I’m good at and others do the things that they are good at. We work together to achieve a common goal, which is to run a successful business.
“Andrew Macnair is an extremely experienced arts and cultural marketer. We came together when he was running his own consultancy business and did a small project together for Visit Britain. It was good that we had the opportunity to work together. Andrew is now based in Glasgow where he runs our new Scottish office. It’s going to be an interesting year for Scottish Tourism. We have a presence and we will be there to support the travel industry. The entire travel and tourism industry is based on relationships and it’s very much about helping people to understand; did you know this and does it matter? When we present to tour operators, within the UK & abroad, we have a different message that we tailor to groups or individuals. We know that groups have less free time than individual travellers. It’s all about knowing our markets and knowing our clients.
“For b2me, our website is really a shop window to showcase our products and services. For the GTOA, as a trade body mainly targeting the older generation, it has a different resonance and is therefore, managed in a different way. I’m probably on the wrong side of 40 to be good at social media (for example). I understand the principal, but it’s an area I have to constantly learn. One of the things I’ve learnt from being based in a home office is that you can do a lot in a day; much more than I could ever do in an office. I keep up by delegating what I don’t need to do to someone who could do it better. It’s etiquette more than anything. There’s always time in a day.”
With prior work credits that include undertaking the Sales & Marketing of maps and guides for UKinbound and Visit Britain, GTW asks what the future holds for Mike Newman, b2me Tourism Marketing and the Travel Tourism industry as a whole.
“Small group itineraries will come back. I don’t think that we will be seeing the large groups that we’ve had previously. Some of the new and emerging markets are very watch-and-see. It is sensible to continue to strongly engage with the overseas markets and it is becoming more about the value of people’s experiences and increasingly about the return of investment of both time, as well as money. People don’t want to feel like they are tourists. They want to feel like they are part of the place and space that they are visiting. We are so lucky that we can travel so freely. b2me is ongoing and those that know me will know that it’s something I eat, sleep and breathe. The passion at the core of it all will always be its biggest achievement.”
Catch Mike Newman at the Group Leisure Show, to be held at the NEC Birmingham on September 25, where he will be leading a seminar on Insurance and Liability for GTO’s at 1115hrs. For more information visit www.b2me.net
MIKE NEWMAN ON… SOCIAL MEDIA
“When it comes to social media engagement, I have seen businesses that use it well and have thousands of ‘likes’ and comments. There are lots of people who will engage, but they are mostly second-generation users, not digital natives. It’s a market where people need results, and in order to facilitate results, we need to have conversations with people where we know there is a call to action. That’s a world away from us putting a message out on Facebook saying that an exhibition is opening and getting people to like it. Smaller audience, better engagement; that’s the way I see it.”