My Interview with Heidi Barlow
Earlier this week, at the Marketing 2020 event, at the University of Derby, I was lucky enough to spend some time interviewing Heidi Barlow, the Marketing Manager of East Midlands Aiport, part of the Manchester Airport Group parent company.
Below is the transcribed interview, and above is the video of the interview, I gope that you enjoy it.
Thank you for coming here today.
Who are you, What is your background and how did you come to work for MAG?
I’m head of Marketing for East Midlands Airport, but my background is predominantly in retail. I previously worked for the Intu Shopping Centres in Nottingham and Derby and I moved into Aviation marketing around 2 and a half years ago.
I came to work for Manchester Airport Group partly because I’m interested in aviation because I feel it runs through my blood. My grandfather was an RAF pilot during the [second world] war and my father pilots microlights.
So its of personal interest to you as well?
Heidi: A little bit, yes, probably not as as fascinating to me as it is to the men in my family, but I think aviation is just an amazing industry. The fact that you can get a metal cylinder off the ground and to other places in the world really is fantastic.
What do you think is the most crucial factor that a passenger would consider when choosing which airport to fly from?
So I think passengers are very different from each other, and they all have their own personalities and reasons why they choose things but the two things that always crop up for us is the destination that they want to get to is a big factor, unfortunately you cant get to Australia from East Midlands Airport for example. Another major factor is the cost of Low Budget Airlines such as Ryanair who have really hammered down the cost of flying.
Personally, as head of Marketing, I’d really like people to choose an airport because of what we can offer from a customer experience Point Of View. The brand positioning
element of it is important and something we are working on specifically at EMA at the moment.
What role does Social Media play in the everyday running of MAG airports?
Social Media is a huge part of what we do every day. A recent example are the snow closures yesterday. Social Media played an integral part in how we communicate with our customers. People now expect to get immediate information to their mobile device, so we of course
must be able to do that. Whether this information is from the airline, which could just be a promotional message or whether it’s a service announcement to explain that the runway is closed. Everyone is expecting it nowadays and if we weren’t part of that forum then we’d be completely behind the times.
Leading on from that question, when flights are cancelled or changed, do people rely more on MAG’s Social Media, or the Social Media of airlines themselves?
What we’ve found over the last year is, that because our social media is so good, and we reply to anyone within around five minutes of them asking their question, people rely on us a lot more than they do their own airline. Using yesterday as an example, we were actually sending social media messages from our homes and we were able to tell people within the terminal updates that they couldn’t find within the building, and that’s how quick social media is now, and how big a part of our lives that it is. People really see it as a good source of correct information.
What would be your number 1 piece of advice to anyone looking to get into Aviation Management?
From an aviation management point of view there are many courses that people can attend and take exams, from a marketing perspective then there are different marketing courses, and as you probably know [as a Digital Marketing Student] you can absolutely adapt that to every industry that you work in. But most importantly it is about having that passion for aviation. If you don’t have that passion for travel and aviation then it is pretty pointless seeking a career in aviation management.
Where do you see the Manchester Airport Group in 10 years, in terms of expansion and the relationship with customers, Airlines and suppliers?
So from a customer service point of view, across Manchester, London Stansted and EMA, were really gearing up to the new technology we need to adopt in order to target customers in the right way and give them the right information. For EMA, we hope to grow to 10 Million passengers per year, were currently at 4.8 Million. We also want to carry on growing our large Cargo operation out of EMA too. In terms of MAG, across the world, were already in the US with our escape lounges and we want to look to increase our airport exposure across Europe as well.
Are you looking to take over existing airports, or to have a presence as part of a joint venture?
Its probably a mixture of the two, so in the US for example, all of the Airports are owned and operated by the government and in the future they may privatise them, and should they privatise them we are already operating in the country with our lounges to potentially be able to take one on.
What do feel the effect that companies like SkyScanner, Expedia and Kayak have had on your industry?
They make it much more accessible to people, and they’re able to obviously compare prices. But the downside to that is they’re able to look at the lower prices from other airports, so if something is cheaper it means it has an impact on the airports within MAG. So in comparison to a few years ago where you would just go to your local travel agent and say ‘I want to fly from my local airport, where can I go?’ it’s now completely flipped on its head, and its more ‘this is my budget, where can I go for my budget and which airport can I go from?’. But, like all sorts of new technology and digital innovation, its just about giving the customer the opportunity to visit more new places around the world, and enjoying those different places with their friends and family.