This is an updated post following on from my original published back in September 2010. I’ve been seriously humbled by the traffic and chatter the post has generated. Obviously there’s some awesome agency operators out there thirsty for knowledge.
So considering how fast the travel marketing landscape is constantly changing and evolving, here’s some fresh ideas.
Take a good look at your website…or build one!
Your website is the cornerstone of your marketing efforts. You can track and trace what’s working and what’s not, and promote new products almost instantly to a global audience. Some agencies argue that they have an older client base with no use for a website. That may ring true now, but how will you service the tech savvy travellers down the track?
Got a great website with no traffic or a website that needs work but you’re not sure where to start? Start with the foundations and work your way up. Is your site really capturing who you are as a brand? Is there enough content to convert visitors to sales? Is it user friendly?
Think responsive web design! You don’t need to look far to find stats about the increase in website visits from mobile and tablet devices. Is your website optimised for viewing from mobiles and tablets? Use our responsive website test to check now. At OnQ we choose only to build responsive websites for our clients, and it is for good reason. More on that later.
In terms of your website content be sure to offer an enticing reason for people to sign-up to your newsletter. Include a travel blog (discussed below) and social media ‘like’ buttons. Include a promotions page to encourage people to interact with your site. Encourage reviews and return visits.
Assign a staff member to update the site regularly – search engines love fresh content, and keeping it updated can drive your organic search engine ranking up. A little effort will go a long way with your website.
Social Media – Get it Right
The number of social media platforms available to travel companies seems to be growing by the day. Choosing the correct social media platform will depend upon your objectives and your target market.
Each business is different, so too should your social media strategy. The key takeaway is the word ‘strategy.’ A poorly planned and managed social media strategy can hurt your brand and dampen your spirits. So, sit down and compile a social media strategy or seek advice from an agency before you set about posting, tweeting and pinning.
Learn from some of the successful tourism operators on social media and identify what type of content is being shared. I can tell you right now that photos work a treat so you may want to look at Instagram and Pinterest as potential platforms.
Must read article - Travel Market Report.
Mobile Marketing – Get onto it
EyeforTravel’s consumer research shows that 20% of bookings made today in the USA are made via mobile with this number is set to rise. Other research from PhoCusWright says that nearly one in five online travel dollars will be booked via smartphone or tablet. Mobile transactions are becoming mainstream (link to Jac Mobile Blog – coming soon) in the travel industry, so can you afford to ignore this space? Sink.
Did you know that in Australia mobile phone subscriptions surpass our population?
Smartphone or not, one thing you can be guaranteed is that each and every handset will have SMS capability. Look into SMS marketing and be first to reach your clients with specials deals and updates. A key feature of SMS is the penetration – 96% of SMS are read, whilst 90% of them are read in the first 3 minutes.
There’s some other great mobile technologies that you should at the very least be aware of including Augmented Reality (AR), Near Field Communications (NFC), and iBeacons. AR will be a great innovation for tourism vendors particularly as it will expand on a traveller’s experience and open up opportunities for people wanting to market to them. NFC is all about close proximity communication. When we start making payments with our mobile phones in the same manner as we use PayPass now, it will be via NFC technology. The other is iBeacons, which involves transmitting geo-location triggered push notifications to people who have your mobile app on their phone.
Reading about travel destinations is one thing, but viewing video brings a destination to life and has the ability to send your business viral. Youtube has a plethora of useful tools that can improve your video popularity.
Set up a Youtube channel for your business. Get creative or outlay the funds to brand your videos. Encourage your staff to film snippets of famils, run a video competition through your database and award a prize for best travel video. This exercise does not need to cost you a lot of money, just a little time.
A great example of an agency engaging Youtube as a marketing tool is the STA World Traveller Internship. Do a Youtube search for STA World Traveller Intern and the results speak for themselves. You don’t need to get this fancy, but it’s a great example of how a little creativity can go a long way.
Blogging – Share your knowledge
If you’re time poor engage your staff members to blog. Your blog entries need not be long, but need to be interesting. Use this tool at every opportunity to let people know where you staff have been on famil trips, what their recommendations are and destination/travel tips. Run a competition to encourage your clients to blog and then post the winner to your website.
Reviews and Check-Ins
‘Reputation is revenue’ couldn’t be more apt. Olery reports that 81% of travellers find travel reviews important and 49% won’t book a property without sighting reviews. You can increase sales and maximise revenue with travel reviews, but how?
Encourage your clients to leave reviews on review sites like Trip Advisor and Expedia, on social networking sites and on your blog. This can have a double edged affect – the user generated content can help to boost your website ranking, whilst the review itself can increase confidence in your products and services, and boost conversion rates.
Keep check also on reviews that accompany check-ins on Facebook and Foursquare.
Most importantly – don’t forget to nurture reviews and respond accordingly if the need arises.
Leverage your suppliers
Nothing new here, but how many of you are not using your suppliers to their full potential? Lock in information nights and ask your suppliers to present and/or supply marketing material. Push them for exclusive value-ads valid for bookings made within a week of the event. Wheel and deal for giveaways to share with your newsletter subscribers on a monthly basis.
Choose your battles…
Choose your battles wisely. If you’re niche is discerning travellers with deep pockets then stick to it. Don’t start marketing budget products because monthly sales are down. If you’re a cruise agency, bundle other packages with cruise components to value add and parade your expertise.
Travellers love to share their experiences. Embrace this and reap the rewards.
If anyone has further travel marketing ideas, I would love to hear them. Alternatively if you would like to discuss my suggestions in reference to your travel agency please feel free to contact me.