Marketing Ideas for Your Travel Agency or Tour Company
Reading time: 10 minutes
Do you live and breathe your travel business but struggle to market it?
Online travel marketing is tough. Competition is high, ROI can be low, and visibility is key. You probably prefer to run off on that tour you’re trying so hard to sell.
Managing your website content, bookings and documentation, reviews, newsletters and social media (to name a few) with little results to show for it, will burn a hole in your pocket and, understandably, dampen your spirits.
Hit pause for a moment and take a step back. Grab a pen and write down your ‘why’ because a large part of your business success will circle back to that. When your passion is perceptible, your brand will sell itself to the right customer.
Next, review your foundations and get to know the tools and tactics that you can use to fire up your marketing game.
First, understand your customers
How can you put a marketing strategy in place if you don’t truly understand your ideal customers?
Their demographic information is valuable, but beyond that, you need to ask yourself what drives them when researching, planning and booking.
What motivates them to travel? What frustrates them when researching and booking? Where do they find their information?Xtensio has a great free tool that will guide you through this process.
Define your top 3 customer personas and build your website, branding and marketing strategy around them. Always keep in mind how your ‘why’ and how you can harness that to appeal to your customers on a more personal level.
Then, look at your website
It’s important to consider if your site is dated, doesn’t play well on mobile devices, is cluttered with useless content or is slow to load. You can test the speed and performance of your site using Google’s Test My Site tool.
For all your good intentions your site may be well-designed but not optimised for clicks or conversions. That’s not your fault. It’s a job that requires industry knowledge and a specific skillset, so consider calling in a pro.
The bottom line with your site is this – you could be losing revenue every minute of every day if your website is not in its best shape. Here are a few steps you can take to address this:
Don’t ignore mobile devices when building or redeveloping your website. Up to 50% of your visitors are likely to browse your site from their mobile device. How frustrated will they be if they have to pinch and zoom their way around?
Track your visitors
Setup and manage Google Analytics for your site. It’s vital.
The data you collect will tell you so much about user behaviour – how they found your site, what pages they visited, how long they stayed and so much more. This data will be invaluable to your marketing efforts. If you’re not comfortable in this space, then find someone who is.
Simplify the design
The most successful online brands favour minimal website design that makes finding information easy. Does your site capture who you are as a brand and is it user-friendly? Is there enough content and a strong enough call-to-action to convert visitors into customers? User testing is a good way to understand the expectations and frustrations of everyday web users who visit your site.
Care about user experience
Is your website doing what you expect of it? Is it converting visitors and at what percentage rate? Do you understand what a 5% increase in site conversion will mean to your bottom line? Such an increase is achievable if you stop guessing and start using conversion testing software like Optimizely.
Write compelling content & copy
Okay, not everything you write is going to be compelling in that ‘oh my god, yes!’ kind of way, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Get a content strategy in place that helps you to sell your story, keep readers engaged and persuade them into action on your website, in your social feed and beyond.
Search engines love fresh content, so keeping it updated and relevant can drive your organic search engine ranking up. Assign a staff member to update the site regularly because a little effort will go a long way.
Stay tuned for our blog post ‘Content Writing for Travel Companies.’
Tie it all together
The bulk of your business and product info should be available at your site. Use your newsletter, linked sites and your social channels to provide a taste of what content can be found at your website, and link back to it. That way you never miss an opportunity to track and monitor traffic, and continually work to improve leads and conversions.
Next, understand micro-moments
Micro-moments are the moments when you DO SOMETHING; the moments when you turn to your phone or another device to watch, discover, research or buy something. These are the moments that shape your thinking. They are the moments when you make decisions.
Micro-moments are intent-driven, and for the travel shopper these include:
- I want to get away: Dreaming moments
- I want this trip to be perfect: Planning moments
- I want to book it: Booking moments
- I want to make the most of it: Experiencing moments
Graphic Design – get good lookin’
Design is your silent brand ambassador. You can put energy into staffing, strategy, campaigns and sales but poor design can see everything come undone.
If you haven’t already got a style for your brand (or it’s looking dated), call in the pros. A good designer will work with you to craft a style that will tie your branding together. Talk to the designer about your brand and help them to understand your ideal customer. There’s a lot to be said for colour psychology – different colours evoke different emotions.
Social media – get it right
Social media can be a cost effective channel for travel marketing. Choosing the right platform and putting a strategy in place is important. Consider your objectives and your target market carefully.
Like or loathe Facebook, it works for many
In my experience Facebook is still one of the best social platforms for travel agencies and tour operators in terms of driving web clicks. Yes, there is a lot of clutter you need to cut through but it can be done with custom audiences, boosted posts, testing and planning.
Use Facebook Insights to track, manage and alter your strategy in line with your goals. If you are time poor or want to delve a little deeper, nut out a social media strategy with an agency to maximise your investment.
Follow and learn from some of the more successful tourism operators.
Email marketing – work it baby
Your email database is one of your most valuable assets. Email marketing drives more conversions than social and search, as reported by Monetate.
You know you need a subscription form on your site, but do you understand why? Without it you miss the opportunity to invite visitors into your inner circle, connect with them again and, at some point, turn them into valuable paying customers.
Get to know the do’s and don’ts around subscribing, design, content, timing and split testing. A good newsletter will drive traffic to your site, encourage social shares and generate leads. If your current email newsletter design isn’t responsive, then you should build a new one.
Google Adwords & retargeting – be present
Traditional banner advertising on high traffic sites can be expensive and click-through-rates ridiculously low. But done right, Google Adwords and Retargeting will provide you with a positive ROI. This is because you can target those who have actively showed interest and intent to purchase your product.
Video & travel go hand-in-hand
Reading about travel destinations is one thing but watching a video brings is a far more immersive experience.
The good folk over at Hubspot report that, where both video and text are available on the same page, 72% of people would rather use video to learn about a product or service.
These days it is possible to produce a high-quality video at a low cost if you know where to look. Set up a YouTube channel for your business. Film snippets of your tours, staff holidays, famils, customer testimonials, how-to-pack guides, destination reviews – anything that aligns with your goals and your customer personas.
Your videos need to be optimised to keep people watching for as long as possible. If you’re embedding YouTube videos to your site, avoid slowing your web page speed down by generating a custom YouTube embed code.
Content marketing – share your knowledge
Yes, content is King. Producing engaging content should form part of your broader content marketing strategy. Understand your customer journey and how you might be able to use content to guide your visitors and convert more leads.
If you’re time poor engage your team to write blogs and web content – they are your front-line sales people after all. Your content does not always have to be long but it MUST be valuable and relevant to your audience.
Note: Check out Four travel companies who harnessed the power of content marketing.
Reviews & check-ins
The saying ‘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 reading reviews.
You can increase sales and maximise revenue via travel reviews, but how?
Make it easy for your customers to leave a review on sites like Trip Advisor and Expedia, your Google My Business page, social networks and your website. Most importantly, don’t forget to nurture reviews and respond accordingly if the need arises.
Reviews can not only increase consumer confidence in your brand and products, but such user generated content can help to boost your website ranking and boost conversion rates.
Mobile marketing – some options
Old-school SMS may seem outdated but it does provide penetration, at a low cost to your agency or tour company. 96% of SMS messages are read and most of them are read in the first 3 minutes from sending.
Be aware of more progressive mobile technologies including Augmented Reality (AR) and Near Field Communications. AR is a great innovation that expands the traveller experience.
NFC is all about proximity communication. It is the same technology that your customers use when they pay with PayPass from a mobile device. With a little creativity, you can implement NFC in your brochures, itineraries and more!
Progressive web apps – make it easier
PWA’s are touted as being ‘the future of mobile’ and something you might consider for your business.
In simple terms, PWA’s are websites that look and feel more like a mobile app. They load fast, look sleek and don’t require users to download an app. One of the great features is that you can also send push notifications to your visitors.
Live streaming – keep it real
Live streaming was once restricted to those with the means and the right technology. Thanks to the likes of Periscope and Facebook Live anyone with a smartphone can download an app and become a broadcaster. Live streaming is much more powerful than video because it opens up communication and enables real-time viewing and answers.
So how can you use it?
Tour providers can provide viewers with an opportunity to see their tours in action and ask questions by using Facebook Live. A cruise agency could broadcast from a ship inspection and invite clients to join them with questions as they tour the ship. A little planning will go a long way.
Chatbots – keep an eye out
Yes, chatbots are a thing. Is it something that your travel agency should prioritise right now? Probably not, but you should keep it in mind and monitor what the travel industry is doing.
Take a look at Chatbot4travellers for inspiration.
Leverage your suppliers – nothing new here
Are you maximizing marketing opportunities with your suppliers?
Lock in information nights and ask your suppliers to present or supply marketing material. Push them for exclusive value-ads for bookings made within seven days of the event. Wheel and deal for giveaways to share with your social media and newsletter subscribers on a monthly basis. Work the relationship wherever possible.
Digital Marketer & Content Enthusiast
Jac is a savvy digital marketer and content writer. She has over a decade of experience working with travel companies to improve their online visibility. Her days are filled with digital campaign management, website development and writing clever content. In her spare time she loves to travel (who doesn’t?) and perfect her Tim Tam Slam.