Marketing Ideas for Your Travel Agency or Tour Company
Most travel business owners live and breathe travel, but not marketing.
Online travel marketing is tough. Prices are low, competition is high and effort is key so you probably prefer to run off on that tour you’re trying so hard to sell.
Managing your website, new deals and content, a booking engine, GDS, reviews, blogs, newsletters and social media (to name a few) with little result will burn a hole in your pocket and dampen your spirits.
Take a step back, review your foundations and get to know the tools and tactics to fire up your marketing game.
Travel Marketing Ideas (Quick Links)
Customer Personas | Website | Micro Moments | Graphic Design | Social Media | Email | Online Advertising | Video | Content | Online Reviews | Mobile | Leverage Your Suppliers | Live Streaming | Chatbots
First, understand your customer personas
How can you put a marketing strategy in place if you don’t truly understand your ideal customers?
Yes, their demographic information is important, but beyond that you need to ask yourself what drives them when researching, planning and booking. What motivates them to travel? What frustrates them? Where do they find their information? Xtensio has a great free tool that will guide you though this process.
Define your top 3 personas and build your website and marketing campaigns around them.
Then, take a good look at your website
We see sleek and contemporary sites that may not rank well in search engines, while others have poorly designed sites that are not user friendly.
There are a few basic things you can do to address this:
Do not ignore mobile devices or tablets 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 can collect will tell you so much about user behaviour – how they found your site, what pages they visited, where they left, 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 sales?
User testing is a good way to understand your the expectations and frustrations of everyday web users who might visit your site.
Start testing & care about user experience.
Is your website doing what you expect of it? Is it converting visitors and at what percentage? 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.
Tie your marketing efforts back to your site.
The bulk of your information should be available at your site, so don’t miss ANY opportunity to send traffic back to it where you can track, monitor and always work to increase leads. Sending a newsletter? Share only a snippet and encourage readers to click back to the site. Posting to social media? Same again. This goes for everything that you do.
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.
Next, Understand micro-moments in travel
Your marketing strategy should be capitalising on ‘micro-moments.’
They’re those moments when you DO SOMETHING; the moments when you turn to your phone or other device to watch, discover, research or buy something. These are the moments that shape your thinking and the moments when decisions are made. 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
Yes, design is your silent brand ambassador. You can put a energy into staffing, strategy, campaigns and sales but poor design can make 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 guide that will tie your branding together. Talk to the designer about your brand and help them to understand your ideal customer. Different colours and styles will work for different customers.
Once you nail down your brand identity, use it everywhere and anywhere!
Post your project to 99 Designs, sit back and wait for a concept that makes you say “YES!”
Social media – get it right
Social media can be a cost effective channel for travel marketing. Choosing the right platform is important but putting a strategy in place is even more 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 though but it can be done with custom audiences, boosted posts, testing, and some planning.
Reporting facilities like Facebook Insights will allow you 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 on Facebook.
Email marketing – work it baby
Your email database is one of your most valuable assets. The simple act of adding a subscription form to your website is important because if a visitor leaves without signing up then you may have lost a valuable lead.
Encourage your offline database to subscribe to your email newsletter and then put in place a strategy to start communicating with them effectively. A good newsletter will drive traffic to your site, encourage social shares, and generate leads.
If you’re current email newsletter design isn’t responsive then you should build a new one. Think about how often you plan to send emails and what kind of content you will include. Most providers will allow you to segment database so that every reader is receiving content relevant to them.
Work your database at every chance. Remember that these are the customers who have opted to hear from you, so make every email count.
Online advertising – Google Adwords & Retargeting
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.
Adwords is competitive so if you’re not comfortable managing it please seek professional help. It can be a dreadfully expensive exercise otherwise.
Video & travel go hand-in-hand
Reading about travel destinations is one thing but watching a video brings a destination to life and inspires. These days it is possible to produce a descent 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.
Blogs + Content Marketing – share your knowledge
If you’re time poor engage your staff members to blog. Your blog entries don’t have to be long but they MUST be valuable and relevant to your target personas. You don’t have to look far to find good examples of travel related writing.
Blogging should form part of your broader content marketing strategy. Understand your customer journey and how you might be able to use content to assist visitors and convert more leads.
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 reviews 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 close proximity communication. NFC is the same technology that your customers use when they pay with Paypass from their mobile devices. With a little creativity you can implement NFC into your brochures, itineraries and more!
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 or supply marketing material. Push them for exclusive value-ads for bookings made within a week of the event. Wheel and deal for giveaways to share with your newsletter subscribers on a monthly basis.
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 the 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 could use Facebook Live while on tour to provide viewers with an opportunity to see the tour in action and ask questions. A cruise agency could schedule a broadcast from a ship inspection, and invite clients to join them as they tour the ship and answer their questions.
Yes chatbots are a thing. Is it something that your travel agency should prioritise right now? No. But you should keep it in mind and monitor what the industry is doing.
My first suggestion is to check out Chatbot4travellers to give you an idea of how it can work and inspire you for a solution for your agency.