Marketing Ideas for Your Travel Agency or Tour Company

Online travel marketing is tough. Competition is fierce and return on investment is often low. Juggling bookings, clients, staff and marketing (with little results…

Online travel marketing is tough. Competition is fierce and return on investment is often low.

Juggling bookings, clients, staff and marketing (with little results to show for it) can quickly burn energy and money.

Hit pause for a moment and try this. Grab a pen and write down your ‘why’. Sounds cliche, but a large part of your marketing success will circle back to that. Is your marketing sending the right message, to the right people?

When your passion is perceptible, your brand will sell itself to the right customer.

Here’s our list of the tools and tactics you can use to fire up your travel marketing:

Customer Personas | Website | Micro Moments | Graphic Design | Social Media | Email | Online Advertising | Video | Content | Online Reviews | Mobile | Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) | Leverage Your Suppliers | Live Streaming | Chatbots


First, understand your customers

How can you put a marketing strategy in place if you don’t truly understand your ideal customer?

Their demographic information is valuable, but beyond that, ask yourself what drives them when researching, planning and booking travel.

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 then build your website, branding and marketing strategy around them. Regularly check in on your ‘why’ and use it to appeal to those customers on a deeper level.


Then, look at your website

Take a really good look. Your website should be the cornerstone of your marketing efforts. There is always room for improvement in conversion rates and user experience.

Is your site dated? Does it play well on mobile devices? Is it cluttered with useless content?

Site speed is an important ranking factor. You can test the speed and performance of your site using Google’s Test My Site tool.

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 skill set, so consider calling in a pro. A good copywriter can help you with content.

The bottom line is this – you could be losing revenue every minute of every day if your website is not in good shape.  Here are a few steps you can take to address this:

Write compelling content & copy
Clear and concise writing is more important than ever. It sets the tone for your brand. It demonstrates your knowledge about your industry. It gives you an edge.

Good content and copy will guide users through your site and prompt them to book, call or email you. Search engines love fresh content, so keeping it updated and relevant can drive your organic search engine ranking up. If you don’t feel confident writing seek out a professional copywriter or content creator.

Think responsive
Up to 50% of your visitors are likely to view your site from their mobile device. If your customers have to pinch and zoom their way around your site, they’ll leave. Most websites are responsive these days, but if yours is not, please prioritize that!

Track your visitors
Setup and manage Google Analytics for your site. It’s vital for so many reasons. 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 is invaluable when making marketing decisions. If you’re not comfortable in this space, 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.

Whether you’re building your first website or redeveloping your existing site, check out Slickplan’s invaluable guide on ‘How to Design a Website‘.

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.

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:

  1. I want to get away: Dreaming moments
  2. I want this trip to be perfect: Planning moments
  3. I want to book it: Booking moments
  4. I want to make the most of it: Experiencing moments

Understanding that these are critical moments in the customer journey will help you to market and be present when your customer most needs you to be.


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.

Work your database at every chance. Remember that your subscribers have opted to hear from you, so make every email count.


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.

Search advertising for travel agencies

Bing has an older demographic and CPCs are lower. Consider if that may be a better fit for your audience.

Adwords is competitive so call in a pro if you’re not comfortable in that space. 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 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 explainer 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.

TIP: Sending a direct link to leave a Google Business review is not as easy as it should be, so we built a review link generator. Enter your details and you’ll receive a link to send to your clients.


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.

Stay tuned for our blog post on PWA’s for travel.


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.

Jaclyn A

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