As growth of the global tourism and travel industry continues to outpace the global economy, it becomes ever apparent that the thirst for travel has never been greater. As such, the competition for grabbing share of mind and visitor spending has never been more fierce.
Consider the following facts about global travel and tourism, published by the World Travel and Tourism Council:
Those are big numbers, and for good reason. Let’s face it, whether it’s for leisure or business, humans simply have a massive appetite and need for hitting the road. With that comes an enormous amount of marketing clutter, as industry businesses fight tooth and nail to stand out above the competition. Whether you are marketing a destination, lodging offering, travel service or an attraction, how you differentiate the experience you offer has never been more challenging … and never more important.
So what do you do if you aren’t one of the big boys on the block, with a multi-million dollar marketing budget? Unfortunately, our research in the industry shows us that many aren’t even starting with the core basics, which means they are fighting against themselves and quickly being left behind in this increasingly digital world we all operate in.
Our team talks with small to midsize tourism/travel-related business owners on a daily basis, so we see some recurring themes. They feel overwhelmed. They don’t understand things like social media, or other things in the tech and digital world. They spend money on outdated marketing practices. They lack a basic marketing plan and are instead just throwing things out there hodgepodge.
We know it’s not easy, but we also know it doesn’t need to be complicated. Implementing some of the core best practices will provide you an immediate return and also serve as a compass to get you on the right path for long term marketing success.
Our suggestions are as follows:
Get on board. It’s everywhere, right? You can’t really get away from it, and in reality, it is indeed an ideal platform for travel and tourism. So stop fighting it. Over 70% of travelers post to social media daily, while on vacation. They engage in what we call Experience Envy. We want to show our friends, family and colleagues that we are having an amazing time (even if we aren’t). Let your visitors do the talking. You will never have a more powerful endorsement than that which comes from a real person showing off stunning photos of them having the time of their life in your destination, hotel, or attraction. While many of our clients utilize several social channels, you don’t have to use them all out of the gate. If you have to limit the channels you use, stick to Facebook and Instagram.
Key Tip: Automate. Make your life easier by using one of the many online tools that are available to help you schedule posts in advance. You can do this directly on Facebook, and for Twitter using their Tweetdeck platform (both of which are free), but for a more powerful solution, consider third-party platforms such as Sprout and Buffer. They not only provide the ability to schedule content in advance, but also some great analytical and reporting capabilities.
This is often the first taste of your brand that travelers will come across. 73% of all travelers visit a company’s website at least four times before making a decision to book or buy. If your website is not built on responsive technology, you need to change that as soon as possible. By being responsive, your site automatically reformats to properly fit the screen of whatever type of device somebody is using (laptop/desktop, tablet, mobile). Plus, search engines no longer give preference to sites that aren’t responsive. Why does this all matter? The majority of web traffic is now mobile-based, which means if you don’t provide responsive functionality, most of the visitors to your site are going to have a negative user experience and quickly click away to a competitor. Also, have great photos and videos to feature (see below) and be sure that you have Google Analytics installed, for reasons we will outline further down.
Cost? We know this can be a concern, but you don’t have to spend a fortune in order to get a new and improved online presence. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to take you through various ways to make it happen at multiple budget levels. You will have to spend something, but this is an investment that will only provide top-level ROI.
Key Tip: Hire a professional. Your website is the first impression you make, and the most powerful opportunity you have to sell people on your experience. About 20% of our web design clients tried it themselves first, only to realize they were in over their head. Always remember that it’s not just about making something that looks good. You have to be sure that everything is humming for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which rarely is done well by anybody other than a pro.
Producing great content goes hand-in-hand with social media and your website. The easiest way to do this is to make sure that you have a blog on your website, and more importantly, that you are actually producing new content on a fairly regular basis. Ideally, we’d suggest once a week, but if your time resources are limited, even once a month can make a big difference. If you or your direct team don’t have any time to write, pay somebody … it’s that important. Blog writing services are not expensive, and the advantage of a pro is that you know it will be well-written, and that it will also feature the right keywords and phrases for SEO.
Key Tip: Ask your guests to write something. We have found that blog articles from real people, writing about real experiences, are extremely powerful. They not only tend to resonate better with those considering your offering, but it also takes some of the writing burden off of your shoulders. Obviously, you need to proofread these, but they don’t have to be works of literary art. A little imperfection comes off as more authentic.
This is a low-cost and powerful way to communicate with a highly engaged audience. The key is growing a database of email addresses. Be sure to integrate multiple email capture points into your website. But don’t stop there. Don’t do what many forget to do, which is to ask for an email address. For example, if you are a lodging option, ask for it at check-in, if it wasn’t captured in the booking process. If you are a destination or attraction, offer mailing list sign-up opportunities in your visitor centers, or elsewhere in your facility, via iPad or kiosk stations. While not mandatory, consider some sort of incentive to offer those that do sign up, even if it’s just saying that they will have access to exclusive offers and news.
The value is that these will be people that have chosen to be on your mailing list, which means they are waiting to hear from you and will produce much better open and click-through rates.
For cost and simplicity, we suggest using MailChimp or Constant Contact, and that you invest in hiring a professional to set up a beautiful template that will engage readers.
Key Tip: KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. It’s an old concept in marketing, but still very valid. An email should serve as nothing more than a billboard of sorts. Offer just enough to entice them to click through to your website, where you have a far better chance of converting.
Photography and Video
Nothing sells your experience like great photos and video. They are a must for social media and for producing an engaging website, and are certainly invaluable if you have budget for printed collateral and advertising. Like a website, you don’t have to spend a fortune, but you will likely have a modest expense here. It will be worth it.
Key Tip: Again, hire a pro. While DIY photos and video are great for authenticity in social media, they typically aren’t up to the task when it comes to more traditional marketing needs. A professional photographer/videographer, if good, will work with you to determine a great shot list that fits your needs; as opposed to just taking a bunch of images and hoping that they fit your needs. Your photos will also be structured properly and perfected after the fact with corrections and enhancements.
Know Your Audience
Knowledge is everything in today’s marketing world. No matter how big or small you might be, data is essential to your success. The more you know about your visitors, the easier it will be to market to them, convert them and maintain loyalty.
Key Tip: Use the free resources available to you. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all provide easy to access and interpret analytical info. Right on your pages you can access basic, but very powerful data on your followers – including age, location, interests, and marital status. Second, Google Analytics is a must. This amazingly powerful tool will give you multiple levels of data on demographics, but also give you valuable insight into behavior – such as how many people are visiting each page of your site, how long they stay on your site, and how they actually get to your website.
In the end, you are all in the business of providing great service to your customers, and doing so in a manner that makes them come back for more. We often have to remind clients that staff are the most powerful marketing tool they will ever have. You need … no, you MUST … provide a level of personable service that exceeds expectations if you want to build long-term loyalty. It’s that simple. We always tell clients that spending money and time resources on great marketing will all be for nothing if your visitor arrives only to find a really bad customer service experience. Invest in your team. Train them often, but also consider professional service training, such as a CTA program.
Key Tip: Reward your team. This doesn’t necessarily mean a physical reward. Simply acknowledging a job well done can go a long way. Offer praise and be sure to share positive guest comments, as those will often provide a priceless sense of pride that will only further your team members’ buy-in to your success.
It’s a highly competitive landscape out there, but by implementing the above core marketing basics, you will go far in making sure you aren’t lost in the quagmire. While there are many other areas to consider, these simple initiatives are a good start down the path to effectively communicating the experiences that you offer to today’s traveler.
What’s Working For You?
This article is not meant as a comprehensive list of suggestions. It’s meant to help as a starting point, but also to spark a dialogue. Whether you are a business owner in travel and tourism, or an agency helping them, we’d love to hear about your success stories and suggestions, so please feel free to share by getting in touch.