Here is a rundown on the best strategies to effectively market tours and activities online. At Touristlink we work hand-in-hand with over 25,000 small travel providers and have a pretty good idea of what actually works. Here are 8 cost effective marketing strategies.
- The Product: No amount of marketing will help sell a bad product. Even if the product is great it is not going to compensate for poor pictures and descriptions. The most important thing here is great photos and videos that inspire and catch attention. Next, check the description and the inclusions / exclusions. Potential customers are likely to believe if you impatient throwing together your online presentation you will also be careless when it comes to customer service. If you don't have good pictures spend a few dollars and buy them from a stock photography site and if you are not a good writer - hire someone. It's better to have a few good products that actually sell then a multitude of products that are poor performers. Once you have selected some great pictures a/b test them with a site like optimizely.com (the free trial should give you enough data to tell you what you need to know). Want some inspiration? Check out - lostinaustralia.com.au, trekkinghero.com or combadi.com.
Which would you click on?
- Pricing: On Touristlink we see all sorts of variations in pricing on tours even if they are essentially the same. Its fine to have a higher price but make sure the customer knows why. I raised this issue with a tour operator recently and the response was that customers dont know any better. The fact is the average traveler looks at 38 or more websites before booking so dont believe any one is getting fooled.
- Legitimate Online Reviews: Reviews sell and that's the truth. Simply put trust drives bookings in this sector. Travel review sites are the most important source of influence with 69% of travelers relying on them before making a booking. If you are selling day tours you can get a Tripadvisor page. If your selling multi-day tours you can try Trustpilot, Facebook or Google+. We are going to launch something on Touristlink that's more comprehensive in terms of reviews for tour operators but it is still a few months out. Ping me and I ll let you know when its online. Don't fake your reviews (its usually painfully obvious when this is happening).
- Social Media Marketing: Start with Facebook, G+, Pinterest, Youtube, Linkedin and Twitter after you have a product with reviews. Rule number one is to be interesting and stop thinking only about promoting yourself. Post great pictures, answer questions, create conversations and have fun. Who cares if you get a link on every post (Your building a brand and a following not links). While it is good to have a profile on all these I recommend you focus on just one and build a large following rather than spreading your efforts. Dont be afraid to spend some money (even if it is just $1 a day on Facebook). Be consistent and post daily. If you are using Facebook, G+ and Linkedin make sure you take advantage of the ability to join and post in groups. Read about what pull marketing is and see how it compares to push. Finally remember it's better to share more then you post.
- Tour and Activity Distribution Sites: First off, sign up for Touristlink and list your tour or package. I recommend as much distribution and visibility as possible so sign up on other sites as well such as; Toursbylocals, Withlocals, Excursiopedia and Getyourguide. Make sure to keep your profile and tours up to date and stay active.
- Link Building: Is not dead but it's not what it used to be either. Links from established websites are great but bad links can tank your rankings overnight so be careful. If you are posting your packages on 1000 bookmarking sites be careful you might actually do yourself more harm than good. The best way to get links naturally is to create great content.
- Paid Advertising: Create an adwords account on Google and start advertising your tours. Keep your budget small to start and learn how to make the system work. Focus on specific keywords that are directly related to what you are selling. Make sure your landing page actually matches your advertisement. If you are a tour operator and are unable to afford to advertise your products you are either in a super competitive niche or your doing something wrong. Send me a message and I'll be happy to review the situation with you.
- Responding to Customers: The average tour operator takes more than 24 hours to respond to the initial email from a potential customer. This is way too long. Respond within an hour if possible and make sure to address specifically whatever issues the customer has posed. It's surprising how often a template is used and the customer is ignored. If you don't get a response send a follow-up email on the 2 day, the 5 day and the 10 day. You can use a system like Tout.com to track if your mails are getting opened.
Most of this is just hard work and attention to detail. Travel is competitive and being successful means having a great product, great service and being able to communicate that effectively online.