Written By: Tom Ogg
It seems that the ongoing challenge for travel agencies is finding the right marketing channel to obtain results consistent with their business and marketing plans. Technology has introduced so many new channels that it is difficult for marketers to keep up with new opportunities, much less continue with their established channels. When an agency stalls it is most likely the result from ineffective marketing.
Unfortunately many agencies think that they must participate in most, or all of these channels and end up having a mediocre return for their investment of time and money. Just as trying to be everything to everyone is not as viable business strategy for agencies, the same is true for marketing channels.
Each one of these marketing channels represents a major area of opportunity for agencies that choose to exploit them. They require critical mass before wielding results, but can be developed in scalable growth for the long haul once cost and return are fully understood. Travel Professional News will explore each channel as the subject of future articles.
The Reality of Marketing
All marketing efforts create expense. Even if it is free, your time and expertise is well worth money and you should always ask yourself if the return you are generating from your marketing efforts justify the expense. Once you find a marketing effort that generates substantial internal yields far in excess of the cost of marketing, you are on the right track.
Always remember that the function of marketing is profit and you should fine tune your marketing to produce the highest profit possible. So here are marketing channels that you can explore and develop strategies to generate substantial profits.
Advertising – Print and Media
Travel advertising is a huge channel for suppliers and agents alike. Newspaper, magazine, radio, television and specialty media advertising opportunities exist. Generally, the narrower the niche you specialize in the more robust the opportunity might be to generate generous returns. Advertising specialties is another advertising opportunity, as are producing flyers, booklets and books. There is a lot to consider if you pursue the advertising channel to grow your business. And, don’t forget urban advertising if you live in a densely populated area. Those Billboards, bus bench ads and bus ads can be very effective depending on what you specialize in.
Advertising – Social Media and Online
Using keyword focused ads in PPC, or Pay Per Click on venues such as Google Search, Google Ad Words, Bing Ads and many more can be an effective way to drive traffic to your website’s niche specific landing page. Boosting Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms can also be an important way of reaching new clients. But don’t rule out using banner ads on selected sites which could be on a PPC, PPA (Pay per Action) or CPM (cost per 1,000 exposures). Online advertising can be very effective depending on your specific niche.
Content Marketing is one of the best new channels for travel professionals to explore. The very essence of being a travel professionals is research and presentation. Couple this skill set with digital media and you have a sure winner for those travel professionals that have established niches in which they are experts. Technology has made the creation of print and digital books, magazines, interactive brochures, blogs, vlogs and social media ideal ways for travel professionals to share content to build authority and their client base. And, don’t forget the power of video content that can be shared YouTube, Vimeo other video sharing platforms.
Face to face sales are easily the most effective way to meet new potential clients and can be accomplished in a number of ways. Consider becoming involved in community events, nonprofit charity organizations, clubs, meet-up groups and other opportunities to meet and engage potential new clients.
Once developing a compelling website was a major challenge for travel professionals. Today creating motivating and search-friendly websites is simple and an effective way to gain organic traffic (aka free client feed). By focusing on niche keyword driven websites and SEO marketing, travel professionals can dominate a niche market on the internet.
Partnering and Networking
Building a team of businesses sharing a symbiotic relationship with your target market is a great way to grow your (and their) business. Formal networking groups, lead sharing groups and Chambers of Commerce all make great opportunities for penetrating your target market.
Permission Based Marketing
One of the most important marketing tools a travel professional has is their client list. Without question, you should have a permission-based client that allows you to focus emails based on your client’s interest. And, you should comply with all aspects of the CAN- SPAM Act of 2003. Permission based marketing is the standard for professional digital outreach and not complying with this law can potentially hurt your marketing efforts.
Having a robust public relations effort will reward a travel professional with pre-sold clients who follow their content in newspapers, magazines, on the radio and / or television. Writing articles for your local newspaper is an excellent way to put yourself in front of your market and establish your expertise.
Client referrals are one of the best ways to grow your business. Clients show up already sold on your knowledge and expertise and they reduce the sales function of a transaction to a minimum. Developing a winning referral program can reward you with substantial business and profitability.
Many travel professionals have taken social media to a point where it provides a steady flow of new clients. However, one needs to be highly focused on a niche or client type that can be identified using the filters that each platform offers. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram seem to be the most important to Travel Professionals, but there are many platforms that can provide unique opportunities depending on what you are marketing.
Speaking, Seminars and Webinars
Nothing can be more persuasive that face to face meetings, unless it is face to many faces presentations. Doing seminars and / or webinars on specific subjects is an excellent way to build your business. The travel industry is rich with successful travel professionals that give seminars on topics like “Alaska 101”, “Viking River Cruises in Europe” and “First Cruise – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know”. Making video content available on your own website and online video channels is an excellent way to garner new clients.
As you can see there are hundreds of different opportunities to grow your business. The trick is to focus on only those that produce profitable results consistent with your business and marketing plans. Look for detailed information on each channel in future issues of Travel Professional NEWS!