Promoting your tour and activity business to generate more bookings and build your brand may require more than one approach. Constant Contact reports that small business success is directly linked to multi-channel marketing — 82 percent of small businesses and nonprofits use this approach. So whether you're struggling to keep the calendar booked this season or are have recently opened for business, you need a strategic marketing plan for all those channels in order to attract and retain those customers.
Whether you're using social media to promote your company or are putting together an email marketing campaign, make sure you're reaching your target in fresh and innovative ways — and reducing the chances of turning customers away. Here are nine marketing mistakes every tour and activity operator needs to avoid.
1. Not updating your website regularly.
Having an attractive and professional-looking website is essential for any tour or activity operator — it's a gateway to reservations and also showcases everything your business has to offer. As The 2014 Traveler's Road to Decision report by Google shows, the majority of your customers will be turning to your website to search for ideas: 65 percent of leisure travelers turn to the Internet to do some research before they've even decided where or how they are going to get there.
In addition, you may lose placement on search engine result pages if your website hasn't been updated with fresh content. The latest research about Google's algorithm update reveals that sites with new or fresh content may earn higher rankings on search engine results pages because Google deems them more relevant to online searchers. Prevent slipping down the ranks by posting fresh content in the form of updated tour and activity descriptions, adding photos or video clips of tours and activities you offer, or by updating a blog regularly with content about your tours, activities, industry insights, or recent excursions and trips.
2. Focusing too much on the competition.
Whether your business is located in a busy tourist district or a quieter locale, focusing too much on what your competitors are offering can backfire. Experts say that it's best to avoid lowering your prices just to beat out the competition and focus instead on promoting the value you provide to your customers.
As a tour or activity operator, you can do this by creating custom packages for customers who are willing to pay a little extra for a more personalized experience. Or, you could offer tiered pricing for your offerings. For example, a charter boat rental company could offer 2-hour boat trips with the option to add an additional 30 minutes or an hour at a discounted rate.
Use online booking software programs, such as ZOZI Advance, that allow you to set up tiered pricing and add-ons at checkout so customers can create and enjoy experiences they just won't find anywhere else.
3. Being inconsistent with social media.
While social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all highly interactive platforms that can help you engage and communicate with customers in different ways, you still need a strategy to ensure your social media efforts pay off. Experts at Business 2 Community point out that negative consumer interactions typically occur when you're posting uninteresting content that is of no value to your guest, or when you're engaging with your followers and fans in an unprofessional way.
As a tour and activity operator, you need to have a plan to share photos, videos, special offers, and interesting posts or insights regularly and follow up to any comments or feedback you receive. Ultimately, your social media interactions must have some purpose behind them or you risk losing fans and followers. Consider scheduling your posts using tools like HootSuite or delegating all social media tasks to one or two staff members.
Additionally, using hashtags with all of your posts on Instagram and Twitter can help you attract more fans and followers every time you post. You can use local hashtags (e.g. #[your city]) to get the attention of locals and also include relevant hashtags such as #travel, #tours, #[your business name] to generate some interest. On Facebook, make sure to include links to your website or online booking page when relevant. This maximizes your reach and helps you get the most out each photo, video, or status update.
4. Neglecting to follow up with customers after a reservation.
When you've done the hard work of running a promotion or seasonal offer and customers are booking away, make sure you have a follow-up plan in place to confirm their reservation and keep them engaged until they arrive at your venue. Statistics show that today's customers expect to be acknowledged in some way or they may simply leave. FollowUpSuccess.com reports, “68 percent of customers will stop buying a product or service because of an attitude or feeling of indifference towards them by one or more persons representing their company."
Whether you follow up with a friendly email confirmation message or have a staff member call the customer to confirm their reservation over the phone, the goal is to follow up with the guest in some way so they feel valued for their business.
5. Ignoring the value of email marketing.
Stay in touch with customers through email — even after the tour or activity. ExactTarget points out that 70 percent of people say they always open emails from their favorite companies. You can keep past customers and prospective customers engaged and become one of their "favorites" with a targeted email marketing campaign.
For example, a kayak tour operator could set up a monthly newsletter that keeps subscribers up to date on seasonal events, the latest tours available, and interesting insights about kayaking from the owners. A boat rental company might send out quarterly newsletters with boating tips and advice, latest tour offerings, and news about the company. The goal is to keep subscribers engaged whether they are in the trip-planning stage or not. When they are planning a trip to the area, they may just think of your company first because they feel a connection with you.
6. Neglecting to promote online booking features.
If your tour or activities business offers online booking options, make sure prospective customers know about it. Not everybody will know that they can book online. Promote your online booking features prominently on your website and make sure to display a large "Book It" button where appropriate. If you use an online booking software program, such as ZOZI Advance, you can post highly visible buttons around your website and also implement a calendar where customers can pick and choose dates and times based on availability.
7. Forgetting about past customers.
Many of your customers may be one-time visitors — booking a tour or activity because they were traveling in the area — but some may be frequent travelers to the area, or even locals. Consider that it can cost six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one, according to research from Flowtown. Focus some of your marketing efforts to focus on existing customers so you can spend less time and resources on promoting your business. This could be as simple as extending a discount to customers for their next visit or offering a special package for return customers. You could reach out to customers via email or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter to promote your customer loyalty offerings.
8. Ignoring negative reviews and low ratings.
If some of your customers have posted negative reviews online or given your business a low rating, make sure you are taking steps to rectify the situation. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs reports that news of bad customer service reaches twice as many people as praise for a good experience. Even if you can't do anything about that particular customer, you can make the effort to promote all of your positive ratings and testimonials.
Set up a reviews page on your website dedicated to showcasing happy customers and promote reviews on your social media sites to ensure the average web surfer sees more of the positive than the negative feedback about your company. Promoting positive reviews can be a valuable part of your marketing strategy and you can encourage customers to send feedback with some of these tips.
9. Always trying to sell something.
Even though it's important to spread the word about seasonal packages or promotions you're running, avoid being too direct with your approach. When you're busy creating content for your blog and social media sites, think of fresh ways to engage your audience instead of just selling to them — a turnoff for many customers, as Mark Babbitt, co-author of A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive explains.
When you want customers to become loyal fans and build up a following, you need to share interesting content without the sole purpose of booking a tour or activity. For example, a deep sea fishing boat tour operator might share content about weather conditions for the day, a few words from the captain every week, or a blog post about fish native to the area.
From neglecting to follow up with customers to ignoring feedback, make sure your tour and activity business isn't making some costly marketing mistakes. Use these tips to create a cohesive and effective marketing strategy that attracts more customers in any season.