Whether you're working with a large or tight budget, it pays to spend your marketing dollars wisely. That's why it's so important to make sure you invest in marketing and advertising strategies that generate the highest return on investment (ROI).
These days, small businesses are spending approximately $6,800 on online advertising each year, and small and medium-sized businesses spend $17,000 per year on web marketing services, according to a report from Borrell Associates. Those dollars need to be poured into strategies that will connect your company to the most receptive audience and, in turn, help you drive more bookings.
So to make sure you're spending your money smartly, here are some marketing strategies that have proven to have the highest ROI.
Paid Search Advertising
Online advertising is one of the fastest growing platforms in the marketing and advertising industry. A report from ZenithOptimiedia reveals that Internet ad spending is expected to surpass traditional television advertising by 2017. Digital advertising encompasses everything from banner ads to pay-per-click advertising. It may benefit you, however, to focus on targeted ads versus traditional banner ads since 54 percent of users don't even click banner ads because they don't trust them, according to Bannersnack.
As a tour and activity operator, you'll get a better ROI when you run ads on the Google Display Network (Adwords) where your ads appear on search engine results pages. Search advertising is more effective, according to the experts at HubSpot, because you can target your ads to appear on the search engine results pages of a particular audience. For example, somebody searching for “kayaking in [yourcity]" may see your ad on the sidebar or in the sponsored section of the search engine results pages. These ads feature a headline, two lines of copy, and a link or contact information. Since you can select your audience and customize each ad, you have more control over the entire process—and will generate more clicks that actually turn into bookings as a result.
You can determine your return on investment using the Adwords dashboard. Ways to measure success of an ad include monitoring click-through-rate and conversion rates—the number of clicks that led to an actual booking. The dollar amounts will vary significantly by advertiser since each advertiser will use different keywords and target different audiences. But you can easily determine which ads are performing well because Google provides this data in real-time.
Unlike other forms of online advertising, the minimum ad spend on Facebook is just $1 per day. The experts at Moz point out that Facebook ads are also the lowest cost per 1,000 impressions, averaging around 25 cents per 1,000 impressions. This means you can reach thousands of prospective customers with a targeted Facebook campaign even if you're working with a small budget. The question is, how effective will your Facebook ads be?
One of the unique features of Facebook ads is that you can not only customize the entire ad with images and text, but you can also target different types of audiences. Your ad will show up in the right-hand sidebar on a user's news feed and you can include a link to your website, or even your booking page. Facebook allows you to select your audience based on a variety of factors, including age range, interests, and even Facebook pages they like. You could target your ads to 30- to 40-year-olds who live in your city and enjoy reading Travel + Leisuremagazine, for example. All Nipon Airways did exactly that with their Facebook advertising campaign, selecting keywords to target users interested in traveling and Japanese culture. Their ads had a 25-percent click through rate—1 in 4 users who saw the ad actually clicked on the ad, which means they were driven to the ANA website.
Direct Mail Advertising
Traditional advertising methods, such as sending postcards or letters in the mail, are a valuable way to reach out to your target customers. According to research from the Rochester Institute of Technology, direct mail-driven sales per $1 of advertising dollars equated to a $15.48 return in sales in 2014, whereas radio ads had a return of $8.09 and magazine ads had a return of $10.06.
Whether you decide to send out miniature brochures featuring all your offerings, postcards with promotional offers, or a friendly letter in the mail, you'll generate interest in your company that may lead to reservations. Create materials that feature high-quality photos of your tours and activities and detailed descriptions of various packages and experiences. (We shared some tips on how to write powerful tour and activity descriptions for your website here.)
No matter what type of print materials you send, make sure to include contact information and a link to your website so that the recipient has different options for getting in touch with you and making that reservation. Including a business card or a personal, handwritten note to say "welcome" can help to personalize the materials you send via snail mail, which will make you stand apart from the competition.
The same research data from the Rochester Institute of Technology reveals that every $1 spent on email marketing generates $36.70 in sales. This is a significant return on investment for any small business owner, since the average return on direct-marketing advertising driven sales for 2014 was $13.21.
A recent Silverpop study reveals email open rates for the lodging and travel industry are almost 57 percent. For tour and activity operators, there is more than a 50-percent chance that the email will get opened and read by a customer—which, in turn, could lead to a click back to your website, redemption of a special offer, a phone call, or a confirmed reservation.
We shared some valuable tips on how to grow your email list here so that you can start sending customized emails to your subscribers regularly. Making sure you capture emails from all customers at any point of contact and taking the time to send out monthly or biweekly newsletters can help you keep these customers engaged. You can use an online booking software program, such as ZOZI Advance, to capture emails and organize your lists for newsletter sends.
From paid search advertising to email marketing, tour and activity operators can maximize their marketing and advertising dollars by investing in the most impactful strategies. Use these tips to create your marketing campaign for the upcoming season or year to help drive more business — even during the slower months.