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The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Place Matters When Selling Trips

Imagine a potential traveler browsing your website and noticing a loyalty group travel program listed on the site. Intrigued, he clicks on the travel program’s link. What he finds is a vague description of the program with only a phone number buried at the bottom of the page.

If this potential traveler receives an email, needs to make a grocery list or just wants to find the score from last night’s game, your travel program has already lost his attention.

Though loyalty group travel programs do not sell tours from a retail location, the place where they do sell tours matters. Whether travel planners sell tours in person, at events or online, the process requires constant evaluation to make sure potential customers can easily sign up for tours.

Place is one of the Seven P’s of Marketing. For travel planners, place can mean both the location of where trips are sold or the method of selling tours.

Last issue, we explored the “product” marketing strategy to narrow down the types of tours a travel planner wants to sell. By exploring “place” marketing techniques, planners can learn how to apply their chosen product plan to how and where they sell tours.

In Person

Marketing strategies for loyalty group travel programs vary from intense campaigns designed to reach people across the country to mostly in-person sales. Planners that rely on in-person travel sales should still consider how to optimize their selling process.

Some planners still receive a lot of personal calls from interested travelers. On these calls, the planner should always ask the caller to sign up for the trip while they are on the phone. Though callers may want to wait, asking them to register right then eliminates some potential for confusion and encourages them to commit to the trip. Similarly, an email conversation between a planner and a potential traveler should begin with a link to sign up.

For example, if someone calls about a trip and simply receives information on what form to fill out and mail in, that person will have to take extra steps that could result in the caller’s losing interest or forgetting about the trip. However, encouraging the interested traveler to let you reserve a spot at that moment adds a sense of ease to the process.

Another way planners sell trips in person is through a preview party or a trade show. Some bank travel programs host large preview parties that promote the coming year’s trips. The events’ bells and whistles attract hundreds of people and result in mostly sold-out tours for the year.

Potential travelers will assume that the level of professionalism and enthusiasm that is displayed at a preview party or a booth at a trade show will mirror what they will experience on tour. Reach out to tour operators for high-quality photos, posters and other materials to elevate the appearance of your event.

Also ensure that interested people can easily sign up for your tours at the event, instead of encouraging them to sign up somewhere else. If people think they may miss out on an opportunity to travel because the tour will fill up, they will feel a greater urgency to sign up immediately.

Functionality First

Most loyalty group travel planners rely at least somewhat on their websites to promote and sell tours. Planners using websites as points of purchase should see their sites as virtual shopfronts.

A website that is difficult to navigate will quickly deter travelers. Focus on creating a user-friendly page with detailed information about the travel program.

To create an interactive online experience, websites often include a call to action that prompts users to sign up for either a mailing list or individual tours. Place these calls-to-action links or boxes in noticeable locations or create a pop-up that asks website visitors to register for more information.

To gauge your site’s accessibility to visitors, ask a few people to browse the program’s web page and give you feedback on their experience. A pair of fresh eyes can help pinpoint website issues that you might not notice.

Research the analytics of the travel web page to see whether users most commonly view the page on a desktop, a tablet or a mobile device. Then check the page with each method to ensure that mobile users aren’t leaving the site frustrated by the lack of readability.

Finally, no one can see the online shop they can’t find. Research or hire a search engine optimization company to make sure your website is easily searchable by Google and other search engines.

Dressed Up

Retailers want their shopfronts to not only serve a useful purpose but also look visually appealing. The same goes for planners’ online sites. Aim for a site that leaves visitors with a positive, memorable impression of the travel program.

Many loyalty group travel planners use the confines of their company’s website to contain a page or two on the travel program. Planners can still dress up these pages with large photos and modern designs. Go to some similar travel program web pages to make notes of what features you like and don’t like.

Think about your travel program’s product plan and apply those goals to the design of your web page. For example, planners selling luxury tours should create a travel program web page that looks sleek and impressive. Planners targeting budget-conscious travelers can highlight their travel deals.

Connect the page to branding images from your company. For example, an alumni travel program should highlight that its tours aren’t generic, that they are tied to the mission and values of the traveler’s alma mater.

Some planners simply link visitors to a page created by a tour operator. This can disconnect potential travelers from your company. Since building loyalty is a top goal for a lot of travel programs, this may not serve the program long term. If you’re using a tour operator’s web page, work with the company to include your organization’s brand. Include your logo, your color scheme and your contact information to create a one-on-one connection that will last beyond the current trip and into the future.