Some veteran group travel planners can rely on word-of-mouth to fill their trips. But if you just wait for the phone to ring instead of actively promoting your trips, you’re not likely to see the results you’re hoping for.
Creating a great trip and then letting club members sell it for you usually only works for well-established loyalty programs. Most group travel planners, especially those new to the game, should expect to exert much more effort convincing members to spend hard-earned cash on group travel.
Crafting the perfect tour goes a long way in gaining both new and repeat customers. But you should think creatively when developing a marketing strategy that will last, as travel trends come and go.
Reflecting on how your group travel program uses the Seven P’s of Marketing will help this goal. Already this year, we’ve explored product, place and price marketing strategies. Promotion is another one of the Seven P’s of Marketing. This strategy will allow your travel program to actively ensure success now and in the future.
Instead of thinking generally about tour publicity, the Seven P’s of Marketing’s promotion technique encourages everyone to develop a marketing strategy. This will enable you to think more scientifically about promoting your tour rather than trying various methods randomly.
Before you begin a marketing strategy, fine-tune what type of tour you want to sell. For example, if you know your clients will be high-end buyers, the copy you use to promote your tours should focus on the upscale parts of the tour. If you find that your clients seek value tours, write promotional copy that emphasizes the savings possible with your tour.
With your ideal tour type and customer in mind, write a document that outlines the marketing goals you would like to achieve in the next few years. Then come up with some tactics you believe will further these goals in the coming year.
Your travel program’s marketing goals might entail simply increasing awareness of your tours to more potential members. Or they might include reaching a new customer segment. Important criteria for a marketing plan include stating clearly what you want to achieve, setting a tangible way to measure your results and setting objectives within your capacity.
Many group leaders hope to attract younger travelers. Some attempt this goal with increased social media use and discounts for younger members. After a year trying these two approaches, a group leader should keep track of how many younger members signed up for tours to decide whether to continue this approach or try something new.
No matter what success comes after the first year of a marketing strategy, you should always continue to test different marketing techniques. A rule of thumb in marketing is that whatever works today eventually will no longer work.
A marketing strategy is only as good as the ideas behind it. Familiarize yourself with the promotional techniques used by other group leaders, especially those who successfully sell similar tours.
Loyalty program leaders use a wide range of direct marketing tactics, including newspaper ads, radio ads and online ads. This type of advertising encourages a reader to pick up the phone and book a tour after seeing or hearing them.
Other marketing techniques that can facilitate more sales, but sometimes at the cost of discounted travel, include coupons and trip contests. Running a 10% off coupon on social media for a week might lead to a rush of sales, but each sale will be less than the sticker price. Chart trips with and without discounts to see which ends with more travelers.
Mailed brochures and online newsletters are still the most common type of promotion for group leaders. But these materials are only as good as your mailing list, so be sure to keep your database current. If you know you need new members, you probably need to do a new kind of advertising.
A tour operator can often lighten the marketing burden. Tour operators frequently send out free brochures to mail or email. They can also print posters, provide high-resolution photos and even write copy designed for your individual tour.
These companies will even sometimes share the expenses of a newspaper or online ad to help bolster trip sales.
An ad in a newspaper promoting a tour calls for an immediate action, but public relations messages focus more on planting a seed. Public relations should factor into your marketing strategy even though it might not directly sell a particular tour because it builds up the travel program’s branding.
These promotional tactics spread the word about your program and the type of tours you offer. For example, social media posts take time but can engage more people in your program eventually.
Think creatively when coming up with public relations ideas. Some group travel planners post to a blog not just about the latest tour but also with unrelated useful information that might attract a loyal following. Bank travel programs can share money-saving ideas, and alumni programs feature news from the college. Those who might travel with the group will be interested in this information. The tour might not be at the forefront of the message, but anything that keeps members interacting in the company can boost their loyalty.
Networking opportunities, press releases and conferences can also increase awareness of your program. Though time intensive, these tactics should not be overlooked. If you want to build a brand loyalty strong enough to bring you word-of-mouth sales, you have to put in the hard work at the outset.