How to do online marketing for your travel agency.

Online marketing for travel agencies is difficult. Competition is high and visibility is essential. Managing website content, bookings and documentation, reviews, informative emails and social media (to name a few) will burn a hole in your pocket.

Make a list of the "whys" that a large part of your business success is regressing to. Then review your basics and learn the tools and tactics you can use to get started in online marketing.

First, understand your customers. How can you implement a marketing strategy if you don't really understand who your ideal customers are? Their demographic information is valuable, but beyond that, you need to ask what drives them to search, plan, and ultimately book. What motivates them to travel? What frustrates them when searching and booking? Where do they find their information?

Define your top 3 customers and build your website, branding and marketing strategy around them. Always remember the "why" and how you can take advantage of that to engage your customers on a more personal level.

Then, look at your website. Take a very good look. Your website should be the cornerstone of your marketing efforts. There is always room for improvement in conversion rates and user experience. It is important to consider whether your website is up to date, not functional enough on mobile devices, cluttered, with unnecessary content or loading too slowly. You can test the speed and performance of your website using tools from Google. Your website may be well built, but not optimized for clicks or conversions. It is not your fault. It's a job and a job that requires industry knowledge and a specific skill set, so consider hiring a professional. The bottom line with your website is this – you can lose revenue every minute of every day if your website isn't in top shape. Here are some steps you can take to address this:

Think "mobile". Don't ignore mobile devices when building or redeveloping your website. Up to 50% of your visitors can browse your website from their mobile device. How frustrated will they be if they have to waste time and zoom in on every piece of useful information?

Track your visitors. Set up and manage Google Analytics for your website. It is vital. The data you collect will tell you so much about user behavior – how they found your website, what pages they visited, how long they stayed, and more. This data will be invaluable to your marketing efforts. If you are not comfortable in this space, find someone who is.

Simplify your design. The most successful online brands favor minimalist website design that makes information easy to find. Does your website capture who you are as a brand and is it easy to use? Is there enough content and a strong enough CTA (call to action) to convert visitors into customers? User testing is a good way to understand their day-to-day expectations and frustrations when they visit your site.

You care about user experience. Is your website doing what you expect it to do? Are visitors converting and at what percentage rate? Do you understand what a 5% increase in website conversion means to your bottom line? Such growth is achievable if you stop guessing and start using conversion testing software like Optimizely.

Write compelling content. Okay, not everything you write will be convincing and "Wow". But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Get a content strategy that will help you sell your story, keep readers engaged, and get them to take action on your website, social media, and beyond. Search engines love fresh content, so keeping it updated and relevant can get you on the first page of Google's search engine. Assign a member of your team to update the website regularly, as a little effort will go a long way.

Centralize promotion. Most of the information about the company and the tour packages should be available on your website. Use your newsletter, partner websites and social media channels to promote unique content that can be found on your website and link to it. This way you never miss an opportunity to track and monitor traffic and continuously work to improve leads and conversions. Whether you're building your company's first website or redoing your existing website, consult a TravelFuse specialist.

Further, understand Micro-Moments. Micro-moments are the moments where you DO NOW; the times you turn to your phone or other device to track, discover, research or buy something. These are the moments that shape your thinking. These are the moments when you make decisions. Micro-moments are intent-driven, and for the travel buyer these include: I want to escape: dream moments I want this trip to be perfect: planning moments I want to book it: booking moments I want to make the most of it : moments of experimentation. Understanding that these are critical moments in the customer journey will help you market and be present when your customer needs you most.

Graphic design – looks good. Design is the silent ambassador of your brand. You can put energy into your team, strategy, campaigns and sales, but poor design can show you how it all falls apart. If you don't already have a style for your brand (or it's too outdated), turn to the professionals. A good designer will work with you to create a style that aligns with your branding. Talk to the designer about your brand and help them understand who your ideal customer is. There is a lot to be said for the psychology of colors – different colors evoke different emotions.

Understand Social Media! Social media can be a profitable channel for tourism marketing. Choosing the right platform and implementing a strategy is important. Consider your goals and target market very carefully.

Like it or not, Facebook works for many. From experience, Facebook is still one of the best promotion platforms for travel agencies in terms of increasing website traffic. Yes, there are a lot of details to work out, but it can be done with custom audiences, paid posts, testing and planning. Use Facebook Insights to track, manage and modify your strategy according to your goals. If you're short on time or want to commit a little more, turn to a social media strategy with a gender agency to maximize your investment. Watch and learn from some of the most successful tour operators.

Email marketing. Your email address database is one of your most valuable assets. Email marketing drives more conversions than social media search. You know you need a subscription form on your website, but do you understand why? Without it, you're missing out on the opportunity to invite your visitors to join your mailing list, stay connected with them, and eventually turn them into valuable paying customers. Get to know all of this and all that revolves around subscription testing, design and content. A good informative email will drive traffic to your website, encourage social media participation and generate leads. If your current newsletter design isn't performing well, then you should build a new one. Work on the database as often as possible. Remember that your subscribers have opted in to hear about you, so make every email count.

Google Ads and Retargeting. Traditional banner advertising on high-traffic websites can be expensive and click-through rates ridiculously low. But correctly, Google Ads and Retargeting will give you a positive ROI. This is because you can target those who have actively expressed their interest and intent to purchase your travel packages. But Adwords is competitive, so call a professional if you don't feel comfortable in that space. Otherwise, it can be a terribly expensive exercise.

Video and travel go hand in hand. Reading about travel destinations is one thing, but watching a video is a much more immersive experience. Studies show that when both video and text are available on the same page, 72% of people prefer to use video to learn about a product or service. These days it's possible to produce high-quality video at low cost if you know where to look. Set up a YouTube channel for your business. Trip videos, staff vacations, families, customer testimonials, packing guides, destination reviews – whatever aligns with your goals and your customers. Your videos need to be optimized so that people can watch them for as long as possible. If you embed YouTube videos on your website, avoid slowing down your website by generating a custom YouTube code.

Content Marketing – Share Your Knowledge. Yes, content is king. Producing compelling content should be part of your marketing strategy. Understand your relationship with your customers and how you can use content to guide your visitors and convert more leads. If you're short on time, hire your team to write blogs and web content – after all, they're your sales people. Content doesn't always have to be long, but it should be valuable and relevant to your audience.

Reviews and check-ins. The answer “reputation is income” could not be more appropriate. Studies show that 81% of travelers believe travel reviews are important, and 49% have not booked a property without reading reviews first. You can increase sales and maximize revenue through travel reviews, but how? Making it easy for your customers to leave a review on sites like Trip Advisor and Expedia, your Google Business page, social media and your website. Most importantly, remember to follow the reviews carefully and respond accordingly. Reviews can not only increase customer trust in your brand, but such user-generated content can help boost your website's rankings and increase conversion rates.

Mobile marketing. SMS may seem old-fashioned, but it provides low-cost access for your travel agency. 96% of SMS messages are read and most are read within the first 3 minutes of sending. Be aware of more advanced mobile technologies, including Augmented Reality (AR) is a great innovation that extends the traveler experience. NFC refers to proximity communication. It's the same technology your customers use when paying with PayPass on a mobile device. With a little creativity, you can implement NFC in brochures, itineraries and more!

Live streaming – keep it real. Thanks to technologies like Periscope or Facebook Live, anyone with a smartphone can download an app and broadcast live on Facebook. Live streaming is much more powerful than video because it opens up communication and allows for real-time viewing and responses. So how can you use it? A cruise line might broadcast from a ship inspection and invite customers to join them by asking questions as they tour the ship.

Do you want to find out more information about our products and how they can help you develop your travel agency? Contact us!