This past summer my wife and I were on our way to Whistler trying to decide how we should fill our time.
We were already planning on kayaking Green Lake. Keenan from Whistler Eco Tours (WET) had emailed us a promo code for their end of the summer deal the week before.
But we still had some more time we needed to fill.
Laurel was scrolling through Facebook when she saw an ad for Whistler Ebike. I told her to find out if our favorite guide Ash was working that day.
She went to their Facebook page and asked through Messenger. Within seconds she was talking to one of their booking agents. They let her know Ash was guiding on Sunday and sent a link to the booking page on the website.
Within two minutes we had our entire trip planned.
This didn’t actually happen.
But it demonstrates the discovery experience you can create with the right marketing and sales technology.
One thing is common throughout this entire example— instant gratification.
The information the travelers need is available exactly when they need it. Even if they don’t know they need it yet.
Let’s take a look at the technology that made it happen.
The best CRM for tour operators
Sales and marketing is one segment of tour operator software. The goal of these systems is to communicate and engage with your prospects and customers to attract them to your website and convert them to paid guests.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
A CMS stores all of your customer details and historical information. You can keep track of everything from a person’s name and email address, to their booking history, interactions with your website and communications. Having all of this information stored allows you to serve your customers better by personalizing their experience. It also allows you to understand what your primary demographics are and track trends over time.
WET and Whistler E-bikes could store information about my wife and me in a CRM.
Content Management System (CMS)
Rather than hard-coding a site yourself (or hiring someone to do it) you can use a content management system. CMS’s allows you to create, edit, organize and publish your website content. You can then use it to house all of your digital assets. Most CMS’s have a variety of themes that you can choose from. Then you personalize the template to match your brand and add your content. You also want to set up your website with SEO best practices in mind so that you appear high on the search results.
Remember the website that Laurel visited for Whistler Ebikes in the example? They probably hosted their website on WordPress.
Your website is your most important online sales channel. It’s also the first impression most guests will have of your business. So you want to make sure your site is set up to impress and convert people.
Email is a great channel to promote your tours and activities. Once someone subscribes to your list, you can keep them up to date with information about sales, new activities, and news about your destination. If you keep your communication short and ensure it always provides value, email can keep your customers engaged and drive online bookings.
Whistler Eco Tours used email marketing to send the promo code to us in the example.
Social media marketing allows tour operators to leverage social channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to connect with their customers and future travelers. You post pictures updates, and stories in the hopes that people will engage with your content and share it with their friends and family. You can share your posts with people who choose to follow you or pay to promote your posts to reach a broader audience.
It’s worth noting that Facebook is becoming a dominant channel on its own with many options for your business. You can now instantly communicate with people in Facebook Messenger and retarget people who came to your website but didn’t purchase through the Facebook Pixel.
Social media played a significant role in Laurel booking Whistler E-bikes. She was served an ad based on her geo-location, then she used Messenger to communicate with their staff.
Channel management (OTA’s/ DMO’s/ DMC’s/Partners)
Today there are many different channels to sell your tours and activities. You have online travel agents (OTA’s) such as Viator, Expedia Local Expert, and GetYourGuide. Then, the Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO’s), and finally you have the Destination Management Companies (DMC’s). On top of that, you might have partnerships with other local companies where you send each other referrals. Channel Management allows you to distribute your tours to all of these partners (without ever double booking) and ensures everyone’s paid their share and commissions.
Channel management wasn’t used in the example, but the two companies could partner up and send each other business.
Businesses have long used gift certificates as a way to encourage sales. Now you can create digital gift cards. Customers can purchase and send them to their friends and family over email or social media. You can also generate coupon codes to share with your contact lists for promotions. To use digital gift certificates, you need the tools that create and track each unique code and accept them at checkout.
There was a coupon code attached to the email we received from WET in the example.
Media – Photos, Video
Travel shopping is an incredibly visual experience. People don’t want to read about the place they are visiting.They want to see it for themselves. For this reason, images and videos can be one of the most influential factors of travel shopping. So it’s smart to invest your time and money to make a good impression. It’s also smart to have an onsite photographer taking photos throughout your tours. People will share these images which can help with word-of-mouth marketing.
Media was used on the website, email, and ad in the example.
That covers the marketing landscape.