Designing your tour is one of the best parts of starting a tour operator business. You get to let your creativity run wild to create a unique experience for your guests.
But as Nicholas Wilson of Wicked Wine Tours knows, designing your tour isn’t just about planning a route and picking stops along the way— it’s about creating a brand for your business.
Nick entered the highly competitive market of wine tours in the Okanagan valley four years ago. By creating a truly unique experience for his guests, Nick was able to differentiate himself from his competitors and exceed his guest’s expectations.
Now Wicked Wine Tours is known as THE tour in the Okanagan to do if you want an exceptional experience.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Nick and ask him to share some of his branding secrets. If you want to design a wicked tour of your own, keep on reading.
1: Find a need
Most successful businesses are created to fill a need. For Nick, it was all about service. Having 30-years of high-end experience, he felt he could create deliver a truly exceptional experience.
Most wine tours will bus their guests from one vineyard to the next, but Wicked Wine Tours takes a different approach. They focus on smaller groups and use modern, well-appointed vans versus small buses or large coaches.
Nick’s success proves that your idea doesn’t have to be completely new. The market for wine tours in the Okanagan Valley was already saturated, it didn’t need another wine tour. But by taking a high-end approach, he was able to blow the competition away.
Maybe your city is already full of food tours, but none offer vegan options. Or your city is known for its craft beer, but there aren’t tours for IPA enthusiasts.
2: Do your homework
Having a gut feeling that there is a need for something doesn’t mean it’s true.
To prove your theory, you’ll have to do your homework. You wouldn’t want to set up a vegan food tour only to find there’s only one vegan restaurant in town, or that the current tours were already offering a vegan menu.
Once you’ve proved that your concept is legitimate and there’s a place for you in the market, take some time to research suppliers and write a proper business plan.
“Give yourself 6 months to a year of lead up to do your research, write a proper business plan and meet the right people so when the first season comes you hit the ground running.”
Within your business plan include your unique selling proposition. This is a short phrase that explains your company and what makes you different. Mastering your unique selling proposition will help you describe your vision to suppliers and contractors in the next steps.
3: Build relationships with your vendors
How your suppliers conduct, themselves plays a big role in your customer’s experience. So when you start designing the stops along your tour, it’s important that you pick suppliers that align with your brand.
Nick not only researched every partner in the valley but he also took the time to set meetings with each of them so he could hear about their needs and explain his vision. Something he said the suppliers really appreciated.
Nick picked partners he knew would provide a high-quality product and great service. And reviews his partners each year to ensure they keep up to his standards.
“You can have the best bottle of wine in the world, but if the people behind the tasting bar are jerks, it doesn’t matter, you’re going to have a bad experience.”
4: Choose a name
Picking a name for your business can hands down be the hardest part. You have to narrow down your vision to a few words and find a domain that’s available.
Nick’s advice is not to rush it. He says he had been working on the business for months before the name came to him in a moment of inspiration while in a California vineyard.
So rather than staring at a blank piece of paper with google open in one tab and thesaurus.com in another, get out and immerse yourself in things that remind you of your tour. Your eureka moment will come.
5: Hire a designer
Your visual brand; your logo, color scheme, fonts, website, and social profiles, sets the tone for your business. Most people will interact with your brand before they go on your tour so give it the attention it deserves. A designer can create a complete design package for you, and a professional brand is well worth the price.
Nick recommends you find a local company, explain your brand and vision to them and then let them run with it. A trick he’s learned is to get quotes from at least 3 different vendors. That way you get a sense of what the price should be and learn questions to ask others. Then pick the one that gets it right.
“In the end go with your gut and pick someone you jive with.”
6: Get some killer photos
In the tourism industry, imagery is incredibly important. Anyone dreaming about their next vacation will spend hours online browsing pictures of beautiful destinations; even if the intent is to merely find a new desktop background for motivation. If you can get them to start daydreaming about your destination, you win.
Nick definitely does. His website has stunning pictures of vineyards that make you feel like you’re signing up for a premium experience. But here’s a secret: he didn’t pay a premium price for those pictures.
Instead, he simply reached out to his partners and asked if he could use their professional photos.
If you’re lucky enough to work with suppliers that have hired professional photographers you can do the same. Be clear about how you plan to use them, giving the supplier credit and not distributing the pictures, they should agree to the extra exposure.
7: Pay attention to the details
When you build a brand, it’s not just about coming up with a name or designing a logo. It doesn’t come from one single thing that you do, but rather by reinforcing an idea in every interaction your guests have with your business.
Nick focuses on every single detail— from the branding and website, through to his training, how he picks his team and how they conduct the tours, he aims to blow his guests away.
“That’s the difference between exceptional and blasé experience; it’s in the little details. “
So when designing your tour take the time to get the little things right, they might just make the biggest difference.