The 2019 Guide to Digital Marketing for a Travel Agent in 2019
For several reasons, one of the most difficult travel marketing challenges is to implement a viable advertising campaign. The most common issue that one encounters is that the products generally offered by a home-based travel agency are the same as those that can be purchased from any travel agency within the market scope of the advertising. Whether you are advertising a cruise, tour, airfare or resort, your competition can intercept the demand created by your advertising and turn it into their sale. If you think about it, aren’t you requested to call your travel agent in just about every travel advertisement you see?
Market penetration is another difficult issue. If you place an advertisement in the Sunday travel section of one of the major newspapers in your area, it is quite possible that only one out of ten thousand readers might be considering your particular destination, cruise, or other product at that time. For these reasons, many home-based travel entrepreneurs have opted for the cost efficiency of direct mail newsletters and correspondence, instead.
There are, however, many instances when consumer advertising can pay off, and options that are available for online and app based advertising:
The review based site offers the opportunity for businesses to register and control the content on the profile. Clients can review your services in an easy process which allows for other consumers to find, research and contact you if they see fit. Yelp offers businesses the opportunity to promote their business in a multitude of ways on Yelp and while they cost, they can prove successful. Although the Yelp format is based on a “storefront” model, there are creative ways to bypass the need for a street address to ensure that your home is safe if home-based and still receive the benefits of having your business on Yelp.
The giant of search engines offers many tools that can allow for you and your business to reach new clients. Whether by keywords, location, type of interest and much more, Google offers the ability to pick and choose the type of consumers you wish to reach in internet searches, image searches, video searches and geography map searches. Advertising with Google is easier than ever with their new interface which allows for you to truly control what the consumer sees and reads about your business and the specialities you hold. Here are two of the main opportunities.
Google “My Business”: Google allows you to create a complete profile of your business and update it as much as you would like for absolutely no investment whatsoever (other than your time) Clients can submit reviews and you can communicate with them by responding to each review.
Google “Local Search Ads”: Relatively new is the opportunity to reach your local marketplace by using Google’s Local Search Ads. The big benefit is that your business and ads will show up on Google Maps. This is a huge opportunity as Google discloses that:
- Nearly a third of mobile searches are related to location.
- Location-related searches have been growing 50 percent faster than mobile searches overall in the past year.
- Over a billion people now use Maps.
- Google searches (on Google.com and Maps) guide consumers to 1.5 billion destinations every year.
- 84 percent of consumers conduct local searches.
- Three out of every four people who search for something nearby using their smartphone end up visiting a store within a day, and 28 percent of those searches result in a purchase.
Google AdWords: This PPC (Pay Per Click) giant is an excellent way for travel agents to reach new potential clients in their local market. AdWords offers the opportunity to refine your ads to be delivered to a very specific tailored target audience that can be defined by geographic location such as city state, region, country zip code or a defined area within a certain distance from your location. You can also define your target list by demographics such as age, gender, marital status, geographic location, device and even whether the user is a parent or not. Select as many attributes as you like, and really hone in on the audience that will be most effective for your brand. You can also target by activity or interest. Google’s Remarketing campaign will allow you to place code on your visitor’s computer so that when they land on a site offering remarketing support your ad will show up for the exact product or service they were viewing on your site.
Bing / Yahoo / AOL Search Network
Microsoft’s Bing search engine also powers Yahoo and AOL searches and is gaining market share on Google. Bing also offers a free business listing like Google’s “My Business” and it is called Bing “Places For Business” In fact, if you have developed a robust profile on “My Business” you can easily import it into Bing’s “Places For Business”.
Given that Bing now controls almost a 30% market share for search, it is a mistake to not consider Bing Ads PPC advertising. Since most Bing users are generally also Windows users, Bing offers a slightly different demographic that might well match up with the clientele you are seeking.
Local Community and Location Based Sites
The growth of the smartphone application in combination with the amazing advances on the web have allowed many great opportunities for home-based agents, like yourself, to reach local consumers with ease. Whether it’s a local discussion forum based on your city or location or an app like “Next Door” which ties people living in common neighborhoods together, your neighbors may be some of your best clients. Although advertising isn’t “promoted” on some of these community pages, making others aware of what you do and the powerful service you can provide is sometimes all it takes. Do your due diligence and research for local community pages and groups that you can join for fun, but also to grow your client base.
Social Media Advertising
Social Media continues to be one of the largest influencing factors when a consumer is looking to book a vacation. Whether it’s something they saw on a popular celebrity’s Twitter or a video they stumbled upon while watching YouTube, the power of Social Media and its reach is unquantified. While one could spend tens of thousands of dollars advertising on Social Media, it’s important to know your goal in the first place and then proceed from there. With so many Social Media outlets, it can be quite overwhelming to decide which one is best and which one you should put your resources and efforts into, below is a list of the some of the most established platforms
With a recently reported 2 Billion monthly users, Facebook isn’t just for college kids anymore. The growth, popularity and use of Facebook has continued its growth until it peaked in 2017. Setting up your Business page on Facebook is easy and with some time, you can get the page to show off your area of expertise, as well as testimonials from your past and present clients. Facebook once gave additional promotion based on the number of “likes” you had, today that is out the window and if you want your page to get views, “likes”, and exposure, it will cost you.
Facebook introduced the “boost” option for Business pages in 2014 and since, has grown it into one of the larger revenue streams for the company. While Facebook is now somewhat of a necessity for any business, know that your efforts, no matter how great, are fruitless without some investment into the “boost” to reach your “Follower” audience and beyond. The plain truth is that Facebook has made it so costly to “boost” to your followers that it has seen a flight of revenue into other advertising opportunities and decreased overall valuation as a result. Just remember that “Likes” and “Shares” cannot be deposited into your bank account.
This somewhat simple platform has stood the test of time and continues to be a formidable way to market, expose and gain followers organically. While it is difficult at times to condense a successful message into the 280 characters that Twitter allows, it is not impossible and with some creativity, you can get your point across successfully. Many travel professionals have created successful profiles using Twitter as their basis. By providing useful information couple with incentivizing call to actions, there is most definitely business to be earned using Twitter. Don’t forget to use hashtags in your postings on Twitter to broaden your reach and reach new possible clients outside of your followers.
Twitter Ads allows you to experiment with promotional ads focused on several elements such as geographic location, interest and so on.
The photo sharing app that is smartphone specific for uploads continues to be one of the largest influences in travel making decisions. The ample use of hashtags allows for you to reach out into multiple ares in one photo and also to build a portfolio of your expertise and specialization. Instagram’s “easy to use” mentality has remained mostly in tact, however the platform offers a multitude of additional features such as stories, video and much more. Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 and while the entities are separate, many of the features have crossed over including Instagram promotions which allow you to promote your post to a specified audience with a desired budget. While Instagram continues to grow in size with over an active 1 billion active users, the format is perfectly fitted for the home-based travel agent due to the focus on images, video and travel.
Instagram Business Ads offer the opportunity to use various types of interactive ads such as stories ads, photo ads, video ads, carousel ads and collection ads. You can also tailor your target audience by location, demographics, interests, behaviors, custom and lookalike audiences.
Pinterest is an under-developed opportunity for most travel agents. Pinterest’s image oriented platform is perfect for promoting travel, especially if you specialize in a specific market. Pinterest gives you the opportunity to pin content that can be searched by consumers (Pinterest has over 100 million users) using keywords to find what they are looking for.
By creating numerous pins to your board each with different keywords and descriptions, but all consistent with the board’s overall theme, you can capture potential clients and drive traffic to your website, blog or other landing pages.
Started in 2011, this unique and somewhat “new age” platform is one of interest as we move forward into the future. Although measuring the success of your efforts is seemingly impossible today, this platform is full of evolution, forward thinking and possibility.
Snap Business offers travel entrepreneurs the opportunity to run engaging ads to SnapChat’s millennial culture and is the perfect opportunity to reach this market segment.
The ability to promote your brand is hand in hand with the ability to promote yourself. LinkedIn offers a fantastic professional network of individuals from all over the globe that share the same thoughts. Creating your LinkedIn profile is easy and with some time, effort and education, LinkedIn offers a fantastic avenue for meeting professionals from all types of industries that travel. Marketing yourself on LinkedIn creates the ability to further emphasis your specialty and services by sharing blog posts, stories, testimonials and so much more.
While Linkedin is more B to B, Linkedin ads can be focused on groups of people that may be likely potential clients.
Managing Your Online Profiles
We already talked about your Google, Bing, Yelp and Facebook business profiles, but there are dozens and dozens of additional websites that offer consumers complete profiles of local and niche businesses. While you could visit each and every site and complete your own profile, the most efficient way to accomplish this task is by using yext.com to create an optimized profile, submit it and then update it when necessary. Geoff Millar the Owner of Ultimate All Inclusive Resorts in Phoenix, AZ has used yext.com for years and swears by it.