A marketing plan is a separate part of your business plan and spells out the details of how you are going to reach potential clients with the expectation of creating sales and revenue. It details all aspects of your sales and marketing activity including advertising, promotions, direct sales calls, articles, books, online, social media and any other channel that you elect to use while generating sales and revenue.
Like with business plan software, just about all of the marketing plan software programs you will find online are designed for the purpose of supplementing business plans that are intended to attract investors or lenders. Unless your objective is to find an investor in your business, you shouldn’t use these tools. Your marketing plan will be unique to you and your travel niche and should be your personal roadmap to success.
Even more than your business plan, your marketing plan should be very fluid. Understand that it should and will change on a month-to-month basis as you discover what works with the highest return on your investment and what just doesn’t produce at all. Because of this, your marketing plan should be simple to work with, yet well thought out. Avoid making any long term commitments, especially when just starting out. Once you first start your business, sales people selling services and advertising to new businesses will undoubtedly contact you with “special deals”. Avoid all of these “opportunities” until you know what is working for you.
So let’s take a look at how to create your marketing plan.
Your Marketing Statement
You should create a concise marketing statement that spells out specifically what your marketing campaigns are intended to accomplish. Using the example in the business plan tutorial of selling SUP and Yoga retreats, a marketing statement might be “To reach SUP and yoga professionals and enthusiasts offering retreats for individuals and groups to Hawaii”
You should apply your marketing statement to every dime you spend. As an example, you probably wouldn’t want to take out an advertisement in the Yellow Pages, but would in media that was only read by your target market.
To create your marketing plan we will fall back on the same five questions that we used for your business plan; who, what, when, where and why.
Who are You Going to Market to?
Who you market to makes all the difference in the world. The more precise your marketing statement is, the easier it is to find the right potential clients to reach out to. As an example using SUP and yoga retreats might be SUP and surf shops, SUP and yoga instructors, membership fitness centers, SUP and yoga associations and other groups that might be associated with SUP and yoga niches.
By defining who you are going to market to you simplify the process and eliminate vast areas where you might otherwise waste time and resources. Spend as much time defining who you are going to market to and generate a list of logical and specific targets.
What are You Going to Market?
At one time travel agents used to send brochures out indiscriminately with the hopes that someone would book something. Of course, this kind of marketing has long since ceased as a viable opportunity. Today, once you understand exactly what you are going to offer potential clients you can drill down to the most likely candidate to buy what you are offering. Again, you should be as specific as possible, the products and / or services that you are offering so you can penetrate the most logical potential clients.
By understanding what you are bringing to the marketplace, you can pick from the myriad of advertising, promotional and sales opportunities that will present themselves, as you grow your business.
When are You Going to Market?
Everyone knows that being in the right place at the right time is a key to success, so one must consider when exactly is the best time to deliver your product to the marketplace. Let’s say that you specialize in selling Alaska Cruises, which operate generally from June to early September, what are the best months to market to potential cruise passengers that are considering an Alaskan cruise? Understanding the timing of your marketing efforts is critical to gaining the highest return on your marketing investment.
If you are marketing a cyclical product (like Alaska cruises, as an example) you might want to consider another specialty that is counter cyclical to balance the revenue flow from your marketing efforts. Cyclical marketing activity is best captured on a time line.
Where are You Going to Market?
This is the most intriguing aspect of marketing. There are so many different ways to reach potential clients it is bewildering. This is where “365 Marketing Strategies for Travel Agents” by Tom and Joanie Ogg CTC, MCC can really help you make some decisions on how to invest your marketing budget. Advertising, online marketing, specialty advertising items, personal sales calls, seminars, presentations, promotions, community groups, social media, and so many more different opportunities exist that you really need to focus on the channels that will provide the results that you desire within the budget that you have allocated for the task.
Finding the perfect vehicle will result in the highest conversion (lead to sale) ratio with the lowest cost of sale possible is the name of the game. You should keep track of the cost of each activity, the number of leads that it generates and the number of sales made. Further, keep track of the products that you are marketing and the internal yield per sale to find out which products are the most profitable and have the lowest cost [er sale as a percentage of the yield generated.
Why are You Going to Market?
While the answer to this question seems simple “to get new customers” the reality is that there are so many reasons to invest in marketing that understanding the exact result that you intend to achieve is mandatory to a successful marketing plan. Some agencies advertise to build their brands, while others do so to establish their niche other may spend marketing dollars to establish a mailing list. You should completely understand why you are engaging a marketing campaign.
A well thought out campaign can result in several areas of productivity including building your brand, establishing a mailing list, generating leads and developing relationships within specific niches. Funding the cost of complex marketing campaigns by reinvesting a portion of the productivity generated by the campaign is what you should opt for. Once you have the perfect combination of complex benefits, yield and cost per conversion, you are set to grow your business as your marketing effort is undoubtedly scaleable.
Build a Timeframe
Many agents start with a robust marketing plan that generates new clients and tend to then focus on the task of processing those clients throughout the sales process and forgo their marketing plans in favor of operations. This is always a huge mistake as once the client’s have concluded their travel the agent is left without further business to work on.
The way to make sure that you have a constant flow of new clients and opportunities is to build a timeline for your marketing efforts and to stick to it. Allocate a certain amount of time every day to make sure that you continue your efforts and also spend at least an hour a week evaluating the results from your market plan. Always update it by removing activity that does not produce from your timeline and adding more of those that do. In short order you will find your self betting better and better results from your marketing plan investment.