During this workshop, Mat Newton, CEO and Founder of TourismTiger, walks you through exactly how you can strengthen the weak links in your online presence and generate more sales. Converting visitors to customers is about getting quality traffic, not simply quantity.
You’ll be able to:
The first thing that tour operators encounter when they start doing business online is The Leak. The Leak represents every lost sale that you could have made had you just done something different with your website. It will never be the case that every single visitor to your website books with you, in fact if an average of 2% of your website visitors end up booking, that is a pretty good conversion rate. Online bookings is all about quality traffic, not just sheer quantity.
There are three main components to how you get revenue from your website visitors: conversions, average revenue per customer, and number of bookings per customer. For example, if you have 10,000 visitors with a 5% conversion rate with a $50 average booking value and an average of 1.5 bookings per customer, with an 80% profit margin that amounts to $30,000 in final earnings. What this means is that it is possible to significantly increase your overall revenue by making only small improvements to each component of that equation.
The Value Proposition is the most fundamental selling point of your business – it is the reason people will buy it. It doesn’t matter how cool you think your activity is, if your value proposition is not being communicated clearly to your customers or it just doesn’t excite them, they will not book with you.
The first potential problem you might have with your value proposition is that the niche is too small. For example, if you are thinking of setting up a chocolate tour of Melbourne, that is probably a niche that is too small. You might think that everyone loves chocolate and a lot of people visit Melbourne – and you would be right on both counts – but how many people visit Melbourne specifically for the chocolate? Not many.
The next potential problem is the opposite – your product is not unique enough. If you run a walking tour of Paris that offers spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower, so does everyone else. What is there that separates you from all the other companies that offer exactly the same experience?
The next problem is that your execution could be poor. If we return to the Paris walking tour example, if your tour still goes past the same points as it did ten years ago, has the same old marketing and the same old everything, your tour will not be special enough. Executing your idea well is very important these days.
If you are looking for ideas, the best place to find them is out in the real world. Some of the most successful businesses have come up with their ideas by taking existing ideas and adding a twist to them.
Secondly, piggyback off your area’s strengths. Sydney, for example, has a spectacular harbour and many of its most famous landmarks are right alongisde the harbour. An idea that piggybacks off those strengths could be to run a kayaking tour of Sydney Harbour. It is a fairly unique idea that adds a twist to the typical sightseeing tour and also capitalizes on the strengths of the location.
Another tip is to consider a mix-and-match idea. In the webinar, there is a quoted example of a tour in Mendoza, Argentina, that incorporates a cycling tour and winery tours – both quite popular but rather common activities in the tourism industry. There are several wineries in an area and this tour cycles between them. It has proven to be an extremely successful combination.
The mentality that is common across every single business that is at the top of its field is that they are always asking how they can improve. If you think solely about how you can save money or cut corners, your business will stay small. This means that you should be on the lookout for feedback at every opportunity about every facet of your business. Where do you get it from?
Our first quick tip about TripAdvisor reviews is to focus on quality before quantity. There is a provision in the TripAdvisor algorithm that takes the quantity of reviews into account, but it is more important that you cultivate a high average rating. The best way to ask a customer for a review is to email them afterwards, but think about what goes in the subject line. If they see an email from you in their inbox called ‘Please leave us a review,’ most of them will probably ignore it. If they see an email from you in their inbox called ‘Welcome Home,’ they might be more inclined to open it either out of curiosity of endearment. Once they have opened the email, then you can ask them for a review.
The next tip is to respond to all of your TripAdvisor reviews. It takes time, but it is worth the effort. We found out in a survey that hotels who respond to all their TripAdvisor reviews actually receive on average 25% more bookings, whether or not their rating on TripAdvisor increases. Responding to reviews demonstrates a willingness to engage and take feedback on board, as well as to be accountable if someone does have a bad experience. When you respond to your reviews, you should make sure that it is a personal response, not just a copy/pasted one.
The main benefit to keeping up-to-date with all your reviews is that you can identify areas for improvement from them. If customers had a bad experience because of something in particular, that is something to improve. If a customer singles out something in particular that made their experience really good, then make sure that is something you promote or focus on replicating.
When we talk about quality traffic, what we mean is its relevance. If you receive masses of website traffic but few bookings, your traffic is not very high quality. This is quite intuitive, but what many operators do not think about is that traffic from different sources has different characteristics. Traffic that originates from TripAdvisor behaves differently to traffic that originates from Google, which is different again to traffic that originates from Facebook.
Use your analytics to identify where your sales are coming from. This will help you to identify which channels are generating the best quality traffic so you can work on increasing them.
Don’t be scared to try it, but at the same time don’t focus too much on it. Having said that, don’t expect your first Google Adwords campaign to be a huge success. It is very uncommon that a first campaign works – it takes continuous refinement and improvement to find out which search terms are the most effective to place your business in front of people.
Both online and offline marketing campaigns generate relevant traffic because the people who follow through on the message are obviously at least somewhat interested in what it says. The consideration for marketing campaigns is where to place them to ensure that the largest number of people are interested enough to pay attention.
‘Organic’ Google responses refers to responses to Google searches that are not paid ad placements. These are determined by how relevant the page is to the search term entered according to Google’s algorithm. This is where Search Engine Optimization comes into play. Be aware of which search terms people are using to find you, as well as other possibly relevant terms people could potentially use to find you, and then make sure you rank highly for them.
A lot of operators underestimate the importance of a well-constructed website. It can be a bit of work to keep your website up-to-date or to redesign it, but it is important and a badly designed website could be costing you sales.
According to a survey by HubSpot, 76% of respondents said that being easily able to find what they want is the most important element of a website. To most people, a website is a tool that they use to find information, and if that is difficult to do then the tool is not doing its job and they will no longer use it. 10% of respondents said that beautiful design is the most important and 9% said a cutting-edge experience is the most important. The HubSpot survey did not focus specifically on the tourism industry so it does not have a statistic about online booking capabilities, but we know that a website that does not offer its visitors the possibility of booking then and there in real time is operating at a significant disadvantage compared to those that do.
How do you know that you have achieved that important level of clarity? We call it the ‘Drunk Grandpa Principle.’ Imagine an old grandpa sitting in his chair in front of the TV with a couple of grandkids running around. He’s had a few beers and he’s getting quite sleepy. If you put your website in front of him, would he be able to tell what your website is about? Have you made it so incredibly obvious that even drunk, sleepy Grandpa could work it out?
It is worth bearing in mind that people these days often do something else at the same time while they browse the internet. The clarity of the message on your website is super important because people browsing the internet often are not fully paying attention. Similarly, and more relevant to the tourism industry, a lot of people who browse websites for tourist activities are doing so on slow hotel wifi. You need your message to cut through and reach these people.
The best way to deliver clarity on your website is to have a big, clear headline, big, clear buttons and big, clear pictures. Buttons will tell people what you want them to do with a certain page. You need an action goal on each page – either a ‘Next,’ a ‘Read More’ or a ‘Book Now.’
The next important element is an easy-to-use mobile website. More than half of Google traffic comes from mobile devices now so this is a trend that can no longer be ignored. It is not just enough to have a normal website that is responsive to different screen sizes. You need a properly designed, easy to navigate mobile website.
Readability is very important when it comes to how easy your website is to navigate. Dark text on a light background is best as it is the easiest to read. It doesn’t have to be purely black text on a white page, but dark text on a light background is the best course of action to take.
The last important element of a well-designed website is speed. Speed is incredibly important. Many studies have been conducted on the effect of speed on conversions and they have found that in the initial loading time of a website, every second of loading time reduces sales by 7%. Basically people are impatient and hate slow websites. This is especially important when it comes to the slow hotel wifi we mentioned before. Having a pretty website is good, but not if it comes at the cost of sales because it takes forever to load.
This comes down to your product descriptions. Having refined and well-structured content is important because of the typical behaviour of potential customers visiting your website. The first time someone visits your website, chances are they are not that interested in your business, but rather they are trying to decide whether or not they are interested. If they are confronted by a wall of text, they are unlikely to be interested enough the first time and they will just give up.
Professional photos for your website could be some of the best money you ever spend. They make your website look absolutely amazing and they showcase your business in an engaging and properly attention-grabbing manner. They could generate tens of thousands worth of new bookings for you for years to come.
Video can go a really long way towards selling tours and activities. They can be very exciting bits of content to include that can be extremely effective in converting visitors to customers. They are good for things other than just exciting visuals. Videos can be very effective at reassuring visitors that booking with you is a good option because they allow them to see for themselves what your activity will be like.
As we touched upon with the videos, your content for your website should do more than just say how fabulous you are. You are aware that your customers have their fears, doubts and uncertainties and your content needs to cover these. Photos and videos are important ways to reassure people’s concerns about equipment and activities and their own personal safety, but things like guarantees and your own experience reassure people as well by speaking to your credibility as a business. They work hard for their money – they want to be sure they are not wasting it.
Real-time availability serves two purposes: it gives your customers a cutting-edge booking experience online and it also creates a sense of urgency for them to book sooner. Showing your availability in real-time is a really good addition to have on your website because your customers have all the information available to them then and there.
The other benefit of displaying real-time availability on your website is that it creates a sense of urgency. If you show that there are only three spots left on a certain tour, it could create a sense of urgency that pushes the person to book then and there rather than thinking ‘I’ll come back tomorrow’ and talking themselves out of it in the meantime.
Retargeting is how you always seem to see ads online for websites you’ve just visited. Search ‘hotels in Paris’ and all you see on Facebook for the next day or two is ads from Booking.com or Trivago about hotels in Paris. It works through cookies – you visit a website and it puts a cookie into your browser that tells the program driving the advertising that you have been to that website.
Retargeting is the cheapest form of pay-per-click advertising online. The expense associated with advertising online comes from the size of the audience an ad is trying to reach and the amount of competition for advertising space for this audience. Retargeting is cheaper because the audience you are trying to reach is smaller because it is limited to just people who have visited your website before. You also have an advantage in that by advertising only to people who have already visited your website, you are advertising to an audience which is already somewhat interested in your product so they are more likely to act on the ad.
In terms of potential ROI, we believe that email marketing is one of the most underdone channels. Email marketing is a channel that can be personalized very easily so it can be quite effective. For example, if you offer a PDF guide to the best things to do in your location, have a requirement that anyone who wants to download it give you their email address so you can send it to them. Once you have collected the email addresses into a database, you can use it to send out emails to remind them that you are there and to offer them offers, discounts and extra information.
The process can be automated quite easily as well. You can set it up that when they fill out the form and give you their email address to access the PDF, they receive an email straight away with the PDF, then another email a few days later with an offer, another email a few days after that with a discount, and so on.
Emails are a valuable tool in retaining customers and earning you repeat business. There is a concept in marketing called the 80/20 rule. It states that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers – namely repeat customers are the source of the vast majority of your revenue. This may apply a little less to tourism given that your business comes from people who are travelling, but the principle stands. Repeat business is a big revenue stream that you should try to cultivate. Use your emails to offer your past customers discounts to book with you again.
Emails can also serve to impress customers by demonstrating that you care about them. Reminder emails the day before the activity about what to bring or where the meeting point is or what time the tour leaves, for example, are worthwhile considerations. This sort of email makes customers feel as if you care about them individually and you want them to have a good, safe and enjoyable experience. It also goes back to what we said earlier about doubts and uncertainties that customers might have. If they book with you and then hear nothing after that point, they begin to worry that they have fallen for a scam or that you have forgotten about them. Reminder emails reassure them that you have not, as well as giving you a good opportunity to be helpful.
Now you know about increasing the quality of your website traffic, why not find out about selling your tours in other places?
Try Rezdy for free, we’ll help you manage everything.