Wasted advertising spend is one of the most common problems we inherit with new clients. After working with tour operators for the past seven years, we understand that you need to do a lot with a little as it relates to your marketing budget. This blog series will outline strategies to help you leverage a data-driven approach to your marketing. To start, we will explore how and why you should have distinct marketing strategies for locals and tourists.
Identify the Audience
Who are our customers? Where do they live? When are they booking? By identifying our audience, we can put together strategic marketing plans that speak directly to our customers rather than wasting dollars on marketing to the wrong people.
Are the majority of our customers male or female? What age range do they fall in? This will give us insight on the language to use and what demographics to target in campaigns. Rather than looking at all of our website visitors, we focus on those visitors that are converting – through both online reservations and leads.
We can also access information specific to our customers’ booking locations and residences. This data is pulled from user IP addresses and credit card zip codes and will inform our segmentation and targeting strategies.
By analyzing the days of week and times of day that our audience is most likely to purchase, we can launch campaigns at the most optimal times for opens and clicks. We can also ensure we begin targeting users at appropriate times based on how far in advance they’ll make the purchase by evaluating our booking lead times.
Is this an experience in a rural mountain town or a big city? Is this a party tour or a corporate outing? Considering the experience itself will help define the voice we need to use throughout our marketing channels.
Marketing to LOCAL Customers
For many tour and activity businesses, locals make up a large percentage of customers. Consider the data in the above screenshot from one of our clients who owns an escape room in Atlanta. When we review their booking data, we see that many of their booking locations come from within a local radius. TOMIS uses this data to create an integrated marketing plan that ensures we’re reaching our local customers. This is especially important to understand for your paid advertising campaigns — just because you can target everyone, does not mean you should. The smaller the target, the more accurate you will be! Think zipcode versus metro area; hour of day instead of day of week, etc.
Consistent NAP information across the website and citation sites is essential for ranking in local search. It’s also crucial that the company’s GMB profile is complete and accurate with relevant categories and reviews. We target local queries, specifically city names, in our metadata and on-page content. LocalBusiness structured data should be implemented, including reviews and any other relevant schema. Inbound links are also a ranking factor so we work to gain valuable links from partners, vendors, local news and other companies in the area.
It’s critical to ensure our ads are targeting optimal locations, down to the zip code, to ensure minimal wasted spend. The use of negative keywords is imperative in making sure that we’re not showing up for search queries we shouldn’t be showing up for. This would drive our click-through rate down, which would negatively affect our quality score, which would significantly affect where our ad is entered into the auction bidding process.
Keep an eye out for our Adwords blog coming soon, covering everything from high level strategies to in-depth optimizations such as custom ad schedules, bid management, weather-based triggers and much more.
Historical data allows us to understand which email campaign participants have purchased in the past and which tours they booked. Using this data is imperative to successfully converting return visitors. We also run resident specials and promotions, as well as local customer appreciation month discounts.
Similar to Adwords campaigns and email campaigns, we utilize our demographic data to create highly specific social media ads targeted at people within close proximity to our experiences. Facebook Pixel tracker allows us to retarget users who have taken action on our website in the past. Using local jargon and referring to nearby locations, events and activities allows our social ads to speak directly to our local audience. It’s also important to consider why locals would be coming on our trip or tour. Does the business attract a lot of corporate outings? If so, we want to make sure we’re speaking to that in our advertisements.
When writing for locals, we include details about events and activities near and around the location including local sports events, restaurants or any other relevant activities nearby. Weekly or monthly newsletters that list events and activities in and around the location are great for establishing a sense of community.
Marketing to TOURISTS
Most tours and activities businesses attract tourists from all across the planet. Consider one of our clients who runs rafting trips in Alberta. When we review their booking data however, we see that many of their booking locations are not local. However, it is important to account for seasonality and booking behavior here. While many early/shoulder season bookings are not local, there’s a historical pattern that we use to inform our marketing strategy, knowing that from mid-June on, the percentage of bookings from a local radius increases. Understanding historical booking trends allow you to maintain an agile marketing strategy throughout the year.
When developing a keyword strategy for tourists, we focus on targeting both broad queries and queries specific to long-haul markets. By including broad terms in our keyword themes, we ensure that our site is visible in search results even when the searcher isn’t in close proximity. We also prioritize local terms based on search volume, competition and existing rankings in the identified long-haul markets. Any kind of general SEO tactics that improve overall visibility in search will benefit SEO for tourist markets.
We use historical Adwords data to inform where and when we should be targeting our audience. By knowing their habits, we can show up in the right place at the right time. For a rafting client on the Kicking Horse River in Alberta, we show ads to regions farther away during the early months of the year as their booking lead time is much greater than a local resident who’s booking a day trip for this Saturday. Knowing our customers’ segmentations and booking lead times alleviates wasted spend and maximizes our return on ad spend.
When creating email campaigns targeted at tourists, we focus on sharing the best places to visit and any related specials or promotions in the area to assist in driving bookings. Sharing top tourist attractions, availability at nearby hotels, and travel tips and checklists is also highly effective in converting people in long-haul markets.
For successful social campaigns targeted at tourists, we leverage our understanding of long-haul markets in tandem with regional promotional and advertising efforts. By understanding the differences in our long-haul markets vs. our regional markets, we’re able to develop personalized ads depending on each respective persona in each geographic area. Similar to our Adwords campaigns, we can also analyze booking lead times to understand how far in advance we should begin promoting ads in the specific locations.
When writing content and blog posts for tourists, we are mindful that tourists will want more information and history about the trips and tours. Tourists are also typically looking for suggestions and ideas about other things to do around the area or additions for their trip or tour. By creating weekend guides, we provide tons of information beyond just our experience for tourists, including the best restaurants and inns nearby.
Leveraging data about our local and tourist customers provides valuable insight for crafting campaigns, saving money and driving more sales. Adwords and Facebook make money by capitalizing off of small-medium sized businesses (SMBs) who are utilizing shotgun blast approaches without any defined marketing strategy. Rather, TOMIS leans on rifle marketing strategies where we have a clearly defined, small target and therefore, better accuracy. We aim small and miss small, minimizing loss and maximizing success.