Note: This is a guest article by Allan Teruel, CTO at Embark.
A typical day as a travel agent is tough. It can include training on new products and destinations, sending out documents, and booking trips. Acquiring new clients is on of the most time-consuming and expensive parts of running a travel agency. We know you’re looking for travel agency marketing tools that save you time. We also know you probably don’t want to spend a fortune on expensive marketing tools.
Luckily in this day and age, technology has allowed us to share our message in a more cost-effective and time-saving way. We’ve compiled our Top 4 Travel Agency Marketing Tools list to help you acquire new customers.
Travel Agency Marketing Tools: E-Marketing
Maybe you’ve spent years compiling that database of names and email addresses and now it’s time to put it to work. Maybe you’re brand new and only have a few email addresses. Either way, e-mail marketing is key to connecting with your customer on an ongoing basis.
You want to make sure that they don’t forget you since they could plan a trip on a moment’s notice. While there are many newsletter services out there, we like MailChimp the best. They’ve got an easy-to-use web interface, pre-packaged templates, and a cool mobile app to view real-time stats of your customers. And, did we mention they have a free plan?
We’re also big fans of the often overlooked feature, A/B testing. Haven’t heard of it? You’re not alone. It’s a great marketing tool for travel agencies because it increases the open rate of your email marketing campaigns. You can change your subject line, email content, etc. and MailChimp sends the 2 emails out to small section of your list to ‘test’ which gets better open/click-thru rates. Does “Winter Specials—Save up to $250” or “This Winter’s Best-Value Destinations” get a better open rate with your clients? MailChimp analyzes the data, declares the winner, and send out the winning e-mail to the remainder of your list.
You can use MailChimp for free (up to 20,000 mailers per month).
Note: The MailChimp link above is an affiliate link. If you sign up for a paid MailChimp plan, you’ll receive a $30 credit to your account.
Travel Agency Marketing Tools: Personalized Email Addresses
*** UPDATE: As of December 2012, Google Apps is no longer a free service. Pricing ***
Tops on our list of free travel agency marketing tools is Gmail. Who doesn’t love Gmail? It’s easy-to-use, beautiful, and effectively manages your inbox with labels.
There’s a couple reasons why we like Gmail as a marketing tool for travel agencies. First, it’s free as long as long as your organization has less than 10 email users and each user sends less than 500 emails per day. If you’re sending over 500 emails a day, that means you’re sending an email roughly every 3 minutes, 24 hours a day. We think you might need to give your keyboard a break.
Second, you can get a personalized e-mail address with your agency domain instead of it ending in aol.com, gmail.com, or yahoo.com. You can promote your brand or travel agency name right from the get-go with a YourName@YourAgencyWebsite.com email address!
You may not be super tech-savvy. Don’t worry, it’s actually really simple. We wrote up a blog post that will walk you through how to set up your personalized email address—enjoy!
*** UPDATE: Embark.at was acquired by JusCollege. The blog post mentioned above has been removed. Here’s a link to a tutorial for setting up your custom email address with Google Apps. ***
Travel Agency Marketing Tools: CRM Tool
What’s a sales process, you say? It’s the method a sales person takes a perspective customer from lead to a close of a sale. An online CRM can help you manage that process and help you focus on what’s important to close that sale.
We recommend travel agency focused CRMs such as ClientBase Windows, ClientBase Online, and ClientEase. There are other CRMs such as Salesforce or Zoho but for a travel agency marketing tool, you can’t beat the integration the travel industry CRMs have with the existing travel industry infrastructure. Also hard to top is their in-depth understanding of what information travel agents need to be keeping track of.
CRMs are an investment but since we think a CRM is an essential travel agency marketing tool, we’re going to tell you now that ClientBase or ClientEase may be a very wise investment.
Travel Agency Marketing Tools: Live Chat on your Website
What if your website could talk? Now it can with Zopim. Zopim is a free instant messenger client that is a great travel agency marketing tool. You could drop into your travel agency’s website or blog. Now whenever your customers visit your website, you will be alerted. You can then choose to interact with the visitor to answer their questions or promote it as another channel existing clients can reach you. Zopim will provide you with a few lines of code, the instructions to install it, and within a few minutes you’ll be up and running—all for free! They also provide a free iPhone app, so you can interact with clients on the go.