VIDEO: The $100 Travel Agency Marketing Plan
Impatient? Scroll down to watch the video. ☺️ Starting up a small business is difficult. Whether you're just starting your travel agency or looking to grow your client base, we've put together a travel agency marketing plan for you. Best part is, it won't break the bank. We call it the $100 marketing plan because all you need is good ol' Ben Franklin to get started.
We originally presented the $100 travel agency marketing plan at a Travel Weekly event. Since not everyone could make it, we made a recording for those of you that couldn't attend. While you'll be missing out on the witty remarks, the recorded presentation is the next best thing to being there! ☺️
Some topics that we cover in the travel agency marketing presentation:
- Why marketing is important
- Setting up a sample travel agency marketing calendar
- 7 marketing ideas for under $100
VIDEO: The $100 Travel Agency Marketing Plan
Get your popcorn ready and prepare for 35 minutes full of new travel agency marketing ideas. Without further ado, a recorded version so you can rewind, pause, and fast forward as much as your little heart desires.
Resources & Video Recap
In the video, we talk about the importance of planning ahead in your marketing. We talk about creating a strategic plan for your travel agency's marketing efforts. To help you visualize things, we created a sample marketing calendar for you to download and use. We recommend setting up calendar reminders and printing it out and placing it on your desk to hold yourself accountable to your marketing plan.
Remember to consider these few things when creating your marketing calendar:
- Focus on a few preferred suppliers. You don't want to spread yourself too thin. If you focus on a few of your preferred suppliers, in the long run you'll be able to concentrate your marketing efforts, which will help you build positive relationships with those suppliers and free you up to perks like co-op dollars to help fund your marketing efforts. Not sure what a preferred supplier is? Read this.
- Plan early. Make your marketing calendar a year (or more) in advance of each trip. This way, you can ensure that if you qualify for co-op dollars that you'll be the early bird who gets the worm, and can apply the co-op dollars to your marketing plan. If you have a great idea for a trip that would take place a few months out, there probably won't be any co-op dollars available. The key is to use the calendar so you can really plan ahead and start your marketing efforts ASAP (and make sure you get your genius idea on the calendar for the next year).
- Look at your data in order to decide when to push your marketing for each trip. When do your clients travel for your different trips? How far out in advance do they book? Begin your marketing during the 3 months before your clients seem mostly likely to book.
Online Marketing Suggestions
Okay, so putting together a plan is one thing, but acting on your wonderfully detailed plan is another! Here's a few grassroots marketing recommendations to help the rubber meet the road:
- Competitive Analysis: Most of your marketing endeavors will start local, so your competitors (or you can look at them as a cohort) aren't Expedia or Orbitz. They are the other travel agents operating within an hour's drive of you. So do your Googling. Who else pops up in the local listings? Check out their site. What do they sell and how to do they market? Stalk them a little bit on FB to see how they engage with their audience. Read their reviews to see what people have to say about them (if you're just starting out, this help you give a sense of what active clients are looking for and help you avoid mistakes or embrace successes they mention in reviews). That being said . . .
- Local Listings. And list all over the place. Google, Bing and Yahoo have the highest market share among search engines1. Check out all the search engines. For example I googled "Minneapolis travel agencies." What comes up for you?
For the three different search engines, I had three different results. But all of them—on the first page—had not only their own local listings, but also linked to listing to Yellow Pages (YP), Angie's List, and Yelp (in different order depending on the search engine. What does this mean? It means you not only want to list locally on Google, Bing and Yahoo, but you also want to make sure you're listed on subsidiary directories like the ones mentioned earlier. Here are links to list locally on the main 3 search engines and make sure you're listed on desktop AND mobile (because, 21st century):
- List Locally on Google
- List Locally on Bing
- List Locally on Yahoo (Yahoo has apparently outsourced their listing services to Yext)
- Speaking of Going Mobile . . . You want (let's be honest—NEED) to make sure that your website is mobile friendly. In 2013, the number of mobile users equaled desktop users and has continued to exceed desktop users since then. Whoa.
Not only that, but in the travel industry, the "Share of online searches initiated on a mobile device" for the travel industry was a whopping 52%2. Do you need more convincing? I hope not. What this means is that when you begin to create your awesome website, you'll want to be sure that you research what theme you want to use and check on your phone to make sure it's mobile friendly before you commit to it. There will be oodles of options.
- Google Analytics. Set up Google Analytics for your website. Seriously. Do this. I ain't messin' around. This will really help give you a big picture look at your user engagement . . . how many users are coming to your site from where, whether they are on desktop or mobile, how much time they spend on your different web pages. It's even free and user friendly (and no, I am NOT paid by Google—wishful thinking! ☺️). Even if you're just starting out and don't know how you'll want to use it, set it up. Because all that data will be waiting for you when decide you want it. Here's a link to set you up on Google analytics. We also recommend checking out Google's free course to familiarize yourself with the power of using Google Analytics on your site.
- Email Marketing. We really like MailChimp. Have been using it for years and love it! Why am I giving it such a glowing review?
- Free: They have a great free program for startups, so you won't be charged until your list reaches a certain size. When that day comes, they can grow with you if you use them for email marketing. On their free plan, you can have up to 2,000 subscribers and create 12,000 emails per month (seriously, please don't write that many emails!).
- Analytics: MailChimp give you stats like open rate and click through rate so you can see which emails are garnering a strong response. That said . . .
- A/B Testing Capability: You can have fun and experiment with A/B testing, which mean that you can use the analytics to see what email subject, content, or send time receives the most responses. Then after their testing period, they send the "winning" email to the rest of your subscriber list to help beef up your engagement.
If you want to get a little fancy pants and sign up for a more sophisticated plan, you can use this affiliate link and get a $30 credit to your account (and help us feed our dogs).
- 6. And So Much More Marketing Fun on HARYou can't find the gold because there is no end of the rainbow at HAR ☺️ Seriously, we have so many marketing articles that touch on the three major types of marketing:
- 1. Passive Marketing is a one-time investment marketing. You wrap your car in your agency logo, you wear a t-shirt with your agency name, you list yourself on an online directory (etc.).
- Read How to Get More Clients in 3 Easy Steps for a few more ideas.
- 2. Referral Marketing is when your happy clients tell other potential clients (like we just told you about MailChimp). This is usually organic marketing, but, sadly, it won't happen without networking, so without further ado, here's A Travel Agent's Guide to Building a Work Community.
- 3. Social Media & Online Marketing
The marketing articles above are a great start, but they're by no means an exhaustive list. Want more? The entire box of treasure is right here . . . in which case I stand corrected. There was gold at the end of the rainbow after all ;) ???
I've done my share of grass roots and internet marketing to build small businesses. If you still have questions, drop us a line, join the conversation in the comments below, or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.