It seems like a major “duh!” statement, but if your tour company doesn’t have a strong online presence, you’re not going to have a strong business. The wonderful world wide web is where people go to shop, purchase services, and—most pertinent to tour operators—plan vacations. Whether you’re an internet newbie or you’re mastering the information superhighway, this guide will provide you with practical, actionable guidance for improving your tour company’s online presence and turning that presence into a higher volume of passengers on your tour bus.
Build a quality website
Your website is your calling card, your homebase, your face on the internet. It’s important that it doesn’t look like a 1997 Geocities page. You can use a template from Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress, or, if you’re not technically inclined, hire yourself a web designer. They can be pricey, but having a professional website is a tool for success that you cannot do without. If you do choose to work with a designer, make sure you can edit your content without having to redesign every time you want to update pricing or other details. Whichever route you choose, you need to make sure your website is attractive and user-friendly. Keep it simple and sleek so your clientele can find the information they need when they need it. Finally, make sure you can facilitate direct booking through your platform. This might require development resources, but by eliminating the steps a user takes towards a commitment you eliminate barriers to sales. Check out how Bus.com makes it easy to book everything from a coach bus to a minibus online and in minutes.
Establish a strong social media presence
When people first create a social media strategy, they often feel overwhelmed. We get that. The prevailing wisdom in the field suggests businesses should have a presence on every platform. While it is important to meet your clientele where they are, you might not have the resources to develop strategies for every site from Facebook to ello. If you have limited time and can’t afford to hire a social media manager, select a few key platforms to focus on. You can always add more later. But before you start prioritizing, be sure to research which platforms are popular with your target audience.
Once you’ve decided which platforms to focus on, it’s time to start creating posts. Be sure to use a professional tone, but be creative and friendly. Respond when people reach out to you. Show off what you’re passionate about. You’re a tour operator – you must love your neighborhood. Use it as your muse!
Testimonials are all about providing social proof to increase trust in your company. Let’s face it. When travellers are researching tours to add to their vacation itinerary, they don’t know who to trust. Their trips are very likely the first time they will visit your region, so they’ve probably never heard of your tour business. How are you going to convince those travellers to trust that you’ll take them on an enjoyable and unique tour? The answer: testimonials. According to a 2016 study, 74% of people say a positive review makes them trust a business. So start collecting testimonials and display them proudly. To encourage your customers to leave positive reviews, offer an incentive, such as a discount they can pass on to a friend. You’ll also need to make it easy. Install a plug-in on your webpage that lets users leave five stars in just a few clicks.
Optimize your website for mobile
Studies show that Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) represent 45% of mobile bookings. That’s a key indicator that regional tour operators should make sure their websites are optimized for mobile. But there’s more than one reason to get your site ready to work on smartphones. Research shows that the travel industry is lagging in mobile marketing compared to other industries. So it’s a good time to get ahead of the competition by making sure your website is professional and engaging enough to inspire the trust of mobile users. If your site doesn’t perform well on a phone, users might have to wait until they get to their desktop to book your tour. In that time, they could turn to one of your competitors or think of something else they want to do.
Blogging, one of the biggest marketing trends of the last decades, has moved from trend to vital element of any marketing strategy. Blogging is a lot more than creating off-the-cuff content that goes out into the void. A blog is an excellent way to show your readers who you are, who you cater to, and why your travel experience is one your clients will remember. As you would with your social media posts, use your neighborhood as your point of inspiration. Brainstorm all the things you love about your region. Select a few of those things and turn them into topics. Start slow and write one post every two weeks, taking the time to create a quality 1000-word blog post. The results of a good blog will produce a clear brand image, great search engine optimization, and new clients who are excited about your tour services.
Buckle down on content
And that means doing more than blogging! We know this all seems like a lot, but if you want to stand out in the great expanse that is online media, you have to do the work! These days video content is dominating social media, pulling in those high engagement numbers digital marketers strive for. Hubspot suggests that 53% of consumers want more videos, so get out there and create that content! We recommend starting with a livestream of your tour, using your tour bus as an opportunity to speak directly to your clientele and show off your charming personality in the process. Share these videos through various live-streaming options that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offer, or cut them up and share them as Stories.
Work with influencers
As we said before, a huge part of marketing your tour is inspiring trust. People follow the advice of people they trust. That’s where influencers come in. Not only is it the influencer’s job to cultivate their online image, they have to foster a relationship with their followers so that when they recommend a tour or destination, followers can trust it’s a good one. That trust can help you, the tour operator, sell tickets.
Reach out to travel bloggers and other influencers like @lisahomsy to partner with them in pushing your services. And check out these lists of Boston, Toronto, and Chicago influencers if you operate in those areas. Working with influencers can get your product in front of hundreds of thousands of potential clients. That’s a lot of butts on the tour bus!