Digital marketing is one of the most important aspects of running your business. Even when times are tough it can be done cheaply and effectively. In this article we share different campaigns and tools you can utilize to boost your marketing efforts on a budget.

Marketing is your way of standing out in a crowded tours and experiences industry. When travelers visit your destination they have numerous options to choose from, so how do you ensure that you’re top of mind when they book? These days, it means investing in digital marketing to get in front of people where they are increasingly spending their time researching and booking—online.

However, marketing is a time-consuming and costly endeavor for a full-time marketing professional, let alone someone who is also operating every other aspect of a tours and activities business. It can be difficult to find the time, knowledge, and resources necessary to create an effective digital marketing strategy. Thankfully there are a number of resources available that are cost effective and easy to use, saving you time and getting results.

When budgets are tight and times are tough, marketing doesn’t have to completely come to a halt. There are many different marketing strategies operators can utilize when money is a concern. Below we’ve outlined some cost effective steps you can take to bolster your digital marketing strategy.

Use Social Media to Build a Brand Worth Following with Rich, Interactive Content

One of the natural advantages you have as a tour and activity operator is that your business is tailor-made to draw interest on social media. You bring people together to give them new experiences, open their eyes to a different perspective, and leave them with a memory they’ll never forget. Highlights from your tours and activities are the perfect content for social media feeds.

Reports indicate that 30% of U.S. travelers browse social media for travel inspiration and 74% of travelers use social media. Rich social media networks—Facebook and Instagram in particular—allow you to share your story in a powerful way through photos and videos. The best part? It doesn’t cost anything to start building a following!

Instagram is the perfect place to highlight your unique experiences and story—and interact with travelers who are interested in what you do. To get started, follow some travel brands and tour operators you know to see what kind of content they post, and what type gets the most engagement. Then, take a look at the existing content you have—photos, videos, traveler reviews, fun stories from the past—and decide what could make for some great posts. Take that content and create some posts and be sure to tag the relevant people and add in some hashtags to boost the post’s reach.

The other feature that Instagram offers to help you connect with travelers around the world is going “live.” When you go live, you are broadcasting a video to anyone who follows you or comes across it while exploring content. People are hungry for live content; “82% of audiences would rather watch a livestream than see a social media post,” according to a post from Hootsuite.

As a tour operator you’re nicely positioned to offer up rich, exciting live content. You can give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at how you prepare for your activities, or take viewers alongside an actual tour if that’s feasible! If it’s a slower time and you’re receiving less bookings, consider hosting a virtual tour live on Instagram. That gives you the opportunity to interact with your audience as they write in questions and comments.

Social media lets you quickly—and cheaply—expand your audience base. If you haven’t put much thought into your social media strategy, there’s no better time than today to start putting out some engaging content and start earning followers!

Facebook Ads: Target Smart to Keep Your Costs Down

Facebook is one of the most visited websites in the world, with over half a billion users logging on every month. Just by the sheer scale of its user base, Facebook is one of the best places you can spend your marketing budget. Additionally, 66% of users log on to seek out new products and services, making them open to advertising efforts. Now that you have some ideas for how to create engaging content, let’s look at how you can get those posts in front of more people.

What makes Facebook one of the best choices for a cost effective marketing strategy is the ability to easily manage the amount you spend on your ads. You are in control of the total amount of money you are willing to spend when creating your ad; the minimum spend is only  $5. Whether you want to boost one of your posts (promote it to show up in more people’s feeds), drive users to your website, or encourage them to book a specific experience, or any other number of goals, you’re in complete control. 

When creating an ad on Facebook, put a lot of thought into the audience you want to target. Facebook offers a number of ways to pick who will see your ads. For instance, you can target based on things like pages people have interacted with, ads they click, device usage, travel preferences, age, gender, location, and more. Don’t know who you want to target? You can let Facebook decide who your ad appears in front of based on their algorithm, which may expose your tours and activities to people you wouldn’t have reached otherwise. 

Facebook advertising is a great way to get started with digital advertising because it allows you to control your budget and set your goals.

Put Your Best Foot Forward with an Engaging Website and Track Your Analytics

Your website is your homebase and where you can introduce yourself to the world of travelers. A well-designed website gives visitors a glimpse into the type of experiences you offer, and entices them to book with you. More and more bookings are happening online, so take the time to ensure your website is as visually appealing as possible. For tips on building an effective website, check out this post over on the Bokun blog.

Bokun has also recently introduced their very own website builder. It’s an easy-to-use and intuitive tool that was created specifically for tours and activities operators. Out of the box, it will create a website with a fast site speed, a mobile-friendly design, and other features that Google prioritizes in its search rankings, so it makes it easy to improve your website’s ranking on search engines and attract more visitors. It doesn’t require any prior knowledge of website building. Read more about the Bokun website builder here

Once you’ve taken time to optimize your website for receiving visitors and converting them into bookers, make sure you have a tool in place to measure your website’s performance. Understanding how your visitors interact with your pages is key for ensuring users take the actions you want (learning more about your tours and activities, and booking with you). 

One of the best available tools for measuring website data is Google Analytics. It’s very easy to set up, and free for most use cases. Once you’ve installed Google Analytics you can see how many visitors you receive, their demographics, which channels they come from (search engines, email campaigns, etc.), what pages they visit the most, and much more. Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool that can do as much or as little as you want, you’re in control and can sort data however you want. The important thing is to have a tool you can turn to when you want to measure your website’s performance.

Email Marketing is Still Effective and Can Be Done Cheaply

Email inboxes are incredibly crowded these days for consumers, but email marketing is still effective for any business. 59% of respondents in a survey said that marketing emails have influenced a purchasing decision. Email provides you a direct link to a potential customer and keeps you in their minds when it comes time to book. 

If you don’t currently have an email marketing tool, there are a handful of options out there that are cost effective and let you easily build a well-designed email. Mailchimp and Constant Contact are two good options for operators just starting out with email marketing. These platforms offer very cost effective tools for reaching your target audience.

Of course, the ultimate goal for your business is to increase the number of bookings you receive so many of your emails will be of a promotional nature. But, with email campaigns you have the ability to offer different promotions and target different audiences. If you know that you have a group of local customers you can send them emails that offer them discounts for return visits. Or, if you offer a number of different activities you can segment your audience and promote different products to groups that are likely to be more receptive.

Outside of promotion of your tours and activities, email is a great way to stay in touch with customers and potential bookers and build a relationship with them. Sharing your unique story with your email audience lets them know you as a person and business owner. Share updates like new products you’ve added, new tour guides you’ve hired, and anything interesting happening with your business. 

Because your customers are your best ally, building a relationship with them is crucial. We know that reviews are your most powerful tool and customers that feel like they have a relationship with you and your business are more likely to leave a glowing review. Use your email sends to ask your customers for reviews because they’re important to your business. 

Email is an incredibly powerful tool at your disposal, and it doesn’t take much to get up and running. If you haven’t considered an email marketing strategy as part of your overall digital  marketing plan, get started today. Customers that hear from you regularly are more likely to book with you and share their experiences with the world.

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About the Author: Matt Ellis

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