We are Changing Our Name

Exciting news! We are changing our name to Travel Marketing Systems. 

Our vision has always been (and still is) to make digital marketing technology readily accessible to independent, specialist travel agents and tour operators in order to enhance the synergy between them. This technology can make a real difference to your travel business, and give you all the right tools to succeed in the digital age. 

We started out in 2010 providing Tour Operator and Cruise feeds to power up Travel Agent websites with the inspirational content needed to showcase expertise and stand out from the crowd. 

As the digital age has gathered pace and evolved over the last decade so have we.

We quickly recognised clients wanted a simple, intuitive and frustration-free way to manage all their digital marketing and needed help to navigate the profusion of digital channels out there. 

We have expanded our range of bespoke tools to power up and automate your entire digital strategy, providing everything you need to secure and grow your business.

With our customer friendly, content rich, website designs providing the catalyst for growth, our range of additional tools allow you to build a complete marketing system designed specifically for your travel business needs.

It will help you:

– attract and manage leads, 

 – market to potential and existing clients,

 – manage your content, 

 – build promotions, 

 – and convert and retain ideal clients

So we’ve changed our name to better reflect our changed business.

Welcome to:

Travel Marketing Systems

Our new name better represents our range of products and services designed to work together to provide a complete marketing strategy that gets results. Our digital solutions provide everything you need to create an affordable, time saving & easy to use marketing system guaranteed to grow your client base and increase sales in the most straightforward way possible.

The Future is bright

Even though current times are difficult for travel, we remain excited about the future and you should too. 

As a professional travel advisor, now more than ever your ideal clients will be seeking your advice on how to have the best travel experience in a post-Covid world. Your expertise adds enormous value and is what will enable you to succeed and grow. 

But the enormous shift away from the High Street brought about by enforced social distancing is here to stay. Your ideal clients have moved online and you must follow suit. It is essential to make your online presence the new focus of your business. Your website will become your future customers’ first port of call and your digital marketing system will be your secret weapon in converting leads into customers.

The most successful business owners are the ones who are looking to embrace this change. What I encourage you to do right now is to get yourself positioned to take advantage of the opportunities coming your way when this crisis passes. I cannot stress enough that businesses that provide a seamless, informative online experience are poised to succeed during this challenging time. 

Get the Travel Marketing System firmly in place, complete any training you haven’t had time for and be ready for the influx of people who can’t wait to travel again!

 

Your clients and subscribers want to hear from you [ why you should use email marketing right now to engage]

In Seth Godin’s latest bestseller, a must-read for any business owner, he explains how different businesses ‘market’, their goods and services. 

The High Street Travel Agent, small niched online travel agent or tour operator is a mix of a direct marketeer and a brand marketer. Most businesses are. Most travel agents don’t see themselves as brand marketers though, although they are more brand marketer than direct marketer. 

Businesses built on foundations of Permission and Trust will not only survive, but thrive after the Covid-19 pandemic ends.

The most marketing a travel agent will say they do is Boost a Facebook post, perhaps pay for a Facebook advert, maybe advertise in the local paper/magazine. These may redeem results, but never in the quantities that we want, and often, never produce a return on investment. That’s why Travel Gossip does not have lots of posts on ‘Hey – just boost your facebook post and life will be rosy’

No one is boosting travel offers right now

The business owner forgets – direct marketing is expensive and is difficult to make work in a crowded market place. Read Seth’s book if you don’t believe me.

Direct Marketing doesn’t work in a pandemic lockdown – 

Brand marketing does.

You are a Brand marketer with permission to market to your subscribers – use it now.

If you are a high street agent, you are a brand marketer. You say to people – look at me, I have knowledge, expertise and testimonials. You can trust me and if you do, you’ll have a better holiday.

In fact, if you are not selling anything unique ( i.e., the customer can buy it elsewhere), then you are a brand marketer – you are selling yourself.

What this means is that to build your business you need to communicate with your customers and potential customers frequently with information they are interested in.

It’s easy to do a facebook post, but facebook makes sure your post is only seen by a small percentage of your followers and you are governed by their algorythm. The only way to be sure to be seen is to pay to boost the post. That direct marketing tactic might work, probably won’t. Facebook will make you feel better by saying what bigger reach you made boosting the post.

 Did it change your business for the better? 

Can you rely on this in the future? 

Probably not.

 

Every business needs to own a permission asset, the privilege of contacting people without middlemen
Seth Godin
Marketer and Author

The cheapest most efficient way to do this is email marketing.

Done right it’s amazing.

Even in this time of lockdown due to Coronavirus, exceptional businesses are emailing their subscriber lists, those they have permission to contact. A strange upside to this is that customers, who are also scared / on edge at this time as Covid-19 affects everyone, are more pleased than ever to receive the email – some even respond with promises of buying holidays in the future. Who ever responds to marketing emails?

So do it

It helps

It helps get us through this crisis

It helps you understand that the hard work is worth it

It helps you understand you have a brand, it may be small, but it’s effective and can grow.

If you are in doubt – read the following ( reproduced with permission, thank you Christian at Thames Travel for sharing)

 

Hi Steve,

[I wanted to thank you for your efforts with the marketing emails and everything you’re suggesting we all do to survive and thrive!]

We sent the below email to our database yesterday and have had some wonderful email responses of good wishes and promises of great holidays. I wanted to share some of my favourite ones with you.

That is a brilliant email. Very well done! Please pass my (and Angela’s) best wishes to everyone at Thames Travel. We’ve had four great holidays organised by Thames Travel:

  • Costa Rica
  • India
  • Uzbekistan
  • South Africa

Wherever shall we go next?

[client name]

Dear Christian and Claire,

I hope you are well and not too rushed off your feet trying to rebook holidays!

What a lovely summary. We booked our first ever holiday with your mum and dad in 1993 – a trip to sharm el sheikh in AUGUST!! 

We think you’re amazing and the first thing when I am planning once this is all over is booking a nice holiday with you guys…

Take care and all the best, 

[client name] 

Great post Thames Travel! Must be very reassuring for your clients. 

And love the travel themed books and movies. Will try to catch a few of those now but e have time.  

Thanks for the update Christian (and John!) and for the reading suggestions. Literature is a decent alternative to actual travel! 

Keep well.

All the best 

Client Name

Our thoughts are with you and the team. It’s a difficult time for everyone but hopefully we will all come through healthy and ready to re build our lives and businesses in an even more positive way. We’re sending you all much support and looking forward to many years of travel and memories with Thames travel moving forward

Best regards

Client Name

There has never been a better time for brand marketers to connect with their audience. Of course we are all in a very scary place, but the future is scary without the right businesses in place who look after their customers having been built on the solid foundations of permission and trust. Use this time wisely and reap the rewards later.

Remote Working : Get your Travel Business to work Effectively in this Covid-19 WFH era and beyond

This page will give you practical steps you can take as a business to run your travel business remotely
- and get more efficient in the meantime 🙂

Key Takeaways on this page

Remote working is here to stay

 

I’ve spent my working life in various roles. My first job was working for British American Tobacco growing tobacco in Northern Zimbabwe. My bosses in London literally had no idea what I was doing most of the time – no internet, party-line phones ( the ones you share the same line with multiple houses – farms in our case, makes me sound old!). Not dissimilar to how home working has been viewed up until now. 

When I trained as a chartered accountant I spent 3 years auditing small companies. Other than the work I produced at the end of  the audit assignment my bosses again had no idea what I was doing on a daily basis ( including downing energy drinks while locked in a client office after a particularly big night out with my fellow trainee Edward – whoops –  that was a one off though!)

The similarity? I was a remote worker for most of the time

 

The World Pre March 2020

Running travel and food businesses since 1996, both intensive on staff employment ( you can’t actually implement WFH on a food business) I was determined in 2011 when I set up Net Effect that we were not going to have a physical office. Why? Because I’d seen first hand for 20 years how geography limited the ability to recruit the best individuals. 

Back in 2011 we were seen as either ‘cool’ – wow , you’re a virtual company or ‘not a company’ ‘oh, you work from home, not very established’.

The World Post March 2020

Having an office made you a ‘real company’, that’s not the case any longer and never will be again. 

But why did Travel Agents not move before to remote working ?

REASON 1: We need to all be together in a shop?

I remember Graham Simpson saying to me when I first started as his Finance Director at Simply Travel ‘we did have a shop Steve, but we blocked off the windows after a few months because people kept walking in to talk to us about holidays and it takes about 10 times longer to sell to them face to face’ A shop is great if it’s in the right location, gets foot fall and acts as an advertising method, but if it doesn’t, it’s an expensive ‘nice to have’  (the same now applies to offices)

REASON 2:Bosses not wanting to implement remote working

Setting up a company to work remotely involves being tech savvy.

Most bosses older than 40 ( that’s a lot, right) are not tech savvy. They would rather have an IT department on hand – which strangely means that no one in the office outside of tech ever tries to get their head around being tech savvy.

Answer: There is no excuse now, you have to get tech savvy. Digitise or Die as renowned Travel User Journey specialists ‘Foolproof’ say 

REASON 3: Employees like being in the office?

When we took on a new Project Manager ( from Freedom/Thomas Cook before that ship went down)  she said initially that she missed some of  the ‘Water Cooler’ chat and the ability to interrupt someone easily top ask them a question. We solve both those issues online and now, not only doesn’t she interrupt anyones work flow, but can juggle being a Mum and working from where she and her family live, for a business she actually wants to work for, rather than it being ‘local’ to her.

Ask anyone at Net Effect if they want to go back to being in an office. I can tell you the answer – No!

What our our credentials?

We all work from home. We have team members in different time zones. We manage over 200 clients and sell the majority of our work remotely. There have been occasions that a client has requested a meeting as they want to ‘see the whites of our eyes’ – I suspect this WFH era will put a stop to this.

This WFH does not need to be a compromise:

  •  – We have a great culture 
  •  – We are incredibly productive 
  •  
  • I am convinced that the world will not return back to normal post Covid-19. 
  • – Employees who spent 3 hours a day commuting won’t want to do that anymore
  • – Employers won’t want to pay for big offices
  • – Employers will want to recruit the best staff, why be limited locally?

Remote working is harder right now than normal – and to be successful you need more than just ensuring everyone has a laptop

It’s an unusual time to start remote working and so for everyone, bosses and staff you’ve had to deal with:

– no systems have been set up for remote working, you’ve had to cobble some together based on systems that worked for you when you all sat in the same office

– You will probably struggle with focus because of the constant stream of news on Covid-19. In times of stress people usually prefer contact, rather than self isolation

– Lots of home workers spend some time working in cafes and hubs for WFH pro’s. You can’t do that right now

– Your whole household is home, so it is noisier than normal

– it does take weeks to settle into WFH. Just because you don’t feel it’s right now, doesn’t mean it’s not or can’t be a great way to work in the future

 

So you’ll need to keep in contact more with face to face Zoom’s to make sure that everyone is coping OK and brainstorm ideas about how to work more effectively together. You’ll need to look at your systems and software and analyse whether it’s up to the job or not. You are responsible for making sure that employees work spaces are OK and that they can work effectively. Even though everyone has been sent home, having key workers who can advise and share best practise for WFH can help everyone get settled in much quicker.

How to Transition to home working - Tools of the Trade & get tech savvy

You think you need to be in the office in person

This is most often because all the systems that you have set up in an office are set up to be physically available. in the physical world that we have grown up in, it’s easy to follow protocol.

Typically booking forms are printed out and filed in a cabinet. You need a premises for that. But what if booking forms were online and stored in the cloud? You wouldn’t have to go into the office to retrieve them.

If you are moving your business to a remote environment then think of the things that you need that can’t be in easy reach and then ‘digitise’ them ( this is where you’ll need to be tech savvy)

This means:

Filing Cabinets: What do you keep in them? Normally client records / booking forms / supplier contact details. All things that can be digitised and stored in the cloud. Convert paper forms to digital forms. If you still do need / use paper, use a service like https://www.ukpostbox.com/ to digitise forms

Accounting: Use a cloud based service like XERO or Quickbooks. We connect these to GoCardless ( a cloud based Direct Debit Platform) so that our clients are invoiced, billed and invoices marked as paid automatically. This reduces the need to have more accounting staff than the part time ( remote worker)  we employ to do our accounting.

Receipts: We use https://www.receipt-bank.com/uk/ but Quickbooks also comes with a receipt scanner so that you don’t have to keep paper records

Email: Most Travel Agents have legacy email systems that they download email to ‘Outlook’ from guess what? A cloud based server ( they don’t usually know this)

We use and only recommend GSuite and love it. It comes with Google Docs which can pretty much take care of all our document sharing needs

Most often I hear comments like – I’m too old to learn about online as if it’s an option. It isn’t anymore and bosses will need to get tech savvy so they can ensure they are putting the right tools in place to make their business work.

 

How will I know if anyone is at work or doing any work?

Some work can be completed at any time. But for client-facing businesses such as travel agents, you want to know that your sales team are ready and waiting to sell.

There are countless online scheduling apps such as https://wheniwork.com/ which lets you set up employee schedules.

But while everyone is at work how do you communicate?

We have tried lots of software over the years and have settled on the following to let people know when we are working:

1. We simply have set daily core hours. If one if us is not going to be available for 2 hours one afternoon then we set that in our GSuite Calender and normally tell each other as well

2. We use Gmail online for email. As we spend most of our time in email we use the instant messaging in Gmail which also handily shows us when someone is online. We also use Skype with our development team for managing ongoing projects and similarly can see everyone online. We only use Skype messaging for urgent messages and set up Skype Groups to be able to keep relevant people in the loop on discussions. Skype is free and easy to use and useful for WFH, has a great mobile app so you can take part without actually being at a desk ( the same applies for Gmail)

How will I know what is going on at the business?

If anything, you should be able to set up systems so that people know what they should do. No more ”she’s gone into the bosses office, what is that about?)

We use:

– Gmail as our principle communicator

– Teamwork.com for managing all our client projects. This is by far and way the best project manager we have ever used 

Trello to manage ongoing ( non client facing) tasks. Trello is free to use and you can set up easy task boards like ‘to do’ ‘pending’ and ‘done’ to manage tasks. It is the best task manager we have ever used and has a great mobile App

What about spontaneous conversations / water cooler chat

We find, and googling this will reveal the same. For bigger teams it is worth having a water cooler session once a week so that all the team can talk about anything they want. But we find to really get the same benefits at home we use whereby.com We could use Google hangouts / skype / Zoom, which we use as well, but for Water Cooler catch ups, we find Whereby.com to be the best tool. Why this is may be personal, but we all love it. You can be spontaneous because its a live browser experience that takes 5 seconds to start, no downloads. And we can start it with one person and if someone else wants to join, we just tell them the ‘room’ we are in and they can ‘walk in’ in 5 seconds, no software needed.

Technology you need

You won’t have an IT department – you won’t need one ( or the size you had before)

When there is no IT available then it is worth having the best computer available.

I only ever recommend Macbook Pro’s. Once you take into account the cost of IT support ( or lack of need with a mac) then it’s the cheapest option. I connect mine to two screens and then when I do have to move to a different location – I have everything with me.

A Good Microphone

If you are going to be talking a lot with clients then a good microphone will make you sound more like you are in the same room when you are on a skype call. It removes the ‘echo’ ‘tinny’ sound. I use a Rode Microphone, but the mike on a macbookprp is pretty good as well.

Aaron Parecki has some great tips for improving Remote Meetings without breaking the bank

Improve Your Audio

I tell everyone to download https://krisp.ai/ It automatically mutes all noise apart from your voice

Use Zoom for client meetings ( and everything else). 

How travel agents can sell to clients from home

The world has changed – the silver surfers have even got tech savvy and now regularly Zoom their family so they will expect you to be equally savvy.

Training

Staff will need training in how to talk to clients and sell to new ones. The future is video and those agents that get on with being able to talk to clients and prospective customers via video and be able to screenshare will win the day. This is a massive opportunity for smaller agents and travel businesses that can change the way they work quickly. Small businesses are more nimble. 

But it does not happen automatically – just as you have office rules and training, so you must have ‘different’ office rules and training for remote wokers.

Set Up

1. They must be comfortable with the tech they are using. If that is Zoom for an online client consultation then they must know exactly how to use it. They must show calmness ( their client may not know the exact software sharing application you are using) and be able to easily use the software like they can a phone

2. They need to have a good webcam – we use Logitech

3. They should have a good microphone so that they can be easily heard – check that you are supplying a good laptop with a microphone, if not, research within your budget microphones

4. Make sure they have downloaded and can use background noise cancelling app – krisp.ai to stop all background noise such as pets and kids noises

5. Invest in a good CRM that works for your business. Now that everyone is remote working you will want a central place where you can update prospective client records  with phone conversations / notes

6. Set up a sales group on Skype where agents can simply message the group they’ve made a new sale ( like an online whoop!) – it helps keep everyone in the loop as if in an office

Workflow for setting up a client sales meeting

Ordinarily, clients call you and email you. Sometimes that’s enough. But what about those clients that like mine, want to see the whites of our eyes. Or perhaps the itinerary is quite complicated and it’s best to go through it with the client.

We certainly find that we are most successful selling when we do one to one online scree and video meetings. 

Use and adapt the following workflow to succeed in replacing client visits to your shop, with online Zoom Meetings.

  1. Get the tech right. In other words, read the above and make sure that you have addressed the issue of tech, trained staff and know it works.
  2. Decide if you can sell the holiday alone, or whether it would be good to bring in a specialist from an operator for part of the call. It is ordinarily not possible to do this in a physical environment but setting up a meeting between your client and yourself and the operator of the holiday will give you a much better chance of conversion than you have now. If you do want to use an operator, agree a time with everyone involved.
  3. Agree a time for the meeting and make sure that you send out a reminder the day before the meeting/hour before the meeting. Make sure you have the client’s phone number so you can call them if they don’t turn up as it could be tech-related.
  4. Dress Code / Office Tidy – make sure you look professional and that your background does to. Consider using Zoom’s virtual background to hide any ‘mess’
  5. Prepare – write bullet points on a Google Doc ( consider creating a template for all staff to use for ‘selling’ via Zoom. Having bullet points will ensure you don’t forget anything. Call Centres have used these types of ‘prompts’ for years
  6. Send the invite to your client with plenty of time. If you don’t want to call them all the time to check if they received the email , consider using email tracking software such as https://mailtrack.io/en/ where you can see if a client has opened your email ( this is good for quotes too!)
  7. Get any additional material ready for screenshare – e.g. website pages, video, maps
  8. About 30 minutes before the sales meeting
    1. Log out of your other notifications to stop distractions ( eg if you use office skype, go on mute)
    2. Close any applications you are not using
    3. If you use Apple OS, open the notification centre and activate ‘Do Not Disturb’ so that you don’t get any embarrassing SMS messages popping up on screen during the session
    4. Use Owly if on a Mac to stop it going to sleep or starting your screensaver
    5. Make sure you have a full battery or are connected to your mains
    6. If you will be browsing the web, open a single blank browser window in ‘Incognito’ mode so that you don’t get any history popping up as you type
    7. Go to the Toilet 10 minutes before the meeting
    8. Have some water – your throat can go dry
  9. Hold the sales meeting
  10. After the meeting as finished, tidy up the notes you have written and then either copy them across to your ‘Quote‘ software or email what you have agreed with your client. Add notes and comments to your client account in your CRM
  11. If you’ve made a sale – record it in your CRM / Booking system and post it on your Skype Sales Group – Whoop Whoop!

Why Travel Agents Need To Go Deeper On Content Strategy

We’re a Media Company Now’: Inside Marriott’s Incredible Money-Making Content Studio

Marriott associates work together in the live studio. Mariott Skift Take: While the term “content strategy” means different things to different organizations one thing is certain: brands need to be thinking beyond surface level content creation and marketing and dive deeper into the overarching strategy guiding these efforts. — Matt Heidkamp No matter the organization, there is a rising focus on content strategy as a key building block in marketing and business development.

Source: Why Travel Brands Need To Go Deeper On Content Strategy

Net Effect Small Travel Business View: Whether you are smaller travel agent or tour operator, adding content to your website now goes a whole lot deeper than simply writing destination guides. Your content strategy has to set you apart from the competition and so help define the reasons why people will buy from you. This unique selling proposition is not a young term, but now that the gatekeepers in selling travel have been removed, the fight is on to ensure that your consumer does not simply reach for ( in Marriotts case – Booking.com) and in a small travel agent scenario – any online site based on price.

Why your video content must reflect your travel brand image to maximise impact

In today’s socially connected world with everyone posting videos of themselves it’s easy to think that video is something that you should do to personalise your website and brand image.  It’s true, people connect with people and using video well is a very powerful way of helping convert users to clients. The fact that so much video is consumed now and that people are reading less online and watching more, makes it vital that your brand story is reflected in any video content you add to your site. But make sure that the content reflects your brand.

There are countless examples of bad video content out there – and fairly numbing that content is. For specialist travel businesses, with ‘recommended’ as one their most vital new sales channels, getting your brand image right is paramount. One of your clients recommending your services to a friend or colleague will absolutely mean that the referred potential client looks at your website. In many respects it is easy to produce a good looking website and logo and still work out of a trading estate unit or back bedroom without your clients finding out. But when you add a video to the site it turns the site into a success or failure – because the recommended user will almost certainly watch the video to find out whether you are the business for them.

Deciding on your ‘persona’ is the most important element and crafting the video is a skill. Typically using an agency to create a 3 minute video for you might costs £3,000 ++ ( and if you don’t have that money then WISTIA , our favourite Video hosting company, have tons of self help videos that mean you can turn out pretty professional videos. Help sheets like ‘Brand Voice‘ and how to put together a lighting kit for $100 mean that you can produce your own videos inexpensively and still get great results.

You’ll know your brand, your ID, your voice – make sure that your video reflects it or it won’t be worth having. In the meantime, let me share one of the best niched travel agent video intros from Cazenove & Lloyd. they aren’t a huge company, they provide extraordinary bespoke trips. There will be lots of travel operators out there that would claim the same but watch their video and see how effective they are at showcasing their expertise. It’s clear this is going to be an expensive holiday ( & I guess this suits the sales funnel for Cazenove and Lloyd by ensuring that those ‘timewasters’ don’t bother getting in touch), but if you have the budget, there is no doubt that you are in the right place. For an agent or operator out there selling high end bespoke travel – this is what you are up against. It is time to take video seriously.

Be the Travel Expert this Christmas

,

Communicating with your audience online is not only about selling holidays and latest offers. They will become more engaged and hence more receptive if you strike up conversations that are about being the ‘Travel Expert’ rather than the ‘Travel Seller’. Social Media channels are the perfect platform for sharing your travel related expertise.

Festive ‘To Do’ 

I’ve done the hard work for you and demonstrated how you can use FaceBook Albums to share information/expertise in an eye catching visual way.

Simply share my album ‘Original Christmas Gift Ideas for Travel Lovers’ and personalise it by adding your own comment. e.g. Get a conversation started by inviting people to choose the travel gift they’d most like to find under the Christmas tree, either from the album or their own ideas

Festive Marketing Plan

,

Whilst social media has increased the volume of daily communications people engage in, there is still no real substitute for communicating face to face. With late night shopping nights and busy high streets, Christmas is an ideal time to invite your customers in and spread a bit of goodwill and festive cheer.

The key to success is to plan well to maximise the opportunity and keep focussed on what you hope to gain from the event (e.g. collecting email addresses!)

 ‘To Do’ this month

Today’s task is to plan and draw up a ‘To Do’ list for a festive meet and greet. Here’s a useful link to help you get started. Click here.

Some further ideas to consider are:

  • Send out invites via Facebook, email and window displays.
  • Make sure you have a simple way for people to leave their email address with you so that you can continue the conversation after the event. This could be as simple as having a notebook and pen available, or entering them straight onto an ipad or computer as you chat.
  • If possible make a note of what type of traveller they may be or destinations they’re interested in so that you can target marketing efforts accordingly.
  • Make sure you have something with all your details (including web address and social media connections) ready to handout.
  • If your team have different specialist areas eg. Cruise or Adventure Travel or destination knowledge make sure customers know how to identify them to make starting a conversation easier.
  • Ask a Tour Operator to help support your event.
  • Make sure your shop is looking as attractive as possible and create a display area for any demographic/destinations you specialise in or want to promote e.g. Ski/Cruise/Adventure/over 50’s/Millenials. It could be a great opportunity to test interest in a new holiday type.
  • Take some photos of the event and share on social media
  • If you offer Gift Vouchers be sure to let visitors know in case they are looking for a gift idea for the special travel – lover in their life.

Getting started with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) on your travel website

It’s true that very few commercial travel sites do SEO very well. Why this is depends on so many factors that I won’t go into in this blog post but will come down to the strategy that the business developed. As surprising though it may seem, SEO is not always the number one activity that owners of travel businesses want to spend their marketing money on.

There is no doubt though that the future of travel ( and we are not talking the airbnb’s and homeaway’s of the world here) is building niched specialist businesses. This is not confined to travel, the way that Google is heading, the only way to be able to build any successful business online ( unless you are VC bankrolled) is by being the expert. It will be the experts that win in the end.

Expert Travel Agents

I can hear your virtual sigh of relief at this point. For those of you having been in the travel business for sometime, the one thing that you will pride yourselves on is your expertise – indeed it is the very reason you exist and why  your repeat and recommended marketing works so well.

So this post is for all you experts with a niche to sell. SEO is the method used to get your content ( or expertise) recognised by search engines. We have a whole section on SEO in our whitepaper – Travel Agent Marketing BluePrint but it is also useful to see some external sources.

Rand Fishkin who started Moz.com is an authority on SEO – read their Beginners Guide here to start your journey to writing better SEO content

For those of you who don’t see why content matters – check out Jeff Bullas who compiled an excellent infographic which we share below. So before you do anything with SEO – start creating content and then follow the guidelines to ensure that your content works for keywords.

How will Virtual reality affect Travel selling in the future

, , , ,

I’m in tech so I guess that I’m more used to terms like ‘Virtual Reality’ being banded about in business than my clients who are more concerned with selling holidays. I know that Facebook paid $2 Billion for Oculus Rift ( a VR company), but then hey, they have loads of money and need to be a little ‘futurist’ to stay ahead of the game. Who knows whether it will be worth the investment ( at the time). Investing in tech at that level is a waiting game and a gamble.

But this morning a guy I follow on various social media platforms – Robert Scobleizer, ex tech evangelist at Microsoft and now ex futurist at Rackspace announced he is joining Upload VR http://scobleizer.com a virtual reality company as entrepreneur in residence. If you haven’t heard of Robert Scobleizer then this won’t mean much to you and you were likely to skip it. But this is important to travel – why? because RS would not have made the move unless he thought that VR was worthy of a major part of his career. He must believe this is a game changer in the world.

OK – so by now your thinking that its in the future and won’t affect you. Sorry – it’s already out there and being adapted by travel companies. Marco Ryan, chief digital officer for Thomas Cook Group, was reported by Bloomberg as beginning testing VR content last year to boost sales. “The closer you get to the destination, the more excited you are to have that experience”—i.e., buy that experience. See the full article here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-19/how-oculus-and-cardboard-are-going-to-rock-the-travel-industry.

Sales of an excursion marketed using VR jumped 190% – that’s right, potential clients that had a better and more real demonstration of what they might expect to experience were far more likely to purchase that experience.

What does this mean for Travel Agents?

This is a massive opportunity for bricks and mortar travel agents to use technology to up their sales. While headsets such as Google Cardboard and other cheap VR solutions are likely for some time the only way that the public will experience VR, businesses investing in Oculus Rift and headsets that allow an immersive experience are more likely to be able to sell that holiday or experience.

It’s going to be a long time until people decide it’s not worth actually going on holiday – after all, it is virtual reality, not normal reality and part of the pleasure of being away from home is getting away from all your jobs, so I don’t think that this is going to replace the need for travel companies. But for sure it is going to become part of the sales technique and those that embrace it and do it best, will be the winners.

A new travel blogging platform – Planity

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Some months ago we reviewed BonJournal as a great tool to use for agent FAM trips. I’m still a great fan of Bon Journal and particularly like their IOS app for quickly being able to record moments when on the move. What is going to differentiate travel professionals of the future is their in depth knowledge and advise and clients will want to be able to see that you can demonstrate your knowledge via in depth blogs of places you’ve been. You can of course record these blogs on your own site, but the advantage of using external sites is that you have the opportunity to reach a larger audience.

Planity is similar to BonJournal – but has just launched and offers you another way to record FAM trips and other blogs online.

I like Planity – it’s main difference to BonJournal is that the map of the trip is more visible on reading the blog. Bon Journal’s map appears hidden away unless you are actively looking for it ( the ‘View Map’ link is at the bottom of the contents list for each trip when I think it would be better served at the top of the contents list). The upside of the bonjournal map is it is more interactive than Planity’s map, with the ability to have a full screen of the map and the places that are tagged also hyperlink back to the main article which is useful.

According to Tripadvisor research, 46% of travellers use blogs as an integral part of their planning process. These tools to help travellers record their travels will have a place in the travel research ecosystem of the future and can act as a potential inbound funnel for travel companies wishing to extend their reach