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

‘HELP! MY WEBSITE DOESN’T WORK!

, ,

A question we sometimes get asked is “ Why aren’t people flocking to my gorgeous new Net Effect website in their droves?’ (or words to that effect 😉 . The simple answer is most likely to be because you aren’t telling enough people where it is! Companies spend millions of pounds chasing top spots on search listings but a specialist travel professional requires a more subtle approach to reach the right audience.

It is important to remember here that

1.  The travel industry is one of the most crowded spaces online, and

2.   your website is a just a tool. It requires operating to do its job and the more skilled you become at this the better it will work for your business.

Your website can be the most lavish looking affair, in this seasons colours and fonts and bursting with seductive imagery but without your hands on input, it’s as effective as a glossy sales brochure left in a drawer.

The good news is that this is something that you can easily change. And all for FREE! Your secret weapons are email marketing, adding content via a blog and of course Social Media. The really great thing is that Social Media puts the smaller business with its personal service at an advantage compared to its larger competitors. It is so much easier for smaller businesses to create a genuine social connection with their customers online than a larger corporate organisation. So time to strike up a conversation!

TODAY’S ‘TO DO’ : REVIEW YOUR GOOGLE MY BUSINESS PAGE

But before we start, an important thing to remember is that being local is one of your strongest marketing cards so the first task today is to check your Google Business page is doing its job. A Google My Business (previously Google Places) profile is an essential for local SEO. It’s free and will enable you to appear in local search results for queries specific to your products or services and shows clearly you are open for business.

  • Check all the contact, location & opening hours details are up to date
  • Check your photos show you in your best light.
  • Make sure you have completed the verification process for your business.
  • You can also now collect and reply to reviews.

Click here for more info https://www.google.com/business/

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.

Email Communication – the most important marketing activity you should undertake

, ,

As a small business – or SME ( tour operators with turnovers of £50m qualify for this bracket!) marketing budgets are the hardest to set. The real reason for this is that there are a myriad of ways that customers find you and casting your net out is an expensive exercise.

Going back a few years, social media and Facebook in particular was the talk of the town. Spend efforts getting likes and then posting updates to Facebook ensured that your clients and potential customers saw exactly what you were posting and talking about. It was going to be free marketing. But Facebook changed the rules and another rule change came in Jan 2015 when Facebook officially announced that it was going to limit the number of ‘promotion posts’ that appeared in user newsfeeds. That’s bad news for any travel brand.

Social marketing analysts now say that an email marketing relationship is 50 x more valuable than a Facebook like. It grows for those subscribers that you now open your content and email marketing systems have great analytics built in so that you can focus on those email subscribers that participate in your content.

So for 2015 – your should be focusing on getting your email marketing right, with limited time and budgets this is the only marketing that you absolutely have to do but engagement is not as simple as just having an email address. It is about having a meaningful relationship with your potential client so that yo can be sure that they won’t unsubscribe from your emails. Treat them like Royalty!

Opportunities to email your potential clients:

  • using Tripquote to quote for their holiday
  • signing them up to Pre and Post departure upsell emails
  • send them a post holiday survey
  • Send them targetted marketing emails with offers using LateCards email marketing based on their next holiday preferences ( that are known from them having submitted their post holiday questionnaire )

In amongst all these emails you will also want to make sure that you post to social media channels so that these same users also get to see your content in these channels, but don’t do social media over email marketing, it won’t drive anywhere near the sales that you can with targeted email marketing.
[Tweet “Email Communication – the most important marketing activity you should undertake”]

Bonjournal – a new way of recording FAM trip notes to publish

, ,

We previously covered a great way to produce inhouse guide books using the new free software Buggl. Buggle can produce great guides but takes a bit of time to do and so although the finished result is worth keeping and using for your clients, how do you go about bringing a FAM trip to life and publishing the events as they have happened?

Bonjournal.al is a really useful free tool that allows your staff to record their FAM trip via their IOS device ( or desktop) and then publish it. If you are writing it up on the move then it will also capture your current location and handily add this to a map.

Check out this example on India – Abbie’s personal thoughts on her trip. What better way to show your expertise than by recording your FAM trips as you go and then publishing them on social media channels and make them available for future customers to browse when they are trying to decide whether to go on that adventure holiday and could really do with some insider knowledge to read up on.

Another great use for this tool is for you to publish your own trips and use the diary function as the itinerary. Its a great way of bringing an itinerary to life in order to sell to future customers.

via 5 New Travel Startups Uncovering Clever Business Models.

How Travel Brands Squeeze Value Out of Crowdsourced Social Campaigns

, , , ,

All the big boys are now starting to look to use social media effectively to engage with their customers. They are trying to star a conversation, which has historically been  very difficult to do.

The danger for smaller travel companies and travel agents is that the big companies succeed by investing time in learning how to best to talk to their customers. In days gone by only smaller, nimble, more personal businesses could succeed in having a proper conversation with customers.

What impact on sales will it have when a potential client can have a very personal one to one discussion with a large business such as British Airways either by web chat, twitter or facebook messaging. Will the customer still want to make the effort to call their local agent?

The big boys are investing big time in social media, the smaller guys need to be one step ahead and work out how they can remain the most personal point of contact for their clients.

via How Travel Brands Squeeze Value Out of Crowdsourced Social Campaigns.

Travel Agents – don’t get spammed with your Email Marketing

,

email marketing

Email marketing is a hot topic right now for Travel Agents. Now that customers can find travel products online it is vital that Travel Agents communicate with their clients between purchases. Just think of this yourself – when was the last time you bought something and that company did not want to capture all your details so that they could communicate with you. In its simplest form this has been the Rewards Card that not only acts as a place to save money, but provides great information for the likes of Tesco etc. to market stuff to you.

So if you are not communicating with your clients long term you have a problem. The simplest and most effective way to do this is via email marketing. We are all addicted to our mobiles and check emails constantly. What better way to get under the noses of your clients than sending them relevant content via email marketing.

The Spamming Issue

We all know how much we hate being spammed. So the ISP’s ( Internet Service Providers) made rules about how to use email marketing properly. In essence its called “Permission Marketing”. The email marketing software companies require users to ‘sign up’ to receive emails from companies. If this is not followed there is a high chance that the email addresses that you add will be spammed. Even if they are not, you might be in trouble?

What could happen?

We recently helped a client out with an issue of their email marketing account being suspended (so they missed the opportunity to send a time dependent offer email to clients) because one of their names on the database had made a complaint to the software they used that the email was Spam. In this case, the user making the complaint really misunderstood what problems their actions would cause – as a simple ‘unsubscribe’ was all that was needed, rather than reporting the email as Spam.

On it’s own this is not a huge issue, but if you can’t prove that you have legitimately added an email address with the users permission then your account gets blackmarked and potentially closed down. That is a nightmare for any business.

What are the Options?

When Travel Agents  started building their lists some sent email campaigns out for Outlook. Google has now made this more difficult to do and the ISP’s may well see this as spamming. The only choice you have really is to ensure that:

1. You use a professional email marketing service (such as we provide – email.net-effect.co.uk) or Mailchimp, GetResponse etc.

2. You obtain permission to market to these customers (we can help you ensure that this is a seamless process and that you maximise your opportunities to add email addresses)

3. You stop obsessing about the size of your list. This is about quality, not quantity. There is no point in having a list of 1000 names if only 10 people read your email and 500 end up in spam boxes.

Make sure that you spend your time growing your list as much as you can because this will ultimately lead to sales, but make sure that you have permission to do so. Email marketing is THE most effective way of converting sales and far outstrips other forms of social media. If you are not doing it right now, or not doing it correctly, now is the time to start.

How does the Burberry Story affect you as a Travel Agent?

, , , ,

None of you will have missed that the big news of yesterday was that Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of Burberry was leaving to join Apple. The talk was not over where that might leave Burberry in terms of commercial success (though few will have wanted her departure), but more about why Apple wanted her and what would she bring, a fashion CEO, to a technology company.

It’s clear that Apple recognise that they must remain a Premium brand amidst the scrum of smartphone distribution globally. What better way to achieve this than grab the one person that is credited with achieving almost the impossible in her 7 year tenure at Burberry, turning around an ailing business and making a global phenomenon.

So what does Angela Ahrendts focus on for success? It’s simple, positioning the brand and engaging with employees and customers alike and using technology to do so. This video below is a must watch, in it the Burberry Chief talks about the importance of connecting with customers (for those of you that don’t know what Salesforce is, it is a CRM (customer relationship management platform) system. We have some ahead of the curve agents who have recently upgraded their internal systems to include the latest CRM systems (that start from only £8/user/month) and we are happy to help anyone with this. We believe it is crucial to success.

So how does this affect you? This is the future. This is about talking social. This is about connecting with clients. This is about your success. If Burberry NEEDS to be technologically at the forefront to succeed, what does this mean for travel where all consumption starts online in holiday search? Is the Burberry Chief saying it’s all about online? No, it’s about the blurring of lines.

Does Social Media Drive Travel Transactions

, ,

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 06.35.07A recent article in Travolution reported on recent comments by the Chief Commercial Officer at Expedia that Social Media does not drive transactions.

Saying that Social Media does not play a part in selling is an odd comment coming from such a large business as Expedia. Other reports in the news (http://www.tnooz.com/article/social-media-strategy-expedia-apologizes-and-engages/    August 2013) that Expedia uses Social networks extensively for Customer Service clearly demonstrates that Expedia understands the value of social to interact with customers.

It’s odd that that the Chief Commercial Officer does not understand the relationship between good customer service and long term customer value, which ultimately leads to transactions. Of course social media is not like advertising channels in driving sales, but then the marketing world is changing into one of customer conversations to build long term loyalty. In such a competitive world as travel, I would have thought Expedia recognised this as a key differentiator.

For all businesses in 2013 the playground is all about having conversations with customers, not just flogging them stuff, they are mostly through with that style.

Check out the free e-book below from the gurus on social inbound marketing at Hubspot to understand the part that social plays in yiour marketing mix

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 06.45.35

 

Learning the tips and tricks of Twitter for Travel Agents

, ,

As a qualified Chartered Accountant even though I don’t practice accountancy I have to maintain my membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountant in England and Wales (ICEAW) by engaging in Continual Professional Education. Having qualified 20 years ago this has always been part of my make up that I have to continue learning and probably Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 10.57.05was one of the reasons why I found it relatively easy to change paths in my career from Chartered Accountant to CEO of a Tour Operator to qualified Chef and then CEO of a travel tech business.

Going back 20 years it was only possible to learn by attending evening and weekend classes at times that suited tutors. The internet  has made access to learning so much easier and for travel agents running their own business, the rapid change in the way that customers now transact means that you simply have to start to learn how to deploy new marketing techniques to win new business.

Lots of people I talk to tell me that Twitter does not work for them. In nearly every case this is because in general they have decided not to engage in social media – or online conversations to put it another way. For the guys that it does work for, it’s because they have decided to look at social media and see how it can help their business. There is not one size fits all and so every person will use it slightly differently. One thing is for sure though – your customers are using online channels to talk, so you should be.

Mindsy is a new online learning site with a number of free videos to watch. You’ll find one on mastering Twitter for business below – it only takes 2 hours in total split into 17 lessons so even those of you who have not been learning for a while can manage this in bite size pieces.