One of the most important drivers of any inbound marketing program is the targeting of customers in various stages of the buying cycle. Or the sales funnel, or whatever you want to call it. But it’s different in the travel and tourism industry. Or is it?
Not really. A couple of years ago, Google came up with the “5 stages of travel” which is essentially the buying cycle adapted to our industry. I’m not sure they have exposed all the secrets with this, but it definitely gives some insight into the best ways to optimize your site to reach your target audience.
I’m going to cover these stages in the next two blog posts.
Discover the Stages
So, what are the 5 stages and how can they work for your tourism business? First, let’s take a look at a few stats:
- Based on a 2012 survey by IPSOS of 7,500 travellers in total, the search giant reported that 83% of leisure travellers use the Internet to help plan their trips. No surprise there, right? And that was two years ago!
- Of those, 62% begin with search engines, usually before they decide where they want to go or what they want to do. This translates into the fact that websites that are optimized for search get the lion’s share of the traffic, and that getting found in search is the ticket to selling your travel products.
The research also showed that consumers go through 5 distinct stages in the process of travelling, which are:
- Dreaming about a particular trip or destination
- Planning the trip, which includes research on where/how to travel and with whom
- Making a booking
- Experiencing the trip
- Sharing their experiences after the fact
Previously most travel research only considered stages 1 through 3, but I believe that 4 and 5 are equally important from the viewpoint of customer testimonials and future sales.
Optimizing for Each Group
The optimization of your online marketing strategy for each stage grows out of the awareness that not every prospective client who comes to your site is looking for exactly the same thing. To attract each group you need to do some specific things:
Group 1 – Reach The Dreamers
Planting the seed is critical to help your prospects identify their need for a particular type of vacation. You can do this by placing online ads that appear when users are searching for other, more mundane things. For example, a user looking for Fall activities might well be in the market for a “last whisper of summer” experience. Someone searching for winter boots might want to know about your skiing packages. It’s really simple (and relatively inexpensive) to target a bunch of keywords with Google sponsored ads. The trick here is to ensure that when the user clicks on your ad, s/he gets taken to a landing page that really sells your product in an irresistible way.
You can also use email marketing and social media to reach your followers and former clients, using the same landing page as you do for the AdWords campaign.
Group 2 – Pitch to the Planners
The Google research showed that the average leisure traveller visits more than 20 websites before making a booking. Here’s where your SEO is important, to ensure that when someone searches for a particular type of tour s/he finds your site and not your competition’s. To nail this one, you need (in no particular order):
- A blog, where you publish fresh, quality content on a regular basis
- Use of best SEO practices, such as headers, meta descriptions and alt tags
- Social media profiles linked to your website, where you can publicize your content and make people aware of your offering
- Optimized local listings on sites such as Google+ and Yelp, where customers can read reviews of your service
An email marketing list is also useful here, so you can send information out about packages, special promos and exciting offers.
At this point, if there’s any doubt left in your mind about whether you need an inbound marketing strategy or not, I believe you’ll be convinced after you read next week’s post on the other 3 stages.