Are These ‘Past Their Sell-By-Date’ Marketing Tactics Costing YOUR Tour Operator Business Money?

Avatar on Jun 12, 2019. 11 min Read

With a glut of marketing tools and tactics now available and promising to make tour operators more successful, it can be hard to know which will help you grow your business…

…and which may prove to be an ineffective waste of your time and money.

Tour operator marketing is constantly changing, leaving many companies feeling overwhelmed.

It can sometimes feel like there’s a new ‘must have’ digital marketing trend every month…

Some ‘game-changing development’ that will supposedly bring customers flocking to your tours and experiences.

But if you’ve been in the industry for a while, you’ve probably realized not all that glitters is gold…

Because while digital marketing is a great way to generate more leads and sales for your tours, it can also be a minefield of expensive missteps and dangerous misinformation.

In fact, most businesses don’t even know if they’re seeing a decent ROI on their digital marketing spend.

That’s why many tour operators today find themselves stuck in a loop:

Clinging on to the outdated, ineffective marketing ‘tactics’ that may have once worked, but are now costing them leads and holding them back.

Relying too much on what was ‘good enough’ just a couple of years or even a few months ago can prevent your business from growing

And you can’t afford to just stand still and watch the competition steal sales from under your nose.

Let’s take a look at which digital marketing processes are actually generating leads and sales for successful tour operators in 2019

…and which ones are potentially costing you money.

Outdated Tactic #1 – The Contact Form Crisis

If you’re like most tour operators, you probably use a contact form on your website to capture leads you can follow up with.

It’s one of the simplest ways to bring on inquiries online. But if it’s not set up correctly, your inquiry form could actually be secretly underperforming, and hiding the truth from you…

The brutal reality is:

The average contact form doesn’t convert anywhere near as many visitors into inquiries as it should…

Across all industries, it’s estimated that contact forms only convert at a rate of 9% to 17%.

(Some businesses even get conversion rates as low as just 1%!)

That means for every 100 people who visit an inquiry form, around 80 to 90 of them are simply abandoning it.

And the tour operator business they considered contacting often has no idea where they went or who they were. These leads are simply disappearing – or being snapped up by competitors.

I regularly talk to tour operators for whom this ‘contact form crisis’ is a big concern…

Often they’re investing heavily in getting people to the forms in the first place, with the content or paid ads, but they’re not getting the leads and sales they hoped for.

So what’s the problem?

Why are so many potential leads arriving at your form to inquire about a tour, but giving up before sending it?

One major issue is that many tour operators are using either of two outdated, troublesome approaches to their inquiry forms:

Either their form is overlong and complicated, and asks for too many details before their potential future client is ready to share that information…

Reformation Tours Form

Or they’re going the other way and using a contact form that’s so short and simple, it doesn’t help the business understand which leads are worth investing time and money in pursuing.

With short forms like the one below, tour operators frequently find themselves wasting hours sifting through piles of inquiries of varying levels of interest…

Which inevitably sees some of the well-qualified leads slip through the cracks at the expense of answering less serious inquiries.

But when they add more fields to their forms to try to better qualify leads, they see their conversion rates shrink, as people are put off by lengthy or complex-looking forms.

So, how do tour operators solve this contact form ‘catch-22’ of quantity vs quality?

How can you use an inquiry form that’s a breeze for your visitors to fill in, but also delivers the specific information you (or your sales team) need to help convert that lead into a sale?

The answer is to make your forms more conversational.

Make them more like the natural flow of a short, friendly conversation – and less like a cold-sounding demand for someone’s private information.

Thanks to the development of conversational marketing tools (such as Typeform, Get Site Control and Drift), tour operators like you can now do this very easily.

At 10x Travel, we’ve implemented conversational inquiry processes to help our tour operator partners increase their form conversion rates by 30%, 40%, even 50%…

They’re not just getting more leads, they’re getting better quality leads too – reducing the amount of time-wasting questions they have to respond to.

Pro tip:

Frequently asked questions can even be dealt with earlier in the process with an automated email course that covers everything a site visitor needs to know before they make an enquiry – more on that in a moment.

With a conversational inquiry approach delivered through a form or chatbot, you can give your site visitors an experience that’s:

  • More personal and engaging – asking one question at a time like a real conversation, rather than presenting an off-putting list of tasks in front of your site visitor
  • More targeted to YOUR specific tours – making it easier for your visitor to picture themselves enjoying what you have to offer
  • Focused on capturing actionable information (like their preferred type of tour, their budget and of course their contact details)
  • Less reliant on you and your team to have to ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ and respond quickly
  • Plus you can even do more advanced tasks like taking payments during initial inquiries!

For instance, 10x Travel created a conversational inquiry form for our partners at Reformation Tours.

Company founder Rowena had a problem so many tour operators face:

Her site’s inquiry forms were letting her leads slip away, every single day.

Even though over 1500 people visited her inquiry form each month, only 26 on average completed it…

That was a measly 1.7% conversion rate to leads from people actively looking for the specific type of tours Rowena’s company was offering.

We reduced the form from an intimidating-looking 21 fields into a conversational series of 9 special ‘qualifying questions’ focusing on a prospect’s intent.

As you can see from the sample question below, the experience became more natural and intuitive for the site’s visitors, and also gathered actionable information Rowena’s team could use to follow up more effectively by tailoring their approach based on a visitor’s input.

Reformation Tours Survey

The form now takes an average of 3 minutes to complete, is easier for people to fill out on mobiles and tablets, and conversions have increased from less than 2% to 26.2%…

Meaning that by using a conversational inquiry form, we were able to help Reformation Tours increase their form conversion rate by 13x!

With that boost in conversions and lead quality came an increase in what mattered most: tour bookings

We also helped our partners at Westcoast Connection differentiate more easily between their two main visitor types:

  • The teenagers who are initially attracted to their summer programs and ultimately travel with them
  • And the parents who are responsible for enquiring about programs and making bookings

By using a conversational inquiry form which offers the visitor to identify which group they’re in, we were able to make Westcoast Connection’s inquiry process more conversational and more relevant to each person.

Wescoast Connection Bot

Using a conversational inquiry process is just one effective and affordable way for tour operators to get more bookings by updating and improving their digital marketing, and stay ahead of the competition.

Let’s take a look at a couple more ways you can avoid losing sales through outdated and ineffective practices…

Outdated Tactic #2 – Stuck In PDF Purgatory?

For years now, companies marketing online in various industries have been doing the same thing:

Offering their website visitors some sort of downloadable ‘gift’ in exchange for their email address.

(In digital marketing, these gifts are known as ‘lead magnets’ as they’re intended to generate leads. At least, that’s the idea…)

They’re usually a PDF… but sadly, they’re usually worthless.

You probably have a bunch of these lead magnets gathering digital dust on your own computer, having only skim-read a paragraph or two at most – before forgetting all about them and the company who ‘gifted’ them to you.

Still, for a while, this basic marketing tactic got results – including for tour operators.

But the problem now is: PDF giveaways have been so overused, people are bored with them...

They know what’s coming next:

A thrown-together pile of information they’ll never even read, let alone act on – followed by a barrage of repetitive, sales-y emails promoting something they don’t have any real interest in buying.

Just because someone has opted-in to receive more information about a country or area where tours take place doesn’t necessarily make them a qualified lead…

They’re mostly first-time visitors simply browsing options at this point.

And the emails they subsequently receive don’t help them make a decision, or better plan for their trip, or educate them about their options in any way…

They just ‘sell’, in the hope that some will magically turn into bookings – even though nobody really likes to feel ‘sold to’.

Worse still, many tour operators simply offer a copy of their sales brochure as a PDF download.

Why is this all-too-common approach particularly ineffective?

Because a sales brochure is only relevant to the roughly 3% of your website visitors who are actively looking to buy when they arrive…

It offers nothing of value or interest to the vast majority who are simply seeking more information.

And that misses the point of a ‘lead magnet’ entirely:

Downloadable sales brochure PDFs stand little chance of generating actual leads – they just collect email addresses of people you’re never likely to hear from again.

But there is a better way to get leads from your website by exchanging valuable information for email addresses of potential future clients.

It’s what many successful businesses are doing, and it’s particularly effective for tour operators…

I’m talking about email courses.

Forget about PDFs – your prospective future client doesn’t want to read another lengthy report or whitepaper...

But they DO have time for bite-size, genuinely useful information delivered to their inbox in manageable segments.

Because an email course is all about GIVING…

When you educate them and offer them value, you’re able to bring your prospects closer to you, AND qualify them as leads.

If you deliver value through informative, quality educational content over a few days or even weeks, you stand a far better chance of becoming that person’s favored option when they decide to book a tour.

Here’s how one successful tour operator achieved that:

Max Meijer’s company Boat Bike Tours wanted to increase leads from their website, but without adding more general inquiries to their workload.

They were already spending more time than they wanted on answering random questions from site visitors who weren’t in a ‘buying’ frame of mind…

Questions which could have been easily answered in an automated way on the site itself, without taking Max’s or a colleague’s time.

So the 10x Travel team created a free 6-part email course to teach their potential future clients about planning and enjoying a European cycling tour.

This formed a key part of their content-driven Get More Bookings sales funnel, and it had an immediate impact:

Boat Bike Tours saw a 300% ROI within the first 30 days of their new email course

People loved their educational and value-packed email series, and because they delivered a little every day, the information got read, absorbed and appreciated…

…AND it kept Boat Bike Tours at the top of the reader’s mind.

All of which positioned them as the natural choice when people felt they had enough information and confidence in their own decision to book a tour.

By the end of the first year of switching to educational email courses – without a PDF in sight! – Boat Bike Tours had received 460 additional bookings, and seen around €1.24 million in revenue growth.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how an educational email course can grow sales of YOUR tours, head here to see how we do it.

So, those are a couple of ways your business can avoid the outdated and ineffective marketing tactics that are dragging so many tour operators down.

But there’s one more trap you should avoid that’s potentially even more expensive…

It’s the idea that more web traffic = more sales.

But that’s a dangerous and costly assumption. Here’s why:

Outdated Tactic #3 – The Great Website Traffic Rip-Off

Many tour operators are still buying expensive web traffic in the hope that sending more visitors to their site will lead to an increase in sales…

Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case.

Increasing your advertising budget is often seen as a natural way to throw more money at a problem and hope it fixes it.

But if your business isn’t set up to actively convert that extra traffic into leads and sales, you’re just paying for ‘vanity metrics’.

What do I mean by ‘vanity metrics’?

I mean increased numbers that sound good but don’t actually impact your results:

Things likes site visitor numbers, pageviews, likes and shares…

…even inquiry form completions and email list opt-ins.

A rise in visitor numbers to your site is no use if they’re the wrong sort of visitors…

You don’t want to pay to advertise to people who have no intention of buying your tours.

Because buying traffic that won’t convert into sales is a fast way to lose money – even if your ‘vanity metric’ numbers go up.

It’s like strapping a bigger engine onto a plane with broken wings – it won’t fly no matter how much fuel you put in, because the mechanism is fundamentally flawed.

A sudden surge of visitors from Google or Facebook ads won’t automatically convert into revenue. Nor will a bigger SEO budget – if you’re attracting the wrong people.

Take American tour operator Bicycle Adventures…

A few years ago, owner Todd Starnes told us they were getting large amounts of organic web traffic and running great SEO campaigns, but they needed more sales to grow their business.

All those site visitors just weren’t converting, and it was costing them money

As we discovered, this was in large part down to the people arriving at the site not being ideal prospects for Bicycle Adventures’ tours.

Tour operators selling very specific experiences need to target the type of prospect they want to attract very carefully…

Simply put, 100 visitors who match your target client profile will bring in more bookings than 10,000 unsuitable visitors.

In the case of Bicycle Adventures, that meant we had to target their ideal customer very specifically

So we created an article called “How to Prepare for a Bicycle Adventure: Fitness Tips for the 50+ Athlete”.

We then ran targeted ads from Facebook to the page, based on people’s interest in cycling, location, age and more…

Within days, Bicycle Adventures had an influx of new visitors who fit the specific demographic of their ideal customer.

Over 50,000 potential future clients saw the ad on Facebook…

The article we created brought in 2,743 visitors at a cost per click of between $0.10 and $0.20 each – which led to 319 qualified leads who subscribed to their email course as outlined earlier.

These leads eventually converted into bookings worth an additional $42,000 in revenue for Bicycle Adventures, in only ONE month.

We continued to create these article landing pages for the company around their ideal customers’ issues and objections.

This generated well over half a million dollars in extra revenue for the business – with a whopping ROI of 817%

Bicycle Adventures owner Todd has since been able to step away from day-to-day management as a result.

Those results wouldn’t have happened if we simply increased their traffic budget and paid little attention to WHO was being funnelled towards their tours.

But once we designed and implemented a system that targeted the company’s ideal future clients, they were able to convert a higher % of visitors into leads and sales, and repeat the process month after month.

Here’s the key takeaway from this:

Paying for traffic to your website is not a strategy, merely a TACTIC.

Just like using contact forms, or offering giveaway content in exchange for a visitor’s contact details…

Individual tactics like these can work – when done correctly – but only as part of an overall sales and marketing SYSTEM.

Otherwise you risk wasting money on increasing vanity metrics like visits, views and hits, which don’t actually translate to bookings or sales.

It’s outdated, ineffective marketing practices like that which are still costing too many tour operators time and money…

But by using a start-to-finish sales and marketing system like the Get More Bookings sales funnel, you can benefit from an optimized process that will help you grow your business more easily.

For more details about how 10x Travel can help you with that, click the button below and we’ll show you how some of the ideas in this article can work for YOUR tour operator business specifically.

Discover How to Grow Your Tour Operator Business with a Proven, Automated Sales & Marketing System

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