By Kevin Tjoe — 22 Jun 2022
A guest blog by Nina Petrov
In the new normal and in a post-pandemic world, the tour industry is seeing a rapid resurgence. Now that the world is opening up to almost unhindered international travel, the industry is rife with lucrative opportunities. However, it’s becoming more competitive than ever before, as well.
As a tour operator, one of your goals is to get as many direct bookings as possible for the upcoming season, but it should also be to secure bookings over the long term. How do you do that? By building a powerful loyalty program that will inspire and incentivize people to keep coming back to your touring agency.
You not only need to use the right tools like reservation technology, but you also need to enhance your brand experience and provide value to keep your customers around. Here are the steps you need to take and the tips you need to keep in mind when building a loyalty program to grow your tour business in the post-pandemic world.
You might think to yourself that customer loyalty comes from simply providing an amazing service as a professional tour operator. In reality, it’s important to keep in mind that a high level of service is just one piece of the puzzle.
In fact, a high level of service is nowadays the bare minimum to retain your customers. However, even then, there’s nothing stopping them from trying a new tour operator the following season. This is why it’s important to invest in building customer loyalty, which is an all-encompassing concept.
Customer loyalty encompasses all the efforts you make to not boost customer retention, but turn them into lifelong brand advocates. Your brand advocates will, in turn, boost your word of mouth and bring new customers to your doorstep, improve your social proof, build brand awareness and recognition, and much more.
There are many benefits to investing in customer loyalty, and the first step is to realize that you need to offer more than just a great service – you need to build a memorable experience.
Building a loyal customer base starts from the initial point of contact. Whether you are engaging with new leads through email opt-ins or if you are engaging with new, paying customers, you need to create a welcoming environment. This will set the stage for an amazing experience on their tour, and will allow you to follow-up and keep people engaged once the tour is over.
If you wait to follow up after the tour, people might not feel incentivized to engage with your brand anymore – which is why you show them how much you appreciate them right away. To that end, make sure to craft engaging welcome emails and onboarding email sequences that are:
Whether they are inquiring about a tour, signing up for your newsletter, or if they have already booked their activities with you, you can onboard them and set the stage for an amazing brand experience via email.
Regardless of the tours or the activities your business offers, there are probably numerous competitors in your area doing the same thing. There’s nothing that’s keeping your customers from trying out a different tour operator every year if the quality is all you’re banking on.
Quality service should be just one of the pillars of an unforgettable brand experience, which will lead to customer loyalty and brand advocacy down the road. The other pillars include:
Focusing on these elements will allow you to create a memorable brand experience and position yourself as the only choice in your customers’ hearts and minds.
One of the key bullet points we mentioned above is content, which you can use in its various forms to drive engagement, generate leads, nurture existing customers, and bring new ones to your business. In fact, there are many micro-goals you can achieve and build a powerful brand simply by investing in quality content.
People want to book their activities with an operator that’s not just going to take them on a tour, but someone who will provide all the information they might need. Posting quality content is not just a way to provide value to your customers and build brand authority, it’s also a way to keep people from discovering or hopping over to your competitors’ websites.
It’s important to create different types of content for easier distribution across different marketing channels. For example, you can create eBooks to share through your email newsletters, welcome emails, follow-ups, and other email-based promotions.
You can share engaging infographics on social media and via direct messaging, and you can post educational, long-form content on your website. The opportunities are endless, and the more valuable content you provide, the
A big part of building a loyal customer base is keeping the conversation going. What that means is that you need to invest in building a community around your brand, and engage your customers on various communication touchpoints. These can be public or private, and it’s important to use both.
Show your customers how much you appreciate them by reaching out through a chat app to offer special perks and promotions, deals and discounts, or referral rewards. You can also use direct messaging to answer all of their questions quickly and move them further through the sales funnel.
Publicly, on the other hand, you can engage with them in the comments, groups, and forums to spark interesting conversations about different locations and activities, share your expert insights, and pose interesting questions for the community. You can then tag individuals and answer their questions, and invite others to join in.
This is how you keep the community alive and your veteran customers engaged throughout the year.
Influencer marketing has always been one of the most powerful ways to improve brand reach and authority online. What many tour operators might not realize, however, is that smart influencer marketing can help you connect with your audience and target demographic on a deeper level. It can help you build a loyal community that’s constantly growing.
However, the key might not be to engage with big influencers. Your marketing dollars might be better spent on the right marketing trends such as nano-influencers, who can have a very positive and powerful impact on their micro-community.
A nano-influencer is someone with a modest following, typically between one thousand and ten thousand followers. These nano-influencers, unlike the bigger names on social media, have a very dedicated and devoted community. This is because they come off as more genuine and personal, with an approachable and relatable brand.
These are the perfect influencers to promote your brand and build loyal customers for you across different social networks. Typically, these will be adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers, travel bloggers and digital nomads, and even your past customers.
Lastly, you can use lead magnets not only to attract new customers but also to keep the existing ones coming back for more. As an experienced tour operator, you need to use value-driven content and products to keep your brand relevant in the hearts and minds of your customers.
To achieve that, you can create a lead magnet in all kinds of types and formats and then distribute it across all communication channels to let your customers know how much they matter to you. Some of the top choices for an effective lead magnet include:
Remember that every lead magnet needs to provide value to the customer. This is how you will inspire them to keep booking tours with you for years to come.
Building a successful tour business in the post-pandemic world relies heavily on your ability to inspire customers. This will ensure that they rebook with you, recommend you to others, and become your lifelong brand followers. This way, you will spend way less on customer acquisition and capitalize on long-term customer retention.
Use these 7 tips to build a powerful customer loyalty program that will keep your customers at your side. Furthermore, it will prevent them from changing tour and activity operators for their next trip.
Using a booking software such as Rezdy is a useful tool that can help you successfully run a loyalty program. With automatic email communication, you’d be able to easily distribute personalized emails to a wide range of recipients at once. Whether that be a welcome email, email marketing material, or informational emails – all of this can be achieved with the help of your online booking software.
Ready to take your tour business to the next level? Start a FREE 21-day trial or learn more about Rezdy and our products by booking a demo with our friendly team today.
If you enjoyed this article then make sure to follow the Rezdy blog. There are a lot of marketing tools and tour operator tips designed with businesses like yours in mind.
Written By – Nina Petrov
Nina Petrov is a content marketing specialist, passionate about graphic design, content marketing, and the new generation of green and social businesses. She starts the day scrolling her digest on new digital trends while sipping a cup of coffee with milk and sugar. Her white little bunny tends to reply to your emails when she is on vacation.
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