Over the last 3-4 weeks, I have made it my mission to educate tour and activity operators about the best ways to market their businesses during the crisis. And the most important point is that most operators should sell their business during this time. I understand that many feel there is no point in marketing now, that it’s a time to hole up and hibernate, but now is the ideal time to refocus your marketing efforts and determine which new products you can create and what new demographics you can target.
The industry will look vastly different at the end of this crisis so you must prepare your business for when we come out on the other side.
I have spent the last three weeks speaking to around 30 or 40 tour operators from around the globe. We’ve discussed many things, but most conversations have circled in on one topic: what will the future our industry look like in the coming months?
To provide something useful for anyone reading this, I’ve put together some notes on possible demographics, explaining how the COVID-19 crisis might have changed the way they behave. It’s also important to mention here that most countries are still in lockdown, and we don’t have a clear idea of when normal travel will resume, so I feel that any realistic marketing projections must look to late 2020 and early 2021.
Many businesses who previously only targeted foreign customers should look to find a way to expand their local customers – perhaps by developing one or two products that appeal to locals. This may take some evaluation of how your business currently operates; you may find switching the focus of your business to a more localized one will allow you to rebound faster.
The Over 60s
Let’s face it, if you have a mother like mine, the thought of them creating Facebook accounts or going on a Zoom meeting was laughable a few months ago… but it is happening now. In a world of social distancing, families, and friends scramble to keep in touch with loved ones. More and more of the ‘older’ generation are going online.
What this does is open up more targeting opportunities for your marketing campaigns on channels like Facebook, so have a think about how you can adapt your products to take this demographic into account. Vagabond Tours in Ireland do this amazingly well with two sub-brands, one catering for the older demographic with slightly slower-paced adventure tours.
Where to reach over the 60s online:
The best platform to target this demographic would be Facebook. High-paced and energetic videos and images are not ideal for this type of customer. Keep your messaging simple, to the point, and if using video, show people 50 and over. If using text on video, make sure it is large and legible.
Students tend to travel on a shoestring, but think about what is happening to them during the crisis. They are not spending time in nightclubs or bars or hanging out with friends in their favorite cafe. They are just as stuck at home… And they are spending less money!
They can’t wait to get back out and enjoy life again, so give them something to do. This is ideal for food and drink tour operators, adventure tours like kayaking and clay pigeon shooting, and even those who offer museums or street art tours. Do what you can to tap into this demographic at the end of the crisis.
Students love a discount, so offer an open-ended ticket with some kind of offer to encourage them to book ahead, giving your company some much-needed revenue now.
Where to reach students online:
For the younger audience, TikTok is enormous at the moment, and it is a platform for humor and entertaining videos. Think about how you can incorporate this type of video into your marketing campaigns.
Instagram is as popular as ever and a good target for those slightly older students who like to show off places they’ve been or food they’ve eaten, making Instagram especially powerful for food tour businesses!
Working remotely has many benefits, but I challenge anyone who thinks face-to-face interaction is not vital for a productive business.
Businesses may seek to re-establish connections with their employees and between teams; this means that team-building opportunities will almost certainly increase at the end of the crisis. Think about how you can offer private tours or activities for the businesses in your local area.
You will be helping local businesses like yourself, but also helping to build stronger connections between the employer and employees, massively boost everyone’s mental health and productivity.
Where to reach corporate & local businesses online:
Even though you are targeting businesses, you are targeting the people in those businesses, which means that Facebook is the ideal platform.
Target business owners and employees of various business types for the best results. For example, target those with a high number of employees in your local area, such as call centers, IT companies, or creative agencies. Also, LinkedIn is another excellent platform, but this takes much longer to build your reputation as it works best when you post regular content.
Never pay for Linkedin Ads… They are a waste of time, and they’re costly.
Families with Children
You have an opportunity to create tours and products that allow families to enjoy themselves, that entertain children and get them interacting with other human beings again, playing an essential part in their development.
Families being cooped up at home for weeks on end opens up so many opportunities for tour operators and activity providers to give them exactly what they’ve been craving once the travel bans and social distancing have been lifted. What can you do to support families in your local area?
Where to reach families online:
Once again, Facebook is the best platform to target families. Instagram is also an excellent platform to inspire this demographic and to pull them towards your brand. Video should be used extensively, showing a family having fun with more emphasis on what the children can do to keep them entertained. Show that your product or service can help parents occupy their kids while also allowing them to relax.
Anyone who Celebrated a Milestone During the Crisis
Many people during the crisis have ‘celebrated’ some kind of milestone; I use that term celebrated very loosely as it’s not much of a celebration at home alone or in front of a computer monitor with friends and family. People have had big birthdays on their own, anniversaries at home, the birth of a child without anyone meeting the family’s new addition. These people will want to get together and make up for lost time!
Why not create a tour or activity that targets people who could not enjoy these milestones properly?
You could run a campaign just now, using a small-budget Facebook Ad that asks people to submit their details (no payment yet!) to organize a surprise tour/activity that they can all enjoy once lockdowns are lifted. This can be an open-ended ticket, so even if they pay a small deposit, they will not lose out. Giving people something to look forward to, and your business builds a robust marketing list to work from in the future.
Where to reach these people online:
While this demographic is essential ‘anyone who has celebrated a milestone’ there is a way to target them online. Facebook and Instagram are your best bet as you can target people with upcoming and past birthdays. For past birthdays you can use the’ by month’ option.
While some of these ideas will be difficult for some businesses, I hope they provide some inspiration for how operators can focus their business, products, and marketing during this crisis while also looking beyond it. If you have any further ideas, I would love to hear what you come up with, so please feel free to get in touch. Now is not the time to hide away and see what happens. It’s a time of action. It’s a time where people are looking to connect. Make sure people can connect with your business at this time.
To help you on your way, my book, How to Turn your Lookers into Bookers, contains more information on how to research your ideal demographics and how to create buyer personas that give you a clear understanding of exactly who your target audience is. Download for free here