It undeniable that digital marketing is the THE dominant marketing channel for travel and tourism companies – research shows that at least 60% of consumers research their plans online before making a booking and 70% will make their booking online. And with options ranging from Facebook to Google ads, SEO, email marketing, Instagram and Pinterest, the list goes on — there are plenty of mediums where you can spend your marketing budget on.

The danger truly lies when a brand relies simply on random acts of marketing. People end up in these random acts when their marketing strategies have no correlation. This can come in the form of just mindlessly blasting out ads and maxing out your ad budget in the hopes of getting more conversions and doing print and TV ads just because, amongst other things.

If you’re not being strategic about what and where you spend your budget on, this may lead to a total waste of marketing budget. Picking something that you’re familiar with and going down that route, whatever the situation you’re in, maybe a good idea, but this also might feel random when you’re not getting the results that you want.

The danger lies here: one of our case studies showed that 80% of a company’s marketing budget was being put to waste, as only 20% of their marketing was driving nearly 100% of the conversions. If you consider that, they could’ve saved 80% of their marketing budget while still retaining the same results.

There are plenty of marketing tactics out there. Many of them are effective in the right place, at the right time, but not every one of these are good for your business. As a business owner, you have to go about your marketing with intentionality.

What is Marketing with Intentionality?

Marketing with intentionality means that you consider your target audience, the objective you’re trying to reach, and your budget. Whether online or offline, your marketing has to be coordinated. You’re aligning your marketing with where people are, using the right messaging, at the right time.

A good example is: if you’re trying to reach millennials, the social media platform is your best option to reach this targeted group. Running the same ad on television or the radio isn’t going to perform very well, because this age segment is probably watching streaming TV like Netflix or listening to the online radio, and might not even be on traditional radio or TV often.

This is what we call marketing with intentionality. This is putting yourself in the mind of your target audience to get a feel of what their behavior is like and what they will have the highest chance of responding to.

It can be tough to identify which strategies are going to work and what’s going to be the best combination. The best option to identify them is to go out and test a bunch of different strategies. The best results come when you commit to testing and evaluating new things. You’ve also got to be willing to abandon the strategies that aren’t working. Even if the strategies are working properly and you’re getting the results that you want, you have to still be committed to continually looking at them, evaluating them, figuring out areas of improvement, and tweaking them.

So how do we move away from random acts of marketing, and where are we moving towards?

We’re going to share some underlying principles and strategies that we’ve learned and crafted over the past years. Based on past results, we think these form a recipe that tends to work.

Principle # 1: Get more bookings from people already on your website

Principle # 2: Attract people seeking the experience you offer

Principle # 3: Re-engage interested people until they are ready to book

Understanding the Buyers’ Journey: Myth vs. Reality

We’re kind of wired to have misconceptions about the way people buy.

  • Myth # 1: Search, Click, and Buy

“If I run an ad campaign, I’m going to get more bookings because people just search, click, and buy.”

  • Myth # 2: Spray and Pray

“I’m just going to try a bunch of different things, and if this all works out, great! I’m just going to keep doing all these things. If not, I’m just going to throw all these out, do something else, because I don’t understand how these all fit together.”

We know. We’ve all been there before.

Neither of these misconceptions are true when it comes to the buyers’ journey. The reality is that the buyers’ journey is a long, winding path. There are a lot of stops along the way, but you have to remember that there is a process as to how this works.

There are different phases that buyers go through, and the good thing is that these are predictable, to a degree. It’s just not as linear as you would think and certainly not as straightforward as Myth # 1.

When we think of the buyers’ journey, we have to think of it as a funnel. We call this a funnel because not everyone who sees your ad or not everyone in your target audience is going to become a paying customer. People are gonna fall off your booking growth funnel, fall into someone else’s funnel, or fall out of the market altogether.

Buyers go through plenty of different stages, and as marketers, it’s your job to align with those stages, and the buyers’ process exists whether you align with it or not. This is where the funnel becomes effective. Because if you’re not aligned with the buyers’ journey, you’re going to have a leaky, dysfunctional funnel. You might get plenty of people at the top part of the funnel because the ads are running and they’re seeing them, but these people don’t go through to the very end because your marketing isn’t aligned.

As opposed to having a solid process, as an antithesis: if you have a very targeted, intentional marketing strategy that’s hitting people at the right place and time, you’re going to have a very wide funnel where plenty of people are going through to the very end.

Stages of the Buyers’ Journey

There are different ways to characterize the stages of the buyers’ journey, but the most common is to break it down to three main steps:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision
Approach funnel

Aligning Your Booking Growth Funnel With the Buyers’ Journey

Based on years of tests and working in the marketing industry, we’ve started to notice some commonalities. These principles have been tested primarily for the tourism industry, but many of these principles hold true for other industries as well. There are three main principles:

Booking Growth Funnel Principle # 1: Get More Bookings From People Already on Your Website.

  • These people already are visiting or have visited your website.
  • These people already are aware of your brand.
  • These people are visiting your store (if you have one) or checking your stuff out in a brochure.

That’s because these people are already in the last step of the funnel, which is the Decision stage. And they are ready to buy.

You may have some questions like: “They’re already ready to buy. Why should I focus on them?”

That’s because these people are your best chance at a conversion, and either something or someone is blocking them from going through to the last step of the funnel. Perhaps they need the advice of a spouse, they’re checking out other options, or weighing out deals.

Your job is to make sure that the whole process is smooth where you can control it.

We’ve noticed that some websites are quite difficult to navigate around, and even harder to book from. So even if you have someone that’s already ready to buy — if you make it difficult for them to buy and make it hard for them to find answers to questions, they are going to give up and move somewhere else.

Your website should have a really fluid sense to it and have an easy-to-use booking experience. You should make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for. Some people are impatient and don’t want to wait for load time.

Spend some time improving what you have control over on your end, which is your website.

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Booking Growth Funnel Principle # 2: Attract People Seeking the Experience You Offer.

  • Not everybody visiting your website, or your business is a potential customer for your business.
  • Not everyone is a highly qualified customer.

It’s also important to understand that not all traffic is good quality traffic.

However, it is possible to position your marketing in a way that you’re getting in front of people who are already predisposition to buy your service and want the kind of experience you offer. You have to understand the concept of building demand, building your audience, increasing your reach, and developing an audience within your overall target audience.

One of the biggest places we can focus on relating to this is search engines and search engine optimization (SEO). Consumers use search engines to find information prior to making a purchase or booking. They’re usually on there to look at reviews, comparing perks on different deals, or doing research online. Your presence on Google is your number one priority.

When you take a look at Google for vacation or bed and breakfasts listings, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that the top listings are mostly directories, like Yelp or TripAdvisor. There are also probably local blogs listing top tens, etc. A lot of businesses don’t understand the importance of showing up on these directories. This is a powerful strategy since those sites already rank on the first page of Google and can help you establish your brand presence. Links from other websites can also make your website rank higher.

This also helps with driving referral traffic to your website, and studies show that the conversion rate from referral websites is close to 10 percent.

People have the notion that asking to rank and appear on these listings are costly, and yes, they are correct. We know for a fact that based on years of trial and error, they do cost much more, but we would actually argue that they’re usually more cost-effective. If you look at the cost to get a booking, what you’re paying for advertising on those sites for that booking is actually a lot less than most other advertising mechanisms.

Also, you want to compete in search as an individual business. Create blogs or websites with the correct targeting keywords in order to get better ranking. You want to rank high in Google using the process of targeting keywords that you want to be searched for, or partner with some of these websites that have already invested the time, money, and resources to rank high on search engines.

Social media is also a very effective platform and can be very cost-effective. This can also be a very targeted way of reaching specific segments.

Booking Growth Funnel Principle # 3: Re-Engage Interested People Until They Are Ready to Book.

Most buying transactions don’t happen on the first visit. Think about your own buyers’ journey: how many times have you actually bought something on the first occurrence of seeing it? Probably none at all. You want to find a way to re-engage interested people until they’re ready to book, also known as lead nurturing.

The thing is, you’ve already spent money and gone through the motions of getting those people to your website and familiar with your brand. If you don’t have the strategy to re-engage these people and keep in touch with them until they’re ready to make a purchase, you’re leaving it up to chance, and therefore wasting all that money and effort that you’ve worked hard on to build an audience with.

You don’t want to leave it up to chance for them to maybe come back and think about you, and there might be a chance for them to come up on someone else’s website.

We can think of two best ways on how you can re-engage these customers that are cost-effective and not too labor intensive.

  1. Retargeting
  2. Email marketing

Retargeting

Website visitors who are targeted with a retargeting ad are 70% more likely to convert.

You can do your retargeting by reminding past general visitors of your website by showing them an ad, or an ad specific to the page that they’d visited on your website where you can alter your messaging to what the user last viewed on your website. You can also interact with people in specific stages in the buying process such as:

  • Checkout/Abandoned cart: You can be more aggressive with these people and ask them why they’ve abandoned their cart
  • Booking page/FAQs: This signals that these customers are already deep within the funnel and probably within the last process of their decision-making
  • Website visitors/Page viewers: Create intrigue or interest with your ad campaigns

Always remember that with retargeting, the more specific you are, the better results you’re going to get.

Email Marketing

Email is still the most effective from a conversion rate perspective marketing strategy there is. But the challenge with email is, if you don’t have a big email list, it’s probably not going to do anything. Furthermore, if you don’t have a solid system of segmenting and targeting from your emails, you’re not going to get good responses.

With email marketing, you can target people based on time-based triggers such as giving them a birthday offer or looking to see when they last booked at your website and sending them an email a year after that, asking them if they want to recreate their experience.

Final Thoughts

We’re not saying that these strategies are 100% effective, but we have tested them out over the years, and a structured booking growth funnel works. It’s still best to test out different strategies and see what best suits you and your business. And, if you’re tired of investing in random acts of marketing, start building your growth road map today!

Meet the Author:

Carl Lefever

Carl Lefever, Founder & Strategist

Carl is the founder of Improve & Grow, LLC, where his primary passion is helping businesses grow by improving their online marketing. He leads the team and is involved in developing and executing internet marketing strategies for our clients. Carl's background is in continuous improvement disciplines, focused on sales and marketing operations. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He is a proud father of 4 girls and loves traveling and supporting missions work.