Most travel suppliers strive to generate more direct bookings via their own websites as it helps to reduce the amount of commission owed to agents and directories. Unfortunately, many travel suppliers find themselves confused and overwhelmed when it comes to taking advantage of the many digital marketing tools available.
According to Lizanne du Plessis, Director and Founder at Eco Africa Digital, driving more direct bookings via an establishment’s website is simple if it is approached with a digital marketing funnel in mind.
“The digital marketing funnel generally consists of four phases and four different types of campaigns, namely brand awareness campaigns, campaigns geared towards driving traffic to the website, email database growth campaigns, and booking conversion campaigns,” says Lizanne.
“Along with generating more direct bookings, these campaigns also seek to fulfil other digital marketing requirements in the travel and tourism industry, such as growing mindshare in local and international markets, improving SEO and Google rankings, and tracking booking conversions to measure, improve, and figure out how to adapt your approaches to achieve better results over time.”
Lizanne is a firm believer that it is always wise to utilise as many avenues as possible to drive potential customers to a website, including SEO, Google Ads, social media, word of mouth referrals, high traffic directories, content marketing, and email marketing. She also insists that a thorough digital marketing strategy is key.
“If you don’t plan, then you are planning to fail. A strategy should outline your goals and in-depth points of action that will help you to achieve them. It is vital to research the various tools available and to put them to good use to make your life easier,” she says.
A fantastic tip that Lizanne shared is to import your list of previous guests or email marketing contacts into your social media platform of choice. From there, these platforms work to find a ‘lookalike’ audience that has similar interests and shows similar online behaviours as your existing, ‘ideal’ customers, providing you with a great starting point.
Once travel suppliers know where to start, they can move onto addressing the various phases of the digital marketing funnel.
Phase 1: Building brand awareness
Here, travel suppliers are encouraged to create social posts with the intention of eliciting engagement and inspiring potential customers. It is important to use enticing imagery and copy when crafting these posts, keeping in mind that wildlife images tend to perform well quite consistently, according to Lizanne. Videos are a wise strategy when it comes to building brand awareness, too. However, Lizanne cautions that they will only be worth the time and effort if they are boosted with a bit of budget for paid advertising.
“This is what will take your brand awareness videos from hundreds of views to thousands of views,” she comments.
Phase 2: Driving traffic to your website
At this stage of the funnel, travel suppliers need to be creating social media posts with a strong call-to-action and an appealing special offer to convince more people to visit the chosen landing page. SEO is also critical here, so travel suppliers are encouraged to optimise all landing pages with the keywords that they hope to rank for. These keywords should be included in the landing page copy, as well as in the URL, meta data, alt tags, headings, etc.
Phase 3: Email database growth
Now is the time for travel suppliers to retarget everyone who has been engaging with their content on social media or via their website. The secret is to create enticing offers that call for these individuals to sign up with their contact details in order to receive more information or capitalise on the deal being promoted. The benefits of this approach are two-fold, according to Lizanne.
“The travel supplier will effectively grow their database to which they can continue to market for a long time into the future, all while enjoying the immediate success of people actually booking the offers made available.”
Phase 4: Booking conversion
This is where travel suppliers create hard-sell posts with attractive imagery that all feature extremely strong and straightforward calls-to-action, such as ‘book now’, ‘call now’, or ‘get offer now’.