Marketing and Website Advice For A Travel Business From Ryan Anthoney at 3Sixty – Interview
When starting as a tour operator or starting a travel business some of the biggest questions we have at PTS are concerning website development and what a successful website should include. Marketing and website advice for a travel business is key to success.
Arguably your website is the most important element to consider when starting as a tour operator. But, something to also consider is if in fact you need a website?
So, we discussed marketing and website advice for a travel business with our friend, Ryan Anthoney, at the awarding winning web design and build agency 3Sixty. 3Sixty most recently won Best Digital Marketing Agency of 2018 at The Travel Marketing Awards.
Do You Need A Website When Starting A Travel Business?
Our first question to Ryan was – “Do you actually need a website when starting a travel business? “
Ryan explained that the most important element to consider when starting a travel business is to start with a purpose. Every travel startup must put thought into what the role of your site actually is? It shouldn’t be a tick box exercise if the website has a real business benefit and there is a user need, then yes.
Ryan put the following questions forward for consideration –
- Do you want it to attract clients and be a hub of information?
- Do you want the site to be a booking platform?
- Do you want the site to function purely as an online brochure?
- Do you want the site to be the start of the client’s journey and experience when booking with you?
- Or, do you want your site to encompass all of the above?
These are all valid questions and areas PTS consultants discuss with many enquiries and start-ups. There is no right or wrong answer as everyone has a different vision. One thing to strongly consider is that your answers will also be driven by your budget.
Understanding Your Audience When Building Your Travel Business
The biggest consideration for any travel business is understanding your audience.
Who are you speaking to? Think long and hard about this.
Speaking to a price-conscious millennial looking for adventure is a very different story to speaking to a family with two children looking for a child-friendly holiday.
Get a notepad and write it down. Write down every package you are looking to offer at this stage and partner each package with whom you think would be the most likely to book.
Fundamentally, you need to be absolutely clear about who you are looking to attract and who will book your packages.
Ryan went on to explain, “ When understanding your audience this is where there is a split between large travel businesses and small travel businesses. Big travel businesses and trading travel businesses invest heavily into implementing tools within their sites to understand their audience because they are so large. A small business will find it is much easier to understand their audience. By default, a small business has far more one to one interaction directly with their clients and this is a luxury. It is much easier for a small business to understand their audience. As such, arguably, a small startup does not require the all singing and all dancing tools that are the large costs when developing a site. The more expensive sites are something to strongly consider when you have scaled up.”
Return on Investment (ROI) is important for any travel company to consider. How much is your travel business looking to turn over?
How much profit are you looking to earn per annum?
Fundamentally, the amount a travel business is looking to spend on a website is relative to what the company is looking to achieve.
Ryan went on to clarify, “The general cycle for changing a company website is every three years in the maturity phase. This does not necessarily mean creating a new site but changing and modernising. However, in a small business, it could be more often to correlate with the company advancement and enhanced portfolio of packages and destinations. A website should develop as your travel company develops. There is no harm in starting small, gaining proof of the concept, then going from there. Equally, you want to ensure that your website is effective and doesn’t hinder your business performance”
What’s The Difference Between a Big Budget Travel Website of £50k + and Smaller Budget Travel Website?
Ryan’s thoughts on this question confirmed what PTS consultants have seen time and time again for PTS members. Ryan explained, “ A £5k-£10k website would generally include a content management system. The basics can be done well on a lesser budget and still look stunning. The biggest difference would be that the website would be far more static and would require the owner to do more manual work. This can actually be positive for a startup as they can control their unique package offerings and descriptions resulting in increased sales.”
“As your travel business grows it is then that reinvestment into the site is required and different technologies can be implemented to ensure excellent user experience. A great example of this that many people simply love on travel sites is personalisation. This is where the website understands your prospect and then tailors what this prospect sees based on their site interaction. A nifty tool for a larger travel business and a sure fire way to drive conversions”
However, as Ryan explains, if this investment improves conversion by 10%, for a global brand, this would likely lead to a huge return on investment, but for a startup, the investment might not be profitable. Understanding the opportunity and cost is key for smart investments in digital technology.
With that said, Jacqui from PTS has spoken to many enquiries about marketing and website advice for a travel business looking to use WIX or similar “make your own” sites. At PTS we have found this solution may seem cost effective but it can be incredibly restrictive and cause further issues and larger investments down the road. We asked Ryan his opinion, “ Wix can offer a cost-effective solution but it is too static in my opinion. By nature travel is emotive and every travel business needs to be malleable. Wix has a place and can be an incredible solution in many markets but it isn’t a strong solution for travel nor those with real ambition. If you genuinely believe in your travel business, make sure it has the best chance to flourish”
What Are The Best Social Media Channels For The Travel Market?
If you are considering not having a website and purely using social media this can absolutely work for some startups, especially within the homeworker industry. Or, you are looking to use social media in line with your website.
Again the questions to consider here are:
Where is your travel business’s audience coming from?
Paper brochures? ( This is quite rare these days but can still be a favourite for the likes of Saga or luxury travel brands)
Jacqui Cleaver at PTS discussed this area with Ryan at length. Ryan quite rightly highlighted, “… it is the content that a travel business creates that is important. Does the content you are sharing add value to people? Will your clients find it interesting? Equally, make sure you are where your clients are. If you know your prospects are all on Instagram, create value-adding content on Instagram”
Ryan also went on to discuss expectations, “ Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get 300 likes in a week. This is very rare to begin with and it is consistent posting, interesting content, sharing and a quality online presence that will attract followers and then the likes. Patience and being smart is key when tackling online marketing campaigns. Don’t be afraid to engage with other influencers and your audience, understand what works well for them, or that drives this value”
We asked Ryan what he felt were the most important social media channels for the travel industry today. In Ryan’s opinion, he felt Instagram and Facebook were powerful. Ryan explained, “ Travel is an emotive industry. Images drive imagination. Facebook offers very clever direct marketing tools that allow travel businesses to get in front of the right people especially when dealing with niche markets such as cycling in Spain. Google Pay Per Click (PPC) and Facebook both have roles to play but as a small business you can spend a huge amount of money and not get a lot back on PPC. Facebook offers the opportunity to directly market to your niche audience in a cost-effective manner.”
Ryan went on to explain, “ In my opinion, Facebook and Instagram advertising will increase over time due to its success and popularity. Today is a good time to take advantage of Instagram and Facebook advertising as my feeling it is currently under-priced and in due course prices will increase to match its success.”
In conclusion, when considering marketing and website advice for a travel business understanding your audience, clarifying your return on investment and making sure you choose the correct solution for your travel business and its current goals are the key. You need to build a marketing campaign that is applicable to your company today.
To learn more about Facebook and Instagram advertising do take a look at YouTube. There are huge amounts of videos explaining the simplicity of online marketing and teaching you how to do this for yourself.
If you’d like to discuss this further, please get in contact with one of Protected Trust Services’ (PTS) lovely staff members by calling 0207 190 9988. Or, you can visit our member support and travel trust account pages to learn more about how we protect you.