When is the best time to market to travel trade buyers? It's a question I've heard thousands of times. The answer: buyers are looking for new ideas and new vendors all year long.
The biggest online travel companies are adding new product all the time and those buyers who run on a typical "catalog, sales, travel" cycle need help throughout the year. This article takes a look at some of the ways you can be sure you and your product at are the top of mind, year round.
No, I don't mean the iPhone app; I mean actually spending time with your clients & prospects face-to-face. Find out what trade shows your top clients, their competitors and your prospects attend and make a point to be there too. The appointments are going to give you the guaranteed meetings but the networking events will give you a chance to strengthen your relationships with decision makers, building lifelong friendships and establishing you as a vendor they can trust.
Get out and sell! Seriously, pack a bag and hit the road. Spend a few days getting to know your prospects, visiting them on their turf. Buyers have hundreds of appointments back-to-back at trade shows and most get fewer than 5 visits from suppliers to their offices each month. Be one of those handful of vendors who cares enough to make the trip. When meeting with your clients, take a look around their office, ask what they're working on, find out who their favorite vendors are and learn how they work.
Each day that passes from the last time a buyer saw something from you puts your product farther and farther from the top of mind when the need finally arises. At the very least, your message needs to be present in the buyers' space when they're looking for new product, when they're suggesting things to their customers, when they're putting together new packages and when the consumers are on the road in case there's an emergency or someone traveling has a chance to check out your business.
Staying at top of mind doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming. Ads in trade publications play the passive role while the courteous occasional phone call, handwritten note or promo item can make a bigger impression.
Be smart... compare the number of valuable impressions (buyers) for each dollar you spend. The $1,000 ad in a trade magazine may be delivered to 15,000 recipients but only 150 of them are actual tour operators, the rest may be group leaders and influencers, but not the folks you need to reach. How many other suppliers are going to be on the same page or email blast as you? Are you going to get lost in the mix? What reason does the buyer have to even look at the publication?
As a Director of Sales & Marketing, I struggled to find a better way to advertise. When I launched Fire Starter Brands, I was able to deliver that better method in two ways - digital and direct mail. I asked the industry's top buyers if they're interested in finding new product and, overwhelmingly, they've said yes by opting-in to receive the content my team delivers. Our email blasts to operators are content-driven with only two ad positions each giving us a 24.95% buyer open rate over the last 4 years. The direct mail packet we deliver brings hundreds of unique visitors to our "For Tour Operators" only section each quarter and, for under $300, puts full-sized flyers from a select number of vendors in the hands of 700 pre-qualified product managers, company owners and tour planners.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR...
Stephen Ekstrom is a well-recognized tourism marketing expert whose influence reaches over 500,000,000 travelers every year. He's been profiled by the New York Times and appeared on CBS, NBC and NY1. He is a fixture in the travel trade and has served as a board member, expert panelist, committee chair, mentor and program facilitator. Fire Starter Brands, founded by Ekstrom in 2010, manages a network of nearly 5,500 opted-in global travel trade buyers, advising and assisting smart travel industry suppliers and destination marketers. Stephen currently lives in South Florida with his two dogs, Match & Rudy.