The last trade show or, in some cases, series of back-to-back shows were a whirlwind. You met with dozens of travel planners, tour operators and program coordinators. You’ve probably been working through your list of tour operators to make sure you’re getting back to each on their specific needs because, as you’ve heard a million times, “It’s all about the follow up.”
You might have gotten some business but why aren’t you getting even more business? What do you have to do to actually convert those leads into more group tours, more voucher sales and more visitors taking part in your company’s experience?
Whether you’re focused on domestic tourism or international visitors, there are three things you should be doing away from the trade show floor that will help you strengthen your relationships, develop new leads and land new tourism business. Let’s take a look…
Visit Top Travel Trade Buyers
75% of those surveyed reported that they are likely to act on information presented to them by a supplier during a personal visit to their office. Each year, Fire Starter Brands’ team visits hundreds of operators on their turf, bringing information about the clients we represent. This personal touch reinforces that we care about the operator, their business and are committed to taking care of their guests. Different from a trade show, product showcase or sales exchange, these small group sales missions mean that we get to see how operators work, share product information and introduce new itinerary options on their turf, in a space where operators are most comfortable and where we can meet with decision makers.
Multiple Mailbox Approach
Tour operators tell us that they receive hundreds of email blasts from industry suppliers and destination marketing organizations every day. HUNDREDS!
In a recent study by DMA, direct mail sent to prospects had a 2.9% response rate vs. email’s 0.2% with oversized envelopes reaching rates as high as 4.9%. A direct mail piece is in a customer’s office and a constant reminder of your business. If it’s visually appealing or deemed important someone might even keep it on their desk! Printed collateral has a longer shelf life than digital. So where do you get a list of tour operators? How do you know who you should be sending your material to? Fire Starter Brands has you covered, we’ve got more than 6,000 travel trade buyers in our network and we know how they buy, where they like to go, what their customers are interested in and hundreds of other qualifiers that make us uniquely able to deliver powerful direct mail campaigns.
An email blast you send to tour operators is going to be promotional. You’ve got a product to sell and that’s why you’re communicating with them. It’s time to consider placing your product in messages buyers receive from other trusted sources. I learned a long time ago that buyers just don’t pay attention to purely promotional messages. The messages we deliver to operators are not too dissimilar to those we share with suppliers in that we focus on content, giving readers great stories, helpful tools and interesting themes. This has helped us build our opt-in trade buyer newsletter list to over 4,000 contacts and has propelled our open rates to well over 20%. Consider placing your message in campaigns like those we offer, those coming from trade association partners and cross promotions with other trusted trade vendors.
Just last week, I had a tour operator friend spending a couple nights at my home in South Florida. Between morning sips of fresh brewed coffee and bites of those donuts that come hot off the conveyor, melting in our mouths, we got to talking about her favorite vendors. She mentioned one interaction from a recent trade show where the supplier, having only met this operator once before, asked why the operator sent the bulk of her local business to a competitor.
The operator then proceeded to tell me how this supplier only pops up once a year when at a trade show. The supplier comes across all hot & heavy, pushing to make deals and sign contracts but then she disappears. It’s obvious to the buyers that travel trade sales are just one of the segments this rep is responsible for and it shows. It shows in that this supplier is not thinking about operators when it’s not convenient to her. To her, trade sales are “transactional” and not relationship driven.
So… how can you be consistent? Make sure you’ve got some sort of trade-focused outreach activity happening every month. Consider participating in Fire Starter Brands quarterly direct mail program that can put your flyer or profile sheet in front of 700 of North America’s highest volume operators every few months. Join a sales mission. Go to the trade shows. Send some information via mail. Have an email blast. Be present in the operators’ space.
About the Author…
Stephen Ekstrom is a well-recognized tourism marketing expert whose influence reaches millions of 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 over 6,000 opted-in global travel trade buyers, advising, teaching and assisting smart travel industry suppliers and destination marketers. Stephen currently lives in South Florida with his two dogs, Match & Rudy.
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