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Knowing your customer through your website

Travel agents are starting to use their websites as an effective component of their sales and marketing campaigns.  The content, tools, ease-of-use, and technology exist today for agencies of all sizes and web skills to have their own effective web presence, and to focus their websites on their particular specialties.  We know that consumers are shopping more and more on their agent’s websites, before they make the decision to buy. Now is the time to use your website to differentiate yourself in the market.

Getting your clients to your website is the first step.  We’ve seen many examples of agents very creatively driving their clients to their websites.  Some agents are beginning to solicit content from their clients from past trips and creating “Travelogue” sections on their website.  Then to create a viral marketing effect, they’re emailing those clients a link to the page that they can forward to their friends.  Many agents now include their website address on all printed and emailed material sent to customers.  One of our larger travel agency clients found that consumers were more likely to visit their website as a first call-to-action from their newspaper ads, than were likely to initially pick up the phone and call.  Think of all your client “touch points” and make sure that you include an invitation to visit your website.  If you don’t, they’ll soon be visiting someone else’s.

If you’re successful in getting your clients to go to your site when looking for their next vacation, the key to keeping them engaged in the shopping and buying process (getting them to pick up the phone and call you, for instance) is making sure that they have a rewarding, relevant experience on your website.  And the key to ensuring a rewarding customer experience on your website begins with knowing what they’ll want to see once they get to your site – knowing your customer and giving them what they want.

If you are a specialist in one or more areas, you have a tremendous opportunity to show off your specialty using your website.  Let me give you a couple of ideas of how agents are leveraging their websites to promote their own travel specialties.

One agency specializes in Quilting Cruises. This agent books a number of cabins for like-minded quilting enthusiasts. Customers booking a Quilting Cruise already share a common passion, and now they’re cruising together. What a great way to match common interests with the joy of cruising. Getting the word out is easy with flyers at local craft and quilt shops, through online quilting blogs, custom offer email newsletters, and of course their website.

Another agent promotes only religion-oriented tours and cruises on their website. The site has religious travel offers as well as videos, affiliate links for books, CDs and partner links. All of this highly relevant content increases site visits and ultimately bookings from targeted customers.  The agent was thrilled to get a late night call recently from a new prospect who found her on the web. This call resulted in booking a large group trip for the Oberammergau Passion Play in 2010. The agent’s website was the difference, because it demonstrated to the potential customer that the agency had a thorough knowledge of religious travel.

Yet another agency focuses on promoting golf championships and tournaments all over the world, and booking travel around those events. Travelers can see on the site’s home page through text and images, offers, and design, that golf and travel are the agency’s expertise.  While the agency also promotes and sells standard cruises and vacations, included on their site, they can focus their site on their specialty – custom golf and travel packages.

So think of your website as a true tool to help you differentiate yourself with new and existing clients.  It’s a lot easier and more effective than you may think.

Greg Kott is the President and CEO of Passport Online. Passport Online is a leading supplier of Internet tools that help the leisure travel industry reach the travel agency consumer. Millions of unique travel agency consumers used Passport Online’s shopping engine on travel agency websites to search for their next vacation experience. Each day, unique consumers are on those sites, seeking the product advice and opportunities offered by their trusted travel agent. Passport Online’s key products are VacationPort and NexCite. Passport Online also offers complete email design and delivery services that integrate with the VacationPort and NexCite systems. For more information visit www.passportonline.com. To contact Greg directly, you can call him at 503-626-7766, Extension 3020 or send an email to gregk@passportonline.com

  2 thoughts on “Knowing your customer through your website

  1. Steve Cousino says:

    Greg, thanks for contributing to TRO – it’s great to see you here!

    Your words provided a lot of mental floss for me. Today’s customers are becoming more and more responsive to website & email marketing. I know many folks (myself included) who will research a company’s website for more information before ultimately deciding to do business with them.

    I like PassportOnline’s ability to provide a search tool for travel product, helping the client get a better idea for what their options are, and giving them something to “play with” as it were, before deciding to call us.

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