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Advertising Your Travel Practice

A question from a travel professional last week on advertising with a limited budget prompted additional considerations. Indeed, advertising sometimes seems like a shot in the dark. Probably no aspect of any marketing plan draws both the scrutiny and the concern as does advertising. At times it seems highly effective, and the lucky business person can directly attribute sales to a particular effort while on other occasions, advertising can seem completely without any power to turn revenue. If an advertising effort works, that is if it generates a good return, then cost almost does not matter. If it fails to work, advertising is an expensive mistake. So how do you work advertising into your business plan in such a way as to ensure its success?

Display advertising is important – it both builds your brand, generating familiarity with your company, and it can act to tactically sell.  But especially during more difficult economic times we shift our marketing away from “shotgun” tactics designed to market to the world and advertise with media that has a tight, loyal readership. Display advertising in a general circulation newspaper is more risky than a much less expensive ad placed in a newsletter that is circulated in a neighborhood the readers of which match the demographics of your current clientele.

Display ads in highly targeted periodicals with a well defined readership allows for more experimentation with ad copy, format and placement. If you find a particular media that works well, it is important to change out aspects of your ad with some frequency so it does not become “invisible” to readers. Retain those elements of the ad that signify your brand – your logo, address, company name, but change out other graphical elements, position and colors.  Keeping a display ad fresh ensures that people will see it multiple times rather than scanning over it with the impression that they have read it in the past.

Finally, when committing to an advertising venue, it is imperative to understand that frequency matters.  A single ad placed a single time represents wasted effort and money.  To be effective, an ad must run multiple times to sufficiently impact a readership, to build the brand curiosity necessary.  Thus, an advertising effort’s cost must be calculated on a campaign basis, not on the cost of a single ad.

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Determine which venues are bringing you the clients you want. The success of any marketing effort is not how many leads it generates. In fact, nothing can be quite so discouraging as to have an advertisement or a flier bring in a rush of unqualified leads. The number of “tire-kickers” that will respond to a price-driven cruise advertisement is truly astonishing. The real measure of success is how many qualified leads respond to your efforts. The focus needs to be on profitable revenue, not just a list of prospects of dubious seriousness about travel.  Thus, ask people calling you as perspective clients how they got your name.  You might include a “promotional code” in each ad you do so you can track which periodical and even which ad is driving traffic.

Exercise –  Make a list of the media in your community that targets the demographic you seek.  Don’t overlook non-conventional venues like neighborhood newsletters or periodicals published by retailers.


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