The value of a web site for a travel agent is real. Many agents continue to operate without a web site and even if they have one, without due consideration to tactics like search engine optimization. However, consumers expect business operators to have a web site and the real question is more often the role the website will play in the overall marketing plan of the travel agency. This week, The 365 Guide will explore the many facets of website marketing. The range of topics is nearly endless, so our foray will initially look at the larger strategic role a web site can play for your travel agency’s marketing profile.
Every good marketing effort begins with a fundamental strategic assessment, and web site marketing is no different. Having a web site without a strategic purpose in mind is worse than not having a web site. Your web site represents your business – it is marketing on your behalf 24 hours a day. It is important, therefore, that it speaks your marketing message accurately and clearly. It will many times be the first place consumers will turn to learn more about you and your travel agency. If your web site does not accurately portray your company’s core marketing message, you will confuse and lose many potential clients. To properly represent your business on the web requires preparation and a strategy that is well thought.
Just a quick point – even if you are one agent in a large mega agency, there are many good reasons to have your own web presence. You, as an individual travel consultant, are a brand. Even within the scope of your employment with a larger agency, you have your own identity. The possibilities of marketing your individual services within the larger context of your agency are many and with the proper support from your management can have great merit.
Start with your core message – the story of your agency or travel practice. Who are you? What is your fundamental reason for being a travel consultant, and how will you project that through your web site? Is your marketing message personal service? Luxury? Insight? Price? It is all too easy to send a mixed message unless you adhere closely to your core marketing message. A list of cheap travel specials, dozens of supplier logos or a heavy emphasis on a booking engine does not project a message of personalized service. The axis between message and presentation has to be clear and consistent.
This 365 Marketing Tip is sponsored by:
Next, consider your site’s viewers. Who are your target clients? What will bring them to your site? What will make them stay? What will make them return? Will your site be for existing clients to use or for new prospects? Both? Will you include “specials” or drive your viewers to a personal contact?
A quick trip around travel agency websites will reveal a wide variety of quality. With all of the do-it-yourself tools available, many agents launch out on a web site project totally on their own. Many actually pull it off. However, the ease with which a web site can be built should not lead you to the immediate decision to build your own. Again, consider your core message. If an image of professionalism is important to your core marketing message, then your website must reflect that value as well. Therefore, give strong consideration to employing a professional web designer to assist you in the planning and building of your site.
Spend a lot of time reviewing other sites during your research phase. Look for elements of design and content that you feel will appeal to your demographic. A good site is a combination of both form (layout and design) and function (content and information). Bookmark favorite sites, do screen captures and show your designer what you like and explain the rationale. The more specifically you can explain your strategic objectives, the more clear the final product will be.
A web site is your most dynamic marketing tool outside of your own personality. For better or for worse, it will represent your company every minute of every day. Don’t settle for a quick and easy solution.
Begin with your core message and build from there. The final product should walk and talk identically to the way you present your agency in person.
Tomorrow: Strategy Continued