Content marketing is becoming such a buzz word that I’m sure by now you are slowly incorporating it in your strategy. Perhaps you are even embarking on the whole editorial plan and blogging schedule. You might even have started to see some benefits already.
But are you actually leveraging one of the most valuable content sources for your travel business: your clients’ experience reviews? Are you focusing on their stories and evaluations they share on countless places on the web?
If you still have an old style website full of advertorial product features, or if you still don’t put your customers at the center of your online marketing efforts, the following questions are for you to ponder on:
Are you controlling your company’s online reputation?
Probably more than in any other industry, in the tourism business customers largely use the web to share their travelling experience. They tell stories about hotels’ sanitation, the quality service of a bus tour or about the local flavor of a restaurant’s cuisine.
By eagerly sharing their experiences – good and bad, they become influencers not only for their friends, but also for their virtual communities where they evaluate their adventures.
And, as you already know, a potential customer takes into consideration peer reviews much more than your own puffed-up product features.
In fact, as this buyer review survey conducted by HubSpot reveals, “52% of consumers reported that positive customer reviews make them more likely to use a local business”. That means 1 in 2 potential customers will make a buying decision based on peer reviews.
So, in other words: you don’t control your potential clients’ purchase decision factors.
Your existing customers hold the power by sharing on the web their experiences from using your product, be it a hotel booking or a museum voucher. The reputation of your travel business is in the hands of your current clients. And the bad news is you cannot control your online reputation through your planned advertorial brochures, or through your traditional static website.
How do you get back some of that control?
Stop fooling yourself.
Your customers don’t come to your shiny, well-designed website to read your promotional materials when making a choice to go for your service or not. They don’t read your “product benefits” or your advertising travel brochure.
They go straight to travel review websites like TripAdvisor and read about the experiences of other tourists, to identify what they see as the real value of your product.
And the sooner you change your strategy, the faster you’ll get back a bit of that control over your potential customers’ decision-making process.
The solution is in trying to collaborate with the influencers.
What can you do to team up with the powerful customers?
You can go where they are, on travel review websites across the web, and interact with them: thank them, offer clarifications, or compensate them.
Or better yet, you can create a space on your business website and encourage clients to share their experiences over there. You can facilitate tools such as photo uploading, check-ins, or live micro-blogging. Then invite your potential customers on your platform to check peers’ opinions.
The key is to make it 100% non-promotional, to simply let quality stories about the experiences take the lead on your website.
And you’ll see soon enough how more and more potential customers will check your web, not when they want to buy a product, but at the browsing stage, when they are looking for objective, real information. This way you will have transformed your website into a publishing hub where tourists come for valuable peer information, without being bombarded with unsolicited advertorial materials.
Because the travel industry today is not about promoting the actual destination anymore, but about empowering the voice of the customers.
So, if you want to grow your travel business, you need to collaborate with these influential people and leverage their stories to your business.