More exposure. More traffic. More ad-spend. Most marketing agencies will have you convinced you have an awareness problem. And in some cases, this may be true.
As someone who's been on that side of marketing for 12+ years now, I can tell you that's only been the case for about 10% of my clients (usually brand-new businesses). Most existing businesses have thousands of website and Google listing visitors every month. Awareness for these businesses is not the problem!
Convincing those thousands of people that your experience, activity, or property is the right one for them – that is where the real challenge lies. And it’s not just about having really compelling copy and amazing photos (although that does help immensely, as you'll see in a bit).
Before you throw more money at advertising, influencers, and promotions this year, let's explore some of the key reasons the bookings aren’t coming in as consistently as you may like. These are the roadblocks to success that are going to constantly get in your way as you grow. Don't let them!
1. You’re focused on filling potholes and not on creating defining moments
Research shows that we spend 80% of our time looking for and trying to fix problems and just 20% of our time trying to make good things better. What if we reversed those numbers? What if you spent less time trying to put out fires and more time on making your experience irresistible?
Focusing on making OK or good experiences better can lead to 9x higher revenue returns, according to the same study by Forrester. That means for every $1 of return realized by filling potholes, business could gain $9 return by building and refining defining, remarkable moments.
This priority shift in itself can spell the difference between a mediocre year and a banner year. No ad-spend required. Not to mention, how good would it feel to stop reacting to every single complaint and start pouring your energy into creating an experience with impact?
Continue learning: The Power of Defining Moments (Forrester)
2. You’re not meeting the (deeper) needs of travelers
47% of people surveyed say they didn’t make a booking online when they intended to because it didn’t meet their needs, according to a study by Google and Bain & Co. That means nearly HALF of people who really want to book something are walking away disappointed because experience and property hosts are missing what really matters.
In the same study, customers in the US who booked because a raw need was met paid 15% more than average for hotel rooms and 6% more for cruises. We’ve been over these ‘needs’ time and time again. But if you need a reminder, remember: these needs are more than just the tangible functional features of your experience. It’s not the free wifi or the free branded water bottle that people are booking for.
Don’t lose half your web and listing visitors because you’re focusing on the wrong needs. Start thinking about the needs of travelers beyond the functional. What are the emotional and life changing elements of your experience that you can focus your marketing efforts on?
Continue learning: Today’s Traveler: Infinite Paths to Purchase (Google/Bain & Co)
3. Your experience is lacking in meaning and cultural connection
Travelers want their accommodation provider to have an active role in making their trip more meaningful. In fact, 87% would appreciate it if their host enabled them to learn more about the culture and history of the destination, according to Siteminder.
This statistic points to a very real desire for cultural connection. And yet, many experiences continue to just skim the surface of a place. It’s a small percentage of hosts and operators that are creating opportunities for the traveler to be truly immersed into the authentic, local way of life. In many destinations there is still a strong divide between the tourist and the local.
Keep your travelers safe but break the bubble that separates them from the world they’ve traveled so far to experience. No one wants to feel like an outside spectator when they travel, so start thinking of ways to create more culturally interactive and meaningful moments for your guests.
Continue learning: The Changing Traveller 2022 Report (Siteminder)
4. Your wellbeing initiatives are lackluster, misaligned, or non-existent
In a recent study by American Express, 76% of survey respondents agree that they want to spend more on travel to improve their wellbeing, 68% are likely to base their next vacation around improving their mental wellbeing, and 55% say they would be willing to pay extra for wellness activities on future vacations.
And yet, most experiences I see fall into one of two buckets: they are either (1) still focused purely on the entertainment value of an experience or (2) going to the extreme ends of wellness that only resonate with a small percent of people.
Finding the right place on the wellbeing spectrum is key for creating an experience that appeals to the millions of people who are looking to flourish with the help of travel. If you aren’t positioning your experience with some sort of wellbeing angle, you’re going to be missing out on a large segment of travelers who are really prioritizing it!
Continue learning: Consumers Prioritizing Wellness and Mental Health with their Time, Money and Travel Plans (American Express)
5. You’re failing to communicate the value of your experience
Now we get into the place most marketing companies start – improving your communication and bookability. Arival shares some of the most important factors in improving your bookability, the #1 being activity description. And as a copywriter I can tell you with certainty: creating a truly compelling activity description will feel very difficult if you ignore all the prior insights shared above. Because you can only embellish your description so much – it all comes down to the experience you are creating. The more magical your experience, the more magical your marketing!
Emphasizing the defining moments, the meaningful cultural stories, and the wellbeing value of your experience within your descriptions will help you sell your experience with ease in 2023. But if you already have a decent description, good photos, you're getting thousands of views every month, you have online booking capabilities, and you're still not getting booked up - the problem likely lies in one of the obstacles above.
Continue learning: Why Travelers Choose One Experience Over Another (Arival)