The process that travelers go through when deciding to take a vacation is complicated. Luckily, Google has broken that decision-making process into five steps that allow us to examine how travelers are behaving. Using this data to build a comprehensive, strategic campaign can help increase visitors.
Maybe you read an article about swimming with dolphins in Hawaii, or saw a friend post a photo of their family in Disneyland. Something sparks that desire to travel.
During this period, it’s best to reach visitors with top-level inspiration. Videos, Pinterest boards, influencers, creative content, and prospecting ads are all great ways to begin to get visitors interested in your brand. Now is not the time to bog them down with details. Don’t let them start worrying about logistics, affording the vacation, or even the things they plan to do. Get inspirational content in front of them that gets them dreaming about taking an adventure.
Once they are inspired, visitors will start to make plans. The average traveler goes to over 20 travel sites before booking, checking out great places to eat, the best, most convenient hotels, and things to do. Now is the time to hit them with details. During this part of the traveler’s journey, it’s important that your SEO, SEM, content, display, and social media game is strong. Presenting a cohesive strategy across all platforms positively strengthens their experience with your brand.
Here’s what we are all looking for: conversions. Let’s be real though, most DMO websites just can’t compete with hotel and third party booking engines—so why should you? It isn’t a competition. After all, your purpose is to get heads into beds. Let hoteliers and third party websites take care of that element of the puzzle—they do it well. What you can do is inspire people to travel and help drive traffic to their sites. They have the booking engine, but you’ve got the brand influence.
Use content on your site to help visitors sort through hotels, events, and dining options to find the perfect ones for their vacation. We often help DMOs do this by creating a cooperative storytelling campaign. The DMO sponsors the story, working with our creative team to come up with a story idea. Then partners buy into the co-op to get their names in front of prospective travelers.
We did such a co-op for Visit Baton Rouge. The story with a Presentation Layer helps differentiate hotels and lodgings for the reader. Links within the text send the reader to the hotels’ websites to explore more. A story for Travel Illinois does the same thing, but for state parks and lodgings, rather than hotels.
You’ve got visitors right where you want them—in your destination! During this stage it is crucial to continue to help them. Your Official Visitor Guide, maps, recommendations on travel review websites, and content on your website are crucial during this stage in helping visitors plan those last-minute details and round-out their trip. Don’t leave them hanging.
So the visitors have taken their vacation, that’s the end of it, right? No. Those visitors have experienced your destination first-hand and now are your most valuable piece of marketing—an influencer. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.
This presents a unique opportunity to connect with these people. The best way to do this is through social media. Encourage your followers to share your posts, or share their own stories about their recent vacations. Ask their opinions and make them feel special. After all, it’s these people’s experiences that likely spark the Dreaming phase in one of their friends, family, or coworkers.
A comprehensive campaign reaches travelers at each of these steps, encouraging them to keep moving forward toward conversion. It’s a daunting task to walk travelers through this process, one that in our campaign strategies we always consider.