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Last Minute Black Friday Tips

You’re not too late! We promise. You can still grab a little extra business over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. And with 7 in 10 consumers predicted to shop over Black Friday weekend and a forecasted 47% increase in spending from 2016, you have a lot of reasons to get involved.

Our last-minute Black Friday tips are so simple, you can get them in motion before the day’s end. And if you’re already a FareHarbor client, we’re here to help make it happen.

1. Attract customers with promo codes. Promo Codes

Unlike major retail brands, tours and activities enjoy far less competition when it comes to promoting their Black Friday deals. While many in retail have taken to advertising their promotions as soon as the day after Halloween, you still have time to get your promotions up and running.

The most simple and common of which is the promo code. As the king of holiday promotions, promo codes are both simple and useful in driving customers to a specific purchase.

  • Use promo codes to pinpoint certain areas of your business. For example, if you just started offering a new tour that hasn’t gained traction, create a promo code that offers a discount for that specific tour. A special deal might be the incentive your customer needs to try something new.
  • Get customers to opt for a slightly higher price point by bundling two items together. Create a promo code for bundled items, like a kayak tour and a bike rental. You get the upsell, they get the deal. It’s a win-win.
  • Use valid or blackout dates to customize how your promo codes are used. You can even put this strategy to use to create a promotion that lasts from Black Friday to Cyber Monday by creating a separate offer for each day of the weekend, each with its own promo code. If you’re a FareHarbor client, we’d be happy to help you set this up.

As a FareHarbor client, you can create and manage promo codes directly through your Dashboard. Watch our detailed tutorial video to set up promo codes on your own, or reach out to our Technical Product Specialists and they’ll walk you through it.

2. Boost sales with digital gift cards. Gift Cards

The use of digital gift cards (and all things digital!) is on the rise. In fact, it’s predicted that digital gift cards will see a $14 billion dollar market in 2017. Adding digital gift cards to your website gives both you and your customers an advantage. Customers are able to purchase and send gift cards from any device at any time, and you’re able to secure future bookings.

Plus, if you run a seasonal operation or cut back on your availabilities during the winter months, it’s a simple way to guarantee future bookings as things slow down.

  • Customers tend to spend more than the card value. Especially if the card was received as a gift, it makes sense to the recipient to add a little of their own money on top of the gift card value (for, say, a photo package) since the experience costs them nothing otherwise.
  • Combine your gift card sales with a promotion. Instead of dealing with both promo codes and gift cards, try discounting your gift cards so customers purchase, say, a gift card with the value of $100 for $80.
  • Appeal to holiday shoppers by marketing digital gift cards as a package deal. Advertise a free hat or t-shirt with the purchase of a gift card—say one with more than a $50 or $100 value—so customers have a physical gift to pair with the digital purchase. Everyone loves unwrapping presents, after all.

If you’re a FareHarbor client wanting to try out digital gift cards for the first time, just get in touch and we’ll help you add them to your site. If you want to change or manage your gift cards, visit our help center for more info.

3. Now promote those promotions!

Once your promotions are in place, it’s time to get the word out. This is a great time to pull email lists of customers that have booked with you in the past, and of course, to put your social media sites to work. If you’re a FareHarbor client, you can use the Contacts report to view and download customers’ information as a CSV that can be uploaded to your favorite email marketing platform.


If you’re looking for more marketing tips to carry you all the way through the season, check out this blog post! There’s still plenty of time to ramp up your holiday marketing efforts.

Optimize Your Online Conversion Rate With The Clear Path Test

Conversion rate: in a nutshell

You offer a great activity. People love it. You get a ton of people to your website. But only around 1% of people book online with you. Why?

At FareHarbor we are laser-focused on your website’s “online conversion rate.” So what is a conversion rate? In simple terms, if 100 people visit your website, and one person completes a booking, you have “converted” 1% of online visitors into paying customers. And thus you have a 1% conversion rate.

Now let’s break down how we optimize your conversion rate. When you think about conversion rate optimization, start by imagining all the people who visit your website. Now put them into three categories:

1) People who book,
2) People who don’t book but should have,
3) People who don’t book and shouldn’t have.

We don’t need to worry about #1. Similarly, we don’t care about #3. If you offer an activity for adventure seekers and someone looking for knitting needles lands on your website, there’s nothing your website can do to change the fact that they’re not there to book (that’s a different blog post on SEO).

We care a lot, however, about #2. People who are a perfect fit for your activity and didn’t book. Figuring out to motivate them to book is not so much a science as it is an artform that is judged by data.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

You need to get into the head of the customer from group #2. Who are they? What kept them from booking?

The best conversion rate optimizers that I know are essentially method actors, pretending to be your target demographic while analyzing a conversion flow. You have to have a hypothesis before you prove or disprove it with data. Successful conversion rate optimizers tend to be incredibly empathetic; they’re able to put themselves in the online visitors’ shoes.

Getting a customer to convert online is very difficult. There are a multitude of factors. The most important of which are “Trust” and “Ease of Checkout.”

Trust:

This is the easy one. Does your website appear trustworthy? Hi-res images, no typos, etc? Does your website feel like a place of commerce? A place where one could complete a booking online and have the confidence that they can show up at your activity location and you will know their name and be expecting them? Be skeptical and honest with yourself when looking at the “trust factor” of your website.

Ease of Checkout:

There are an infinite number of tools that we use at FareHarbor to ensure our client websites have a smooth, easy checkout and incredibly high performance. While most of them are a part of a larger conversation (with your FareHarbor Account Manager or marketing consultant) there are a few quick, simple and powerful conversion ‘tests’ that anyone can use to see how their website is working.

Our favorite test and its simple variations have been used to identify major business-boosting improvements. We have seen companies go 2.5x their conversion rate – one client did $1.8MM online in the 12 months prior to working with FareHarbor, and $4.5MM in the first 12 months of their partnership FareHarbor. The Clear Path Test, along with careful analysis from our conversion experts, contributed to this success.

The Clear Path Test

Imagine you are a specific demographic segment from your client base, then navigate through your website checking for a clear choice at every page.

  • Start with Mr. Midnight We have this character named Mr. Midnight who we imagine is trying to book with a company in the middle of the night. Let’s use “ABC Kayaks” for this example. So Mr. Midnight is on abckayaks.com because his brother said he “had to do ABC Kayaks when he was in town!”

    Imagine Mr. Midnight’s dog is barking, and his wife, Mrs. Midnight is upset with him because their flight leaves in the morning and he was supposed to book this last week. ABC Kayaks offers 10 different activities but he doesn’t know what he wants to do (nor does he care).

    Mr. Midnight already has an incredible glowing review of ABC Kayaks. He really just wants to book as quickly as possible. What’s the most popular option? Does your website guide Mr. Midnight at every stage of your website? Is there a clear call to action so that Mr. Midnight can checkout in under a minute to go take to dog out and diffuse the situation?

    I know it seems unorthodox, but optimizing for Mr. Midnight is a great way to start thinking about your website. I love Mr. Midnight because he’s not going to call you. It’s the middle of the night. He’s either making that booking in 60 seconds, or he’s not coming with you at all.

Other ideas:

  • Families with children (of different quantities and ages)
  • Honeymooners
  • Bachelor/ette Parties
  • A group of 4 friends

And you can get as specific as you want. Look at your actual customers:

  • Two sisters who enjoy drinking wine outside
  • A husband booking ANY activity that will be good for 12 people at once
  • A family of four with nut allergies

You get the point. Once you’ve ran through every imaginable demographic, try the following add-ons/variations to The Clear Path Test:

The Zombie Test a.k.a. “The Blurry Eye Test”

  • Blur your eyes and make sure that the buttons and pages on your site that are most visible or prominent will lead any demographic through the checkout.

The Hold Your Breath Test

  • Do the Clear Path Test while holding your breath. You should be able to run through the entire checkout before you exhale.

The key is that we need to focus on group #2. People who would have a great time on your activity… but end up not booking. If you can pass The Clear Path Test again and again for ech different demographic, you will undoubtedly experience conversion rate growth in your direct channel.


Once you’ve passed these tests, talk to us about optimizing even further! All 180 employees at FareHarbor are strong conversion rate optimizers. It’s is in our DNA. The perfect team is a FareHarbor Account Manager working in tandem with a dedicated marketing or web team from your activity company (whether that’s in house or a 3rd party web marking firm).

Remember, Tours & Activities is not a zero sum game. There aren’t a finite amount of people going to activities each day. They’re deciding between doing an activity… and just going to the beach… or going out to lunch. By understanding the minds of our customers we can grow the global Tour & Activity industry.

Post written by Max Valverde, President and COO of FareHarbor.

Creative Holiday Marketing Ideas For Tour Operators

It’s official. We’ve made it to the first week of October, which means the holiday season is just around the corner. To help you get in the spirit, we’ve put together a list of our top holiday marketing tips.

Make no mistake, these aren’t just any marketing tips. Different from other “Best Holiday Marketing Ideas” articles and blog posts you’ll find on the internet, these tips are specific to the tour and activity industry. Because we know there’s a big difference between selling picture frames and a photo-worthy experience. So tour operators, this one’s for you.

1. Embrace the holiday spirit.

The best marketing campaigns create an authentic, emotional bond with consumers. During the holidays, when feelings of togetherness and camaraderie are at their highest, building them into your marketing plan is a must.

Plus, as a tour operator, this is where you actually have an advantage over retailers. Consumers, especially millennials, are beginning to prioritize experiences over material goods. And what better than a family snowmobile trip or river rafting experience to encourage togetherness? Use this to your advantage.

  • Put a best selling, family-friendly, all ages, group activity at the front of your holiday marketing plan.
  • Create a friends and family or couples discount to promote group ticket purchases.
  • Sweeten the deal! Add a holiday bonus to any tour or activity. For example, you could offer guests a free photo package with any purchase made in the month of December.

2. Take advantage of Cyber Monday.

Togetherness may be the reason for the season, but there’s still a little thing called Black Friday. Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, millions of Americans will be hovering over their desktop and mobile devices, scanning the internet for – you guessed it – deals! In fact, last year, 108 million people shopped online over the course of the weekend.

Even a slight discount or extra offering is enough to draw in deal-minded customers. This is a great opportunity to capture consumers early on in the sales funnel, as the limited time offering and increased value ramp up the pressure to buy.

  • Elevate your weekend sale by using a website like Canva to create free, themed graphics for email banners, social media posts or Facebook advertisements. The added visual element makes customers more likely to click, share and purchase.
  • Promote engagement on your social media sites by allowing customers to unlock deals on Cyber Monday by liking your Facebook page, or reposting an Instagram post with a custom hashtag.
  • Or, take note from companies like REI, that fly the white flag over Black Friday weekend and promote anti-consumerism by means of the great outdoors. Challenge customers to #OptOutside or create your own fun hashtag for the cause.

3. Ramp up customer communication.

The holiday season is notorious for bringing a flood of marketing emails to your inbox. And while no one wants their business to fade into the noise, the truth of the matter is this: you have to be proactive if you want to get noticed. You might want to double or even triple the frequency in which you contact customers. Put those email lists to use, and get your tour, activity or attraction in front of excited holiday shoppers.

  • Work with local businesses to create a holiday gift guide. Include other experiences in the area, local artisans, even restaurants or events with holiday promotions. You’ll gain the sharing power of the included businesses and get major bonus points for hitting on togetherness again.
  • No promotions? No problem. Send some holiday cheer in the form of a ‘Happy Holidays from our team to you’ email. A little customer appreciation goes a long way.
  • Use data from last year’s holiday promotions to find what worked best for your unique business. Dig into Google Analytics to help decide if email, social media or advertising deserves your focus.

4. Use geotargeting to attract the right customer.

If you aren’t already familiar with it, geotargeting refers to delivering content or advertisements based on a user’s geographic location. This is an incredibly useful and productive tool for getting in front of the right person at the right time. Both Facebook and Google offer geotargeting in their ad platforms.

  • Read through this guide on location based marketing in Facebook, or study up on AdWords geotargeting with this guide.
  • Target people that live in your area or surrounding towns for things like gift cards that are less time sensitive and can be used well into the future. (FareHarbor clients: Message us about setting up digital gift cards!)
  • Facebook ads can target people traveling in your area too. Whether it’s to visit family or take a holiday vacation, they’re prime candidates for a fun, local experience. Go get ‘em!

Before you launch into any of these holiday marketing ideas, make sure your website’s user experience is dialed in. While good marketing will get the right customer onto your website, they still have to navigate to and through the booking process in order to make a purchase.Take this opportunity to make sure that your website is fully optimized for the ultimate user experience. And whatever you do, don’t forget – it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Fast and Effective Ways To Boost Your Search Engine Ranking

There’s a lot of hype around what it takes to have great SEO. And while the tips and tricks you can find around the web might be true, it can really be as simple as good content and consistent delivery. To prove it to you, we’ve broken down three of the easiest, most user-friendly ways to improve your search engine ranking.

1. Build that blog.

A blog is a solid, market-tested way to bring in more business. Google and other search engines love websites that put out fresh unique content regularly.

The key word here is regular content. Blogs are not one-and-done ventures. While writing a single mind-blowing post might score you some serious social kudos and an increase in visits for a few days, the positive effects will wear off – and more quickly than you might expect.

To achieve sustained benefits, you should aim to include a new piece of content on your website at least once a week, preferably every day. This means more writing, which means fresh ideas for content.

Let the creative juices flow

Coming up with content ideas can be tricky without the proper tools. Which is why we’re letting you the ultimate blogger’s secret. A free and easy-to-use tool called Übersuggest.

ubersuggest-example

Let’s pretend you just opened a snowmobile tour company in town. You’re excited about making sure the locals, as well as international visitors, choose your tours for their adrenaline fix. But you’re so busy running the new tours that you barely sleep, let alone have time to constantly whip up the ideas you need for your blog.

Übersuggest can help remedy your writer’s block by suggesting blog ideas based on just a few words. Follow these quick steps to try it out:

  1. Visit übersuggest.io.
  2. Type in your desired keyword(s) in the search bar.
  3. Press ‘Enter’ and bam! Your keyword search results appear. Pick a few and get to writing. Or, if you still can’t allot time to make this happen, hire a content writer or find a service that can help with this.

The anatomy of an SEO friendly blog post

Once you have a list of keywords you would like to target, you’ll want to structure your content for search engines and visitors.

  • URL: Try to include the most important keywords you are targeting in your blog post’s URL. Another tip? Minimize! Remove all numbers and symbols and stick to easy to read words. And check out this ultimate list of tips for search friendly URLs from our friends over at Moz.

  • Images: Make sure to name all of your images with keywords and add alt tags with keywords in them too. Learn more about alt tags.

  • Headlines/Titles: Even if your blog post is full of valuable content, a mediocre headline may deter readers from reading it in the first place. When crafting your headlines, use the keywords you are trying to target while catching the reader’s attention.

    Headlines that have numbers in them usually get shared more on Facebook and Twitter. A good example would be “The 5 Best Things to Do in Denver During The Winter”.

  • Meta descriptions: Google uses the meta description on your page as a snippet when people search for keywords that are relevant to your page. This snippet copy is what will determine whether or not you get clicks, no matter how highly you rank in the search results.

    meta description example

    For SEO purposes, the meta description should be 150 – 160 characters and usually appears like this in Google:

Have a FareHarbor site? Titles and meta descriptions are easy to set up in the Smart Crawl section of your site dashboard.

If you are not on a FareHarbor-built website, ask your web developer where to add this information. Depending on what CMS you use, you can find this information with a quick Google search.

  • Effective content: When writing your content, make sure you are including the keywords you are targeting, preferably within the first 100 words of the page. Try to also include the same keywords in the last paragraph as well. But don’t overuse keywords by trying to fit them in many times as you can. Instead, think of some other keyword variations you can sprinkle throughout your post.

  • Related links: Linking to other related pages on your site or other sites is not only great for user experience, it also strengthens your online presence. Linking out to other authority sites and pages is an indication that you value what other people create. Google will reward you for being in sync with their mission: organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible.

2. Add your business to local directories.

Another great way to bring in traffic is to post your business in local directories. The most important thing here is to make sure your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) is exactly the same across all directories. MOZ local is a free tool that you can use to see how your business is listed online.

Check out this long list of directories that can help you rank locally:

  • Google My Business
  • Yellowpages.com
  • Yelp
  • SuperPages
  • CitySearch
  • Yahoo Local
  • Facebook
  • DexKnows
  • Manta
  • BBB.org
  • YouTube
  • City-Data
  • Yellowbook.com
  • Angieslist
  • MerchantCircle
  • ServiceMagic

You should also look for local directories specific to your city, like your local Chamber of Commerce.

3. Don’t underestimate your social media pages.

That’s right – social media can help with your SEO as well! While not a stand-alone SEO tactic, this is a great method to build Google’s confidence in your site. As your posts spread, it’ll lead to more people linking to you.

Over time, this will get more eyes on your content. Use hashtags to gain visibility for your initial rounds of syndication, and don’t hesitate to bring your content into existing threads and discussions. Doing so will improve your reputation as a leader in your industry, but more importantly, it will maximize your changes of being linked from other sources.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to involve yourself with your local community, sending location-specific authority signals to major search engines. Search Google for some local players, then try engaging with them on a regular basis.

You can share each other’s posts, get involved in each other’s discussions, or even post guest blogs on each other’s sites, and share them on your social channels.

Here’s a list of sites to keep your eye on:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Youtube
  • Reddit
  • Twitter
  • Linkedin
  • Meetup
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Google+

Improving your search engine ranking is the key to long-term business success. Increasingly, customers rely on desktop and mobile platforms to research and book their activities. Getting your business in front of those searches is bound to grow your business.

Just remember – SEO can be simple. Now go get to work on that blog post.

5 Ways FareHarbor Connect Can Help You Grow Your Business

Growing your business is good; growing your business strategically is even better. But how do you find time to research and compare your options, while still staying on top of your business? FareHarbor Connect is our way of making that path to growth easier.

We’ve taken all the guesswork out of connecting with third-party distributors by building a trusted network of partners and a feature set that makes it easy to maintain relationships with each and every one of them. Best of all, as a FareHarbor client, you have all these tools at your fingertips.

1. Integrate with Online Travel Agencies

When most businesses start looking for new ways to grow their customer base, they first turn to OTAs like Expedia or Viator. And with good reason – OTAs give you direct access to thousands of customers that might otherwise never find your business. Plus, they’re a great way to get your tours in front of qualified leads.

  • With FareHarbor Connect, working with OTAs is just as easy as accepting online bookings. (Read: you can do it in your sleep!)
  • Our booking integrations allow OTAs to resell your offerings in real-time availability, with all reservations appearing directly on your Dashboard as soon as they happen.
  • Using an API Integration or FareHarbor ‘Book Buttons’, you can start marketing your tours on our network of third-party channels without any manual booking entry on your end.

Bonus: Once you’ve earned a customer through an OTA, you can use an email marketing plan to encourage them to join you again.

2. Take Bookings Directly from Hotels & Concierge Desks

We took the same concept and applied it to our always growing network of hotels and concierge desks. Once added to FareHarbor Connect, local hotels and concierges also benefit from direct access to your real-time calendar.

  • This allows hotels and concierge desks to view your availability and book their guests directly into your tours, with all booking data flowing right into your Dashboard.
  • FareHarbor Connect’s real-time availability means you can be making a reservation in-person, a customer could be scheduling a tour online and your friends at a local hotel can be booking their guests in at the exact same moment, with no threat of overbooking.

Bonus: Curious about our hotel and concierge program? Our network might already be in your local area. Just ask!

3. Affiliate Reporting & Invoicing

Now that you’ve got the bookings, it’s time to crunch the data. All affiliate bookings can be tracked through your reports, so you’ll always know the source of your bookings.

  • Reports can also be used to calculate commissions on affiliate bookings and to generate invoices that help keep track of the balance between you and your partners.

Bonus: Use reports to keep a pulse on how your third-party channels are performing. Analyze which partners are delivering the most customers, what month or season each OTA performs the best and what portion of your overall revenue comes from third parties.

4. The FareHarbor Partner Program

Get even more local with our Partner Program. With the same ease of OTA or concierge bookings, our Partner Program is a network of FareHarbor clients in your area who’ve opted to resell tours and to have their tours resold at a commission rate.

  • Most of the reselling is done through ‘Book Buttons’ located in confirmation or follow-up emails. This gives local businesses easy access to customers that have booked or participated in local activities and might be on the market for another tour while they’re in the area.
  • It’s an awesome opportunity to support tourism in your local community, with the added bonus of earning a commission by referring customers to nearby companies.

Bonus: Remember, a returning customer has just as much value as a new customer. Make sure your follow-up emails are designed to re-engage the customer with links to review and social media sites in addition to our Partner Program.

5. The Channel Development Team

That’s right, we saved the best for last! FareHarbor has an entire team dedicated to building out and optimizing these affiliate features. Even better news? They’re always here to help. Please send any questions, ideas or projects related to third-party partnerships to support@fareharbor.com or to your Channel Development Associate. They’re always ready to help you grow your business.

Bonus: Our Channel Development Team works out of our Denver HQ. Even if you don’t have any third-party questions, you can still message them to say hi. (They’re really nice.)

3 Simple Practices That Can Make A Big Impact On Your Business

As a business owner, you already know – sometimes the smallest decisions are the ones that make the largest impact. So it probably won’t come as a surprise when we say that the simple practices in this post come with big returns.

1. Rebook, don’t refund.

Whether it’s bad weather, flat tires or unruly children keeping customers from your tour, a good general policy is to offer to rebook before you refund. You’ll be surprised how many more customers you can retain with a simple policy change like this. Here’s why it works:

  • Customers are often more flexible than you’d expect, and will leap at the opportunity to switch times, days or even activities to prevent having to research and book with another company.
  • You’ll have an opportunity to upsell. Now that the customer’s locked in, it’s a great opportunity to offer add-ons or activity upgrades.
  • Winning the online conversion battle is hard. Rebooking gives you the chance to retain (and impress!) a customer that already chose you once.

Of course, there’s always situations where rebooking isn’t an option. Maybe the customer was only in town for a few days or maybe they simply changed their mind. There’s plenty of scenarios where refunding becomes the better option. But before you get there, offer to rebook.

Since we designed FareHarbor in Hawaii, where a large portion of the tours are water-based, we built rebooking to be as simple as possible. Whether booking into a new day, a new activity or rebooking into a gift card for future use, it’s always just a few clicks away.

And if rebooking isn’t an option, FareHarbor also offers completely free-to-you refunds.

2. Accept payments in full.

As a business owner, you’re always looking to strike a balance between what’s best for your customer and what’s best for your business. With this policy, you’ll be making an easy choice for both. Why? A paid-in-full ticket feels like a clear cut guarantee, whereas a partial payment can feel inconclusive. This one’s all about building trust and it does a great job for both sides.

  • Requiring customers to pay in full is a proven conversion booster, as it gives the customer increased confidence in their reservation.
  • It helps reduce no-shows. When the activity is fully paid for prior to arrival, the customer is more invested in the purchase.
  • For activities or rentals with a higher price tag, this is a great way to qualify customers and simplify the payment process.

3. Move check-in tasks from pen and paper to online.

One of the biggest advantages to using an online booking system is a streamlined check-in process for both you and your customers. Done correctly, this allows your staff to spend less time managing reservations by hand, and more time creating an awesome experience for your customers.

  • If your business requires waivers, use a digital waiver service to secure all liability forms before guests even arrive. This will help speed up the check-in, especially for large parties with multiple people.
  • Create and send a unique reminder email for each specific activity. Rather than a one-size-fits-all email, create an individual email for each separate tour or activity.

This gives you the ability to prepare customers or the exact activity they’re booked into – whether that means a different meeting location, warmer clothing or to bring bottled water.

FareHarbor client? Visit our help page to learn more about adding digital waivers to your checkout and using automatic emails and texts to communicate with customers.

Or, find info on our advanced check-in capabilities, like QR scanning and mobile or desktop check-ins from the manifest.

Digital Marketing On A Budget

These days the world of digital marketing seems to be paved in gold. And it’s true that pay-per-click advertising is stronger than ever. Even popular social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are beginning to adopt the pay-to-play model.

Despite the changes in marketing, at least one thing remains true; time is the most valuable resource. Whether you’re operating on a small budget or just looking for ways to maximize your current efforts, we’re covering five marketing strategies that won’t make you reach for your credit card.

1. Know Your Market

facebook-insights Whatever marketing strategy you choose, having a clear, narrowly defined market will drastically improve your ROI (return-on-investment). Whether the investment you make is in terms of time or money, knowing exactly who you’re marketing to is key. It’ll keep you from spending valuable resources in areas that won’t help you reach your goals.

After you’ve decided who your market is, it’s time to dig into the details.

  • Use Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to view the demographics that engage with your business most frequently.

  • These tools are free to use and can provide data on everything from age and gender to location and device.

For example, a simple analytics check might reveal that 70% of your web traffic is between the ages of 18-35. Use this to drive your marketing strategy towards that age group by advertising on Instagram or optimizing your checkout flow for mobile.

2. Create awesome content

Writing your own content costs nothing but time. Which is great, because it also happens to be one of the most effective ways to organically drive traffic to your site.

  • Build an audience by writing relevant and original blog posts, and then sharing that content on social media. The goal is to both drive potential customers to your website, and to re-engage past ones.

  • Try writing about a topic that’s both important to your industry and that you know well. It’ll help drive clicks through to your website and build your reputation as a knowledgeable source.

And we haven’t even got to the best part. Content marketing plays an essential role when it comes to your website’s SEO. Google relies largely on keywords to decide how to rank your website.

Blog posts provide exactly the material that Google needs – keywords to indicate what your site is about, opportunities for users to visit and interact with your site and of course, strong link building as people share your content.

3. Put your social media sites to work

social media marketing Social media marketing is all about building a genuine connection with your customers. Go beyond that single intent of making a sale and use your social sites to create a community around your brand. Share images from your day-to-day, highlight customer stories, show gratitude for reviews and engage with customers over comments, likes and photos.

It’s your opportunity to really get to know your customers and to give them a chance to get to know you. Remember – especially in the tour and activity industry – customers aren’t buying a product, they’re buying an experience. Create a social media strategy that plays into that. Here’s a few basic tips to get you started:

  • Add a few, relevant hashtags to help get your content in front of a new audience.

  • Be consistent in terms of brand voice, scheduling and interaction.

  • Use a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer that offers social media scheduling and listening tools.

  • Respond quickly to customers, answer questions and offer basic support when appropriate.

  • Deliver valuable content. Keep your audience engaged by offering a mix of photos, videos, infographics, blog posts and promotions.

4. Build out an email marketing campaign

There’s dozens of free email marketing services that make reaching out to new customers and retargeting past ones as simple as a few clicks.

  • For generating new customers, try adding a newsletter sign-up form to your website. Offer something of value, like special email-only promotions or a company newsletter with recent updates, schedule changes or interesting content from your blog.

  • If your goal is to recapture past customers, try inviting them to follow you on social media, write reviews or to join you again with a return customer discount.

No matter what your goal, keep these general guidelines to keep in mind – write for a specific goal, keep the copy casual and always give people an easy option to unsubscribe.

5. Focus on building lifetime customers

Did you know that it costs about 5 times as much to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one? Yet most marketers admit to focusing on customer acquisition over retention. Creating lifetime customers not only helps generate revenue, it helps build up your brand.

Of course, the easiest way to encourage customers to buy from your business again is to pair an awesome experience with amazing customer service. If you can manage that, you’re already off to a great start. After the experience ends, the key is to stay engaged. Rely on the strategies reviewed above and you’ll have no trouble keeping your customers active and interested in your business.

Spring Cleaning: 11 Ways To Clean Up Your Web Presence

Next week, we’ll officially say goodbye to winter with the arrival of the Spring Equinox. To get you in the spirit, we’ve put together a digital spring cleaning list. From your website to your confirmation emails, we promise you’ll get you that deep-clean feeling by the end. Let’s get started:

Website

green-https-lock

1. Add SSL certification to your site. If your site doesn’t already have the green HTTPS lock, it’s time to make the switch. Not only are consumers learning to look for the lock, but Google Chrome has started marking non-SSL sites (HTTP only) that collect passwords or credit cards as non-secure.

2. Check your Call-to-Actions. Make sure your ‘Book Now’ button is visible from the homepage of your website. You should always have at least one CTA above-the-fold (visible without scrolling), typically in the header or center of the page.

Make sure it’s a button, not just a line of text, and that it is designed with some visual contrast.

Booking Form

booking-form

3. Evaluate your mandatory custom fields. When it comes to the checkout, the rule of thumb is keep it simple. Revisit your booking form and see if there are any required forms that you can cut out. Remember, the true purpose of the checkout is to convert, not to collect information for marketing.

4. Reduce your booking cutoff times. The beautiful thing about real-time availability is that you can capture those seriously last-minute bookings (that happen all the time).

If you offer any tours or rentals that have the flexibility to accept walk-ups, make sure your calendar allows those bookings to come through. This allows the customer to both check and book last-minute availability, where seeing a ‘Call to Book’ option might sway them the other way.

5. Consolidate dynamic pricing. If you’re currently offering dynamic pricing options for weekdays, weekends or groups, consider establishing a uniform price for your activities. Dynamic pricing can affect abandon rates, as it prompts the customer to re-evaluate their decision in an effort to get a better price.

Emails

6. Clean up your email subscriber lists. You’ve been collecting emails from customers past (and future!), but when’s the last time you actually looked those over? In just a few minutes, you can audit the subscriber list in your preferred email marketing platform for inactive email addresses or typos.

If you are a FareHarbor client and don’t use an email marketing service, you can check your email marketing list by pulling a Contacts report from your Dashboard.

7. Review your confirmation, reminder and follow-up emails. Haven’t checked these in a while? Now is a good time to review them for any outdated information, broken links or opportunities to improve.
Update confirmation emails in FareHarbor >

Social Media

social media edits

8. Update your descriptions and header images. This is all about fresh content. If you haven’t updated your pages lately, take a minute to swap in your latest photography or highlight that new 2017 offering.

FareHarbor Backend

9. Try a new Bookings view. Even if you’ve already customized your Bookings calendar, you may want to try out the new Grid view, which lets you organize and group information exactly how you want it, and even choose the number of days you see at a time.

10. Add new seasonal employees. Gear up for your spring season by adding new users and removing old ones.

11. Perfect your Manifest. Remove unused columns, add a summary row, or clean up your custom manifests to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need. Read all about these options and more on our help page.

Best Practices For Managing Online Reviews

Last week, the Phocuswright report taught us that 57% of tour and activity operators consider online reviews to be their most effective marketing source. We’ll be the first to say – we’re not surprised. The landscape of travel marketing has dramatically shifted. Today the customer journey almost always starts with an internet search. While your website, photos, videos and social media accounts are all on the radar of potential customers, nothing forms an opinion like an online review.

In fact, more than 90% of consumers depend on online, local reviews to help form their decision about a business. Much like getting a recommendation from a friend or co-worker, potential customers trust online reviews to provide an honest, first-hand account of your tour or activity. Their end goal – feeling secure that your business brings the value and experience they’re looking for. In other words, reviews are just as important to the customer as they are to your business.

Here’s a few simple actions you can take to make sure both you and your customers get the most out of them.

1. Respond to every review, positive or negative.

When customers share their experience via an online review it serves two purposes; to inform others customers and to communicate with the business owner. In not responding, you’re missing out on both a valuable touch point and an opportunity to lead the conversation.

Whether the review brings praise or criticism, it’s direct feedback from your customers – and that’s always a powerful tool for improving your business. Show them you’re listening by crafting a personalized response that touches on each individual point made in the review, rather than sending a canned message.

If you encounter a negative review, respond objectively. Be kind, professional and accepting of their perspective. The worst thing you can do is respond in a way that will discourage potential customers from wanting to do business with you. Yes, negative reviews are difficult and can be hurtful to a business, but they’re also an opportunity to improve.

When the review warrants more than your acknowledgement, try offering a small discount as an invitation for a better experience. This can be as simple as, “We apologize for your poor experience, that’s uncommon for us to hear. We’d love to make it up to you with 20% off your next booking. Please contact us privately for specific details.”

Take the same approach for positive reviews. Use the feedback to figure out what’s working. It’s just as important to know what you’re doing right as it is to know what you can improve on.

Create a document where you log both positive and negative feedback coming in from reviews. When it comes time to build a new marketing plan, update website copy or train new employees, you’ll have a clear list of customer-perceived strengths and weaknesses, suggestions and improvements.

2. Set aside time to manage reviews. Every. Single. Day.

To keep review sites from becoming a one-way conversation, you need to make yourself available. Let people know that they can rely on a timely response from you by making time to manage reviews, every single day.

Remember that almost every customer searching for your business will first look to online reviews. This is a valuable first impression. In terms of establishing trust and credibility, your odds go way up when they see that you’re involved in the reputation of your business and that you care about your customers’ opinions. Plus, when you’re hit with the occasional negative review, you’ll have the chance to respond and repair any damage before it even starts.

Many review sites give the option of sending email notifications when a new review comes in. Enabling notifications makes it that much easier to make sure you never miss a review, no matter how many review sites you use.

3. Follow-up every tour with a review request.

From adding review widgets to your website to passing out “Review Us!” stickers or business cards, there’s a way to turn almost any customer interaction into a review request. But we find that the most effective ways to encourage reviews are also some of the most simple.

As a general rule, the more often you can add a personal touch to your tour or activity, the better. This makes the classic in-person request hard to beat. It’s a natural sign-off and easy to work into your final goodbye. Plus, it’s personal enough that the customer will be more likely to log-on and leave a review.

No matter what approach you decide is right for your business, we suggest that you always send a follow-up email requesting customer feedback on your preferred review site. This email should be straightforward with a direct call-to-action. You can also use this email to link to your social media pages, to offer a return discount or to simply say thank you.

Send your follow-up email a few days after the customer’s tour to maximize engagement. You’ll already have an edge as the customer will be on their desktop or device when they open the email, making their five-star review just a few clicks away.

As a FareHarbor client, this can all be done directly through your Dashboard. You can automate custom follow-up emails to be sent out directly after the tour or even a few days later.

If TripAdvisor is your top performing review site, we suggest adding TripAdvisor Review Express to your lineup as well. Review Express is another email automation tool that sends a review request directly from TripAdvisor.


Of course, your five-star tours mostly speak for themselves. These tips are just here to help you make the most of the awesome reviews you’re already receiving.

5 Statistics That Are Defining The Tour And Activity Industry

Back in November, Phocuswright, the travel industry’s leading research firm, conducted an in-depth survey covering key trends of the tours & activity industry. We’ve been anxiously awaiting their analysis, as Phocuswright is the global authority when it comes to travel industry research. In fact, their work has been covered in major news outlets like Forbes, CNN and The New York Times. And now, they’re giving us a comprehensive look at the industry we love the most.

As many of you donated your time to helping Phocuswright get the data right (you’re the best!), we wanted to share a few can’t-miss-highlights from the report:

  • Online tour & attraction gross bookings will more than double from 2015 to 2020, growing from 11% in 2016 to 21% in 2020.

Key takeaway: We love this! Customers are using desktops and mobile devices to research and book more than ever. So what can you do to capture these bookings? Make sure you’re prepared by adding SSL to your site, optimizing for both desktop and mobile and having a conversion-minded checkout flow.

  • Travel activities account for 9% of global travel revenue, are the third-largest travel segment and are growing faster than the total travel market.

Key takeaway: The shift from poolside margaritas to surfing, snorkeling and banana-boating your way through vacation is real. Travelers are seeking experiential travel – active adventures, educational tours and adrenaline-packed experiences are now an essential part of the getaway. Play into this by building up the full experience of your tour or activity by sharing beautiful Instagram posts, adding customer stories to your Facebook page, and interacting with customers on Twitter.

  • 57% of businesses consider traveler review websites as their most effective marketing channel.

Key takeaway: It’s hard to dispute this one. Reviews matter. In fact, 92% of consumers read online reviews. The good news is that an awesome tour and great customer service usually do the trick. If you’re looking for a little more advice, check out our interview with TripAdvisor’s 2015, #2 tour in the country, Real New York Tours. Or, if you’re with the 40% of tour operators that find SEM (search engine marketing) to be a highly effective marketing channel, take a minute to read over these essential AdWords tips.

  • In the US, an average of 40% of customers are domestic travelers, 31% are international travelers and 28% are local residents.

Key takeaway: When it comes to local travelers, US-based tour operators receive an average of about 20% more traffic than the rest of the world. Put that data to work by shifting some of your marketing focus to people looking to explore their own backyard. Register with local business directories, add neighborhood discounts to your site and target locals with digital ad spend and copy.

  • Only 13% of reservations from distribution partners are made via real-time connectivity.

Key takeaway: If you’re already partnering with FareHarbor, you should love this statistic – it means you’re ahead of the curve. With FareHarbor Connect, you’re already able to accept real-time bookings from our network of third-party distributors. Bookings from Viator and Expedia Local Expert flow directly into your Dashboard, no manual work needed. (And if you’re not already taking full advantage of our partner network, just get in touch.)


Although we’ve only covered a fraction of the data covered by the Phocuswright report, it’s clear that the future of tours & activities is bright. Of course, we’ve always believed that, but we’re excited to finally have trusted data to prove it.

Now that we have had an inside look at the industry – past, present and future – let’s put the data to work.

All data sourced from Phocuswright’s Global Travel Activities 2014-2020: Tours & Attractions Come of Age