No matter what your travel marketing strategy is, sales success relies on having a customer-driven strategy — and that starts with having strong travel buyer personas.
Travel Marketing today is disrupted by mass marketing campaigns that target no one in particular but are just up in hopes to catch unsuspecting customers stumbling around the web. Sadly, too many tours and travel businesses are wasting time and money because they fail to market to the right audience.
Creating buyer personas is the most critical step in accurate marketing. Buyer personas make it possible to target ads to specific needs, behaviors and concerns. Without this step, marketers waste their efforts and resources.
Travel Buyer personas are detailed descriptions of your ideal travel prospects that you create from information about your existing customers. Buyer personas tell you real things about real customers so you can get a complete picture of what makes your ideal buyer tick. The most effective buyer personas go beyond the surface and get personal with psychographic data (e.g., attitude, interests, personality and values).
With a great buyer persona, you marketing team can create the right content that your prospect will want to consume and get right to their heart. Your ad content will be specific and targeted to that persona and conversion rate will shoot up. Your website design and content will be created to effectively target the travel buyer persona and close sales.
To create an effective buyer persona, you must first identify and understand your customer’s needs. Because it’s from these needs-based-statements that an effective buyer persona will be created. Let’s first take a look at how to identify those needs.
I want you to do something before we dive into creating a travel buyer persona: I want you to take 30 seconds and draw a picture of you on a great vacation.
So what did you draw? Did you draw yourself on the beach? Did you draw yourself golfing? Or hiking in the rain forest? Are you alone? Do you have people around you?
This is an interesting way to find out what people visualize for a perfect vacation. One company did this but then they also followed up with a series of statements where people had to agree or or disagree. These are called needs-based statements. You can recognize them if you are to agree or disagree with the statement that starts with I do, I like, or I prefer.
Here’s a few of the questions that were asked.
By answering questions like this and giving a value statement, it will help me understand what kind of person you are and what needs you have when you think about a vacation.
The company that executed this survey found that travelers tend to fall into five travel customer segments or categories.
I Need a pre-planned detailed itinerary filled with activities for my whole family to ensure we have fun and I can still stay connected to my work.
The recharge category was someone who wanted their itinerary taken care of, they wanted to have fun but still stay connected.
No surprises please. I don’t want to have to meet anyone new or deal with anything unfamiliar while I’m vacationing. Just make me feel secure and comfortable.
The security segment didn’t want any surprises, didn’t want to have to deal with anything. These are the people that just like to sit by the pool and have a quiet vacation.
Getting away to the same place with my family is becoming a tradition, and it doesn’t have to cost me an arm and leg.
Then there’s the traditional group. They go to same destination every year.
I can’t wait to see new places and do new things. I like to do some research to make the most of the experience.
The variety group wants to see new things with every vacation.
Just get me on an airplane. I’m resourceful—I’ll find what I want when I get there.
Then there are the self planners. They just want to get to their destination and they’ll figure it out when they get there.
Every traveler has different goals. The self planners just want to get to the destination and they’ll most probably use their smartphone, they’ll ask locals, they’ll figure things out, they value independence. But you see the shared need is with the variety group. The variety group want to see something different every time.
While one group wants to do it on their own and the other group relies on a travel agent, they both share the values of independence and variety. Ultimately they will share the same sense of accomplishment with the family that goes to the same destination every year because what they are looking for is to reconnect with each other.
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How your business addresses this difference in customer preferences will determine how much of your customer leads you retain as buyers. Your entire website should be a statement that will speak to the needs of the visitors to your tour website. A statement that reinforces your goal in creating a passionate explorer.
Does your tours and travel business speak to the different needs of the groups that we’ve identified?
We have hikers, trekkers, romantic holiday makers, we have people looking for cultural tours. All of them want to explore your destinations in their own unique way and you would be assisting them to do that.
The goal of your safari website is to provide the ultimate value to the end user. So you need to understand the emotional needs of your customers and curate content based on those needs. In our online marketing research, we see that there are some crossover needs.
For example in hiking they want to see something new, they want to challenge themselves, but feel a connection to the earth and to other people around them and they want to experience the environment in their own way. There’s a lot of similarities to our cultural or wildlife safari customers even though they want a more comfortable experience, in their own way they want to have a connection to the earth, to other people and they are just as concerned about the environment but in a different way.
Understanding those needs will help you as you create content, as you communicate with people individually but also as a group. The better you understand your travel customer, their individual needs, the shared needs, but also the common needs which need to be reflected on the website because you’re receiving a wide variety of different kinds of customers.
So start by understanding the common needs that people are looking for when they’re looking for a vacation or something specific to your business. Then start to segment customers based on their individual needs and you’ll be more effective in communicating to each group.
We identify our prospects with travel personas so that we can get to the right customer that actually needs to buy our travel services. Not all of your customers are the same but just by looking at what people need or what need they’re trying to satisfy, we can see that there are multiple motivations of what people are trying to achieve.
Even with just a vacation, there are a number of reasons that people will use to go on a vacation, a lot of expectations as to what they want out of that.
And so in order to create travel buyers personas to help us market effectively, we need to understand what motivations people have and be able to speak to those motivations. Otherwise, our marketing is very broad and we don’t speak to the needs of anybody.
The first way most businesses will try to group their customers is through demographics. Demographics are the typical age, income, region, social status, more of a socioeconomic view of people. But what demographics fail to provide are motivations, needs, a specific identity to our typical customer.
For example, one of the demographics we want to reach are 30s to 40s middle-aged, maybe we call them DINKs: Double Income, No Kids. They’re from United Kingdom or USA, college educated, they like the outdoors, they’re adventure seekers, and they’ll take two to three short vacations a year. That’s a demographic view of an audience.
It doesn’t dive in as to what they want out of a vacation. What are they looking for? And what emotional triggers will cause them to choose one vacation provider or one destination over another? That’s why we focus on the persona.
The persona gets into pain points, deeper emotional needs that drive their motivation, that drive their decisions. Even within a single demographic, we can have multiple personas because people make decisions based on different needs and motivations.
So when we create a travel persona, really what we’re doing is telling a story about a specific group of people. And I like to start with a name. A name that would help me identify a specific type of individual that I’m targeting.
I would also group them according to my customer segment (group).
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So this is going to be my hiking segment (your travel buyer personas can include other segments like gorilla trekking, classic safari, romantic holiday segments) and I’m going to name them Mark and Joan. They’re probably in their early 40s. I can say that they are Americans and we can go into jobs and the background of the person. This is where we add some emotional background. Maybe they met while they were hiking, developed a relationship from there. And so now we start developing a backstory.
Demographics, you already know what those are age, sex, income, location, etc). But what I’m really interested in are motivations, what drives them to choose one destination over another. What drives them to choose a specific guide.
One of the things that they’re interested in is the environment. They’re interested in preserving the environment because they enjoy hiking and they see it. And so, they’re going to be very interested in ecological factors, sustainability, and a focus on the environment.
So when you are developing communications, specifically to Marck and Joan, you want to focus on those need-based factors of what are they trying to satisfy. What goals are they trying to reach. So we can say that they are looking to refresh and recharge over a week because this is their getaway. This is how they get rid of everything during their holiday vacation and they’re fresh to go back to work and so this is the getaway but during that getaway, they want to know that they’re doing something good and viable in helping the environment.
And so by understanding their needs and motivations, we can speak to them much more clearly. I like to look at conversations, interviews, comments, anything from e-mails or calls from customers similar to Mark and Joan. That could be how they’ve reviewed our company or our service or concerns that they’ve raised.
And then you also want to look at your message. Is it simple? Does it allow them to talk to their friends about our tour company? And so when our phrase is, for example “Explore Our Pearl, your way,” how does it resonate with them?
Of course, you’ll want to create more personas because you’ll not just have a hiking segment, you have other segments like we mentioned jungle trekking, classic safari, romantic holiday segments and you can’t speak to them the same way as your hiking segment. They’re interested in different things.
And so, we’ve created an image here of Marcus and Joan. They’re in a completely different demographic but they also shop for their vacation in a very different way.
The advantage of developing travel buyer personas is that it helps you to connect your marketing in a very personal and emotional way to different groups based on their needs. Ultimately, what a persona does is it creates empathy. When you see the image, when you give your customers names, it makes it more real. You develop your marketing according to the needs of someone who’s much more real than just a customer. It creates that empathy that you and your group can use to connect more clearly to the needs of your customers.
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