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10 Marketing Tips for Boutique Travel Agencies

Running a small, independent travel agency comes with its own unique set of marketing challenges. Competing with massive travel agency chains and online booking platforms leaves little room for error when promoting your bespoke travel services. By getting the marketing mix right, however, boutique agencies can carve out a profitable niche.

Here are some key tips to consider when building your marketing strategy.

Define Your Niche

The days of generalist travel agents are largely gone. To stand out from the crowd, boutique agencies need to focus on a specific niche. This could be luxury travel, adventure holidays, family breaks or trips to specific destinations. By specialising, you can target your messaging and really understand the needs of your customers. Make sure your brand positioning and services directly address this niche. 

Get Your Online Presence Right

Today, over 95% of travellers turn to the internet to research trips. If customers can’t find your website, the game is as good as over. Optimise your site for search by including important keywords and phrases that customers are likely to be searching for. Blog regularly about your niche and use social media to increase your visibility. Include powerful calls to action to get visitors to pick up the phone or send an email enquiry. Use free tools like Adobe Express to create eye-catching marketing materials and social media posts. The more your posts stand out, the more likely they are to be shared. 

Focus Your Marketing Spend 

With limited resources, boutique agencies need to spend their marketing budget wisely for maximum impact. Track the campaigns that are generating genuine enquiries and focus more on these areas. Local print advertising, Google pay-per-click, and Facebook ads tend to perform well for the travel industry. Make sure every pound spent is traceable to acquiring new customers.

Build Relationships

No matter how good your website is, the travel industry still runs on personal relationships and word-of-mouth. Attend networking events and build connections with providers and corporates who can refer clients to you. Keep in regular contact with previous customers and look for opportunities to cross-sell or upsell for return business. Personal, friendly service is your biggest competitive advantage when trying to stand out from the larger names.

Offer Incentives

Everyone loves a bargain or freebie. Offer incentives like discounts on bookings, loyalty rewards schemes and add-on extras to encourage customers to book with you over a competitor. Loss leading on headline prices can help drive initial enquiries which you can later upgrade for additional revenue. Just don’t erode your margins in the process. 

Partner Up

Look for opportunities to partner up with non-competing travel companies to pool resources, share content creation and cross-promote offers. For example, team up with destination management companies, tour operators or specialist travel bloggers. Co-marketing through joint social media campaigns, email newsletters and website banners can expand your reach.

Make Use of Influencers

Work with influencers who can organically promote your boutique agency to their engaged following on social media or blogs. Micro-influencers with a few thousand highly targeted, local followers are likely to be affordable for small agencies. Offer them discounted travel and holidays in return for posts showcasing your brand. Don’t forget to use relevant hashtags.

Shout About Awards

Industry awards carry kudos that you should shout about in your marketing activities. Include logos of awards you have won on your website, email signature and printed materials. Mentions in recognised travel publications also add credibility so look for opportunities to get featured through exclusive deals, competitions or charity initiatives. 

Go High Tech

Harness technology to market smarter. For example, use geofencing so when a customer enters the local high street area they receive a personalised promotion. Build custom trip planning tools on your site to capture visitor data. Use retargeting to keep your brand visible across devices after website visits. And don’t forget the power of email marketing through integrated systems like MailChimp.

Offer Exceptional Service

Delivering a five-star customer experience is the most powerful marketing tactic of all for boutique agencies. Word of mouth, viral social media posts, ratings/reviews and repeat business will all flow from exceeding customer expectations before, during and after trips. So, make flawless, personal service central to your brand. It may not be scalable but for a small travel brand, it’s invaluable.

While competing in a crowded industry dominated by digital booking platforms poses very real challenges for boutique travel agencies, by marketing smarter there are still real opportunities to drive growth by focussing on your niche, harnessing technology and delivering exceptional service. 

What marketing tactics have helped your boutique travel business to thrive? 

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