So you've been in the business for a few years now. Your annual revenue is growing at a steady rate, you have a consistent stream of customers, your staff and your guides are doing a good job and you'd like to take the next step.
You're thinking of attracting new customer segments to expand your business.
They might be customers from a different country or of a different demographic, it doesn't matter. If you believe that you've got the right product to satisfy this new segment, I think it's worth a shot.
Considering the investments you'll need to make to figure out if this is the direction your company should head towards, here's how you can cautiously enter a new market.
Do some background research and analysis
1. Identify a customer segment and learn about them
Who are you targeting? What are tours or activities are they interested in? Would they be interested in your tours or activities? Do you have local insight?
What are their traveling behaviours? When do they start planning their trips? What part of their trip do they spend more money on?
What's the size of this market? Is it large enough to bring you attractive returns on investments?
And finally, is the market projected for growth in the next 5 to 10 years? What are industry experts saying about this market?
Start here: In-depth market profiles
- Learn about the German, French, Spanish, Italian and British markets here.
- Get an introduction to the Chinese market here and get an update here.
- Learn about the Millennial market here.
- Learn about Baby Boomers here.
2. Analyse your own internal abilities
Do you have what it takes to successfully pull off this new endeavour? Consider these questions:
- Now that you know more about your new market, do you still believe that your product satisfies their travel habits, and more?
- Do you have the right people on your team who can help you execute your new strategy effectively?
- Do you have the right business partnerships and the right contacts to make sure you succeed?
- Do you have the necessary tools and infrastructure to handle the additional bookings from abroad?
- How do you intend to manage the additional demand for your tours or services should this marketing strategy succeed?
If you don't have a clear answer to all these questions (and the others that might come to mind right now), I suggest you return to the drawing board.
3. Calculate your ROI
How much time, energy and money will it take to successfully reach out to this market and generate the profits you intend? Calculating your Returns On Investment is a good way to start answering this question.
How to calculate ROI as a percentage:
(Gains - Cost) / Cost x 100
- How many people do you want to book a tour with you? Which packages will best suit their interests?
- Gains = number of bookings x price of tour or activity
When calculating your costs, think about:
- Commission given to resellers and agents
- Cost of online marketing strategy (e.g. Facebook and Google Ads)
- Commission given to OTAs who specialise in targeting that market
- Cost of marketing materials
- Human resources (e.g. do you need to hire someone new to help?)
- Time it takes to execute your new strategy
4. Get to know your competitors
Are there any other tour or activity companies from your destination promoting their services to your new target market? Who's already dominant in that market? Why are they the preferred company for that market?
What makes you different? How can you compete with these businesses and win?
Think thoroughly about your competitive strategy and how you intend to succeed.
5. Consider other external factors
Think about other external factors like government policies, visa restrictions, ease of travel (e.g. frequency of flights to your destination), the current perception of your destination or activity in that market and so on.
You need to consider all these external factors that are sometimes out of your control. Do any of these factors pose as a potential challenge that might ruin your chances of succeeding? Be brutally honest with yourself here.
Plan your grand entrance
6. Time it right
First and foremost: Timing is everything. It is important to know what time of year travellers from this region or this demographic usually research and book for their trips.
Want to know what people are searching for and when? Use Google Trends.
Take a look at these graphs, what patterns do you notice?
A general global trend is that people tend to search for holiday destinations to visit as early as January, searching for flight tickets in January and July, but only booking accommodation in July.
Have a play with Google Trends, adjust the filters and timelines and look out for patterns that might indicate when your target market is on the look out for new tours and activities in your destination. Time your market entrance to coincide with their search habits for maximum effect.
7. Partner with the right people
To promote your services to a new and unfamiliar market, you want to work with people who know what they're doing and can put you in front of the right customers.
Think of any international travel agents or resellers you can work with. Perhaps your local DMO is running a marketing campaign that coincides with the market you want to target too.
You can also check out trade shows like WTM in London or ITB in Berlin to find out who you can partner with. Even if you can't attend the event, you can look up the various companies who will be exhibiting and email the ones who could help you succeed.
You might also want to consider working with travel bloggers to create unique and exciting content for your business. Some can also consult on your marketing strategy if they possess strong insights into the target market you want to reach.
Read more about building win-win business partnerships:
- Our guide to creating successful business partnerships - a vital part of your tour and activity marketing
- 10 tips for working with travel bloggers
8. Experiment with online marketing tools
Use Facebook, Instagram and Google advertising to reach your new customers. These tools have powerful and incredibly accurate targeting features, meaning that your ads will be seen by the exact audience you want.
Again, we have a lot of blog articles written about this topic, you can start here:
- Building a social media strategy for your tour or activity company
- The complete Facebook Advertising Checklist
- 7 simple steps to creating your first Twitter ad campaign (and nailing it)
- Instagram Cheat Sheet for tourism companies
9. Create market-specific offers and discounts
It would be wise to create market-specific offers and discounts upon your initial launch as it helps you get the attention you need.
This tactic works best when it is seasonal or time-bound because it creates a sense of urgency. It grabs their attention and encourages people to find out more about your company now rather than later. Now is also better than later because people might forget or get distracted by the other million pieces of information on the internet.
10. Work with online travel agencies (OTAs) and resellers
OTAs can give you access to a large audience or an incredibly niche one. Picking the right OTA can make a big difference to your bottom-line.
Our research found that while adoption rate of OTAs amongst companies is less than half, at 41%, companies who use OTAs to distribute and market their services receive an average of 20% more bookings each year. Most companies also report using at least 3 OTAs at any one time, citing Viator, Get Your Guide and Expedia as their top choices.
- Industry research: The tour and activity distribution landscape of today
- 3 tips to promote your tours and activities with the help of resellers
- 21 distribution channels for tour operators to consider using in 2017
- How much commission should you pay for distribution?
11. Consider translating your content
If your new market is one that speaks a different language, consider translating your content. It improves the overall customer experience and strengthens your brand as a professional tour or activity operator.
Bonus points if you have guides who can also deliver your tours or activities in the target market's language too.
Remember that at the end of the day, it's all about putting your customers' experiences first.
12. Look for reviews and place them front and center
Your most powerful marketing tool is word of mouth. Don't ignore your TripAdvisor and social media reviews. Better yet, place your reviews front and center of your website and other marketing material.
Don't forget to also thank customers who have left you a review online.
Lastly, if you are serious about entering a new market, I highly recommend you read this article and download the free business resource that comes with it:
Use it as a guideline to conduct a thorough external analysis of the target market, and craft a competitive strategy that takes all the important factors into account. (Your brain will hurt at the end of the process but your business will thank you for it in the long run.)
Don't forget to review your performance
“Anything that is measured and watched, improves.” - Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy
Give yourself a realistic timeline to follow, taking into account the high and low season for that market and for your destination. Keep track of your progress and measure your performance periodically. Tweak your market entry strategy as you go along, but make sure these changes are based on solid data and information.
Grow your business today by taking the first step: Know your target market.