To break through the noise, tour and activity companies need a business strategy that will help them stand out. Most business gurus will tell you to start by choosing your niche, but as more and more businesses join the industry, choosing your niche is no longer enough.
Within every niche, there will inevitably be multiple competitors vying for the same market and thus the onus is on you to convince this market that you are capable and experienced enough to deliver a better experience than your competitors.
A double-edge sword you have at your disposal is your brand. Invest in it, build it up well and continue evolving it alongside your customers' evolving desires, and it will repay you generously. On the other hand, fail to care, manage and maintain your brand and it will bring you zero returns, or actually incur losses.
What is a brand?
"A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer."
- Seth Godin, Author, Entrepreneur, Marketer.
A brand therefore encapsulates:
- Your offer, service or product
- It should be clear what services you're providing
- Your company's tone or voice
- How does your brand carry itself across different communications platforms? Are you funny, cheeky, professional or even something in between?
- A clear core message that speaks to your target market
- Your brand should help you target the right market and attract the right customers with a message that resonates with them.
- What's the most important thing people reading your brochures, browsing through your website or scrolling down your social media feed should capture?
- Are you a luxury tour company that spares no expenses when it comes to delivering experiences? Perhaps you're a an old-timer in the industry and you have tonnes of knowledge and experiences up your sleeve - this too could be your core message that emanates throughout your brand.
- A winning argument for why you're the better choice
- Your brand needs to clearly communicate why you're worth your customers' hard earned cash. If you're a premium service, you also need to communicate why you're worth the extra money.
- A reason for your customers to talk about your company
- Word of mouth marketing and user generated content is a great way to measure your brand's success. If people don't find your brand engaging, why would they want to talk about it?
- What can you incorporate into your brand such that your customers and potential customers would happily talk about you or share your post on social media?
5 tips to build a stand-out brand
1. Know your target market
Who are you trying to reach and what messages they likely to positively respond to? This takes acute insight into your target market and requires a lot of research.
2. Define your core message
What's the pulse of your tours or activities? Going back to the beginning, what was that core message you wanted to share when you first start your company? Has that changed or evolved? What's your core message today? There could be an interesting story behind that journey that's just waiting to be uncovered.
As Marie Forleo said, and I'm paraphrasing, you want to get inside the mind of your customers and craft messages that speak directly to them.
3. It's about how your company interacts with customers
It goes beyond your logo's design and colour, the font you choose for your website and the name of your company. Your brand is transmitted in how you respond to emails, how you speak to customers on a tour, and what you write for your Instagram caption.
It's both tangible and intangible, and understanding this is key to building your brand well.
4. Create brand guidelines for your company
Create a simple document that outlines your company's brand. It should explicitly state the following:
Tone or voice - How do you speak to your customers, write an email, respond to a social media review or write a blog post?
At TrekkSoft, this is how we define our tone and voice:
We want to come across as professional, supportive, helpful, and patient. We want to position ourselves as possessing knowledge and expertise that’s worth paying for and that we truly want the best for our clients and their businesses. We're also adventurous and lively professionals who have fun in and out the office.
The TrekkSoft personality is not ignorant, rude, pushy, self-centered, boring or overly serious.
We want to help people. Write clear, clean text that’s easy to read. Our relationship to clients would probably be that of a cool teacher who inspires students to do better.
Colour scheme - What are the 3 - 4 main colours your company should use to stay "on brand"?
Having a list of colours and a recommendations on how to mix and match them together is also useful for your team. Remember to also list the colour codes for each colour so that all shade of green are the same.
How to use your logo - Set specific guidelines for how you want and don't want your logo to be used.
Visuals - What kind of imagery do you want to accompany your blog posts? What sort of visuals should appear on your website? Go back to your core message and think about pictures that would compliment that message and make it clearer to your target audience.
At TrekkSoft, we want our customers to think of an enthusiastic team who works hard and plays hard, a team who loves the outdoors and understands what's important to tour and activity operators. So we use pictures like this,
We definitely do not want you to think of us like this,
and definitely not this.
Getting a brand guideline together is a great way to get your entire team on the same page. Check out this list of incredible brand guidelines to help you get inspired.
5. Be consistent
Customers want to know what they're getting every time they choose you over your competitors. The last thing they want is an unreliable brand or product. The way your brand is interpreted across all your customer touch points should be consistent. Customers should know what to expect and have each encounter with your brand satisfy that expectation.
If you're all about cheap and cheerful service, then your communications should be cheerful and your customers should flinch when you highlight strict cancellation terms and conditions.
There is unfortunately no hard and fast rule to nailing your brand and building a perfect one from the get-go. It's a process that requires long-term attention and continuous improvement. Keep an eye out for how your customers are responding to your brand. It's the best way for you to understand how your brand is being perceived and interpreted.
What have people been saying about your brand lately?
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Written by Nicole Kow
Having graduated from the UK, Nicole travelled around Europe before joining TrekkSoft's marketing team. She is now based in KL and regularly blogs about her travels at Next Train Out.