Have you just started your tour or activity business? In the early stages of your business and not sure what tools to use to manage your tours and activites? Are you searching for solutions to market your trips effectively, collect customer information and improve customer communications?
With a laptop, smartphone, the magic of tech and these 7 tools, get your startup tour or activity company off the ground and establish your position in the market.
1. Stay in contact with customers with Gmail
It's no surprise that Gmail would be a great way to keep in contact with your customers via email. For as little as $5 a month, you'll be able to get an email account associated with your own domain name, for example, "firstname.lastname@example.org". It looks a lot more professional than an "email@example.com" and helps you build trust and confidence in your customers.
Pro tip: Stay on top of your emails with this Gmail "special stars" system that only takes 15 minutes to sign up. Check out the full step-by-step here.
2. Stay updated with Google Calendar
Keep track of all your appointments by adding them to your Google Calendar. Get your customers' email addresses and send them an invite with all the important information, a brief itinerary if you like, add the address of the meeting point and links to anything else that might be relevant to the trip.
You can also set up email reminders where Google can automatically remind you and your customers about an upcoming trip, saving you time on manually reminding customers via email or text.
Pro tip: Use the free version of Calendly, or sign up for an account at $8 a month, where you'll be able to set your availabilities, send invites and generate automated reminders. You can share your unique link with customers and let them book with you, or embed it onto your website.
3. Stay organised with Google Sheets
Need an overview or to manage your bookings, payments, schedule, inventory or keep simple accounting? Use Google Sheets as a basic tool to keep track of it all. I prefer using Google because it can be automatically saved online and you can access your spreadsheet from any device.
Remember to update your spreadsheet whenever you receive a new booking, make changes for customers, receive payments and so on.
Pro tip: You can use Google Sheets to create invoices to send out to partners, customers and suppliers. Check out different templates you can find on Google Sheets here.
4. Google Forms
Use Google Forms in place of enquiry forms to allow customers to easily sign up for a trip with you. It's easy to use, customisable, easy to design and can be embedded on your website.
Pro tip: Enable the add-on "Email notifications for Google Forms" to receive automated email notifications every time someone fill out the form. This way, you no longer need to manually check if people have enquired about a trip with you. Alternatively, you can list your email address in place of the form for customers to send you enquiries.
Thinking of running a newsletter or an email marketing campaign to grow interest in your tours or activities? MailChimp allows you to send 12,000 emails to up to 2,000 subscribers each month for free. Send them useful content along with redeemable voucher codes to generate interest and hype around your new services.
Another way to attract customers to your brand new business is by setting up your social media profiles and engaging with them there. Managing multiple platforms might get a little messy and using a tool like Hootsuite to schedule your content can do wonders. That way, it only takes an hour a week to get your social media postings in order and receive notifications whenever someone engages with your content.
Not sure how to kick start your social media marketing?
As you build your company and your audience, you'll need a website to display your offers. Think of it as your 24/7 sales rep. Get a basic website up and running with your own domain name with Wordpress. It's one of the most popular platforms used by small businesses to set up their online storefront. Want more advanced options on your site? Check out their giant catalogue of plug-ins, widgets, extensions and add-ons to help you create the website of your dreams.
The downside here is that you'll need to subscribe to their Business plan to get full access to their SEO features and to integrate your website with Google Analytics (sneaky sneaky). The plan is $25 a month and you're billed yearly (a total of $300). This might be a little steep for new companies wanting to start now and grow fast.
When to move on to an online booking management solution?
With these basic tools to help you manage the day to day operations of your new tour or activity business, you should be able to gain attention online and get more bookings. It's important to understand that as your business grows, so will its needs.
Depending on the rate of your growth, you might consider a booking and payment solution like TrekkSoft if you check a majority of these boxes:
- You're generating a steady level of bookings and you're currently looking at ways to generate more.
- You've started promoting your services on third party sites and online marketplaces like Viator, Get Your Guide or Expedia, and are tired of manually updating multiple spreadsheets and sending out emails to everyone involved.
- You're sick of checking your emails and liaising with customers, partners and suppliers over email and phone calls - You're looking for a more streamlined solution.
- You're starting to wonder why you started this company in the first place because admin and operations is taking over your life.
- You resell tours and activities and want an automated system that can update your suppliers about their latest bookings, and maintain fantastic customer communication.
Still not sure if you're ready for a booking software?
I think it's important to note that as a new tour and activity company, apart from creating and developing fantastic offers, there are a lot of unexpected administrative and operational work that can come your way. While these tasks can be cumbersome and tiresome, getting them done the right way will help you build a firm foundation for your business to grow upon.
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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.