Thursday, September 6, 2007

Advertising a Travel Agency

Case Study: Baumann Travel, Lake Peekskill, New York
Challenge: Get more business on a small marketing budget.
Idea Wanted: Identify the most effective way to advertise to a particular demographic with a limited budget.
The Background: Roger Baumann is an adjunct associate professor at College of Mount Saint Vincent. He is also an artist.

Baumann Travel offers fully escorted cultural and art exploration trips to Japan and Southeast Asia. His clients are primarily upscale females who are either retired or semi-retired.

Current advertising is minimal, primarily using flyers and brochures distributed at museums and through occasional mailings.

Advice: It's not all about advertising in the right place; it's first about what you advertise and how you are perceived. Your image needs to be finely tuned before advertising. A business needs an articulated brand promise, an effective signature (business slogan), and an enticing pick-up line to use in the ad.

Baumann has a hurdle right at the beginning of the sales process with an outdated website. It subconsciously tells the customer that some of the small things don’t get taken care of. This is important if you are going to ask someone to travel several thousand miles with you and pay thousands of dollars to do it.

Baumann Travel's first task is to polish up the presentation a little bit, which will maximize the return on their advertising investment.

Our Ideas:

  1. Update website - The first order of business is to update the website, before a single dollar is spent on advertising. If it will be difficult to make future updates, remove all time specific references. Instead of actual upcoming itineraries, create “sample itineraries.” If possible, include photos and/or videos of past journeys.
  2. Develop a signature and a pick up line – Many businesses have a slogan. More effective than a slogan is a signature, because it’s personal and it says something meaningful. A pick up line is the message you use in the advertisement to get customers involved with you. An example for Baumann’s signature might be something like, “More than a tour, it's an experience.”
  3. Magazine ads – The target demographic is retired or semi-retired upper-income females. Special interest local, or regional magazines, are probably the best choice. Direct mail would be a close second, if you can find a reliable list. The ad should feature an invitation to the website or to a special reception (see idea below).
  4. Museum publications – Work with New York or other major metropolitan museums such as Rubin Museum of Art and see if there is an opportunity to place an ad in a newsletter or other publication.
  5. Working with museums – See if you can obtain the mailing list from some major metropolitan museums (you will have to pay for the list) and send an invitation to learn more through the website or a reception (see #6).
  6. Host a reception - Give a taste of the journey before going on the trip. Host a tea or wine reception and show videos, pictures and pieces of art that can be expected on the trip. The clientele is upscale so pamper them and let them know how they will be treated on the trip.
The Lesson:
Everyone wants to spend as little money as possible on advertising. Don't we all? To Maximize the money you do spend, you must buff up your image and your message before advertising. Doing this increases the effectiveness of each ad you do run, and consequently saves you money over time.

Advertising is courtship, not a sales pitch. This is especially true for an upscale service such as Baumann Travel. All your advertising should communicate your brand promise and lead potential customers to the next step. Baumann Travel’s advertising should not try to make the sale, instead it should invite the customer to become more involved in learning about the travel experience.

Before you advertise, make sure you have an image that has been polished and ready for the spotlight. When you do advertise, involve the customer, don’t sell.

If you have more advice, please comment below.
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