Create a Mobile-Friendly Website
It’s a fact that your clients are looking for easy information while they’re on the run. While they probably already have bookmarks to airline (for flight status updates) and hotel websites (for their confirmation number), do they know how to get in touch with you, when they’re on the road? Providing your clients with a mobile-friendly website that includes your agency’s contact information, is a priceless service for travelers, when something goes wrong. There are plenty of websites out there that can help you get started. MoFuse, for one, has pricing starting at $7.95 per month.
Build an SMS Campaign
Use a company like Exact Target (there are many companies to choose from, just be sure to use a reputable one) to create a multi-tier SMS (text) campaign. SMS campaigns are generally economical and provide an effective tool for customer service. With SMS campaigns, you can:
* Have your clients opt in to any of a variety of SMS campaigns with a specific code. Customers choosing Maui, for example, will receive a list of your agency’s top recommendations and tips for the destination that corresponds with the code they have selected.
* As your customers are about to leave on their trip, send them a text with your emergency contact information. By texting this information directly to your customers, rather than having it sit on a public website, your agents don’t have to worry about their personal information getting into the search engines, while providing their clients with a VIP service.
* After your clients return home, ask them how the trip went via e-mail. Give them links to TripAdvisor.com so they can rate your preferred suppliers or give them a chance to send you comments about your service so you can use it in future marketing materials.
* Use a catch term/offer to encourage clients to opt in to your SMS campaign. Perhaps clients who text the word “UPGRADE” can receive a list of current upgrade offers available to them (with a link back to those offers on your mobile-ready website), or in return for texting “SAVEMYTRIP,” clients will get a short lesson on why using a travel agent is important to preserving the vacation experience.
Build an App
These days, apps are shared more often than the common cold. In fact, according to a recent MacStories.net article, there are now more than 300,000 iPhone apps available. While there is no question that the app marketplace is highly competitive, the reality is that apps are in high demand. The travel agent who creates a free app, specific to the needs of their clients, may be providing an invaluable service. Agents can use a service like swebapps.com (starting at a $399 one-time fee, with extra monthly hosting charges), to develop their own, content-rich apps. Conversely, agents can hire a developer to create an app for them, and can generally expect to pay developer fees that start at $2,000 (and can go much higher for complex apps).
Get a QR Code
QR codes are a type of next-gen bar code. The square format allows for much more content than the standard numeric barcode found on most merchandise. QR code text can be a link back to your mobile URL, or can direct clients to a special offers page. Furthermore, the QR code format even allows for the embedding of short messages (including your mobile opt-in messaging.) QR codes are free to generate and can be downloaded at a number of sites.
As with all things marketing, mobile should be just one part of your overall marketing campaign — just don’t allow fear or a lack of time keep you from entering this new world of marketing. Because the industry is still in its infancy, the entrepreneurial travel agent can garner a lot of attention by being an early adopter. As with most things digital, mobile marketing sounds a lot scarier than it actually is, and the best way to get started is to just do it. A site like Ruxter.com, for example, allows users to get their feet wet for free. Ruxter will create a personalized site (on Ruxter.com) and allow users up to 100 free text messages a month. For just $199, Ruxter will also create a custom mobile site.