How Tour Operators Can Increase Sales Online

Planning a tour in Japan can be stressful. Your customers don’t know where to start, what’s value for money, how much a tour will cost, or which tour operator to choose. You could maximise customer satisfaction by solving each of these problems for them, but most tour operators don’t. This is due to a lack of awareness rather than negligence, but this oversight is actually the root of your problems – and it’s costing you sales.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably experiencing at least one of these challenges:

  • You’ve got vast amounts of information to organise
  • You feel like you have to convince people to invest
  • You waste time speaking to unqualified leads
  • You struggle to stand out from competitors

Notice how each of these challenges align with the customer’s problems.

Now, I’m not here to tell you off, but I do want to explain how you can solve each of these problems so you can get out of your own way and make more sales. To do this, we’re going to cover four topics — website structure, offer structure, pre-qualifying leads, and meaningful differentiation.

It’s worth noting that this advice is mostly applicable to generalist tour operators, which I define as those that cater to diverse interests and needs. If you’re more of a specialist, you’ll naturally have more targeted information to share and a more compelling value proposition, which resolves most of these problems in itself. If you’re keen to differentiate and craft a competitive advantage, take a look at how my Value Accelerator service can help you.

Website structure

The problem with your website

Many tour operators have wonderfully comprehensive websites, but overwhelmingly so. Of course, it’s highly valuable to your customer to have access to so much practical information, but without any order or hierarchy, they won’t know where to start.

When faced with masses of detail, we tend to perceive it as complexity. This intimidates website visitors, signalling that your site is going to take a lot of time and effort to navigate. Some users will take the path of least resistance and simply leave your site. Seeing as your goal is to keep people engaged long enough to contact you, this is no good.

How to structure your website to increase sales

To keep people on your site, you want to hide your complexity and serve information in a logical order. The homepage shouldn’t be packed with information, but instead offer clear pathways through your site aligned with the intent of your different user types. You won’t be sacrificing any of your valuable insights, just organising them in a way that’s easier to navigate.

There are three main user types to consider, and you’ll need to accommodate whichever ones you serve through your homepage. These include people who want to book a tour (a done-for-you service), people who want a travel planning consultation (a done-with-you service), and people who want to plan their own trip using your free or paid resources (a do-it-yourself service).

First you’re going to create a button for each of the relevant user types with a call-to-action that relates to their intent. For example, a button that reads “plan your own trip” followed by a brief description of what they can expect if they follow this pathway. In this case, it’s probably articles, e-books, and itinerary templates. Once they click this button, there’s a number of ways you could package the information that follows. The format may differ to suit different user types, but I want to focus on how you can organise information using your blog.

You’re going to lead each user type to a master article that guides them through a specific pathway. This master article will offer a brief paragraph for each step they need to take in the order you see fit, and link to other articles that delve into the details of each step individually.

Let’s say you’re creating the master article for a do-it-yourself user. You may tell them that they first need to decide what kind of experience they want to have, and link to an article that helps them to reflect on what they enjoy and where they could go to fulfil this. The next step might be making travel arrangements, which could link to an article about train passes and popular airlines. For a done-for-you user, your master article might detail each step you will take them through and what their level of involvement is. To see this structure in action, check out this guide by Newfangled.

By structuring your website in this way, you create a linear journey for your users to follow, making it harder for them to feel lost or overwhelmed. It also breaks information down into more manageable chunks that focus on one topic at a time. To make your customer experience even easier, you can make your content less visually overwhelming too. Grid formats can be harder to process, as they require the user to scan back and forth across the screen, and take in multiple pieces of information at once. A linear format (a single column of content that scrolls up and down) requires less effort to process, which means less fatigue for the user.

This approach will not only improve your customer experience, but it will also boost your SEO through strong internal links. Bonus!

Offer structure

The problem with your offer

Tour packages do what they say on the tin – they put everything into one package. While this seems like the obvious way to present your service, it doesn’t bode so well with buyer psychology. To quote Alex Hormozi, author of ‘$100M Offers’, “a single offer is less valuable than the same offer broken into its component parts and stacked as bonuses.” It’s not that your offer isn’t valuable, it’s just not structured in a way that maximises its perceived value. By rolling your tours into one big package, you’re also missing out on selling smaller packages that could engage your price-conscious prospects.

How to structure your offer to increase sales

Imagine you offer a tour for £750 that covers the cost of a consultancy fee, 3 days of activities, accommodation, meals, transport, a local guide, and a piece of branded merchandise. Your customer isn’t a tour expert, so they have no idea whether that’s good value for money. They might even try to break down the cost in their head to figure out if it’s worth it. This adds friction to their customer experience, and we always want to reduce friction.

Now imagine that instead you say it costs £750 for the activities and guide, and everything else is free. Suddenly it looks a lot more enticing. Once you’ve separated the individual components of your offer, you can really get creative with how you stack them together. Maybe you have a whole day’s worth of activities for free! How could anyone say no? The value is undeniably higher than the original offer, and yet you didn’t have to lower your price or make any extra effort. It’s an easy way to coax people off the fence and get them to book.

The other benefit of having these individual components is that you can turn them into packages for prospects with fewer needs or lower budgets. For example, some people may want to plan their own itinerary but have their transport planned for them. Another might want a guided tour, but the freedom to choose their own accommodation and meals in the area. Suddenly those prospects that didn’t see you as the right fit have a reason to become paying customers.

If you want to learn more about how you can craft an irresistible offer, I highly recommend you read Hormozi’s book. It delivers immense value in a digestible, jargon-free way.

Pre-qualifying leads

The problem with your lead qualification

If you’re taking calls and exchanging emails with people who aren’t the right fit for your services, you’re wasting time that could be spent nurturing qualified leads and taking care of paying customers. You may be thinking there’s no way to know if someone is a poor fit until you speak to them, but this is untrue. There are a number of things you can add to your website that will allow people to qualify themselves before they even contact you. You want to focus on people who are willing and able to buy, and turn away those who aren’t.

How to structure lead qualification to increase sales

One of the main problems is the unwillingness of tour operators to share their price upfront. Price is a huge motivator for many buyers, and hiding it can cultivate fear and distrust. By sharing your price upfront, people who can’t afford your services won’t reach out, freeing up your valuable time to speak to the people who can. If your price varies, you can share the range that it usually sits within, and bullet point the factors that determine the final cost. It may seem mean to boldly turn people away, but they don’t want their time wasted either. Being transparent is the kindest thing you can do.

Another way to pre-qualify leads is to create a dedicated page on your website that profiles them. This page is usually titled “About You”, and may specify your ideal customer’s needs, goals, personality, and budget. Whatever traits are relevant to being a fit for your service, you can detail them here. If you want to see this in action, check out this customer profile page on Punctuation’s website. If you have a range of services that cater to different customer needs, you can simply add a section to each service page that explains who each service is ideal for.

If you don’t like the idea of turning people away, consider adding a call-to-action under your paid services that leads people to your free resources. They may not become paying customers, but they’re still valuable traffic for your website. We’re not trying to burn any bridges here.

Meaningful differentiation

The problem with your differentiation

Imagine a prospect has three potential tour operators in mind. Their prices and offers are all fairly similar, so they see if the “why should you choose us?” section can help them make a decision. Each one reads “we’re experts in our field, we have years of experience!”. This isn’t a fictional scenario, it’s something that seems to plague tour operators worldwide.

If you all have the same point of difference, then you aren’t really different at all, and when there’s a large supply of experts, the value of expertise decreases. Having a meaningful differentiator is crucial to communicating your value, and makes it easier for prospects to make a decision. Your lack of differentiation is creating friction, and as you already know, this is detrimental to the customer experience.

How to differentiate your brand to increase sales

The most obvious way to differentiate yourself from other tour operators is to niche down, catering to a single interest, destination, customer type, or tour type. However, I’d be doing you a disservice if I said this is the only way to stand out. It is the easiest way to gain a competitive advantage, but as a generalist brand, the hardest thing you can do is specialise — and I can feel you recoiling into your swivel chair through the screen just thinking about the idea. Instead, I’m going to suggest you take advice from a man best described as the Willy Wonka of brands.

Johnny Cupcakes runs a t-shirt bakery in a store that smells like frosting, yet doesn’t sell cupcakes. I know that makes no sense, but there’s no time to explain. His weirdness has made him highly successful, so I want you to take his advice: “Do at least 12 things that separate you from everyone else.” It could be your brand name, your story, or the way you do your marketing. Look at each part of your brand, and consider how you could approach them in a way that’s totally different from your competitors. Whether it’s a change that reduces pain or increases delight, you’ll be creating value for your customers and demonstrating your point of difference.

If those two options sound like too much effort, here’s one more. By simply following the steps I’ve shared here, you’ll already be differentiating yourself from most other tour operators. My very reason for writing this article is that most tour operators don’t pay enough attention to their customer experience, so why not be one of the first?

True differentiation can be perceived, even if you don’t explicitly say what it is. If you take the time and care to improve your customer experience, believe me, people will feel the difference.

How customer experience impacts sales

When you prioritise making people feel good, they want to give you their money. It’s that simple. People always want to be happier than they currently are, and we place enormous value on our happiness. After all, it’s in high demand, yet seemingly short supply. When you remove friction, frustration, and decision-fatigue from your customer experience, you take a weight off people’s shoulders, and they feel happier for it. Instead of a laborious and stressful chore, planning a trip to Japan suddenly feels fun again. People will pay for that feeling, but you’ve got to do the work that will make it easier for them.

As a final word of advice, remember this: problems are not only found in what you offer, but in how you deliver what you offer. If you want a guided deep-dive into the specific problems that are weakening your customer experience, keep an eye out for my Value Reveal service launching soon.