Marketing a travel business can be tough. It’s a very competitive space. But that doesn’t mean you can’t win the tourism game! You just need to cut through the noise and understand who it is your company is trying to reach.
Buyer personas help with that. In this post we’ll examine what they are and why they’re so important. Then we’ll layout a process you can follow to create your own. Finally, we’ll leave you with a couple buyer persona examples and a few ways to use them to market your business.
Let’s get started!
The “What” and “Why” of Buyer Personas
“Know your customers” is a common phrase in marketing circles. But how? Buyer personas.
Buyer personas are fictional characters made to mirror a company’s target audience. They aren’t real, but they represent real people.
When you’ve successfully created one (or two, or three, or five!) for your business, it will help you humanize your organization’s marketing efforts and allow you to better reach your target audience.
For example, rather than creating content for “26 year olds,” you can create it for “Tim, the 26 year old entrepreneur.”
Can you see the difference? Even just this tiny bit of added detail gives you so much more clarity. And this added clarity will help you cut through the noise in an ultra competitive field like travel.
It’s much easier to relate and appeal to customers when you think of them as a single person, rather than a crowd of people.
Create the Perfect Buyer Personas for Your Company
Ready to create a buyer persona for your travel business? The fun starts with deep research. It will definitely take a fair bit of time and elbow grease to do, but it’s not too bad when you know where to start. And the end result will be more than worth it!
The Information You Need
Let’s start with the kind of details you’ll be looking for:
These are the “cold hard facts” about your audience. The statistical information that separates them from the rest of the population. You want to know their:
- Physical Location
- Relationship Status
- Family Size
- Spoken Language
- Household Income
- Level of Education
- Content Preference Type
- Social Media Habits
Now we want to dig deeper. Who is the person behind the facts we just mentioned? Humans are a lot more than statistics. Find juicy information on your ideal customers like their:
- Goals and Motivations
- Fears and Challenges
- Reasons for Traveling
- Obstacles to Travel
- Purpose for Travel (Business or Leisure)
- Favorite Travel Activities
- Expectations While Traveling
When you put all this information together, both demographic and psychographic details, you really start to see who your target audience is.
You’ll know the age bracket and location of your customers, what they can afford, and why they want to travel in the first place. You’ll understand the way they like to spend their trips and various obstacles keeping them from booking their next vacation.
These details are incredibly valuable!
Just remember, you can (and probably should) create more than one buyer persona. For most businesses, we recommend three to five. This will allow you to segment your audience appropriately without going overboard.
For example, a local hotel might cater to business travelers, family vacationers, and jet-setting retirees. Each of these groups needs their own persona.
The Research Phase
Now that you know what information you need to dig up on your ideal customers, it’s time to get to it. Here are the top places to look for audience information:
Shhh, we’re going to tell you a little secret: one of the absolute best sources of audience information is your current customers. Obvious? Yes. Overlooked? Definitely!
If and when you’re able to, talk with your customers. “Interview” them and find out more about their lives and motivations. What made them book a trip with your company? What frustrates them, in general, during the booking process?
Also, consult your email list and social media profiles. Ask you followers these same questions. A wealth of persona information is right in front of you, you just need to ask for it.
Let’s bring technology into the fold. What do your marketing analytics tell you about your best customers?
Start with your company’s website. Where are visitors coming from, what keywords are they using to find your business, and which webpages are they frequenting most? This will shed light on their mindset and the desires they have when booking travel.
Look at your email marketing software as well. Which messages get the most opens, clicks, and conversions? These details can tell you what kind of content your customers prefer, the kind of travel they enjoy and much more.
Finally, dig deep into social media analytics. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram collect an incredible amount of user data. Use this to your advantage.
And don’t forget to employ social listening tactics and discover what travelers are saying about your industry, too. Do they have questions? Have they experienced problems? You won’t know until you log on and listen.
Review sites like TripAdvisor and Trivago are another channel for audience research. What have past customers said about your travel business? What have they said about your competitors?
Digging deeper, who are these people leaving reviews? Are they business travelers or vacationers? See if you can find out.
When creating buyer personas, it’s helpful to have your finger on the pulse of your industry. What do the latest studies tell you about traveler habits and preferences? What trends have experts identified? How will this information impact your business?
These details can be found in travel related publications, websites, and TV channels. So read up and watch videos. Learn everything you can about the general state of your industry.
Finally, before concluding your research efforts, perform a few Google searches. You may stumble across some information previously unknown to you. Think like your ideal customer and search for terms and phrases that pertain to them. What comes up?
Assemble Your Personas
Happy with the amount of research you’ve collected? Great! Now it’s time to take all those details and assemble them into a usable buyer persona.
First, give your persona a name. It can be whatever you want — Robert the Retiree, Bill the Business Traveler, Lisa the Family Vacation Planner. Just first names like Jennifer, Christina and Jeremy are acceptable as well.
Next, find a picture for this person. It can be any random Google image that, to you at least, represents this segment of your audience. Putting a face to the name will help you further visualize your audience as actual people.
Then begin to assemble your research findings into the demographic and psychographic categories we mentioned above.
Perhaps you find that (at least for this persona) your audience tends to be between the ages of 18 and 25, lives in the U.S. and speaks English, makes less than $45,000 a year, is a leisure traveler who seeks adventure, and loves Pinterest.
A persona for this person might look something like this:
You’ll notice that along with the assembled information, we also included a short summary. We recommend you do the same. It helps distill the details down into something more digestible.
Also, we like to assemble the information in a tidy, visually appealing way. We find that it just makes them easier to use. But this isn’t mandatory. A spreadsheet or Google doc with all the same info can work just as well.
Finally, while your research will turn up loads of valuable information, there may be some areas where you’ll need to make educated guesses about your audience. That’s ok! If you find that these guesses were inaccurate, you can always adjust your buyer personas.
A Few Buyer Persona Examples
We’ve covered the elements that create an effective buyer persona. We even shared a streamlined version of one (Kayla the Millennial) in the last section. Let’s examine a couple more examples so that you get a solid idea of what we’re after here.
Here’s a strong entry from Lidia Chia:
There’s a lot of great information here! We know exactly what Valerie is looking for when it comes to travel, the kind of flights she can afford, where she’ll be traveling from, and more.
The company marketing to “her” will have much more success than if they were to simply promote their services to “professionals with kids.”
Here’s another solid sample from HostGator:
Again, plenty of quality details here that really give us a clear picture of who to market to. Jill is a business traveler. We know details about her personality, brands and technology she likes, and her home location.
Possibly even more important, we also know her goals, frustrations, and motivations when booking trips. This travel buyer persona is very well done!
How to Use Buyer Personas in the Travel Industry
Hopefully you can see the value in buyer personas and already have a few ideas of how you can use them to better market your travel brand. But to help you get the creative juices flowing, here are a few ideas:
Target Your Content
When you segment your audience into distinct groups, each defined by a separate persona, you can then better target the content your create. A blog post about activities for thrill seekers may appeal to Kayla the Millennial, but not to Robert the Retiree.
Instead of promoting the same article to both groups, you can target just the “Kayla” persona. This will ensure that you’re only sending relevant content to your audience.
The same principle applies to other marketing channels as well such as videos, email campaigns and social ads.
Be Where Your Audience Is
If you know where your ideal customers like to hang out online, you can join them. Do they prefer Facebook or Instagram? Do they enjoy reading blog posts or watching videos? Which industry groups and forums are they a part of?
Not only will you be able to learn even more about your target audience, but you’ll also be able to engage them in conversation, build relationships, and promote your business.
Just remember to treat these interactions like conversations, not sales pitches. Your audience doesn’t want to be sold to. They want to engage with others who share their passion for travel.
If a marketing opportunity presents itself, by all means take it! But don’t force the issue.
Partner With Popular Brands
When we say “popular brands”, we’re talking about other companies your audience members care about. Understanding your buyer personas allows you to partner with the right organizations and create marketing campaigns that benefit both of you.
Plus, people tend to judge companies the same way they judge humans: by the company they keep. If your business associates itself with other organizations your target customers love, it will elevate your standing in their eyes.
Speak As They Do
Lastly, a thorough knowledge of the people you hope to reach will enable you to speak their language. How do they verbalize their goals, frustrations, and motivations? Are their common phrases they like to use?
By speaking as your audience does, your marketing materials will be more meaningful to them. You be able to connect on a deeper level. And you’ll have a much better chance of converting a large number of them into paying customers.
Over To You
Buyer personas are an incredibly important aspect of marketing a travel business. Without them, it’s difficult to reach the right people, create relevant content, and differentiate your business from competitors.
So start building your personas today! Begin with research. Dive deep into both the demographics and psychographics of the audience you hope to reach. Then assemble each buyer persona with its own name and picture.
After they’ve been created, you personas will make the marketing process much easier. You’ll be able to better target your content, be involved in the digital communities they care about, and speak in a way that will resonate with them. Good luck!