In his recent webinar, Josh Oakes of The Sunshine Tribe shared tons of actionable advice for rebooting your business using your local market – something that more and more operators are considering as international travel remains low.
You can access the recording of the full webinar here.
But if you don’t have time to watch the whole session, don’t worry! We’ve summarized the key takeaways below.
So how do you make your experiences interesting for locals?
There can often be pessimism around creating tours for locals, with popular opinion being that locals don’t pay big money and they aren’t interested in what you’re selling. But Josh doesn’t believe this to be the case – he’s confident locals will pay if you are solving a problem for them.
Locals may not want to pay for the exact same tour you would sell to someone who’s never stepped foot in your area, but they may well be interested in an experience that has been created with them in mind.
Designing for Locals
With a little creative thinking, you may be able to tweak your existing activities in order to make them stand out in your local area and attract a new audience who are ready and willing to pay to have an awesome experience close to home.
Here are Josh’s 6 steps to creating experiences designed to engage your local community:
What potential market segments could you serve? Start by carefully thinking through the types of locals that could be interested in your products.
Top Tip: Facebook is a great resource for this. Join tour operator groups and find out what’s been working for other operators focused on the local market, what kind of customers they’re reaching, and what they’re selling. Examples: Tour Operators United or Tourpreneur for Tour Operators/Tour Professionals.
Once you have decided on your target market, take the time to really get to know them. Find out what they’re looking for and identify the challenges or frustrations they may have around vacations, travel, and leisure activities.
A couple of ways you can do this:
What to go further with your research? Find out how these groups communicate with each other. Find local Facebook groups related to your chosen demographic, search their feeds for insights and pose questions such as:
Josh chose corporate businesses as his segment and looked into Christmas parties and reward schemes. He drew up a target market list of 100 companies, and spent three months calling them to research what kinds of products they would be interested in.
Talking to these people gave Josh permission to sell to them and get them excited about the product.
Don’t forget! Avoid trying to get the answer you’re looking for – approach it like you want to disprove your theories.
Top Tip: Keep a record of the EXACT language your target market used when describing the products they were looking for. Then use these phrases in your marketing and promotion to really grab their attention.
Once you’ve gathered all your insights and data, it’s important to spend some time formalizing your offerings and critiquing your ideas.
Get expert opinions from people that matter – other local businesses, tourism representatives, DMOs, product development managers, OTAs, travel agents, or hotel concierges.
You may have heard the phrase ‘locals won’t pay’. This is NOT true – people will pay if you are solving a problem for them. As long as you’ve created good experiences that specifically appeal to your target market and address their frustrations, they’ll be willing to pay.
Base your messaging around your original research about your segments. Identify what they’re looking for in a product and how your product fixes the issues they were having with similar products in the past.
An example from Josh’s research:
Remember that with a local market, you’re solving different problems – so you need to adjust your messaging accordingly.
Now is a great time to run paid ads; many people are spending more time on social media, and most are itching for an accessible new adventure.
Optimize your Google My Business account so customers can find out all they need to know at the click of a button. Remember to include clear information, photos, and options to book.
Reviews are really important for getting customers to commit to purchasing your product. Ideally you should have at least 15 5-star reviews on your website. Why not reach out to past customers who never left a review to try and boost your numbers?
Work with other tour operators! If people are buying one type of activity in the area, chances are that they like new experiences – and may be interested in your product too. At this time, it’s crucial to collaborate.
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