Is earning trust important for your business? If you’re in the luxury travel space, and your guests are flying half way around the world, visiting a remote and potentially risky destination, booking their main vacation for the year, and dropping thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars on your tour package, your answer is probably a big “DUH, of course it’s important!”
But when I ask my next question to business owners, ‘How are you earning that trust?’ the answer isn’t so obvious. They typically offer a blank stare or stutter and say, ‘well, we have great customer service’ or something vague like that. The problem is you need to earn that trust WAYY before they book and come on your tour and become a customer. In fact it begins from the very first point of contact.
Trust is a Key Step in the Customer Journey
Using the Duct Tape Marketing System, we know the typical customer goes through 7 Steps from prospect to raving fan. Those steps are KNOW, LIKE, TRUST, TRY, BUY, REPEAT and REFER. In the luxury adventure travel space, that third step is key. If they don’t trust your operation, they’ll never become a guest. Instead, they’ll go to your competitors that look more trustworthy.
How, when and where you earn that trust makes all the difference. With digital marketing these days, we’re typically using tactics like paid search and display ads (Google and Facebook), tourism SEO and other forms of advertising to drive traffic to your website or landing pages. These visitors are known as ‘cold traffic’ and must be ‘warmed up’ to consider you further.
Otherwise, the work you’ve done (or money you’ve paid) will be wasted if they click the dreaded ‘back’ button on their browser. So it’s imperative that you earn their trust as quickly as possible, warming them up to explore your site further and ideally getting them on your email list and some contact info.
Trust, Proof and Authority Elements
I suggest taking the point of view of someone who doesn’t know a darn thing about your business. Ideally, you’ve got their immediate attention with an engaging video, images and a core message that speaks directly to them. If you’ve at least done that part well, they’ll stick around a bit longer and explore your offerings further. Here’s where that trust building really begins.
Great testimonials are one of the best ways to earn trust. But seldom do I see tourism operators using them effectively. Often they are buried on the website, and hard to find, or are so vague “Amazing trip!” that they are of little value. Here’s where knowing your guest personas and key points of differentiation comes in so you can be using testimonials strategically. If you’ve done your customer research and ideal client interviews, for example, and you know that your guests come back again and again for the knowledgeable guides who are the best in the industry, for god sakes use that in those testimonials.
When you use testimonials this way, it’s like your trusted guests are speaking directly to your prospects about what they care about most.
Another way of gaining trust, especially in the B2B space, is with case studies. While these might not be as common in the tourism industry, they can be a powerful means of gaining trust. Does your operation host corporate retreats or events? If so, a case study can be a great way to connect with this buyer persona. I’ve also seen this done very well with tour operators that offer educational, training or goal-oriented trips, like road cycling tours, expeditions or photo safaris. Show your prospects the results your past guests achieved to earn their trust.
The goal here is to build your authority in your niche, to position your business as the industry leader. One of the best ways to do this is with press and awards. Working with travel media, and producing stories in top-tier publications, is a HUGE way to gain trust with your audience. With an effective tourism PR program, this is possible. Show off some of those publications right on your home page, with the logos and links to the actual stories on a dedicated media page.
Closely related to press are industry awards. These can be a lot of work, but can pay huge dividends if you win a major contest. Depending on your niche and destination, Tripadvisor awards can be a great place to start. Again, show them off on your home page.
Use Trust to get Them on Your List
When it comes to showing off trust elements, I recommend using only a few. Three great testimonials, three to five of your best press publications and an award or two are generally all you need to warm up those cold visitors to the point where you’ve earned their trust and they will stay around. The next step should be to get them on your mailing list. One of the best ways to do this is to offer them something they’d be interested in enough to give their email to get. We call this a lead magnet. Since you’ve already earned their trust, this step should be easy. Some ideas here are Trip Planners, Catalogs or Destination Guides. If they get on your list, you can gather some contact info and warm them up further with a great email marketing sequence and regular newsletters.
Affiliations and Partnerships
What if you don’t have any press articles, few or no reviews and no awards to show off and earn trust? Here I recommend using some easier ways to build trust. Are you a member of your local tourism board or DMO? What about your industry or guiding associations? Got any gear or pro-deals? Get permission first, and then show off some of those affiliations and their brand trust will rub off on your business too.
Results from Gaining Trust
Whether on your home page or a landing page for ads, trust elements help convert cold traffic into warm leads. We generally see more than 2X improvement in conversions after incorporating trust elements into marketing for clients. Of course, going out and getting high-value press articles, winning awards and getting great testimonials is a lot of work, but it might be the best thing you can do for marketing your tourism business.
If you need any help building trust into your customer journey, our team at Aventur Marketing has years of experience growing direct bookings for luxury tour operators with strategic marketing and PR programs.
Contact us for a free consultation.