What makes your tour business special? How do customers recognize you? You want your customers to see your unique attributes and book with you instead of your competitors. But are you making it easy for them?
That’s where branding comes in.
Branding is how you set yourself apart. It’s why you think of McDonald’s when you see red and yellow together. It’s how you know you’re reading a Tourism Tiger blog post right now. And it’s how tourists know that you’re you.
A general rule of thumb is that people need to be exposed to your ad seven times(opens in a new tab) before they buy from you. It’s also true that people are likely searching for tours in your area when they see your ads. I can’t imagine too many people accidentally look at tours half a world away. Your branding is how you make sure that your potential customers attribute those exposures to you. When they see your colors and logo on travel agency websites or TripAdvisor, their brain logs it as your tour company, not just any ol’ tour in your area.
Aside from the advertising benefits, a properly branded company just looks better. Picture a company with a nice coordinated look: logos on documents, easily identifiable staff, a website with a uniform look throughout, etc. Now picture their competitor with two different logo designs on their documents (need to use up the old letterhead!), nothing identifiable about staff, and a website from 1997. Who are you going to trust with your money and safety?
It’s not fair. We don’t know anything about those two companies. Maybe the second one has actually been awarded Best Tour Company in the World, but perception is everything. This is especially true in tourism where you’re not going to get a lot of repeat business.
What does a tour operator need to successfully brand his company?
When you’re ready to effectively brand your company, it’s a good idea to consult an expert. Tourism Tiger’s new branding service(opens in a new tab) was created especially for tour operators. Using a professional service will make your logo and color scheme stand out, but that’s not the end of the story.
Whether you use a professional branding service or do it yourself, you need to unify your look. It should be cohesive among all of your products and services, and it should be unique to you. This goes a long way toward making customers feel secure with you.
When you’re getting started with your new or improved brand identity, you need to identify everything you use with customers. Your receipts. Your emails. Clothing on tours. Everything. These should all be uniform, or at least cohesive. Anyone who sees your staff should be able to immediately recognize them as yours. The same goes for everything. Add your logo to your email signature. Use your company colors and fonts for your brochures.
Put that logo and those colors on everything.
This goes for people too. Maybe you don’t want to spend money to get logoed shirts made for all of your staff. That’s okay! But if you choose not to, you should have something to identify them as staff. Have them all wear shirts of the same color (one from your logo!), give them hats, or choose some other way to distinguish them. Similarly, you might not want to pay someone to paint your logo as a wall mural, but you can paint your office in one of your colors.
Moving on to social media. Platforms such as Facebook or Instagram don’t allow a lot of room for branding, but you can still do some things with them. Use your logo for your profile picture. Use your colors throughout your photos. Your brand identity includes your voice as well. Write your posts in a way that reflects the rest of your content, both online and off.
Which brings us to your content and the tone you use.
What is your voice? Professional and corporate? Friendly and casual? Make a choice and use it whenever possible. Of course, your friendly and casual tone won’t necessarily work when telling a customer you won’t be able to give them the ridiculous refund they’re requesting. (“What do you mean I have to know how to ride a bike to take a bike tour?!”)
Using your chosen voice as much as you can achieves two goals: one, it unifies your writing in the same way that your logo and colors unify your look. Two, it sets the tone for your company. If you present yourself as the serious fact-filled tour, you’re going to attract people looking for long explanations and who will have a million questions. That’s great if that’s who you are. It’s less great if your tours are full of jokes and pop culture references.
What is your font? Print all of your documents using that font (same style, same color, same size). Use it on your website. Make people think of your tour company when they see Times New Roman (please don’t actually use Times New Roman)!
Your branding doesn’t have to be perfect, especially not if you’re just getting started with it. But if you follow these tips, you’ll be well ahead of a lot of other companies.
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