Lead magnets. IFOs. They go by many names and come in different shapes and sizes. But these giveaways can be a crucial tool to inspire a traveler to become a sales lead for a travel advisor, and with the right amount of nurturing, a paying client.
However, for many advisors, creating lead magnets (some kind of free travel content) is mysterious and daunting, and often causes them to never get started.
“For new travel advisors, lead magnets can be a very intimidating project,” said Ashley Metesh-McCoy, owner of Kinship Vacations, in Williamsburg, Virginia. “But email is still the No. 1 conversion tool for digital marketing, so I highly recommend lead magnets to fill your prospect database, so you can close more sales.”
“A large percentage of travel agents are missing out on the opportunity to use a lead magnet because they don’t know how to use it,” said Brenda Young, a marketing strategist who specializes in helping travel agents.
“I don’t know why, in our industry, we haven’t fully taken advantage of them, because if you ask lottery winners what they will do with their winnings, they say, ‘I will travel.’ Travel sells itself. You have to sell you can solve their problems, and lead magnets are a great tool for that.”
Lead magnets can take many forms, from pre-trip checklists to destination reports. A popular lead magnet is packing tips, and many advisors favor personality quizzes that help determine a prospect’s travel style.
Lisa Wood Rossmeissl, owner of Boomerang Escapes, in Old Bridge, New Jersey, currently has seven lead magnets to drive sales leads, including her 15-day and 9-day Australia sample itineraries.
“Lead magnets are especially important for home-based agents because it keeps you top of mind with prospects,” she said.
What should you write about?
When it comes to tip guides and other long-form editorial products, the most daunting element of creating a lead magnet is determining what to write about, said Metesh-McCoy.
“Take a step back, and write out your ideal avatar,” she said, referring to a profile of what a great client looks like. “Assign them a name. Think about where they shop. You need to feel like you are sitting down with the client and chatting with them over a glass of wine, or cup of coffee. This way, when that prospect reads your IFO, they know you have been talking specifically to them.”
Rossmeissl agreed: “I know my avatar reads travel magazines, sailing magazines. They travel a couple times a year. They don’t spend money on cars, but they do spend on convenience services, like Blue Apron. I write with that client in mind.”
Then think about what that ideal client might be looking for, successful agents advised.
“You have to know what your clients want, and develop that for them,” said Margie Lenau’, owner of Wonderland Family Vacations, in Michigan. “It’s about what you sell, what you like to sell, and what the higher commissions are.”
This is one more area where finding a niche helps a travel advisor refine their marketing and sales efforts. “The sky is the limit in this industry, but you want to align it with your niche and target market, and make it appealing enough to grow your email list,” Metesh-McCoy said.
And lead magnets don’t have to be novels. Rossmeissl’s lead magnets vary in length, but average around 3-4 pages. Her Australian wine guide is her second-best converter, and is five pages.
What should it look like?
Once you have determined what you want to produce, the next step is how to create it. For most static editorial products, like packing tips or destination guides, Microsoft Word Documents can be easily converted into Adobe PDFs. Cloud services like Canva.com have PowerPoint templates that also can be saved as PDFs.
Some agents have outsourced their editorial writing and graphic design work to a handful of marketing writers specializing in travel agencies, like Bon Vivant Copy. Others use generic freelance sites, like Fiverr.com, 99designs, or UpWork.
Metesh-McCoy cautioned travel advisors about more generic sites. “If you want the cheapest, you will get a product that may not be what you are looking for because they don’t specialize in travel and what travel advisors do,” she said.
Quizzes are a little more complicated. Static quizzes (say in a PDF form) ask the sales prospect to fill out a form and calculate their responses on their own. That means the agent doesn’t learn anything new about the prospect, unless they share the results with you.
But there are software providers who will do all of that for a travel advisor, like Survey Anyplace, which offers an Outcomes feature through its Professional or Enterprise plans (which start at around $49 per month.) Another option is Outgrow.
Young noted how quizzes can help a travel advisor better target the right content to the right prospect. “If you can segment the prospects by their budget categories – say budget, moderate and luxury – then you can automate what content you send to them and qualify them better.”
Using a quiz could, for example, help an agent understand what style of honeymoon prospects are looking for, she said. “Do they want to relax, be active and go sightseeing, or are they looking for great nightlife?” she said. “A quiz is perfect because I then get to segment those couples, and email them guides based on the experience they wanted.”
Once you have your lead magnet created, how can you promote it to start generating awareness?
The email opt-in pages for Rossmeissl’s lead magnets sometimes are on her main company page, and sometimes on her separate Australia page. Additionally, some of her blogs have a button at end for best packing tips, that directs clients to the lead magnet opt-in page.
To drive prospects who have never visited her site to opt-in, Rossmeissl will link from posts about them on her Facebook page regularly, changing up the photos and images to see what works best.
Given how Facebook has dramatically reduced organic reach for business pages, you may be forced to build paid ads that raise awareness for your lead magnets.
Because of Facebook’s reduced organic reach, Metesh-McCoy has been using Pinterest more, testing different photos and images to see what users are pinning and clicking on. She also uses LinkedIn for lead magnet marketing.
Of course, once you have a lead magnet ready for launch, you need to have tools that both capture email addresses and automate the process for emailing that prospect your follow-up, relevant emails that nurture the prospect through the travel purchase process.
Rossmeissl hosts her opt-in pages with LeadPages.net, a cloud software service that helps entrepreneurs build pages with templates and stock photos. Once a prospect opts in, their email address is added to her database hosted by Drip, which triggers her autoresponder campaign series.
LeadPages.net integrates with most popular email marketing services, like iContact, MailChimp and Constant Contact. This allows travel advisors to build a sequence of automated emails that follow the initial request for the lead magnet. LeadPages.net tracks who clicks and downloads the lead magnet. Drip measures who remains in the campaign, and who opens Rossmeissl’s emails.
For Metesh-McCoy, her full series can be 11 emails long, each about a week apart after opt-in.
“Our first email says, ‘Thanks for requesting.’ Then each new email is a bite-size piece of information about what we can do for you,” she described. These emails may include favorite itineraries, or highlight areas of her website, as well as calls to action and buttons to request a consultation.
Just do it
While leveraging lead magnets can seem daunting, travel advisors and marketing experts urge agents new to the concept to simply try it, and experiment.
“Don’t think your first lead magnet is your ‘one shot’ to get emails and prospects into your list. Put it out there. Work out the kinks, and look at it every six months to see if it is effective, and whether you need to edit it,” Metesh-McCoy said.
“If you find something is not performing, maybe your copy isn’t engaging, or photos. Change it up,” Rossmeissl said. “It could be the channel you used to market the lead magnet. It could be the title isn’t enticing enough. You have to think of all of the variables and test and learn.”
“Potential clients might want new material. The industry changes, new ships, new hotels brands, and that might require you to update your content,” Metesh-McCoy added. “Just do it, and get started.”