Segmentation.  It’s a common marketing term with a wide range of definitions, scope and application. At its core, segmentation means placing your customers and prospects into various groups, or “buckets”, in order to market to them more effectively. 

At larger firms I’ve seen these buckets number in the thousands – in other words, thousands of pieces of information related to each person, collected from hundreds of different sources.  Everything from gender, to annual household income, to magazine subscriptions – the data available out there is seemingly endless. 

The good news is, as an experience provider, there’s really no need to go to this depth in your marketing efforts.  It’s much simpler than the big firms will tell you.  But it is immensely important – and here’s why.

It’s all about telling your customers and prospects a story.  And not just any story – a story that is customized for their individual persona.  And with email marketing, it’s particularly important.  Nobody likes boilerplate, generalized broadcasts. It’s nearly 2020 after all. 

Email marketing is far from dead. In fact, it’s still one of the most effective ways to convert – but it has to be done correctly.   

Here are four ways that experience providers can begin to segment their audience, and send the targeted, customized message they want to hear.     

Tagging

All email marketing solutions worth their salt offer some sort of tagging.  This just means applying one or more labels to an email to begin to categorize subscribers into various groups or personas.  A very basic example of this for tour companies are tags that communicate what tour or tours were taken in the past. 

On a side note, these tags say very little about when they took the tour, or how many times they’ve taken it.  You just sort of know that they were a customer for some tour at some point.  And that’s better than nothing. 

So at a bare minimum, tag your customers with the name of the tour, even if you have to do this manually.  Most booking systems offer some sort of basic integration out to an email system.  In this case, be sure to move the name of the tour to a tag, along with the customer contact info. 

Custom Field Responses

Here’s where it gets a bit more complicated – and powerful!  Custom fields, or more precisely custom field responses, are answers to the questions asked of your customers.  This can be during the booking process, when electronic waivers are signed, or even in SMS text exchanges. 

Put a lot of thought into the types of questions you’re asking, and do your best to get the responses to these questions moved to your email marketing system in the form of tags.

For example, you may ask the question, “What’s your relationship to New York City?”  And the possible answers might be, “Yo – I’m a New Yorker!”, “I live in the burbs”, “I’m from out of town but visit frequently”, or “I rarely visit NYC”. 

The answer to this simple question tells you much about their persona, and how to market to them.  With a local, you might want to reach out a bit more frequently, and use things like friends and family discounts to drive repeat sales.  Whereas a frequent visitor may require a different cadence and promotional strategy.  For someone who rarely re-visits, consider our strategies for non-repeat buyers.

Or how about the question, “Any special occasion?” with responses like, “Family in Town”, “Girls Night Out”, “Guys Night Out”, “Date Night”, or “No Special Occasion”. 

Think of the type of stories that you could tell with this additional piece of info.  What’s the typical frequency of a girl’s night out?  Once a month – once every two months?  What if you sent a message two months after a customers’ first girls night out that said something like – “We hope you enjoyed your time with the girls on our brew tour!  Is it time to get your party on again?  Check out our distillery tour!”  You’ve reminded them of the fun they had and made them the center, the hero, of a brand new story all in one fell swoop.  Cool, right?

Whatever you do, start collecting this type of information right away, even if you don’t have a way to utilize it just yet.  It will take time to build this type of targeted information, but it won’t build if you don’t start.

Targeted Collection Forms and Lead Magnets

Custom fields are clearly a strategy for your current customers, but how do you segment prospects?   This is where email collection is key. 

A simple, generic contact form on your homepage or newsletter sign up is…..how do I put this….okay.   A better option is customized forms, at a minimum one per tour page, that tells you a little more about who’s signing up. 

The more advanced email marketing solutions will give you the ability to create and manage these forms without any website development, and “pop them up” on your website any place you’d like.  Popups or lightboxes shouldn’t be “in your face,” but should be noticeable.  Additionally, you don’t want the pop up to continue pestering people who have already sign up; it should automatically hide for those visitors.

To take this a step further, use popups that offer one or more lead magnets.  A lead magnet is a piece of information that you offer in exchange for someone’s email address.  This is information that you -the experience provider – can provide as the expert.  So you might offer, “Sign Up Here for a List of the Ten Most Instagramable Street Art in the City”.

Once they sign up, you’ll know a bit more about that person.  They like street art, and perhaps Instagram.  You know what to do next, right?  You guessed it!  Tag them in your email marketing system so that you can use this, and any other information you may have, in order to tell that compelling story.

Browsing History

Lastly, try to utilize their browsing history if you can.  In an advanced email marketing system, those popups we mentioned above will apply a cookie to the prospect ‘s system. This allows you to track and tag what other pages or tours on your site they viewed.  Another side note – this is how you can leverage a browse abandonment email campaign – the ability to send an email when someone as browsed a tour without purchasing. 

This is advanced ecommerce-style marketing, but do-able and affordable with the right tools.

Conclusion

Hopefully you’ve concluded that some sort of segmentation is within your reach, even if you start with a simple approach.  Basic tagging, data integration, and email capture is available in a wide variety of booking, waiver, and email marketing systems.  With the right segmentation, you can move beyond that monthly newsletter to utilize you email list for something much more compelling, and effective.

Sunstone Digital Marketing developed a solution called TourAdvantage™ to help FareHarbor customers implement more advanced segmentation techniques with very little effort up front. In fact, this tool allows you to leverage all four techniques mentioned above.

TourAdvantage is a new turnkey email marketing solution designed just for small to mid-sized for tour operators.

Be the master of big marketing efforts, maximize direct bookings, and position an advantage over other local attractions with larger marketing budgets with:

  • Real-time email and e-commerce integration with FareHarbor
  • 40+ easy to follow video tutorials tailored to the tour operator experience
  • 30+ accelerator workflows and email templates

Watch a demo, and try it free for 30 days.
 
Email marketing will increase your bottom line – and it’s no longer hard or expensive.

Daniel Peterson

Daniel is a career IT and data analytics professional who in 2018 set out on the adventure of a lifetime.
Leaving the corporate world behind (a bizarre domain where a 25 year resident can still feel like a foreigner) Daniel set his sites on full-time travel writing and digital marketing. His plans include building an amazing business or three, maximizing time with his partner for life Lesli and four spectacular kiddos, and writing and delivering dad jokes.