Starting an inbound service? Here's how technology can help you.

Travel companies, agents usually operate in their specialized zone or provide particular service. Some provide domestic tour service, many of them provide international outbound group tour service, and few concentrate only on specialized tours like hiking or cycling tour etc. Whatever your area is, if you are thinking of starting an inbound business, which by the way sounds very exciting, obviously requires lot of preparation. Being a travel company yourself, you know the challenges and risks of starting a new service and serving entirely different set of customers. Here in this article, we explore how technology would help in starting and managing an inbound service.

Define your market

- When you start an inbound service, technically the whole world is your customer; however, you still need to narrow down on the 'sectors' you are going to deal with. For example, you could focus on North America, or Europe or Australia but not all at once. Do your research using various online tools to find out which people are interested in your region most; government sites can also help to gather information on inbound tourism. You can also check with B2B2C portals in your country as well as other countries to find out which sectors are developing an interest in your market.

Target your customers

- Once you have figured out which area you are going to focus; you would need to start your marketing campaigns in that direction. If you want to directly deal with your potential customers instead of a B2B agent, you would require a digital marketing strategy to directly reach your audience. You need to employ a comprehensive strategy that includes combination of SEO, Social media management, CPC campaigns, Email campaigns, paid/organic content management etc. Hire an agency that would help you in designing and executing the campaigns.

A separate portal for inbound business

- You already have a website, why build another one? Once you start your marketing campaign, customers would start visiting your website and if it's an existing website which caters a different market and service, your potential customers are going to be confused and leave the website. You need a separate website or at least landing pages, that has different look and feel targeted for your new customer segment. How you build this portal is up to your business model and budget. It may have following features -

* Content - explaining tours, locations, stays, other services
* Online booking form, registration form
* Online payment facility
* Booking engine integration for direct booking
* Chatbots
* Customer login and self-service portal

Know your customers

- Since you are now serving an entirely new market, you need to understand your customers first; their habits, food, expected service etc. Having a CRM like tool to record your customers and their information is recommended to share the information across your organization and for better service management.

Options, flexibility and transparency

- If you are targeting a direct customer inflow through your website and digital marketing, then having various options, flexibility and transparency is required to gain trust. After all you are targeting customers you will only meet after they have booked a tour with you. In most cases, you will never meet them face to face unless their tour plan includes visit to your city! Hence, the key to the success lies in consistency and transparency in the information and services you provide and various cost factors involved at different stages of booking and actual tour. Keep your website, email communication, offline communication and mobile apps consistent with correct information.

Engage with your customers

- Once your customers have decided to book a tour with you, from then until they finish the tour and return to their country, you can engage with them in different ways and means. Here are some useful ideas and tips -

1. Send an online version of their itinerary and tour plan, where they can see all the information in a consolidated format with photos, maps and more.
2. Decide a checklist or milestone list when you would touch base with your customers with updated information or just check for feedback etc.
3. Have an advanced tool like a mobile app, which they can use while they are on the tour; to keep all the information on their fingertips.
4. Get feedback/photos and reciprocate in case of any troubles with positive tone. Not all problems can be corrected or handled remotely but to extend a helping hand and an assurance to rectify would definitely help.


- You must be already doing this, but this is extremely crucial for the inbound business. If you can get videos of those feedback and post on the website, that would increase the conversion rate multiple times!