Co-Founder & CEO
Hi, I’m Max. I’m a co-founder and CEO at 10x Travel. We help tour operators and travel companies grow profits on autopilot using smart technology, without hiring more staff for your in-house marketing team.
According to one study, it’s an average of 38.
Competition is fierce online, and it’s only going to get tougher in 2019...
Which means it’s now more crucial than ever for your travel business to respond as quickly as possible to initial inquiries, in order to stand out from the crowd.
Speed of response is now a key factor in how many online leads a tour operator converts into sales.
But if you’re concerned about what that means for your business, there is some good news:
Because it’s now much easier than ever to leap ahead of your competitors and use speedy responses to boost your bottom line.
By just following a couple of simple steps, you can take advantage of digital technology and do what most of your competitors aren’t.
More on that in a moment, but first, an experiment:
Here at 10x Travel we recently decided to put our industry to the test… And we found that a shocking 89% of tour operators failed to do the single most important thing when a prospective booker contacts them for the first time.
It’s all about when and how you respond...
A Harvard Business Review investigation found that the most important time to follow-up with a new lead was inside the first HOUR.
And what’s more, businesses who waited more than an hour to respond to an initial enquiry were 7 times LESS likely to get a reply from the prospect.
That’s a lot of lost leads – and potential sales disappearing, simply because a business was too slow to respond (or didn’t respond at all).
What about the tour industry we work in? Are travel companies making the same mistakes?
So we ran an experiment to find out. The results were pretty eye-opening….
We sent an online enquiry to 960 different multi-day tour operators (each with an estimated minimum monthly website traffic of 5,000 visits).
Then we waited.
What happened inside that all-important first hour?
Only 11% of tour companies replied to our initial enquiry.
Which means just 106 of the 960 potential leads in our experiment would be likely to progress further.
The rest – 854 potential leads, all representing raised hands interested in booking a tour – would most likely end up lost to a competitor, or simply give up and move on.
But as you’ll see, there are simple steps you can take to make speedy responses to initial inquiries easier, and actually turn an industry-wide problem to your advantage.
The landscape of world travel has changed dramatically over the last 20-30 years. The internet has revolutionized our industry...
In a connected world where instant communication is the norm, and travellers often research trips online for hours before booking, tour operators are expected to respond to enquiries almost immediately.
What complicates things is that unlike in many other industries, contact in the travel industry is rarely a singular event.
Often it takes a combination of multiple emails and telephone calls before an initial enquiry is converted into a booking. But the first point of contact is the most crucial, as it sets the tone for the relationship a company will build with their client.
Given the wide range of queries travel companies receive on a daily basis, the problem they face is how to engage with and manage them.
And with the average traveller now visiting 38 sites on average when researching their trip, if they make an enquiry to multiple companies then the earliest to respond will have first mover advantage.
While that may be the right approach, in practice it’s surprising how few tour operators are getting this right.
Here’s how the tour operators we contacted responded (or in some cases, didn’t):
|Time taken to respond (minutes)||No. of companies||Percentage of total (%)|
|Within 5 minutes (0 - 5)||50||5.2|
|Within 1 hour (5 - 60)||56||5.8|
|Within 1 day (60 - 1,440)||416||43.3|
|Within 5 days (1,440 - 7,200)||162||16.9|
|5+ days / No Response (> 7,200)||249||26|
|No Email or Enquiry Form||27||2.8|
|Follow Up Action Taken||No. of companies||Percentage of total (%)|
|No Response to Enquiry||229||23.9%|
|No Follow Up Sent||573||59.7%|
|Follow Up Emails Sent||158||16.5%|
In our experiment, only 11% of the tour operators we contacted responded within an hour of a first enquiry.
In fact, more than twice as many took over 5 days to reply, or didn’t reply at all…
A shocking statistic when you consider how tour operators often invest large sums in online advertising, websites and other lead generation – only to let the leads that do come in slip away from them.
While over half of the 960 companies we contacted responded within 24 hours, that also highlights the competition each faces when a single enquirer contacts multiple companies at roughly the same time.
In reality, even the 43% who took between 1 and 24 hours to respond would likely have lost out to the faster-moving 11% who replied inside the first hour.
So, what can your company do to avoid losing leads this way, and even strengthen your position in the market with smarter follow-ups?
At 10x Travel, we help ambitious tour operators grow using cutting edge digital marketing and sales funnels.
One way we do this is to implement an automated follow-up system that helps tour companies convert first enquiries into solid sales.
This allows them to not only steal a march on their competitors by responding as quickly as possible – almost instantly, in some cases – but to do so with personalized messaging that increases the likelihood of conversion.
We’ve done this for dozens of our partner companies over the past few years, and they’ve reaped the rewards – even if they’d struggled with responses and follow-ups before…
Because it’s not just about how fast you are – it’s also about having a process (you can find out more about our process here).
So here’s 5 simple tips you can take to outpace and outsmart your competition, and convert more leads online:
When it comes to online inquiries, the single most important thing you can do to optimize your response time is to automate it. But that doesn’t just mean sending a “thanks for your inquiry, we’ll get back to you in 24 hours” email...
This is your opportunity to respond to your prospect’s initial interest and leverage their excitement at planning their trip.
So your automated response should feel like a meaningful message from a real person, personalized to the needs the traveller expressed in their inquiry.
For instance, you can share some related resources they can explore, to set the expectation that a longer, more tailored response is on its way.
This buys your sales team valuable time, and engages the prospect by ensuring they feel heard and acknowledged, rather than ignored – and crucially, reduces the chances of them exploring your competitors in the meantime.
Optimized, automated inquiry responses are a key part of our systems here at 10x Travel. We use a series of personalized emails to help our tour company partners convert more initial inquiries into qualified leads and sales.
If you’re interested in doing this for your tour operator business, click here to schedule a free call and we’ll walk you through how our automation process can work for you too.
The most successful email communication isn’t just responsive, it positions your company as a recognized resource, so your emails get opened each time they land in a prospect’s inbox.
Email courses and drip-fed content let you establish expertise, educating and engaging prospective customers in the interests that initially brought them to your site.
As mentioned in #1, invitations and links to useful content or resources are a great way to reignite a conversation, by delighting your on-the-fence leads with something of value for free...
But it’s a balancing act – too much information in an email risks losing your prospect’s attention. In reality it takes the right info, not the most to move a conversation forward.
So if you can introduce something of interest and then offer to disclose more when you hear back from them, you greatly increase your chances of getting a response.
Lead response isn’t just about speed – it’s also about persistence.
One MIT study found that it takes up to 10 follow-ups to maximise the chance of making contact (the sweet spot is 6 attempts), leaving around 2 days between contact attempts.
Shorter emails with a particular purpose or action required, gain attention much more than a ‘just checking in’. As mentioned above in #2, the aim is to form a relationship that provides value to the prospect.
InsideSales.com produced an useful infographic that illustrates well the best follow-up practices including frequency and contact channels.
The study in #3 above also supports the importance of multi-channel communication, showing how the chance to engage a prospect in conversation increases by 166% when three communication methods are used rather than just one.
The most common combination is email and a telephone call. A simple voicemail followed later by an email saying you tried contacting them show you care about hearing from your potential customers.
This simple multi-channel process allows you to build credibility and show you’re keen to go the extra mile for them.
The most effective way to get a response to an email is to offer a single, clear call to action.
The more you can focus your prospect on one clear action, the less decision-making they have to do, and the more likely they are to take that step.
Be clear about establishing exactly what information you need from them in order keep the conversation moving forward.
This is best done in the form of ONE single question at the end of the message, to give your prospect a clear step while reading your email, when it’s harder to ignore.
Pre-qualifying your leads using an optimized enquiry form would improve things
Of course, if you feel your company has too few sales opportunities there may be other issues at play, such as enquiry form errors...
Your enquiry process may be too complex, and could be putting people off from completing it (especially if they’re contacting an average of 38 different companies!)
Or your contact form may be too general, which can make it difficult to sort through all the enquiries and decide which leads to prioritize. If you’re regularly receiving too many enquiries to manage, it’s likely that pre-qualifying your leads using an optimized enquiry form would improve things.
If you’ve experienced issues like these, or want to know more about how you can automate your enquiry responses to avoid losing leads, 10x Travel can help you...
Optimized, automated follow-ups are a key part of our systems for turning leads into sales for successful tour companies, and we’ve been helping businesses like yours since 2012.
To schedule a free strategy session and find out more about how our process can work for YOUR tour operator business, just click the button below and we’ll share what we know with you.