Repeat Business: How Tour Operators Create Loyal Customers

Jessica Malnik
Jessica Malnik
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Repeat Business: How Tour Operators Create Loyal Customers

Why should you cultivate repeat visitors?

Carolyn Crouch of Washington WalksThis is Carolyn, the founder of Washington Walks. She’s got a popular walking tour that’s been showcasing D.C.’s most famous sites since 1999. Even with the Capital attracting more visitors than ever, for Carolyn, engaging repeat customers is at the crux of her business. We all know it’s easier to sell to an old client than to a new one, so how do tour operators keep hometown fans coming back time and again?

Cultivating customer loyalty is important for two key reasons: First of all, many tour providers experience drastic seasonal fluctuations, and in hard times, having a solid clientele can go a long way when riding out the storm. A report by Manta/BIA Kelsey found that a repeat customer spends 67% more than a new customer. Ultimately, repeat business provides stability.

Infographic repeat customers

Secondly, beyond the direct financial gains repeat customers bring, they cash in far more indirectly as cheerleaders. Hooking repeat clientele means you’ll have people singing your praises from the rooftops–or more likely, broadcasting their awesome experience to their friends or across social media. Think: lots of potential new customers. In this sense, carefully cultivating repeat customers not only strengthens their own loyalties, but it also could drive in new clients, thereby adding more fuel to the fire. Focusing on repeats doesn’t have to mean that business stagnates. If you’re doing it right, it’ll be like adding a whole crew of sales reps to your team.

Infographic repeat customers

It’s worth noting that some tour operators may score more from a different customer segment. Not every tour is structured to attract repeat visitors. But if you’re in a highly visible, metropolitan area, and local traffic forms an important chunk of your business, then no amount of energy is ever wasted on engaging MVP repeats.

How can you entice first-timers to be repeats?

Now that you’ve read a little about the ways in which repeat customers can boost business, let’s talk about how to go identifying these diamonds in the rough. One way is to take the “Show me the Money” approach. According to a study by SumAll, the more a customer spends on her first visit, the more likely she is to come back. That means that with each transaction you make (especially if they’re significant purchases), that customer demonstrates a decreased willingness to shop elsewhere. Tip: Identify the customers with the highest lifetime value and target them for special offers or other engagement. Once you’ve singled out your repeat or potential repeat customers, make a note of it in your booking software. Create a tag like #repeat to be able to easily search and filter through your list of clients.

Long-time, loyal patrons can reap significant dividends. This brings up an important piece of business advice: never offer your first experience free. As the data shows, repeat customers are cultivated through an initial, meaningful investment in your business. A better marketing practice might be to offer the second experience free, which is more likely to make a repeat customer out of them. This approach might form the foundations for a long-term loyalty program, which we’ll talk more about in the next section.

Infographic: Customers are likelier to come back if they spend more on their first interaction

Now let’s say that you’ve identified those big spenders that are likely to be repeat customers, the next step is to cultivate their loyalty. It’s important to engage them in a personal and interesting way tailored to their specific values. What about your experience keeps them coming back? If you don’t know, do not be afraid to ask. Communication is key when it comes to meaningful engagement. You could send them a questionnaire after their experience, or have a guide informally probe during the tour. Knowing what your target audience wants is an invaluable asset, never assume it’s what you think it is.

Calling all repeat customers

After nailing your target demographic for repeat business, there’s no shortage of online resources out there for customizing calling campaigns, emails, or holiday gifts to match the volume and preferences of your audience.

Infographic repeat customers

What about loyalty programs? For Carolyn at Washington Walks, her “Walkabout Card” is a no-brainer. The card is a great way to get die-hard locals coming back, some have even gone through two of them! But what’s even better about loyalty programs like this one is that they offer a creative platform for not only engaging your reliable repeat customers, but also those on the fringes. A loyalty card does not only have to give a free walk, after all, it can be an access card for all kinds of events, deals, and exclusive offerings. You could host an end-of-year party and invite all the people that have filled out their loyalty cards. Or you could partner with another local attraction and invite everyone that’s at all purchased a card.Washington Walks's customer loyalty card

Depending on your volume of customers and the number of repeats you have, it’s easy to tailor loyalty perks to fit your time and financial restraints. An easy way to accommodate high volumes of repeat customers is by incorporating your loyalty program into social media calls to action or campaigns. Can you envision your customers posing with their cards in front of the Hollywood sign, the Brooklyn Bridge, or the Washington Monument? An all out photo-posting war is at your fingertips, just by leveraging your loyalty program as an exciting, fun, and rewarding club for established and potential repeat customers. If you want to get even deeper into all things loyalty programs, check out this HubSpot article.

VIP: Very Insightful Participants

Repeat customers are your VIPs. As Carolyn attests, “they’re great sources of customer and ‘industry’ knowledge. We can’t be everywhere and it’s great to talk to them and get their perspectives about the best ways to explore a city.” Whether your company offers walking tours, operates a high-energy zipline course, or runs the yoga studio on the corner, repeat customers are a source of wealth, knowledge, and ultimately, life for your business.

 

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Writer Jessica Malnik

Jessica Malnik

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