Photo marketing is a powerful tool for tour and activity operators to use to grow their business. If used correctly it can inspire travel, attract new customers to your business and generate additional revenue.
PicThrive is leading the photo marketing space for tour and activity operators with 10s of millions of photos sold and shared and getting its clients ranked #1 on TripAdvisor.
Why read? Photo marketing, when done right, can help you outpace your peers. Learn how to use photos to inspire travel and to get more customers in the door.
What is Photo Marketing?
A tour and activity operator is able to capture photos of their guests while they are on the experience. The guest then buys those photos and shares them with their friends and family. By sharing, your guest is marketing your tour and activity business for you. In addition, the tour and activity operator is able to use the revenue from photo sales to invest in their business.
Step 1: Setup for Success
High-quality photos of your guests and their experience is what is needed to drive photo marketing success. A photo isn’t going to give you super powers unless you put energy into it. A good photo will start a conversation. It will tell the story of their experience with your business – a picture is worth a thousand words after all. A bad photo will tell a bad story regardless of what anyone says about the experience. The words do not match reality. A great photo gives your guests comments life.
We recommend using a high-quality camera to take photos and to capture moments that your guests can’t get themselves with it. You’ll need to capture the peak moments of your experience Ie. the adrenaline pumping action shots. Make sure you can see their smiling faces! Just like our 5 Fundamentals of great tour and activity photos shows.
A cellphone is never going to get you quality your current or future guests want. It’s only able to successfully take a staged close up shot. The only people that care about that are the people in the photo, not the ones booking a trip. It’s a photo that they can get themselves with their own phone. Why do they need your photo, with your branding?
Quality photos are important for Airbnb and Turo (the Airbnb of car rentals). Hosts saw 24% more bookings and 40% increases in earnings when using high-quality photos (source). They could also charge 26% higher prices when they used great photos.
“Taking a few shots with your phone is different than a professional shoot” with proper equipment and training, he said. It’s also about marketing: “We’re trying to sell the adventure here.”
Thomas Rueby, Turo Photographer
Value to the Customer
You want the customer to feel attached to their photos. If the photo is of little value to your customer, then there is no reason or motivation for them to share it. When someone shares to social media, they are showcasing their own personal brand to their friends. Value for photos comes in two categories for your guests – quality and investment.
Investment in their photos comes from buying and living them. It’s the same with wine, people perceive cheap wine to be of low quality and not something they will show off to friends. Consumers have the habit of investing and buying great photos and they proudly showcase them. They buy their wedding photos, school photos and staged family photos. Ones while on vacation are no exception. Photos are memories of their best experiences and if you take a high quality one, they will buy it. You’re also putting the investment into getting the perfect photo of your guests and the consumer will value that highly!
A customer that invests in a product is more involved in its success and engaged.
The same cannot be said if photos are provided free. It impacts both the photo quality and the consumer’s mind set. There is low effort put into taking free photos and it results in low-quality photos. Why would a guide care if their work has no value? Consumers that receive them for free are getting a product that isn’t perceived as quality and they aren’t motivated to share them. Furthermore, they may be coming in with higher expectations from previous experiences and then leave disappointed when those are not met.
With your customers buying your high-quality photos, you’ll have advocates that are highly invested in your business and experience. They will have a great product that they will be sharing because they actually care about it.
Make it Easy
Your guests have a great experience and they want to share it. So they buy the photos they couldn’t get themselves. These customers will be even more invested in showing off their adventure, giving even more publicity to your brand. They are your happiest customers and they are now empowered, via PicThrive, to be your biggest advocates.
USBs and CDs are not going to enable photo marketing. Consumers want instant access to view and share on their mobile devices to their favorite social networks. Having a logo on your USB or CD, or even a branded USB is not going to get you photo marketing. USBs and CDs also make it long and difficult for customers to buy their photos. At the end of the week, when a guest finally gets home, and can plug the USB into their computer. The next thing they do is throw the USB in trash or a drawer to never be seen again. Guests aren’t getting their photos and as a result you’ll have lower sales. Overall, it’s a poor guest experience and it requires many staff members to keep up.
Via PicThrive your customers will receive their photos on their phone allowing them to quickly and easily share to their favorite social networks. When friends and family see the photos they are taken to photo galleries with your branding on them. They can directly tie the memory and excitement of their friend to your brand. It is so easy for your guests to share that they will be showing it off while still running on adrenaline and before they get to the parking lot.
By using PicThrive you’re able to quickly and easily sell photos to your guests immediately after an experience. It’s a great guest experience and staff can be involved in greeting guests rather than in burning CDs or USBs. It’s made fast and easy for both you, your staff and your guests.
“PicThrive is easy to operate, our guests love it and sales are very strong. The support from the PicThrive staff is impressive.”
Julie Smith, Owner, Adventures Unlimited
Step 2: Get Bookings from Photo Marketing
Now that you have high-value photos being easily shared by your best customers, you’re ready for photo marketing. Let’s see how photo marketing gets you more bookings by exploring the customer journey.
Photos in the Customer Journey
FareHarbor, which has generated billions in bookings for tour and activity operators, recently wrote about Mapping the Customer’s Digital Journey and we recommend reading it. They detailed how consumers go about booking their experiences and where photos fit into that journey.
Photos are used in the Dreaming stage according to FareHarbor. This is the stage where consumers are being inspired about where to go and what to do. This is your chance to grab the customers attention. Your goal is to be front and center, and photo marketing can boost that.
With PicThrive photos are easily shared with marketing tools showing off your brand. These tools help you be readily discovered. Best of all, you will have the best advocates showcasing your experience. Your happy, invested, guests are fully engaged with you. These highly motivated individuals break through the clutter on social media because they are invested in their photos, your brand and your experience.
If your best customers sharing their experiences is not enough, you have one more superpower. Your photo sales pay for themselves and some. Your profits can be spent on other marketing campaigns. Putting you ahead of your competitors. This includes other spots where your future customers are Dreaming: search, SEO, distribution channels, paid search, social media ads, blogs… The possibilities of showcasing your brand go on.
Great! You have inspired their travel but, according to FareHarbor, you haven’t actually got a booking yet. This is when the customer starts doing their research and for families, it all starts with search. It’s important to ensure you are heavily in this channel and that includes Google and TripAdvisor. They are looking for things to do while they are at a chosen location. You want to rank highest and that comes with reviews, SEO and ads.
With PicThrive’s marketing tools, you’re able to generate reviews and rank higher. Remember, the quantity of reviews is not going to get you ranked higher. The quality, reach and linked photos all matter. Low effort reviews do not help. People are going to be reading and wanting to learn about the actual experience itself. It’s important that your best customers are writing reviews and you’re making it easy for them to do so.
It appears that TripAdvisor and Google are giving priority to companies that make their tours available for booking. Having your tours available in these channels can help generate you more bookings. It’s where the consumer is making buyer decisions and the channel is giving you priority.
There is another way to rank higher in search and it’s called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). For SEO, you’ll also need a quality website and content that people can find when searching. If you’re not ranked high or you want to get priority on search terms, you can advertise to capture traffic.
With tour photos shared via PicThrive, you can also rank higher in SEO using our marketing tools. It’ll give your website more clout as quality content is being shared and interacted with by your best customers.
Millennials use social media at a higher rate to look for travel options than other demographics. Having a quality presence there is important too if you want to attract them. You’ll want to invest in targeted ads and promoted posts to break through the clutter and get in-front of your best customers. With an easy way for you to tell who your best guests are, you’re in a good place with PicThrive. You’ll also have your best customers telling their story on social media with only one click.
An important takeaway is that, according to MOZ, is that your strategy should not be a function of the quantity of traffic, but of quality. Engagement rates matter in ranking higher in SEO. If you have high engagement you will rank higher. Your best customers are going to be the ones who engage more.
How are you going to fund those ads to rank higher in SEO and target your best customers on social media? As a result of guests buying photos your business will be generating additional revenue. You can use that cash to invest in additional targeted marketing to capture even more customers. It’ll allow you to pick up more customers than just photo sharing alone. You can create target advertising campaigns on social media and search to capture more attention from the right types of customers for your business. Your reach will go much deeper and further than your competitors.
To attract more of your best customers you have to identify them. PicThrive helps you filter through the clutter to objectively identify your best customers. Do not be misguided by vanity metrics like Facebook Post Likes that do not impact your business. PicThrive uses objective metrics, like real purchases, to help you identify your best customers.
Those that bought photos loved your experience and spent the most at your business. Now you can get more of those like-minded people in the door and watch your business grow.
Additionally, by selling photos you have placed a value on them. In doing so, you can use it as a tool to turn unhappy customers into happy ones. This can be done by providing photos for free or at a discount as compensation for the negative experience. You’ll then save a negative review from appearing because you have changed their mind!
You can grow faster if you continually bring in your best customers.
Your hard work is paying off!
You’ve made it easy for your best guests to get their great tour photos in front of future customers. It’s inspired travel for the next guest. You’ve generated great online reviews so that when people do research your experience stands out.
With revenue from photo sales, you’re running targeted marketing campaigns. You’re also doing paid search and optimizing your SEO. You’re going further than your competitors in getting in front of consumers when they research experiences.
By focusing on quality right at the beginning it’s made it easier for you to break through the clutter and attract the best customers. You’re in a good place for when the customer starts to book.
In the planning stage, consumers start to see how your tour or activity will fit into their travel plans and then start comparing their options.
According to Shoppercentric, the experts in shopper insights, managing director Danielle Pinnington says, “retailers that take a stand on a specific issue, such as quality or price, better differentiate themselves in shoppers’ minds – this is vital since shoppers have access to so many different retailers nowadays.”
Consumers do a cost analysis, weighing if the experience is worth the cost compared to others that do something similar. By showcasing the high value that customer will get out of your experience all the way through the customer journey, you will stick out from the pack.
Your best customers have been advocating the details about the tour experience itself. It’ll attract people that want to experience the same exhilarating adventure. You need to differentiate on the actual experience you provide on the tour for people to want to go on it.
If tour pricing is a factor in your marketing strategy, photos can help there too. Great photos helped Airbnb and Turo charge more and as you’ve showcased yours all the way through the customer journey, you’ve built additional value.
If you want to compete on price, which is even more important now that TripAdvisor is taking company names out of its listing. You can do so by selling photos. This is because you can make up the difference via your photo revenue stream and improved marketing.
Furthermore, as you’ve assigned a value to your photos, you’re able to negotiate with large groups. You can provide photos rather than digging deep into discounting your ticket prices. This ensures that you’re able to maintain your ticket margins.
Photo marketing has helped you build value throughout the customer journey. It has helped you price strategically to attract the best type of customers for your business. It has helped you showcase the best of your experience.
To drive more bookings you’ll need to showcase the high-quality content of your experience. The better you showcase the experience the better your conversion rates. Hotels have shown us that by having high-quality photos, their online bookings increased. Airbnb used to send professional photographers to get photos of the places because of the positive impact of great photos has on bookings.
Quality photos of the experience, not free amenities, pushed earnings 40% higher and generated 24% more bookings for Airbnb hosts (source). It also allowed the hosts to charge 26% higher prices.
Finding and using high-quality photos in your booking flow and your website will be simple now that you have great ones easily accessible with PicThrive
“It’s the best way for people to immediately share their experience with the world, while automatically increasing our exposure and bookings!”
Kelly, Manager, WestCoast Wild
Step 3 – During The Experience – Capture Quality Photos
This is where the magic happens and sets the stage for the success of your photo marketing. It is important to make photos part of the experience and follow the 5 Fundamentals that PicThrive has learned by capturing millions of photos and working with operators all over the world. These include taking group photos, capturing photos that your guests can’t get themselves and having photos for your guests that showcase the best of their experience on your tour.
The quality of the photo matters to your guests as it’s their personal brand that they will be showing off. Plus better photos translates to more people buying tours and the tour media!
The photo taking process needs to be made part of the experience and we’ve written a guide here to help you. This is really simple and starts with an introduction of your photographer to your guests. The more personable the photographer the better experience it is for your guests. Imagine having your own personal photographer capturing you in your happiest moments!
Contact PicThrive at email@example.com to learn more about the best practices on how to integrate photos into the experience and take photos that guests want. We love to share best practices. We can dive into your current operations and help you provide industry-leading experience for your guests.
Step 4 – Sharing Drives Photo Marketing
Your guests want to show off their experience in an easy way. Unfortunately, CDs and USBs aren’t able to provide photo marketing in the digital journey. Your guests have to wait to find a computer, sometimes weeks later, to view their content. New laptops don’t even have regular USB slots anymore. Then the guests have to download to a computer, upload to the cloud and then share. They are no longer running on the adrenaline of the adventure and are probably frustrated because of how hard it is to share the experience. They are used to sharing quickly from their phones.
With PicThrive your guests will be able to quickly view, share and review their experience from their phones before they even reach the parking lot.
As you have focused on providing high-quality photos using a real camera, your best content is going to be telling your story to thousands. Furthermore, as your customers have invested in their photos by buying them, they are more committed to showing you off and telling their story about the experience you provided. You have your best customers telling the world about you using high-quality content that matches what people are saying.
With PicThrive you’ll be able to access all your photos because your account comes with free unlimited hosting. You can quickly grab your favorite photos and use it for your booking software or for marketing material be that social, print or online. You’ll have great stories to share too!
With PicThrive’s marketing tools you are going to ensure that both your content and customers are able to easily tell their story about you and that you’re able to be found by new customers. With the proceed from photo sales, you can invest further in your marketing than your competitors to capture even more customers throughout the customer journey than sharing alone.
“Working with PicThrive is one of the best moves as a business we have made.”
Jimmy, Royal Gorge Rafting and Zip Line Tours