Blog & Resources

Useful Free or Low-Cost Software for your Travel Company.

As entrepreneurs, we know how hard it is to run and grow our travel businesses at the same time. Thankfully there are a huge number of free and low-cost apps and software to help us operate more effectively and efficiently. There are also ways to easily outsource a lot of the work we don’t know how to do very well or just don’t want to do ourselves.

When I started my first travel business, like many of you, the only way I could communicate with most of my suppliers was by fax. Our tiny website took us a whole year to build and trip planning happened on huge white sheets of paper stuck around the office. We had Hotmail which was a nightmare if the electricity went out – which it did a fair amount in those days in Guatemala – but the internet was in its infancy and we relied a lot on face to face travel shows.

In once sense life was a lot more simple then – there was less competition, less choice, less marketing channels and in a way less to think about. Now the travel industry is more and more complicated and fragmented, there are many more ways for people to buy travel and the amount of technology is mind-boggling!

So whilst the job of running and growing a travel business has certainly changed over the years there are now a lot more tools to help us. Here are just a few ideas and suggestions.

COPYWRITING

We all know how increasingly important having great copy on your website is. Posting regular new content into your blog which is all optimised for SEO and your most niche keyword phrases is crucial. The trouble is not many of us are great writers or indeed writers that sufficiently understand SEO optimisation to write really well for the new digital world and content marketing. A few places you can go to source freelance writers with the right kind of SEO experience include:

Upwork or Fiverr

You can post a job and be specific about the type of experience you are looking for. You can hire by the hour or by project and you can see previous pieces of work and testimonials from others. You can choose from writers all around the world with different price points and styles and backgrounds. Personally, I have always used Upwork but I am sure either works well.

When you do write your own articles, web copy or even important emails we definitely recommend using Grammarly to make sure your writing has the correct spelling and grammar – especially if English is not your first language or you are terrible at writing like me.

IMAGES

Whilst having great copy optimised for SEO will get people to your website you will need fabulous images to heighten people’s emotions, create dreams and have people envisage what it is like to take a trip with you or work with you. Of course, you also need great images for Social Media if engaging in that world.

My clients will tell you that I go on and on about getting them to put budget aside each year for photographers and videographers to create media that is unique to them and tells their story but in the meantime, and to fill the gaps, there are places you can go for free images. Just be careful to make clients aware of where the images come from if you are sharing them B2B. They will want to know that they also have permission to use them freely.

Pixabay: “Pixabay is a vibrant community of creatives, sharing copyright-free images and videos.”

Unsplash: “The internet’s source of freely-usable images. Powered by creators everywhere.”

Free Images: “Find and download free stock photos – all free for personal and commercial use”

Pexels: “Search through thousands of royalty-free images on Pexels. You can use all images for free, even for commercial use.”

SOCIAL MEDIA

I know many people use software such as Hootsuite and Buffer but if you are as time-poor as I am you may enjoy one called MeetEdgar which allows you to create and disseminate what is known as “evergreen content” which can be posted more than once. Meet Edgar randomly posts to all your different social media platforms according to the posting calendar and classifications and rules you set. It even has an app to help you post to Instagram and Pintrest.

IMAGE STORAGE AND EASY ACCESS

Shameless self-promotion now. After having set up both a DMC and a Travel Agency I was desperate to improve the way we connect and share resources across the travel supply chain so I created www.squirrel-fish.com SquirrelFish is an economic and highly effective way to store, organise, access and share all your digital assets (images, videos, documents) with staff, clients and partners and a marketing platform to potentially find new business.

I wanted to give access to my clients and staff in a much better way than was currently available on free systems such as Dropbox and Google docs but also better and more affordable than some of the fancy tools out there. I wanted it searchable, shareable, easy to view and make selections, be able to download different sizes and be available 24 hours worldwide for all my staff and contacts where-ever they were. I also wanted it to act like a free “Agent Login Area” from my website as well as work like LinkedIn for the travel industry.

For your clients SquirrelFish is FREE and they can access all of their suppliers in one place which as a travel buyer myself – is a huge benefit.

AUTOMATIC MARKETING

I am starting to feel like the newsletter as we knew it is almost dead. More and more we need to communicate in a more selective and personalised way and one way to do that and still benefit from systems and technology is to use a system of automatic marketing. Software which allows you to categorise contacts and set up different communication paths and content based on who they are and what actions they have taken.

I have been playing recently with Convertkit and I know there are many others from fairly simple to incredibly complex, pricey and wide-reaching such as the add ons from the likes of Hub Spot and SalesForce. If the system you choose can communicate with your existing CRM then even better.

I think these systems be used to huge effect for travel companies both for your B2B and B2C contacts to maximise the impact of your communications with your contacts. One key element for me is that I want new contacts to receive all my messages and information… my “back catalogue” so to speak… not just the newsletters and emails that I send out from the point I sign them up. I can do that with an automatic marketing system.

You can also use these systems to make sure that certain contacts you identify through other clever digital means can be targetted or left out of certain communications to make sure you are as effective and as non-intrusive as possible.

CRM

Another way to get more consistent, personalised and targetted with your marketing and business development communications is by setting up and using a CRM system – Customer Relationship Management. If you want to learn more about CRMs the gods at Hub Spot have a nice article about “What is a CRM” – full of self-promotion of course – but as I use their Free CRM I figure that’s ok.

There are lots of different software to choose from but ones that I have been playing with recently include:

Hubspot’s CRM – FREE – “Manage up to 1,000,000 contacts, users, and storage for free, without any expiration date.”

Zoho’s CRM – Low Cost depending on the number of users. “Build everlasting customer relationships with the world’s favourite CRM”

Monday.com – ” Manage everything in one place. monday.com lets you handle sales pipelines, customer onboarding, clients’ projects, marketing, and much more!”

When choosing a CRM it is helpful to check if it can connect with other key software you use so as to increase your efficiencies and effectiveness even further.

WEBINARS – LIVE AND RECORDED

As well as offering live webinars, another thing I go on and on to my clients about is recording and disseminating general and training webinars. Even before the pandemic hit many travel buyers truly valued having access to on-demand webinar videos from suppliers. If they want to dip a toe in the water of a new destination/property or when a client calls with a specific request that they might not offer all the time they can watch a webinar – or series of webinars – and be back up to speed in no time. Since the pandemic started travel buyers are even more aware of the benefits of webinars.

I recommend creating a series of webinars of different lengths and a varying amount of detail so that people can find exactly what they need in bite-sized sessions and watch as little or as much as they want in one sitting.

Of course, we all now know Zoom and you might know GotoWebinar but you can also record webinars/presentations for free using software such as Skype and Quicktime Player.

GRAPHIC DESIGN AND BRANDING

It is so important to have a strong brand created for you by a professional graphic designer and then ensure that you implement it always as per their guidelines. If you can’t always afford a graphic design company to actually create ongoing layouts and publications then tools like Canva could be very helpful to you. Canva allows you to upload all your logos, fonts and brand colours into your Brand Toolkit so that you can make sure you use it in everything you produce from social media posts to presentations to brochures.

VIDEOS

You have probably heard that from social media to improve your SEO performance, videos and more and more important for your digital marketing and your business. Again my clients will tell you that I am always advocating putting budget aside for video production as a powerful way to tell the world their unique story. You can also take time to find low-cost solutions such as media students, travellers with video creating experience that will work for a free stay and so on.

In the meantime, and in addition to your main videos, there are so many video software tools out there to help you make videos from simple image slideshow videos to using stock video footage to editing your own video footage. I’d love to hear which ones you have been using and loving. I have been playing mainly with Wave and Movavi but there are so many more out there depending on what your requirements are.

COMPANY INTRANET

If you ever spend much time with me you will quickly learn that another topic close to my heart is knowledge management and getting my clients to set up a company intranet as soon as possible and engage in procedures and policies around knowledge management. If you want to learn more about my love for knowledge management just give me a call but meanwhile, you can read more here, “What is Knowledge Management.”

The simplest way I can describe it having your own internet but just for your company and you control what is in it and keep it up to date. It is a way to store, organsie and disseminate all the information and knowledge your company and it’s collective minds has. It is a way to “download” the knowledge and expertise of people so that if they leave – it is easier to access and pass on that knowledge, experience and learning to others. It’s a collective brain.

  1. You need good software
  2. You need excellent procedures and systems to feed the software and use it effectively
  3. You need buy-in and make it part of company culture.

The kind of software you can use for this could be as simple as Google Docs or a wiki software or something more purpose-built such as Notion or Guru.

That’s All for now…

I do hope you found my ramblings and ideas above helpful. If not perhaps detailed enough to pick specific software relevant to your business but that the general ideas of the types of software that exist and how they might be helpful. Of course costs build up and most software has a certain monthly price tag. Gone are the days when you bought software and that was it! So I encourage you to think about what are the current priorities and issues in your business are and what software might be able to help you the most right now.

Do also please get in touch on becky@travelkinship.com and send us your questions and let us know what software you are loving right now.

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