This guide aims to show you the basics of online marketing and how you can use it to your advantage. Please consider that we mainly focus on small businesses working in the surf travel industry just like surf camps, surf schools or similiar travel operators. This is not a must do guideline, see it more as an inspirational article on what ways a surf tour operator could go in order to push business promotion. As you have probably noticed, positioning your business online is not only crucial, it essential for your companies’ survival. Especially when it comes to surf travel, everyone is using the internet to plan their next surf trip or vacation. If you want your business to show up in the right places of the net and more important, be positioned better than your competitors, your online marketing has to be on point. This article focuses on the different marketing channels you can use (Social Media, E-Mail, Direct-Marketing, Search Engines, Travel Platforms) and moves on to cover the topic of content creation and how you can use this to your advantage. If you simply want to read our final summary, click here to get to the end. Enjoy.
Know your visitors and develop a strategy
Before you decide which online channels are the right one for your business, it is crucial that you know your customers and on what channels they mainly interact. Depending on your business idea, you should know who would really book a trip to your company. If you know your target audience, you can think about where they might roam the internet and what content they prefer. If you have a customer base and a campaign running, you can still reconsider if you are on all relevant channels. Don’t hesitate to ask your customers what social media channels they use or if they even like your monthly newsletters. Some answers are eye-opening and might make you reconsider your strategy. Read on to find relevant digital marketing channels.
Digital Marketing Channels for surf companies
When running your online marketing, it is important to use a multi-channel strategy so you create a healthy mix of the marketing channels you use. Why? Because people don’t decide on their surf trips within a second – they need certain planning time where they decide what place suits their surfing needs. This way you don’t miss out on opportunities to get in touch with your customers – so at the end, you are the one that gets visited. There are many advantages of online communication for your business:
- You can target your audience more precise.
- It’s much cheaper than booking a print ad.
- You can do the basics by yourself.
- Changes can be done in real-time.
- Your get direct feedback from customers.
Let’s have a look at the most interesting digital channels that would work with almost any surf travel company.
An essential part in your portfolio is or will be, without a doubt, Social Media. It has great opportunities for you to display what your surf business is all about. You can create a beautiful profile of your company and at the same time keep everyone up to date on what’s going on in your place. You can also get directly in touch with future surf travellers and listen what they have to say. But bear in mind, this is also a very sensitive world you are working in, since all, and I mean ALL feedback is going back at you directly and in public. What Social Media Platforms should you use? It really depends on your future customers and where they are from. If you know what your target country is and what demographics you average customers has, you can define your social media channels way better.
Facebook (for western customers)
Depending on your budget and available time, a safe start would have to be Facebook. It is by far the biggest social media platform with also the best advertising opportunities. Basically, the whole surf world is on Facebook and people kind of expect you to have a Facebook Page. It is a great opportunity to get started with your social positioning. You can create lots of interesting stuff and Facebook has come a long way from only being able to upload photos… You can present videos (e.g. of your surf lesson or a normal day in your surf camp), create polls, start live-videos, write stories, create unique offers, create special events and even invite everyone… As you can see there are tons of options to make your business look interesting. And the good part is that most other competitors are not using all the functionalities. So better use those and really stand out!
The “little” daughter of Facebook has quickly become a social media giant since its launch in 2010. More than 800 Million people are now using it. Good news for you, there might be a good chance that your future surf travellers are browsing through some insta stories right now. Instagram is sorely display and photo driven. People react differently to content you put up here. This means that you should use this channel mainly to attract attention with beautiful pictures or videos, don’t expect a lot of traffic on your page through this channel. Instagram-Users usually browse through their feed, like the pictures they see and check out interesting profiles. Why you should consider Instagram for your business? You can create loyal followers that find your business interesting and love the stuff you do. It’s a great PR and Branding Channel where you can grab people’s attention. If they see you somewhere else in the net, they know you and are more likely to consider visiting you or will book a surf lessons with you. Advertising options: Since Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, it is also connected to Facebook’s ads manager. This means you can advertise your surf company in Instagram through your normal Facebook Ads Account. It brings all the great targeting perks from Facebook, right to Instagram. Please bear in mind, there are different guidelines for length of text and photo formats. Make sure you get them right.
It is Google’s answer to Facebook and even though it is less popular, it might be interesting looking into it. Since Google+ is a product from Google, the biggest search engine on the planet, the assumption is not far that a Google+ Account for your business will definitely give you little boost for your search relevancy in Google in general. If you’re serious in lifting your social media contribution to the next level, then I recommend strongly that you create a Google+ Profile for your company and post at least the same content from your Facebook network, also to your Google+ Network. There are very handy tools on the market, so you don’t have to post anything double (or triple).
Later we will explain why you should use start creating videos (if you haven’t done it already) and where you can promote them. YouTube is definitely a good place to collect your videos. You can create your own surf channel, link or integrate those videos on your website too. The big advantage. You don’t have to save the video on your site. This saves you a lot of space and keeps your website fast.
Used by a lot of HQ filmmakers and artists, it is also very popular for presenting video content. It has the same features like YouTube. If you want to integrate a lot of videos on your website, Vimeo has some nice features for slick site integration.
More like a news oriented Network. Personally, I wouldn’t put much work in it! The Twitter days are over and in our opinion, not many people use this to get travel and holiday inspiration. Unless you only offer surf trips for managers or journalists you can safely ignore Twitter.
Your website – Gateway to new bookings
It is your digital business card where you have full control on what you show your visitors and how they get in touch with you.
Your website should be what years ago your travel agency was. It is your digital business card where you have full control on what you show your visitors and how they get in touch with you. Have your future customers made it all the way to your website? Yes? Great! Does this mean they will join your camp or book the next surf lesson with you? Probably not! The majority of page visitors will certainly leave your website again within less than a minute (maybe two if your super interesting). But don’t worry, there are two huge upsides, even if they don’t book straight away…
- They know about you now! This means that your surf company has made it to their heads and is in the inner circle of holiday consideration. Your ad, your social media content or your business listing was so convincing, that you’re now part of the decision-making progress.
- You know about them! Now this is time where you well considered remarketing plan begins. You can now influence their decision-making progress. This might sound creepy, but has no bad intention at all since you can simply show a different kind of advertisement, because you know, they are interested in receiving your ads.
More about Remarketing your website: Nowadays, it has become a standard to track the user flow of your website and reuse this information by being able to “follow” your website visitors with remarketing ads through many different system and marketing platforms… Please let me know, if you need further assistance or information about this topic and how to use remarketing by dropping me a line!
E-Mail (Direct Marketing)
E-Mail-Marketing is still a very efficient technique to get in direct contact with your former visitors and anyone that is interest in you. Once you have legally acquired an email address, it is a fairly cheap way to market your surf business to people that are already interested in your surf business. There are many (free) providers out there that can manage your e-mail list and newsletter. I would personally recommend using Mailchimp, since it has a simple setup and a very handy email creator, so you can send those pretty emails out without any html knowledge. They are simply the most user-friendly platform out there and get you started in no time. If you want to grow that email list, here are three examples to get NEW emails of future customers:
- Make people subscribe to your newsletter on your website. You can create a sign-up form with an additional teaser to offer people something, they might like. For example, you could give them advice on “How to stand up on a surfboard technique” or “Good tips for duck diving”. If they sign up via double opt-in, you can send them your news via mail.
- Include a tab on your Facebook page that links to a newsletter signup-form for your email list. This is a good way to include your Facebook followers in your newsletter list.
- Host your own event and make them sign on to your newsletter list. Those events can be anything, but I think this is a great idea for a local surf school, that wants to involve the community in their surf lessons.
New ways of Direct Marketing
I personally love the new messaging apps that are on the market. There are two that really stand out and almost everyone uses. They are a really good way to stay in touch after they have visited your surf school or camp. As for now, these ways are fairly new for direct marketing but might be worth trying out since you would be the first within your field of competitors. WhatsApp – You can create a Broadcast List and keep everyone posted about new stuff and offers that regard your place. Have you had pumping waves? Do you have a special offer for a Girls Only Camp? Set it up and try it out. Good to know: As of January 2018 WhatsApp has launched their new business app for certain regions. It’s basically a Facebook page for WhatsApp so users know better who they are talking to… Facebook Messenger – The chat function from Facebook has evolved to a standalone app and many people use this on their day to day basis. Use this to engage with your customers on a direct basis. Response and opening rates are much higher than emails!
Search Engine Marketing (SEO & SEM) for surf travel
We will only scratch the surface here since this is a very huge topic, please consider this more as an inspirational part. Nevertheless, it is super important that you know the basics and you cannot run your Online Marketing Strategy without it. Let’s divide this into two parts so you understand how search engines work.
Search Engine Optimization means that you’re optimizing your own website for search engines f.e. Google or Yahoo. Your main goal is to pop up first in search results for main important search queries. With Google being the market leader, you’d have to follow their guidelines on how your website should be positioned in the web and how the technical structure has to be. Now comes the time where online marketers divide this into two parts: 1. Offpage Optimization and 2. Onpage Optimization. Google considers over 200 ranking factors on how they rank your surf business for relevant search queries. F.e. “surf camp mexico”. Nobody, expect the people at Google, really knows all the factors but there are many to factor in. Unfortunately, this would go beyond the scope of this article but let’s explain some key points your website has to offer so it can get a higher ranking in the search results.
Example of a search results
OnPage – Ranking-Factors your website has to offer
Google considers many factors on what’s happening ON your page. They really focus on the user and rank basically on how good the user experience with your site is. Some key factors you should remember:
- Provide a good structure of your content.
- Your website should be fast!
- It should be mobile friendly.
- The site should be secure (URL starting with https://).
- Get your programming structure right (title tags, meta description, h-structure etc.)
Important SEO factors for any surf travel Business
- Make it clear to users where they can book!
- Provide valuable surf insight. spot guides, surf forecast etc.
- Get a YouTube Channel up and running and don’t forget your Google+ Profile.
- Get your users to review you camp on the known platforms (you can also get user ratings on your ISeeOcean profile)
OffPage – Things that happen outside your surf travel site
The 2nd part of SEO happens outside your website (Offpage). Try to connect with relevant surf travel platforms, magazines or blogs. The main goal here is to get links from those sites to your website. This way you indicate Google, that you are of relevance for this surf region. You could, for example, get a blog to write a unique story about you and what you do and your guests are spending a day on the beach. Always consider, that it should really be about what you do and where you’re good in. If someone writes a shitty story about a wave pool in California, but you’re a surf camp in Mexico it won’t help much to get a link from there… If you need more advice on this topic, you can get in contact with us and tell us your thoughts.
Did you know you can pay Google to come up in front of you competitors in important search results? With Google AdWords, you can create an advertising account and bid on search keywords that suit your business. If people start searching for, let’s say “surf camp in spain”, you can bid a price to come up as a paid search result. If a person than clicks on your ad, you get charged by Google for this click. The main advantage you get through this kind of advertising is, that it is not disturbing for the user since it is exactly what the user is searching for. It is basically offering the right answer to a question. Google has come a long way optimizing the whole bidding process and is really focusing on the right paid search result for the matching keyword. If you don’t match, your ad won’t get shown.
An example of a paid Google Search Ad for a surf camp in Spain.
Remember – this part of online marketing is super important to get traffic and visitors to your surf business right away. If you’re promoting your business and need more customers for the upcoming season, using Search Ads is a main part in your marketing plan.
Get your surf business on travel platforms
Show your surf camp, -school or whatever surf travel business you own, on booking and listing platforms just like ISeeOcean. This might be a bit of advertisement for our own case, but I think this is an important part of getting your name out there. We’ve made the experience, that travellers do prefer websites, where they can quickly compare places they might want to visit and browse around to see what’s on offer. If you’re not in the mix here, you’re missing out on valuable customers! Some platforms are for free, some charge commissions on bookings or for the business listing. On ISeeOcean, you can register for the basic listing entry for free. If this works for you, you can later decide if you want to get pushed on our platform via paid content or if you want to integrate a direct booking tool etc. We are constantly updating our features to get the best results for all.
Content Tips – Getting your story right
Next to using the right digital marketing channels to advertise surf business online, an important part is also, HOW you want to present yourself. Prime for you is to get that strategy right, because this will define what surf travellers will visit you. Let’s cover an example we had a couple of years ago: A customer came to us because after a season where he mainly promoted that one main video of his camp. The video was about people having fun, playing in the sand, surfing, relaxing and having a good time on the beach. Everything seemed fine only one tiny mistake. That week, where they made video, had many under 20s visit because it was uni break. His camp focuses on plus 25 though. Long story short – in the following season many younger people (with less budget) came and visited because they saw that video. Older people stayed away… Main takeaway here is to really think about what content you create and also share this idea with your friends and colleagues before you begin. Here is a cool video from the TED Talks about how to become more creative:
Media formats and how you could use them
There is a saying in marketing that you “Eat with Your Eyes First”. Think about this, next time you upload something on social media, draft a banner or create a newsletter. The more interesting and appealing your content is, the higher is the attention you raise. Photos are better than text: If there is not much to explain, put your message in a photo and upload it on Social Media… Videos are better than photos: In 2018, no one gets around videos for online marketing purposes. Luckily surfing and travelling are such beautiful things to do, it is easy to create good films! One takeaway here: Provide the main story in the first couple of seconds. Create Stories: One day in the life of our visitors. This is how our chef buys her food. What we do on flat days. Do you get what we mean by creating stories? You could create heaps of cool stories during a surf season, post it on YouTube and also use Instagram Stories. And the good thing – you can reuse it in the following preseason promotions! Text is not boring: Written content is not necessary boring. Especially for SEO purposes on your website it can be very useful. If you have some stories to tell, write them down on your surf companies blog and reuse the videos and photos you created before.
Online Marketing should definitely be a big part of you marketing plan and when you use it smart. You will make an impressive impact on all surf travellers and they will decide to surf and/or stay with you! Be smart when choosing your digital marketing channels and include at least two social platforms, get your website mobile and fast and update all you content. People don’t want to double check or search for the information. If they don’t get it right away, they most likely to leave you page. When it comes to staying in touch, there is still no way around the old email newsletter, it really helps to update all past visitors about your offers and if you find time, try a messaging app to get direct contact too. Hopefully we were able to show you a little glimpse of the big online world and what opportunities you have to in order to promote your surf travel business. If you need more help or advice, we’re more than happy to help. Want to join ISeeOcean and present your company to new surf visitors? Register here.