Ideal Customer Profiling and Journey Mapping for Tourism Businesses

Ideal Customer Profiling and Journey Mapping for Tourism Businesses

By Paige Rowett
Published on July 20, 2021


There are literally hundreds of ways to promote a business, which is why so many tourism operators get completely overwhelmed at the thought of where to even start with their marketing strategy.  It's because of this that Rebecca and I often get asked by industry...

"With so many opportunities, how do we know what marketing activities to invest in to get the most bang for our buck?" - said everyone...!

The answer is simple.
Before you choose your marketing activities, you need to know who the right customers are for your business.

Identifying your target market is Marketing 101, but, with so many ways to communicate to potential customers in their path to purchase, tourism businesses have to be super clear on what marketing activities will engage their most profitable customers to achieve the best return on marketing investment.

Your customers have changed, and you need to too...

As the number of marketing channels and competitors grow, businesses have to get smarter. Also based on the insights from Google's Micro Moment research, mobile internet has enabled a more astute and confident customer, which has ultimately changed the way they purchase tourism product, and therefore tourism brands need to adjust their messaging and marketing mediums to suit their needs.

Achieving cut-through in our hyper connected, content dense, competitive online (and offline) market is overwhelmingly hard for most tourism brands. However, it can be made a great deal easier if tourism brands have a laser focus on attracting customers who will bring them the most profit.


The process of identifying your Ideal Customer

The process of understanding who your most profitable customers starts with understanding who your current customers are.

So the first question you need to ask yourself is:
Are you currently getting the customers you want through your door?

The common answer to this is, yes and no - yes, there are a few fantastic customers who love their experience with you, and then there are some customers you'd prefer stayed at home.

To attract more of the people you want, you have to intimately understand the traits of a single person who represents your best customer - this is essentially the process called 'Ideal Customer Profiling'.

What does an Ideal Customer look like?

Generally the people who you want to be attracting to your business:

  • Spend the most and never ask the question price
  • Don't whinge, leave negative reviews on TripAdvisor
  • Love you, your product, your region... everything about what you offer
  • Are your biggest fan, and brand advocate - they are proud to associate themselves with you and your business, and want the world to know about it
  • Make you want to get out of bed and go to work for

How to identify your Ideal Customers

Identifying your Ideal Customers is more or less a brainstorming exercise.

The Profiling starts with focusing on one of your current customers (or someone you know of that fits the above criteria - which is absolutely fine too) and then drill down the characteristics of that single person.

You will need to find answers to the following in order to paint a clear picture of the persona of your Customer, and also how they purchase tourism product.

  • Exact Age, Sex, Income, Marital Status, Location (not normally so relevant, but in COVID times it certainly is) and family status
  • What books they like to read, what TV shows they watch, their favourite food, their past times/hobbies
  • What keeps them up at night, what gets them excited, what they value in life, why they value it
  • Who they travel with, what has motivated them to travel, what questions they have when planning travel
  • What questions do they ask during the stages of travel? (Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Pre-Travel, In-Destination, Post-Travel (refer to our post on Customer Journey Mapping to learn more about this!)

Once you have the answers to the above, you will know exactly how to engage them in your brand, which will not only help you to achieve engagement and cut-through, but also create more bookings / sales.

NOTE. This process may seem a bit challenging at the start, and note, that there are no right or wrong answers. This persona might be someone who is already a customer of your business, or it could be someone who you want to attract in your business (haven't served them yet) - it doesn't matter. All that matters is that they represent someone who you want to see more of in your business!


Marketing direct to your Ideal Customers

Going into this extreme level of detail is a critical task, as it has a huge impact on the choices you make about your marketing investment.


Because, if you have identified this single person then you ONLY need to be communicating with them, where they are listening, and what they want to hear or know.

This means that that your communication plan you create for social media, your website and email database only be directed at engaging with this one persona. Similarly, with the tactics that you activate.

So, if your Ideal Customer is not on twitter, then you don't need to invest time in Twitter; and if they're not reading and being influenced by your regional visitor guide, then you shouldn't invest in advertising in your regional guide.

Without going through the process of identifying your Ideal Customer, you could be spending time and money targeting those who are not necessarily interested in your product/service, or you may be targeting those who we don’t really want to work with. If you aren’t specific with your messages, then you aren’t optimising your chances of making as many sales as you possibly can!


Common Questions

Can you have more than 1 Ideal Customer?

The answer is yes. Most businesses who only have 1 offering will find it easier to stick with 1 Ideal Customer, whereas if you manage a hotel apartments, which also has conferencing facilities and a restaurant, then you may have 3 different Ideal Customers. So when you are planning your marketing investment, and communication messages, you will consult your relevant Ideal Customer as it relates to which product offering you are promoting at any given time.

What about your other customer segments?

They will still come, as they will still be attracted to your business based on your basics of your offering - and if they don't, then not to worry, as you will be attracting more of the people who you know will bring you the best business you can image.

Also, being specific with your messaging, you may also find that you will attract people who aspire to work with your business - for example, Southern Ocean Lodge has a very specific Ideal Customer, and they only invest in marketing activities that are relative to attracting more of those customers. Although I probably don't fit into this Ideal Customer persona, it doesn't mean that I don't aspire to one day stay in their luxury accommodation.

What about alignment with your State / Regional Tourism Organisation's Personas?

As you know, the role of STOs and RTOs is to drive demand to the state, and region respectively. Therefore, they will have identified personas that are most likely going to be attracted to the State or Region based on the whole region's offering. It's likely that one of the Personas that your State or Region have developed will be consistent with the Persona you're wanting to attract. In the event that it doesn't quite align, don't be dismayed, as it's important that you are true to your offering, and try and target those that are going to be the best customer for your business.


Paige Rowett

Paige is a visitor economy specialist and co-owner of The Tourism Collective alongside Rebecca and Jaclyn. After growing up on a farm on Eyre Peninsula, and now managing a mixed farming enterprise with her family in the Clare Valley in South Australia, Paige has a genuine love and drive for developing thriving local communities. She is passionate about supporting DMOs / RTOs and Local Government to sensitively manage their destinations to deliver the best social, economic and environmental outcomes for local people and their communities.