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When we say content, we mean tour content – the kind of storytelling that engages people with compelling narration – where guides are storytellers who elicit emotional experiences that leaves people wanting more.

We all understand the value of killer content. Many of us consume high-quality content on a daily basis through a variety of channels – Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Youtube and others.

We become fiercely loyal fans of shows like Stranger Things and Narcos, binge watching seasons because the cliff-hangers are so damn good.

But what if we’re thinking about content in the wrong way?

Travelers Expectations Are Higher Than Ever Before

Everyone has an opinion on content – the good, the bad and the ugly. But few of us seldom rate our own content because it’s either good or good enough.

We’re not anti-good, but we’ve listened to quite a bit of tour commentary only to find most of it’s really bad.

And one of the biggest mistakes we see people make is not having any quality control over the tours they provide. There is no one solely responsible and accountable for the “passenger experience.”

Notice the word “experience.” Gone are the days that tour content was an afterthought, and drivers were responsible for adlib commentary (sadly, this still goes on…).

People want to be emotionally engaged and entertained on tours. And with wide-open access to quality content everywhere – people’s expectations are higher than ever before.

When people tune into crappy content, they quickly tune out. So why is this any different for tour narration?

The problem is many tour operators don’t see the value in creating killer content for “passenger experiences.”

We get it. Telling compelling stories is hard work, it’s a learned craft. And some customers tell us it’s really hard to find storytellers who want to drive. They do the best they can with what they’ve got.

But what if your tour content was lifted from the deepest depths of your never-ending “to do list”, and elevated to the heralded status of strategy?

Get Strategic About Storytelling

Storytelling, according to Jonathan Gottschall, “is a uniquely powerful form of persuasive jujitsu.” Gottschall expresses that “Results repeatedly show that our attitudes, fears, hopes, and values are strongly influenced by story.

So why put “story” in strategy?

The key objective for your tour content strategy is sales. Okay we said it. Better content means more revenue.

But what about passenger engagement? Brand reputation? Higher rated customer reviews?

Of course all of the benefits of better tours means that you’ll be focused on all of those things (and more) but the real aim of better content is more customers – new customers, repeat customers and more ticket sales.

The bottom line: your content matters. And it matters a lot.

So let’s look at three simple things you can do right now.

Step #1: Know your audience

The first step — is to understand who your audience is. Who are your past, present and potential customers? And how do they compare to your competitors’ customers?

One of the best ways to get to know your audience is stepping into the front lines. Make time in your schedule to talk to your customers. What excites them? Why did they choose you? What do they find inspiring?

Many companies solicit feedback from their customers but few actually create meaning because of it.

This is your strategic weapon. You have a much better chance of improving your content when you know what customers like and dislike.

Step #2: Focus on listening in 

The second step you should take is to listen in on what your tour guides are actually saying.

Make someone responsible for monitoring your tour guides and drivers. Remember, you’re not a spy. (Even if you’ve imagined being one 😉)

This is an opportunity to evaluate quality and consistency and will give you a much clearer understanding of what needs to be improved.

For example, consider your best guides. Why are they your best guides? What is it about their storytelling that captivates your customers and creates that one important takeaway message?

If you don’t have a takeaway message, get one in your tour. It will make an immediate impact on your success.

At Friends of Keewatin, a not for profit organization dedicated to restoring and caring for the last remaining Great Lakes Passenger liner, the S.S. Keewatin, supervisors and managers quietly monitor their tours by listening in. This ensures high-quality and consistency and provides feedback for trainee tour guides.

Listening in has been highly successful for creating content people respond to while giving guides more confidence in the tours they’re providing.

Step #3: Script the best parts of your experience

The third step you need to take is: script the best parts of your experience.

Your tours need to be consistent — a key factor that actually influences your success by hitting on the key aspects of your tour that engages people on an emotional level.

  • Get to know the stories your customers’ love
  • Communicate the single most important message you want to leave with visitors
  • Your tour content needs to be compelling, clear and accurate
  • Exchange boring facts and figures for stories people care about
  • Don’t be all history. History matters but what about now? Connect people to today.

We could go on, but you get the point.

Storytelling matters. It’s not just about being on time or having clean beautiful buses and boats. It’s about the customer journey. Every aspect of your passenger experience will impact your success.

That is why leading sightseeing companies are investing in experience, with storytelling top of mind for CEOs.

Making the Shift

So we discussed three things you can do right now to improve your tour content.

The critical shift in thinking is creating killer content is a strategic weapon. It will help you get better results and more sales.

The three steps that you can begin today:

  1. Know your audience. Get out there and start talking to customers about what they like and dislike.
  2. Focus on listening in. Monitor your tour guides and provide coaching, mentoring and training to improve the passenger experience.
  3. Script your experience. Share the stories people love and communicate the single most important message you want to leave with visitors on every tour.

So now that you’re inspired to deliver better tours, which one will you start with?

Three separate ListenTALK receivers in a row with different group names on each display screen.
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