If you ask any entrepreneur, starting a business comes with its fair share of challenges.
Starting a surprise travel agency requires a great deal of effort, dedication and most importantly passion.
If you're willing to put in the effort to build your own business, you're going to want to follow the critical steps to creating a successful brand.
We've created a guide that covers each step of the process - from making key financial decisions, to launching and marketing your business the right way, and tips/strategies on how to grow your business effectively.
💡 Introduction To Starting A Surprise Travel Agency
Is Starting A Surprise Travel Agency Right For You?
There are many factors to consider when starting a surprise travel agency.
We put together the main pros and cons for you here:
Pros of starting a surprise travel agency
You can put as much time into the business as you'd like. If you like the work and have some initial experience, you can start small and manage all aspects of the business on your own.
• Ability to start your business from home
It's not necessary to have a physical storefront or office space to get your business started. You can do everything from the comfort of your own home, at least in the beginning!
With businesses and processes changing daily, there will always be demand for new features, products and services for your business. Additionally, there are several different business models and pricing tiers you can implement that will allow you to reach all types of customers.
• Meaningful business connections
You never know who you will meet as a surprise travel agency. This could be the start of an incredible business opportunity!
• Pick & choose the clients you work with
Surprise Travel Agencyes have the ability to choose the clients they work with. You have the freedom to work with only a few loyal clients or with hundreds of clients!
• Gain exposure and experience
This career allows you to gain experience working for multiple different businesses - which will benefit your resume and also keep things interesting for you!
• Unlimited income potential
With starting a surprise travel agency there is no cap as to how much income you can make. The stronger your business skills and the more energy/time you put into your career, the more you'll make.
• Amazing perks and discounts
Working in the surprise travel agency comes with its perks! As a seller for these products/services, you typically also get to enjoy industry perks and discounts.
• You are your own boss!
With starting a surprise travel agency, you are the one to make decisions for almost all of the operations. Calling the shots can be empowering and liberating!
• Predictable income stream
Your businesses income stream tends to be predictable based on the number of customers you have signed up. This makes financial planning and outlooks much more seamless!
• Higher likelihood of getting referrals
This business is all about referrals, which can be a a very impactful way to attract and retain customers. It's critical that you have a great referral program in place that incentivizes your customers to tell their friends about your product.
• Location is everything!
When operating a physical storefront, the location often speaks for itself and serves as it's very own marketing tool! It's important to choose a location in a high traffic area so you can spark curiosity and get people through your door!
• Simple business model
A surprise travel agency has the advantage of a simple business model, which makes launching and building the business more seamless.
• Greater Income Potential
With this business, the sky is the limit in regards to your income potential.
• You get to do something you truly love
With starting a surprise travel agency, you get to put your energy into something you are truly passionate about! You'll find yourself devoting as much time and energy as possible into the business to make it successful.
• You can decide who you work with
Gone are the days of working in a toxic work environment with employees that you may not vibe with. As a small business owner, you get to decide who you work and surround yourself with.
• You can work from anywhere!
Not only can you start your surprise travel agency from home, you can also run your business from anywhere in the world. This is the entrepreneur dream.
• You get to inspire others
Your business is one that encourages and inspires others, which in itself, can be very fulfilling.
• You establish yourself as an expert
With starting a surprise travel agency, you establish yourself as an expert in your niche, which builds your credibility. In return, customers are more likely to trust you and refer you to other friends and family.
• Results and revenue happen quickly!
Unlike other businesses, it can be relatively quick to start seeing results and revenue. As long as you follow all the steps to validate your idea before launch, you are likely to see quick results and ROI.
Cons of starting a surprise travel agency
• Longer Sales Process
A surprise travel agency can be a big time and money investment for your customer, so it's important you plan and predict a longer conversion funnel and stay in communication with potential customers.
• Security Issues
With any Saas business, data loss and security issues may arise throughout your process of building your product. It's critical that you understand exactly what you're responsible for and how to avoid potential issues down the road.
As a surprise travel agency, you typically pay self-employment taxes which can be quite high. It's important to understand what you will be paying in taxes each year so you can determine if the work you're taking on is worth it.
• Niche Market
A niche business is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, it can be the key to your success. However, it can be more challenging and time consuming to find the perfect niche market and target audience.
In this business, customers can cancel their membership or subscription for your services - which can make revenue forecasting challenging and unpredictable. It's important to focus on your churn rates and trends so that you can prevent this as much as possible.
• Time commitment
With starting a surprise travel agency, all responsibilities and decisions are in your hands. Although this is not necessarily a negative thing, work life can take over at times. This can place a strain on friends and family and add to the pressure of launching a new business.
• Difficult to build trust with your customer
With starting a surprise travel agency, there can be minimal face-to-face interaction, which means it can be a lot more difficult to establish trust with your customers. You'll need to go the extra mile with your customer to grab their attention and business.
• Impatient customers
You may offer an engaging user experience for your customer, but customers expect a lot and may be impatient if they aren't pleased with your product or service.
• Learning Curve
When you start your own business, you no longer have upper management to provide you with a playbook for your roles and responsibilities. You should know the ins and outs of every aspect of your business, as every decision will come down to you.
• Answering Phones
The surprise travel agency is still considered a traditional business, which means answering phones is a big part of the job. If you or your team miss phone calls, you could be missing out on potential revenue opportunities. If you are unable to attend to your phone throughout the day, it would be in your best interest to hire a call center or an employee dedicated to this.
• Recession-Impacted Industry
When the economy is down, surprise travel agency's are one of the first things to be cut.
- Bureau of Land Management (47.9K Alexa Ranking)
- PHP Travels (146K Alexa Ranking)
- FlySFO (180K Alexa Ranking)
- Fly to China (267K Alexa Ranking)
- Fresenius Medical Care (274K Alexa Ranking)
- Pack Up + Go - Revenue $450K/month
- The Vacation Hunt - Revenue $40K/month
- Whisked Away Surprise Travel - Revenue $15K/month
Let's take a look at the search trends for surprise travel agency services over the last year:
How To Name Your Surprise Travel Agency
It's important to find a catchy name for your surprise travel agency so that you can stand out in your space.
Here are some general tips to consider when naming your surprise travel agency
- Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
- Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
- Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
- As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!
Why is naming your surprise travel agency so important?
The name of your business will forever play a role in:
- Your customers first impression
- Your businesses identity
- The power behind the type of customer your brand attracts
- If you're memorable or not
It's important to verify that the domain name is available for your surprise travel agency.
You can search domain availability here:
Find a domain starting at $0.88
powered by Namecheap
Although .com names are the most common and easiest to remember, there are other options if your .com domain name is not available. Depending on your audience, it may not matter as much as you think.
It's also important to thoroughly check if social media handles are available.
As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and SM handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.
Here's some inspiration for naming your surprise travel agency:
- OZ Travel & Tourism check availability
- Overseas Travel & Hospitality check availability
- Gourmets Travel check availability
- Vipassana Travel check availability
- The World Travel Business check availability
- Iguana Travel & Hospitality check availability
- Cabot Travel check availability
- TATI Travel & Hospitality check availability
- Luxurious Travel Service check availability
- Korean Touristic check availability
- Enthusiastic Travel Agency check availability
- Lofty Travel & Hospitality check availability
- Kolam Travels check availability
- Travel agency for the new age check availability
- Hospitality Travel Network (HTN) check availability
- Travel & Hospitality Bureau check availability
- Hotel & Restaurant in the Park check availability
- Ecole des Marches check availability
- I'm A Travel Expert check availability
- Re Travel Agency check availability
- Klub Travel Agency check availability
- Capello Travel & Hospitality check availability
- Travel & Hospitality Consultancy check availability
- Dishman Travel check availability
- Hotel & Travel Agency check availability
- Travelling by Travel check availability
- Walking & Biking in New York City check availability
- Korean Travel and Tourism Agency check availability
- Door2Travel check availability
- Kanamachi Co check availability
- Frequent Flyer Society check availability
- Ferrari of the future check availability
- Airline Ticketing Service check availability
- Gurunmaa check availability
- Car-Takk check availability
- Mitsumoto Travel check availability
- Proudly North America check availability
- Korean Car Guide check availability
- Cars and Transportation check availability
- Transit Travel Group check availability
- Travel Agency Parking check availability
- We are a Travel Company check availability
- A New Travel Agency check availability
- Travel by car, Travel by taxi check availability
- Car Travel Agency check availability
- Airline & Airport Transportation Services check availability
- Gatwick Car & Taxi Rental check availability
- Car & Trans check availability
- Transportation Services, LLC check availability
- Travel Agency & Consulting Group check availability
- Visa Inc. Japan check availability
- Luggage & Travel Service check availability
- Davie Car Rental check availability
- U Travel Agency check availability
- Dakshayagam Car & Transportation check availability
- Bekas Travel check availability
- Car Travel Business check availability
- Cheery Travel Agency check availability
- Travel Agency Delights check availability
- Travel Agency Trips check availability
- Travel Agency Co check availability
- Fascinating Travel Agency check availability
- Brilliant Travel Agency check availability
- Travel Agency Ice check availability
- Upgraded Travel Agency check availability
- Travel Agency Hop check availability
- Adept Travel Agency check availability
- Travel Agency Shop check availability
- Skillful Travel Agency check availability
- Travel Agency Voyage check availability
- Travel Agency Inc check availability
- Travel Agency Sightseeing check availability
- Travel Agency LLC check availability
- Nomadic Travel Agency check availability
- Happy Journey! check availability
- Happy Travelling! check availability
- Awestruck Travel check availability
- Spell Place check availability
- Old Awe Inspiring Place check availability
- Northern Turn Collective check availability
- Professional check availability
- Jib Trip check availability
- National Itinerary Group check availability
- Pleasant Stumble Place check availability
- The Easy Tripper check availability
- The Round check availability
- Old Awesome Pro check availability
- The Remarkable Trip check availability
- Hurried Slip check availability
- Activate Trading Co check availability
- Its Impressive Collective check availability
- Remarkable Spell Co check availability
- Week Set Off Pro check availability
- Its Awing check availability
- Mating Amazing check availability
- Its Surprising check availability
- Italian Circuit check availability
- Its Awing Trading Co check availability
- Gear Tour check availability
- Enlistment Trading Co check availability
- Third Travelling check availability
- The Old Fantastic check availability
- Hour Itinerary Group check availability
- Exciting Spark Off Trading Co check availability
- Mile Duty Tour Group check availability
- Enjoyable check availability
- Hitch Co check availability
- Forthcoming Tripper check availability
- Third Trip Up check availability
- WorldTrip check availability
- The Southern Itinerary check availability
- Triumphant Hitch check availability
- Minute Activate check availability
- The Nationwide check availability
- South Circuit Place check availability
- Longer Activate Place check availability
- Travel Collective check availability
- The Forthcoming Activate check availability
- Old Awful Co check availability
- Virtual check availability
- Itinerary Group check availability
- The Extended Tour Of Duty check availability
- SuccessfulTrip check availability
- Week Activate check availability
- BriefTour check availability
- WorldTour check availability
- Slip Co check availability
- Stop Term Of Enlistment Place check availability
- The Early Surprising check availability
- Misstep Pro check availability
- Term Of Enlistment Pro check availability
- The Lengthy Stumble check availability
- Activate Group check availability
- Its Awing Co check availability
- Entire Stumble Group check availability
- Foreign Enlistment Trading Co check availability
- Term Of Enlistment Collective check availability
- Recent Tripper Pro check availability
- Its Phenomenal Place check availability
- Quick check availability
- The Week Spark check availability
- Early Awful Place check availability
- The Official check availability
- MileTrip check availability
- The Lengthy check availability
- Delightful Stumble Trading Co check availability
- Country check availability
- Secret Travel Place check availability
- Second check availability
- Spell Pro check availability
- Shaving Amazing check availability
- Whole check availability
- Surprising Group check availability
- Worth check availability
- Fantastic Collective check availability
- Itinerary Co check availability
- The National check availability
- Complete Term Of Enlistment check availability
- Misstep Collective check availability
- The Day Set Off check availability
- Extra Activate Collective check availability
- World Stumble Pro check availability
- The World Set Off check availability
- Remarkable Go Co check availability
- Extended Spark Trading Co check availability
- The Second Turn check availability
- Making Amazing check availability
- Third Trip Out check availability
- Old Surprising check availability
- Nationwide Enlistment Group check availability
- TriumphantTour check availability
- Slip Spot check availability
- Minute Term Of Enlistment Collective check availability
- Northern check availability
- Daily Set Off Collective check availability
- Week Go check availability
- Imaginary Set Off Spot check availability
- The Easy Stumble check availability
- The Complete Itinerary check availability
How To Create A Slogan For Your Surprise Travel Agency:
Slogans are a critical piece of your marketing and advertising strategy.
The role of your slogan is to help your customer understand the benefits of your product/service - so it's important to find a catchy and effective slogan name.
Often times, your slogan can even be more important than the name of your brand.
Here are 6 tips for creating a catchy slogan for your surprise travel agency:
1. Keep it short, simple and avoid difficult words
A great rule of thumb is that your slogan should be under 10 words. This will make it easy for your customer to understand and remember.
2. Tell what you do and focus on what makes you different
There are a few different ways you can incorporate what makes your business special in your slogan:
- Explain the target customer you are catering your services towards
- What problem do you solve?
- How do you make other people, clients, or your employer look good?
- Do you make people more successful? How?
3. Be consistent
Chances are, if you're coming up with a slogan, you may already have your business name, logo, mission, branding etc.
It's important to create a slogan that is consistent with all of the above.
4. Ensure the longevity of your slogan
Times are changing quickly, and so are businesses.
When coming up with your slogan, you may want to consider creating something that is timeless and won't just fade with new trends.
5. Consider your audience
When finding a catchy slogan name, you'll want to make sure that this resonates across your entire audience.
It's possible that your slogan could make complete sense to your audience in Europe, but may not resonate with your US audience.
6. Get feedback!
This is one of the easiest ways to know if your slogan will be perceived well, and a step that a lot of brands drop the ball on.
Ask friends, family, strangers, and most importantly, those that are considered to be in your target market.
Here's some inspiration for coming up with a slogan for your surprise travel agency:
- Travel now get, enjoy life
- Travel and live free
- We only live once, so travel
- Travel with no worries
- Travel with no hassles
- Go around the world affordably
- Travel time made easy
- The one-day process to travel, guaranteed
- Make your travels possible
- The journey that you can have
- Memorable travels start with us
- Travel now with confidence
- Never get behind your journey
- Amazing travels on your way
- Travels do not need to be expensive
- In traveling you are born
- Travel the world and smile
- Love yourself, travel
- Travel with all your might and soul
- Release your worries by traveling
- The travel agency you can trust
- Travel and enjoy life
- Reliable travel agency for you
- The adventure starts with traveling
- Live, love, and travel
- Quality travel time, guaranteed
- Travel with utmost confidence
- Make your travels worthwhile
- I love travels
- Travel and be joyful
- Making travel time extra special
- The love for travel
- Hassle-free journeys for you
- Trip Have Another Serving.
- First Trip, We Care
- Crazy Is What We Do
- Long Vacations Are What We Do
- Curfew Is What We Do
- Trips With Day
- Its Awesome, Its Fantastic
- Central Heating For Tour.
- Kills All Known Tour - Dead.
- From Immature To Hoary
- Live Trip.
- Its Amazing, Built For You
- Amazing Gets It Done On Time.
- Now With 50% More Tour!
- There's A Bit Of Amazing In All Of Us.
- Made To Make Your Tour Water.
- Long Spark, Next Touch Off
- Tour Right As Rain.
- Cleans Your Floor Without Trip.
- Great Is What We Do
- Tour First At The Finish Line!
- Tour - It's Like Heaven!
- Buy Amazing Now!
- All The Amazing That's Fit To Print.
- Work Hard, Inspect Harder
- It's Nothing But Trip
- Mamma Mia, That'sa Spicy Tour!
- Point Of The Set Off
- Walk Is What We Do
- Amazings With Friend
- Work Hard, Visiting Harder
- Trips With Radiu
- Second Tours Are What We Do
- Its Astounding, Its Astonishing
- Amazings With Effect
- Swing Your Trip.
- Day Roundups Are What We Do
- The Most Interesting Trip In The World.
- Work Hard, Traveling Harder
- Tour One Size Fits All.
- Tour For A Brighter Shine.
- Make The World A Better Place With Tour.
- Amazing Is What We Do.
- Work Hard, Visit Harder
- Don't Hold Tour Back.
- Don't Leave Your Trip At Home.
- Brief Tour, Satisfaction Guaranteed
- Its Fantastic, Its Wonderful
- Tour - Australian For Beer.
- Is It Live, Or Is It Tour?
- Short Trip, Brief Duty Tour
- Don't Say Brown, Say 'Trip'.
- Tour Keeps Going, And Going, And Going...
- Tours With Area
- Old Unbelievable, Early Unbelievable
- Trip Loves You.
- Amazing. The Power On Your Side.
- Its And Remiss
- The Trip That Likes To Say Yes.
- Roving Is What We Do
- Let Your Trip Do The Walking.
- Trip - A Safe Place In An Unsafe World!
- From First To Modern
- Designed For Trip, Engineered To Last.
- Last Services Are What We Do
- Work Hard, Trigger Off Harder
- Just Do Tour.
- Don't You Just Love Being In Amazing?
- Its Amazing - A New You
- Next Jaunt, Entire Misstep
- I'm A Secret Amazing Drinker.
- Tours With Master
- I Fall For Tour.
- You Can Be Sure Of Tour.
- Tour Is My Passion.
- Its Incredible, Early Awful
- Brief Circuit, Day Journey
- Amazing - It's Like Heaven!
- From Nighttime To Solar Day
- It's A Beautiful Trip.
- Tour Inside You.
- Where Do You Want Trip To Go Today?
- Tour It's Guaranteed.
- Take Two Bottles Into The Tour?
- Short And Tart
- Round Trip, Redefined
- Rate Of The Circuit
- From Intensive To Far Reaching
- There Is No Sore It Will Not Heal, No Trip It Will Not Subdue.
- Trip, When No One Else Is Around.
- Unthinkable Is What We Do
- Long Trigger Off, First Slip
- Amazings With Friend
- Next Sorties Are What We Do
- Makes You Feel Tour Again.
- Tour, Couldn't Ask For More.
- From Belatedly To Immature
- Truly Tour.
- Amazings With Stage
- Trip? You Bet.
- From Long To Tender
- So Easy, No Wonder Amazing Is #1.
- The Tour Effect.
- Spot Of The Activate
- Exquisite Is What We Do
- Commit Of The Incredible
- Trip For Everyone.
- Tour Gets An ATour.
- From Tall To Fugitive
- Budee Budee, That's All Trip.
- Our Amazing Will Give You Softer Skin.
- From Immature To Stale
- Short And Alert
- Don't Leave Your Amazing At Home.
- More Amazing Please.
- Australians Wouldn't Give A Tour For Anything Else.
- What Can Trip Do For You?
- Trip Is My Sport.
- Trips With Story
- There's Only One Thing In The World I Want And That Is Amazing.
- Dial Down The Tour.
- Amazing, Not That Other Crap.
- Tour's Got It All!
- Inspired By Trip.
- Our Trip Will Give You Softer Skin.
- From Nighttime To Solar Day
- See The USA In Your Trip.
- Tour Makes Everything Better.
- Work Hard, Spark Off Harder
- Amazing - One Name. One Legend.
- Position Of The Surprising
- From Young To Antediluvian
- Second Tours Are What We Do
- Direct Of The Circuit
- Touring Is What We Do
- Made To Make Your Trip Water.
- Amazing Is Going Places.
- Feel It - Tour!
- Trip, The Original.
- Double The Pleasure, Double The Trip.
- Path Is What We Do
- Office Of The Awful
- Trip Innovate Your World.
- Amazings With Man
- Monsieur, With This Tour You Are Really Spoiling Us.
- You've Got Questions. We've Got Amazing.
- Position Of The Misstep
- Its And Remiss
- From First To Finish
- Amazing - Empowering People.
- First Turn On, Whole Trip Up
- Work Hard, Guided Harder
- Tour Will Be For You What You Want It To Be.
The Software Business Model
Tiered Pricing Model
You may want to consider having different pricing tiers to meet the needs of your customers.
With this model, there are typically 2 or more packages for a specific price that offer a fixed amount of features.
Each package should reflect the needs of the buyer persona - for example, a customer looking for a beginner package may have a very different use case than a customer looking for an enterprise package.
By offering different packages, you're able to target different audiences which will lead to increased conversions and revenue. Additionally, your chances of "upselling" existing customers are much higher as you have establisished trust with your customer and they're left wanting more once their use case evolves.
Many surprise travel agency businesses charge a fixed rate per user on the account (either monthly or yearly). This can be especially lucrative if you're targeting larger businesses where the user number will be much higher.
This model is not always preferred as it can be challenging to forecast revenue accurately when the user count within businesses is fluctuating constantly.
Flat Rate Model
If you decide to adopt a flat-rate model, this would mean that you offer only one price for every customer. All customers are treated equally and have access to the same amount of features.
This model is not as common as tiered pricing because it only meets the needs of one buyer persona and can limit growth and you're able to have multiple revenue streams.
Per Feature Model
This model charges customers based on the # of features they need. Customers add features "a-la-carte" which will determine the overall price of the product.
This can be a lucrative model, however, the number of different use-cases customers need can become overwhelming (making the sales process longer) and it can be challenging to find a price structure that works well.
The business model you choose depends entirely on your needs and goals as a company. To find what works well for you, you may want to consider testing several models and conducting market research to see what competition in the space is doing.
The Freemium Model
Offering free trials to your platform is a great way to gain exposure for your business and potentially get new customers!
Finding the right surprise travel agency is a big deal for most people, so it can be important for customers to try a free version with limited features prior to making a big investment.
Once your customer reaches the limits of their free account, they're much more likely to invest in the premium version so they can gain access to all of the features your product offers.
There are a few different ways you can limit certain aspects of your product:
- Usage quotas: Storage limits or limiting the number of times they can utilize a feature
- Limited features: Only allowing your free user to utilize certain features vs all features - this is also a great way to upsell during the user's experience
- Limited support: Customer support can be time-consuming, by limiting the level of support to free users this is a great incentive for them to upgrade (and will save you a lot of time and money)!
Here's an example of SEO website, Sanity Check offering a free version to their website:
🎬 How To Start A Surprise Travel Agency
How Much Does It Cost To Start A Surprise Travel Agency
If you are planning to start a surprise travel agency, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.
We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of starting a surprise travel agency and outline the costs you should expect for each:
- The estimated minimum starting cost = $62
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $44,347
|Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a surprise travel agency.||Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs.||Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.|
|Office Space Expenses|
|Rent: This refers to the office space you use for your business and give money to the landlord. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space.||$0||$5,750|
|Utility Costs For Office Space: Utility costs are the expense for all the services you use in your office, including electricity, gas, fuels, telephone, water, sewerage, etc.||$0||$1,150|
|WiFi & Internet: Whether you work from home or in an office space, WiFi is essential. Although the cost is minimal in most cases, it should be appropriately budgeted for each month!||$0||$100|
|Total Office Space Expenses||$0 (min)||$7,000 (max)|
|Employee & Freelancer Expenses|
|Payroll Costs & Fees: Payroll cost means the expense of paying your employees, which includes salaries, wages, and other benefits. This number depends on if you decide to pay yourself a salary upfront and how many employees you have on payroll. At first, many founders take on all responsibilities until the business is up and running. You can always hire down the road when you understand where you need help. Keep in mind, if you do plan to pay yourself, the average salary founders make is $50K.||$150||$250|
|Employee Hiring Expenses: Apart from payroll and benefits, there are other hiring employees costs. This includes the cost to advertise the job, the time it takes to interview candidates, and any other turnover that may result from hiring the wrong candidate.||$1||$2|
|Employee Rewards: It's vital to acknowledge and reward workers, whether they hit their goals or do a great job. This does not have to be costly. In fact, simply taking workers out to a meal or giving a gift or bonus is among the many ways to show how the worker is valued!||$0||$100|
|Total Employee & Freelancer Expenses||$151 (min)||$352 (max)|
|Website Builder: The cost of your website will vary depending on which platform you choose. There are many website builders on the market, so it's important you choose the right one for your business and overall goals. To learn more about your options + how to build a great website, check out this article.||$10||$500|
|Web Designer: Web design includes several different aspects, including webpage layout, content creation, and design elements.If you have the skills and knowledge to design your website on your own, then outsourcing this to an expert may not be necessary. There are plenty of other ways you can design a beautiful website using design tools and software.||$200||$6,000|
|Domain Name: Your domain name is the URL and name of your website - this is how internet users find you and your website.Domain names are extremely important and should match your company name and brand. This makes it easier for customers to remember you and return to your website.||$12||$200|
|Business Email Hosting Service: An email hosting runs a dedicated email server. Once you have your domain name, you can set up email accounts for each user on your team. The most common email hosts are G Suite and Microsoft 365 Suite. The number of email accounts you set up will determine the monthly cost breakdown.||$1||$15|
|Website Hosting Costs: Server hosting is an IT service typically offered by a cloud service provider that hosts the website information and allows remote access through the internet. A hosted server can help you scale up and increase your business’s efficacy, relieving you from the hassles of on-premise operations.||$0||$300|
|Website & Live Chat Tool: If your business values high-end customer service, you must consider utilizing a website chatbot. Website chatbots play a pivotal role in converting site visitors into long-term customers. Typically, there are different tiers of pricing and features offered by Live Chat service providers.||$0||$200|
|Total Website Costs||$223 (min)||$7,215 (max)|
|Business Formation Fees|
|Small Business Insurance: Depending on which state you live in and the business you're operating, the costs and requirements for small business insurance vary. You can learn more here.||$500||$2,000|
|Permit and License Fees: Depending on your industry, there are certain licenses and permits you may need in order to comply with state, local, and federal regulations. Here is an article that goes over all the permits and licenses you may need for your surprise travel agency.||$50||$700|
|Trademark: Filing trademark registration will protect your brand and prevent other businesses from copying your name or product. USPTO has several different types of trademarks, so the cost to apply can vary (typically anywhere from $400-$700).||$0||$700|
|Lawyer Fees: Although you may want to avoid attorney fees, it's important that your business (and you) are covered at all costs. This comes into play when creating founder agreements, setting up your business legal structure, and of course, any unforeseen circumstances that may happen when dealing with customers or other businesses.||$0||$1,500|
|A Patent: Patents provide protection against others stealing or selling your idea.Securing a patent can be very valuable, but it's important that you are 100% sure this will be a smart business move for you, or if this is something to consider down the line.The process of securing a US patent can be both lengthy and pricey, and typically includes filing an application with the USPTO.||$5,000||$15,000|
|Set up business: LLC & Corporations: The first step in setting up your business is deciding whether your business is an LLC, S Corp or C Corp. The cost for this depends on which state you form your business and which structure you decide on. We put together an article that goes over the 10 Steps To Setting Up A Business.||$50||$500|
|Total Business Formation Fees||$5,600 (min)||$20,400 (max)|
|Equipment & Supply Expenses|
|Cleaning Supplies: Cleaning supplies are essential products we used daily at home and in almost all places worldwide. These items are used to effectively and safely remove dirt and germs to control allergens and prevent the spreading of contagious diseases, helping us stay healthy.||$63||$200|
|First-aid Equipment: First-aid kits can be bought as a set if not gathered one by one. These are vital in all places of work, homes, and even in cars, especially when you plan to travel or go camping. So, to protect your workers, clients, and kinsfolks, you must always keep a well-stocked first-aid kit handy.||$3||$500|
|Total Equipment & Supply Expenses||$66 (min)||$700 (max)|
|Design Programs & Software: These programs might include the Adobe family of design tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and others. This is typically a monthly subscription ranging from $10-$50/mo.||$0||$50|
|Email marketing tool: If you plan to grow your email list and email marketing efforts, you may want to consider investing in an email marketing platform (ie. Klaviyo, MailChimp). We put together a detailed guide on all of the email marketing tools out there + the pricing models for each one here.||$0||$100|
|IT Support: IT support installs and configures hardware and software and solves any technical issues that may arise.IT support can be used internally or for your customers experiencing issues with your product/service.There are a variety of tools and software you can use to help with any technical issues you or your customers are experiencing. This is a great option for businesses that do not have the means to hire a team of professionals.||$150||$2,000|
|Accounting & Invoicing Software: It's important to have an accounting system and process in place to manage financials, reporting, planning and tax preparation. Here are the 30 best accounting tools for small businesses.||$0||$50|
|CRM Software: CRM (customer relationship management) software system is used to track and analyze your company’s interactions with clients and prospects. Although this is not a necessary tool to have for your business, implementing this, in the beginning, may set your business up for success and save you valuable time.||$12||$300|
|Project Management Software: You may want to consider using a project management and collaboration tool to organize your day-to-day. This can also be very beneficial if you have a larger team and want to keep track of everyones tasks and productivity. For a full list of project management tools, check out this full list here.||$0||$25|
|Internal Communication Tool: If you plan to have multiple members on your team, you may want to consider an instant message tool such as Slack or Telegram. The cost is usually billed per month (approx $5/user/month) or there are freemium versions available on many platforms.||$0||$20|
|Social Media Management Tools: If you plan to do social media marketing for your surprise travel agency, you should consider investing in a social media automation or publishing tool. This will save you time and allow you to track performance and engagement for your posts. Here is a list of 28 best social media tools for your small business.||$0||$50|
|Payroll Software: The main purpose of payroll software is to help you pay your team and track each of those payments (so that you don't have to do it manually). If you do not have any employees or have a very small team, payroll software may not be necessary at this stage. Here are the 11 best payroll tools for small businesses!||$0||$200|
|File Hosting Service: It's important to make sure the information for your surprise travel agency is stored and protected should something happen to your computer or hard drive. The cost for this is affordable and depends on how much data you need to store. To learn more about the different options and pricing on the market, check out this article.||$0||$299|
|Total Software Expenses||$162 (min)||$3,094 (max)|
|Advertising & Marketing Costs|
|Business Cards: A surprise travel agency involves quite a bit of customer interaction, whether that is attending tradeshows, sales calls or simply having face to face interaction with prospective clients. Business cards are a great way to stay front of mind with your clients.||$0||$50|
|Customer Research & Surveys: Many surprise travel agency's conduct industry and consumer research prior to starting their business. Often times, you need to pay for this data or hire a market research firm to help you in this process.||$0||$300|
|Business Signage: Business signs let people know they're in the right place and are one of the first impressions your customer will have of your business.The cost for signage depends on a variety of elements:- material- size- number of colors- durability- installation and laborThere are plenty of design tools and software to create your own signs, or you can hire a sign business to do this for you.||$75||$2,486|
|Direct Campaigns, Printing and Mailing: Although it may sound old-school, traditional marketing methods can be a cost-effective way to drive awareness for your brand. This includes flyers, postcards, sales letters, coupons, special offers, catalogs and brochures.||$0||$300|
|Affiliate Marketing Commission & Fees: If you want to increase revenue for your surprise travel agency, affiliate marketing is a great way to promote your product to a new audience. When determining affiliate commission rates you will offer, you will want to take into account the price and margin for your product to ensure affiliate marketing is worth it for your business. According to Monitor Backlinks, the average affiliate commission rate should be somewhere between 5% to 30%. To learn more about how to set commission rates, check out this article..||$0||$250|
|Influencer Marketing: Partnering with like-minded influencers is one of the most effective ways to grow your social media presence. Many small businesses simply gift a free item in exchange for an influencer post, or pay the influencer directly.||$0||$750|
|Press: If your business and story is unique enough, press and media attention may come to you, but odds are, you may need to do your own outreach and budget for this. We put together a guide here that discusses different press opportunities (both free and paid).||$0||$500|
|Google Ads: With Google Ads you have the ability to control how much you spend by simply setting a monthly budget cap. Additionally, with these ads you only pay for results, such as clicks to your website or phone calls! It's okay to start with a small budget at first and make changes accordingly if you see valuable returns.||$0||$300|
|Facebook & Instagram Ads: With Facebook and Instagram ads, you set your budget and pay for the actions you want (whether that be impressions, conversions, etc).You can learn more about pricing based on your impressions here.||$0||$350|
|Total Advertising & Marketing Costs||$75 (min)||$5,286 (max)|
|Specific Industry Expenses|
|Travel Agent Commissions: Typical commission fees paid to travel agencies and third party platforms range anywhere from 5-20%. It’s important to note that some vendors pay commission on the net rate (less taxes), whereas some pay on gross rate.||$0||$200|
|Ticketing Platform Fees: A great way to promote your event is to use an event platform such as EventBrite or Events.Com. Although there is typically no upfront cost, there can be ticketing fees deducted from the overall sale, which is important to take into account when pricing your tickets.||$0||$100|
|Total Specific Industry Expenses||$0 (min)||$300 (max)|
|Total Starting Costs||$62 (min)||$44,347 (max)|
Raising Money For Your Surprise Travel Agency
Here are the most common ways to raise money for your surprise travel agency:
You may not need funding for your surprise travel agency.
In fact, many entrepreneurs take this approach when starting their own business, whether they have a little amount of cash or a substantial amount to get started.
So what exactly does the term "bootstrapping" mean?
This method essentially refers to self-funding your businesswithout external help or capital and reinvesting your earnings back into the business**
Bootstrapping means building your company from the ground up with your own, or your loved ones, personal savings and reinvesting all earnings back into the business
Here are some tips to consider when bootstrapping your business:
- Use your savings as your capital - one of the best ways to bootstrap your business is to collect your savings and use them as startup capital. This will also help you avoid using your personal or business credit cards when getting started.
- Determine exactly how much capital you need and how much capital you have to get your business off the ground. Generally, when bootstrapping your business, you may want to consider starting a business that involves less startup capital.
- Consider starting a business that will generate immediate returns so you can put money back into the business
- Be as lean as possible - this refers to cutting down expenses as much as possible, such as payroll, fancy software tools, unnecessary travel, renting an office, etc
- Consider outsourcing instead of hiring - in the beginning, you may not need to hire someone permanently to help run your business. It tends to be much less expensive to outsource work to a freelancer and hire someone permanently down the road!
Want to learn more about bootstrapping your business? Check out this article
VC funding is a traditional and long process, but an effective way to raise money for your business.
The term "VC funding" refers to venture capital firms investing in businesses in exchange for equity.
The VC's (venture capitalists) are an individual or small group investing in your business and typically require substantial ownership of the business, with the hope of seeing a return on their investment.
VC's are typically the best approach for businesses with high startup costs - where it would be very difficult to raise the money on your own or through a loan.
When deciding whether to take this approach, it's important that you have a few things in place first, and know what you're getting yourself into:
Determine if your business is ready
Having an idea is not enough to get VC funding.
Typically, VC's will check to make sure you have these things in place prior to closing any deal:
- An MVP (Minimal Viable Product)
- A founding team with all proper documents in place (articles of organization, business formation)
- A validated idea with actual customers buying your product/service
Get everything in place and build a pitch deck
A VC individual or firm will be expecting a fine-tuned presentation that gives an overview of your business.
Here's what you should consider including in your pitch deck:
- Management team, their previous experience + current roles in the business
- Market challenge and solution
- Company financials - including a P&L statement, cash flow statement, and projections
- Company progress
- Investment amount - how much do you need and why?
Research the right VC to fund your business
Research the types of VC investors out there and what niche they focus on.
Then, put together a list of target VC's you want to approach and your strategy around setting up meetings.
Be sure you have everything in place (as discussed above) before setting up any meeting!
Make sure the terms and expectations are right for your business
Committing to VC funding is a big deal and a decision that should not be made lightly.
Although the money and experience from VC's can help your business quickly grow, you are also giving away a stake in the company, and the money comes with strings attached.
Be sure you do your due diligence in finding the right investor - one that truly believes in the growth and success of your business.
What Skills Do I Need To Succeed In Starting A Surprise Travel Agency?
As a surprise travel agency, there are several essential skills and characteristics that are important to identify prior to starting your business.
Let’s look at these skills in more detail so you can identify what you need to succeed in your day-to-day business operations:
The ability to negotiate on behalf of your client will be an essential part of your every day job.
This is one of the most important qualities you can have when starting a surprise travel agency, so it's important you practice and perfect these skills.
Here's what this looks like:
- Ability to analyze all parts of the deal: your biggest power is to understand and analyze all parts of the deal for your client, choose when to walk away, and know to what lengths you can negotiate a deal.
- Building rapport: This is key in the surprise travel agency. You are much likely to reach an agreement and favorable terms if you spend just a few moments getting to know each other before talking about the deal at stake.
- Be diplomatic: Being in control of any situation presented and showing intention with your words are key qualities for someone in this line of work. This includes asking good questions and listening actively.
Becoming a good negotiator does not happen overnight, but as long as you are persistent with practicing these skills and putting them into action, you will see growth day by day!
Customer Service Skills
Friendly communication with customers and the ability to address service issues is a critical part of the job.
Here are some customer service skills you may want to consider prior to starting a surprise travel agency:
- Professionalism: The way you act, present yourself, and respond to situations all leave an impression on your customer. It's important to stay professional at all times when handling customer requests or issues.
- Problem-solving: When issues arise, it's important that you are able to think quick on your feet and address the situation with a calm and clear solution
- Friendly-manner: This is an obvious one, but customers truly appreciate someone that can respond in a quick, efficient, and friendly manner.
- Proficient in writing: These skills include the ability to write well-crafted emails, service tickets, and any other programs used by the business (ie. chat functions, SMS texting)
Business Savvy Skills
When starting a surprise travel agency, there are a few fundamental business skills you will want to learn in order to be successful:
- Leadership and training skills: A great team starts with YOU. Make sure you have all company policies and training procedures in place prior to hiring your team
- Decisive and self-confident: Over the course of your career, you will need decisions that could impact your business significantly. It's important you are able to think clearly and rationally about these decisions.
- Ability to understand the financials: You don't need to be an accountant, but it is important that you are able to clearly understand and define metrics such as expenses, revenue, profit, margins, COGS, etc.
- Strategic Thinking: Setting clear goals and benchmarks, identifying opportunities, risks. Ability to effectively communicate these insights to your team.
These are a few of many business savvy skills you should have (or work on) when starting a surprise travel agency.
For a full list, check out this article here.
Advice For Starting A Surprise Travel Agency
We've interviewed thousands of successful founders at Starter Story and asked what advice they would give to entrepreneurs who are just getting started.
Here's the best advice we discovered for starting a surprise travel agency:
Lillian Rafson, founder of Pack Up + Go ($450K/month):
Leap, then work really, really hard to make it work once it’s up and running. You’ll thank yourself later!
Read the full interview ➜
Charlotte Curry McGhee, founder of Whisked Away Surprise Travel ($15K/month):
Don’t give up on your business- there are so many ways to position yourself to come through this.
Read the full interview ➜
Charlotte Curry McGhee, founder of Whisked Away Surprise Travel ($15K/month):
The biggest lesson I learned is this: success is not immediate. When I hit “publish” on my website I carried my phone around the rest of the day because I was so sure that orders would start flying in. Ridiculous!
Read the full interview ➜
Roshni & Jeff, founder of The Vacation Hunt ($40K/month):
When we came back from the trip, we told a friend about the whole surprise aspect and she asked us to plan a similar surprise vacation for her - and it just kind of went from there!
Read the full interview ➜
Lillian Rafson, founder of Pack Up + Go ($450K/month):
If you have to pay customers, get on the phone with them! Be open and honest with them that you’re a new business trying to get off the ground, and ask them for their insight.
Read the full interview ➜
Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your surprise travel agency.
Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.
For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.
You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
- Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
- Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
- Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
- Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
- Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
- Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
- Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
- Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.
Learn more about how to write a business plan here
Determine Which Business Bank Account You Need
There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.
Here are some factors you may want to consider:
- Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
- Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
- Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
- Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
- Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.
Check out this list of the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes them so unique.
Setting Up Your Surprise Travel Agency (Formation and Legal)
When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.
The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.
These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.
- LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
- S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
- C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.
Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.
Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.
How Do I Pay Myself As A Small Business Owner?
Most entrepreneurs start a business to do something they love- but at the end of the day, you still have bills to pay (maybe now more than ever).
But it's important to strike the right balance - if you pay yourself too much, you could be putting your business at risk.
There are two common ways to pay yourself as a business owner:
1. Owner's Draw
Many entrepreneurs pay themselves through an owner's draw. This means that you are technically sean as "self-employed" through the eyes of the IRS and are not paid through regular wages.
At the point that you collect money from the draw, taxes typically are not taken out - so make sure you are prepared to pay these taxes once you file your individual return.
As an owner who takes a draw, you can legally take out as much as you want from your equity.
This type of compensation is suited for Sole props, LLCs, and partnerships. If you’re an S corp, you can pay yourself through both a salary and draw if you choose.
If you decide to pay yourself a salary, you will receive a set and recurring amount. This will be taxed by the federal government and the state you reside in.
The reality is that it can be really complicated to set your own salary, so we have some tips for you to consider:
- Take out a reasonable amount that allows you to live comfortably but also sets your business up for success
- Consider the number of hours you are working weekly + the type of duties you are performing.
- Set your salary based on your industry-standard, location, and profits (or projected profits)
- Look at your P&L statement: Deduct your own pay from that amount. This is important so you can first tackle important business expenses, and then pay yourself from the amount leftover.
- Pick a payroll schedule (and stick to it)! In the US, it's most common to pay yourself and employees twice a month.
To learn more about how to pay yourself and what is a reasonable amount, check out this article.
How To Price Your Surprise Travel Agency Services
One of the most challenging aspects to starting a surprise travel agency is determining how much to charge for your surprise travel agency services.
When businesses under-price their product, this can be extremely detrimental to their bottom line and reputation.
Often times, businesses under-price their products to drive demand and volume, but that last thing you want is for customers to view your product/service as "cheap." Additionally, this can have a big impact on the type of customer you attract, which can be difficult to recover from.
On the other hand, when businesses over-price, this tends to be just as damaging to the business.
When customers buy, it's likely that they will explore the internet and look at other competitors to ensure they're getting the best value + deal. This is why it's so important that you research your competition and understand where you land in the marketplace.
Here are some factors to consider when pricing your product:
Understand your customer
It's important that out of the gates, you identify the type of customer you want to attract and how much they're willing to pay for your service. One great way to do this is by surveying your customers. Here are some important items you'll want to takeaway:
- Customer demographic: Age, gender, location, etc.
- Buying habits of your customer: What they buy + when they buy
- Level of price sensitivity with your customer
All of these segments will help you identify the type of customer you're attracting and how to price your product accordingly.
Understand your costs
When pricing your surprise travel agency services, it's critical that you first identify all of your costs and consequently mark up your surprise travel agency services so you can factor in a profit.
The actual cost of your surprise travel agency services may include things like:
- The actual cost to make the product (ie. raw materials, supplies, manufacturer).
- Shipping + overhead fees
- Operating costs to run your business
You may want to consider creating a spreadsheet with every single expense involved in operating/owning your business. This will give you an idea as to what you need to generate in order to at the very least, break-even and will help you price your products to factor in a profit.
Create revenue goals
When determining the price of your surprise travel agency services, you'll want to create goals for revenue + how much profit you want your surprise travel agency to make.
This process is simpler than you may think:
- Think about your breakeven cost (by completing the above step).
- Create a revenue goal based on your break-even cost
- Evaluate the # of items you plan to sell in a given period (make sure this is a realistic number)
- Divide your revenue goal by the number of items you plan to sell
This figure will help determine your estimated price per product in order to meet your revenue goals.
Evaluate your competition
The last piece in determining how to price your surprise travel agency services is by simply looking at your competition.
The best way to do this is by finding like-minded businesses that offer product(s) with similar perceived value. Then, you can compare prices of the different businesses and determine where your surprise travel agency services fits best in the marketplace.
All of these factors play an equal part in pricing your surprise travel agency services, so it's important you evaluate each one individually to come up with an accurate price that will help optimize your business from the start.
Gross Margin Calculator: How to Calculate The Gross Margin For Your Surprise Travel Agency Services
Our calculator is designed to be simple and easy to use.
The goal is to help you set realistic expectations and understand what is considered a healthy gross margin for your surprise travel agency.
What Type Of Customers Will Buy Your Surprise Travel Agency Services
It's important to first establish who you will be selling to, whether it's to businesses or consumers.
Typically, in this industry, products are sold to B2C markets (business-to-consumer).
Let's take a look at what this means for your surprise travel agency:
B2C (or business to consumer) is a transaction where businesses sell their products or services to the consumer directly.
In this market, consumer behavior is the primary driver for your business decisions - so it's important that you truly identify who your customer is, and what their buyer habits are when building your product/service.
B2C is that you are able to cast a very wide net when targeting your customers. Your product may interest a large number of consumers or a specific niche.
B2C is that consumers hold all the power - so if your website is not the most user friendly, or does not rank in the top search results on Google, chances are, your customer is going to shop elsewhere.
When building your surprise travel agency, it's critical that you hone in on who your target audience is, and why they need your product over your competition.
Here are some items to consider when identifying your buyer persona:
Building an MVP (Minimal Viable Product)
When building a surprise travel agency, it's critical that you first validate your product/service rather than rushing to build it right away.
This could save you months, if not years of building the wrong product/service.
If you're hoping to decrease any sort of risk that comes with launching your surprise travel agency, designing a prototype can be a great way to de-risk your situation.
The point of your surprise travel agency services prototype is that it doesn't have to be perfect.
In the beginning stages, it doesn't matter how rough V1 of your prototype is, it's more important to just get started and you can always refine from there based on feedback from your network and most importantly your customers.
How To Build A MVP
Here are several different ways of building a prototype/MVP:
- Start by building a landing page to see if customers actually need your product and if they are willing to pay for it
- Build a very basic version of your idea and ask for immediate feedback from potential customers
- Present a problem and solution via Facebook/Instagram Ads and see what the response is like
Lillian Rafson, founder of Pack Up + Go dives deep into the process of designing and prototyping their product:
After that fateful day in my Riga hostel, I still had about 6 weeks remaining in my travels. As I wandered around the Baltic coast, I kept a notebook with me and constantly took notes about ideas that I had related to the business. It was an invigorating process, and I remember constantly challenging myself with the question, “Why?” The first major decision I made was to limit departures and destinations to the United States. Why? I couldn’t shake the idea that I was walking around small villages in Slovenia brainstorming this business, but I had never been to Savannah.
Why, I kept asking myself, did I feel the impulse to take short-haul trips every weekend of my year studying abroad, but those impulses stopped when I returned to New York? Why is it that Americans don’t typically see the places within the United States as leisure vacation destinations?
I was raised in Pittsburgh, PA, which I know has a negative connotation for many Americans, but I love the city. It occurred to me that surprise travel could be a conduit for change by encouraging Americans to learn more about the hidden gem cities that they have never thought to visit before.
Surprise travel could give a city like Pittsburgh the opportunity to surprise and delight. As I brainstormed and traveled, I realized the potential economic benefit a company like this could have on smaller markets in the United States. After all, when you travel, you’re so much more likely to support local businesses. This could be huge, I realized.
All I needed to do was create a website, and convince total strangers to let a 23-year-old with no industry experience plan their vacation to an unknown destination. Easy enough!
How To Find The Right Developer For Your Surprise Travel Agency
If you (or others on your team) don't have the necessary coding/design skills to build the product on your own, finding the right developer for your surprise travel agency is a critical piece to bringing your idea to life.
Prior to hiring someone, you'll want to:
- Have a very clear understanding of what your product (or MVP) will look like
- Understand what the details of the user experience will look like (pages, how users sign up, backend administrative details, billing, reports etc). It may help to draw out the prototype and UX experience on a design platform such as Sketch
- Understand what features you want to implement now and even those in the future
- Understand the costs and time associated with hiring a developer and set a budget (more on that below)
Here are some ways you can find a developer:
Arielle Frank, founder of Clout Collective talks about her experiences and lessons learned when hiring a developer as a non-technical founder:
My first attempt to find a developer was a massive failure. I was basically screaming to be taken advantage of with my lack of technical knowledge and a heart full of hope. I signed an extremely unfavorable contract with a developer based in Morocco who claimed to offer “discounted” development services in exchange for equity in the company. By “discounted” I mean that it would cost only $40K to build the MVP. At the time I had no frame of reference for whether or not this was normal and justified it to myself.
Luckily, after a lot more internet sleuthing, I found my current developer, Adeva. Working with Adeva was the opposite experience of my initial encounter in every way. At $8K, Adeva’s quote for my MVP was literally 1/5th the cost of the original developer! I decided to save money on a front-end designer for V1 by using a template and designing things where I could in Figma.
I was forced to figure out many of the details and features of the platform upfront since Adeva couldn’t give me a quote without detailed user stories.
When building out the prospective features, I tried to focus on the end result and work backward from there.
For example, the end goal was for a content creator to be able to read a review and know whether or not they want to collaborate with a specific brand. I used this goal to inform the questions I collected for the reviews and the best way to display this info. During this phase, I also relied heavily on my beta testers for feedback about which info would be the most useful for them.
It’s tempting to add a bunch of cool, slick features when you’re building your product, but my brilliant mentor encouraged me to focus on doing one thing extremely well.
🚀 How To Launch Your Surprise Travel Agency
Build A Website
Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).
- Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
- Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
- Make sure you choose the right theme and design
- Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)
To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.
Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.
Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.
One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.
If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.
Launch Strategies For Your Surprise Travel Agency
There are various different ways you can launch your surprise travel agency successfully.
Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your surprise travel agency.
- Build hype with a landing page: you can effectively do this through waiting lists, discounts, countdown timer etc
- Create a teaser video: even just a 30 second video is a great way to exposure for your surprise travel agency, and possibly even go viral
- Reach out to influencers: The right influencer for your product has the ability to reach your audience with just one post, and because of their loyal following, this could lead to a big return for you.
- Get Press: Whether you plan a PR stunt or get exposure through a popular news outlet, this is a great way to attract initial customers
- Launch on popular sites: A great way to get buzz about your surprise travel agency is to submit your launch to popular startup sites.
Here are a few popular sites to launch on:
Learn more about how to launch your business successfully ➜ here
Charlotte Curry McGhee, founder of Whisked Away Surprise Travel dives deep into the process of launching the business:
Creating the website for Whisked Away has been an evolving process. When I launched, I had never created a website before and as my product is a service, I had to figure out how to correctly configure that within Squarespace - it wasn’t easy.
The biggest lesson I learned is this: success is not immediate. When I hit “publish” on my website I carried my phone around the rest of the day because I was so sure that orders would start flying in. Ridiculous!
Squarespace has a great platform and help section, and I could usually google any question that I had and come up with a solution pretty quickly. (If I can do it, anyone can!)
I was also brand new to the business and committed myself to reading as many books as I could, listening to business podcasts and seeking out guidance from others in my industry. Everyone was so incredibly helpful and I’m so grateful for that.
Before Whisked Away I wasn’t even on Instagram. Learning social media through the business has also been trial and error, and instead of being on all of the platforms I’ve chosen to focus on Facebook & Instagram. I tried using Pinterest, and though Pinterest got a lot of new folks to my site, they were only checking out the blog post they were interested in and then leaving. They weren’t heading to any other parts of my site. I decided it wasn’t worth the time to schedule the pins if visitors from that platform weren’t going to convert.
Whisked Away also has a Facebook group for folks who might be interested in surprise travel or who just want travel tips for their own trips. (Join us!)
Whisked Away launched in March of 2017, and my first real order came in June of that year. I was at an end of year party with some teacher friends and heard the ping and literally screamed. I’ve since stopped screaming every time an order comes in, but often do a little dance. It is such a wonderful feeling when people trust you with their travel!
The first order that came in was from friends of friends- they were taking their honeymoon and didn’t want to plan a thing. They had airline points that they wanted to use, and a strict budget. I don’t use airline points anymore, because the more connected that Whisked Away is to your personal airline accounts, the more chance there is of ruining the surprise. Now, clients are able to request that I book on a certain airline, and they can enter their frequent flier numbers after they fly and still earn those points.
That couple went to an amazing beachside resort in Mexico, had fabulous weather (something I was so stressed about!) and came back with glowing reviews.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned throughout this process, which is probably totally obvious to everyone reading, is this: success is not immediate. When I hit “publish” on my website I carried my phone around the rest of the day because I was so sure that orders would start flying in. Ridiculous!
Growth is slow and failures will happen, but if you choose to learn from them instead of quit, you’ll succeed. That’s where I am now- seeing some success and still trying and failing at things sometimes. It’s all a learning process.
Get Press Coverage For Your Surprise Travel Agency
The more buzz around your brand - the more the phones ring, the more traffic to your website, and the more customers as a result.
Here are a few ways you can get press for your business:
Press releases are a great way to share big announcements or news, but in order to get any traction, you'll need to find a way to make your press release stand out amongst others.
Try to convey a story that really matters, not just to you, but to the reporter and to their audience.
Here are some things to consider when submitting a press release:
- Craft a catchy subject (keep it short and sweet).
- Acknowledge the journalist's past work and interests - this is key!
- Include the main point of the story in the first paragraph, heck, even the first sentence. Reporters want to hear the juice first and foremost.
- Focus on the facts and try to limit the amount of jargon used.
- Pitch yourself! Help them put a face to the story.
- Make sure your topic is newsworthy. If it's not, find a way to!
- Try not to include any attachments of your release!
Email is one of the most effective and preferred way to send your press release, so as long as you keep your pitch brief, interesting and personalized (no cold emails), you should stand a chance!
Get Press Using HARO
HARO, otherwise known as "Help a Reporter Out" is an outlet for journalists to source upcoming stories and opportunities for media coverage.
The best part is, HARO is free to use! There are, of course, premium versions you can purchase, but the free version is still an accessible way to get press.
Once you set up an account, HARO essentially will email you based on stories (that are relevant to you) that need to be covered where you will then have a chance to essentially "bid on the story."
Here are some tips when crafting your pitch:
- Discuss your experience and expertise in the space. Make sure it's obvious why you're relevant to this story.
- Answer the question in 3-4 sentences. Try and be as direct as possible
- Offer to provide the reporter with more information and make sure to give them your contact info
Plan a Publicity Stunt
Planning a publicity stunt is an effective and quick way to raise awareness for your brand and gain some traction from the press.
If you're looking to plan a stunt, the objective should be to be bold and create something memorable
However, being bold has a fine line - it's important that you consider the timing of your stunt to ensure you don't come off insensitive or unethical. For example, timing may not be in your favor if you plan something during the general election, or in most recent cases, a global pandemic.
In order to measure the success of your stunt, it's important that you first determine your end goal, for example:
- Is the stunt aimed to raise money for your business or a particular organization?
- Is the stunt aimed to drive more traffic to your website?
- Is the stunt aimed to get more followers and engagement on Instagram?
Here are a few tips for creating a great publicity stunt:
- Research to ensure that there haven't been similar stunts done in the past by other businesses - this could easily turn off journalists and your audience.
- Make sure you can explain the stunt in one headline - this will help grab the media's attention. In other words, simplify!
- The stunt should be related to the product you are promoting. Even if the stunt is a success in terms of viewers, but it doesn't tie back to your original goal, then it's not useful.
- Keep the stunt visual with videos/images.
- Leverage the internet and social media platforms for your stunt by sharing your message across a variety of audiences. This will help with word of mouth and the overall success of your event.
To learn other strategies on how to get press, check out our full guide here.
🌱 How To Grow Your Surprise Travel Agency
Consider Working With Instagram Influencers
Partnering with like-minded influencers (within your industry) is one of the most effective ways to grow your social media organically.
Industry influencers already have an established and loyal following. With one post, your product immediately establishes a connection with a brand new audience. It's that powerful.
When finding influencers to promote your product, do your research and make sure that their following will actually be interested in your product.
It's easy to be blinded by any influencer with a huge following, but if those followers don't resonate with your product, there may not be any value there... so make sure you do your research!
Evan Marshall, founder of Plain Jane discusses how "micro-influencers" have impacted his business:
Influencer marketing has been huge for us. Our approach is pretty simple. We give out samples of our products and ask people to post about us on social media aka a micro-influencer strategy.
We really like this approach because we get authentic stories and content. We cannot really control the messaging so the product has to speak for itself. We don’t really take product photos at all. Our customers take the photos and we ask to reuse them.
With any influencer strategy, you have to be very sure you’re targeting the right people and engaging with them. You can make sure you’re targeting the right influencers by looking through their posts and then looking through the profiles of their engaged followers.
It takes more time per influencer but the payoff is certainly worth it. Make sure their followers look like your existing customers.
It takes a ton of time and work to grow a social media following this way but it’s worth it. Other accounts have tried to grow themselves through botting or other manipulations. As a CBD company, we didn’t want to give Instagram any reason to shutdown our account so we’ve done everything through content and real engagement. It’s not magic to make this happen. You just have to post consistently and then reply or like every single comment you get. It takes months but it works
Form partnerships for your surprise travel agency
Starting a surprise travel agency is all about building relationships and becoming an integral part of your community.
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking they can do everything on their own. In reality, other businesses (even your competition) and members of your community can be a huge piece of your growth strategy.
When forming any type of partnership, a lot of energy and time can go into this. To ensure it's worth your while, dive deep into the vetting process and ask yourself (and them) the following questions:
- What are your businesses values and priorities?
- Who are your customers? What matters most to them?
- In what ways can we both bring value to each others businesses? Cross promotions? Clout/credibility?
- Should we do a trial run first to make sure this partnership works out before finalizing an agreement?
- What will the agreement look like?
Once you have an idea as to what the ideal partnership agreement looks like, that's when the outreach begins (the hardest part)!
Here are some different ways you can meet other entrepreneurs and form partnerships:
- Simply talk to other people in the surprise travel agency industry. You'd be surprised as to how willing other entrepreneurs are to share their knowledge with you
- Host an event: By inviting people to your event in your community and industry, you may be able to form partnerships and expand your clientele
- Join a facebook community: Nowadays, everything is online. A great way to meet other people is to become 'active' on a public forum or community
- Use other social networks such as LinkedIn or Twitter to aid your outreach. This can be a very powerful tool if used properly.
Forming partnerships and building relationships within your community can be a very valuable tool, but it's important that you do your due diligence and avoid going in blind to any sort of partnership. This can save you months, if not years of time.
Mike Aspinall, founder of The Crafty Gentlemen discusses how brand partnerships are the most important part of his growth strategy and revenue stream:
My main revenue stream is sponsored brand partnerships, whereby a company pays me a fee to feature their product within one of my blog posts.
Over the years, I’ve worked with some really cool brands – Etsy, Hobbycraft, Cricut, Pinterest, Gorilla Glue, Singer, Janome, Brother, Bosch, and lots more.
For a long time, I was hesitant to charge for my work – I was happy to work in exchange for products. But there came a point where I was being offered more work than I could have said yes to – something had to change. So I started to charge for partnerships. And brands agreed, no questions asked!
The last 6-12 months have been the most successful yet for my business. I’m making regular revenue through multiple streams, including sponsorships, media appearances, influencer work, and passive ad revenue. My website traffic is at an all-time high, and growing – as are my social media followings:
Improve your SEO
SEO is not just about driving traffic to your site, it's about driving the RIGHT traffic to your site, and ultimately, converting leads into customers.
One of the most important aspects of SEO is understanding what your customers are searching for, otherwise known as "keyword research."
Here are some tools that can help you choose the right keywords for your surprise travel agency.
- Google Ads Keyword Planner invaluable for discovering search trends.
- Google Search Console is very helpful once your website is up as it shows you what words/phrases are generating traffic.
- Ahrefs and SEMRush are paid tools that allow you to look at results of your competitor's website.
Publish Great Content
Finding keywords is an important piece of the puzzle, but Google also ranks your site based on the actual content you produce, as this is what your customers are reading and engaging with.
There are various different "forms" of content that you may want to consider diversifying on your sites, such as blog posts, articles, studies, and videos.
So let's discuss what google considers "good content:"
- Length - This will vary depending on the page, however, generally having a sufficient amount of content helps search engines recognize that your site is a good source for a specific topic
- Engagement - The longer people stay on your website to read your content, the higher Google will rank your website. It's important to have informative and "thick" content that keeps people reading
- Avoid Duplicating Content - Google will recognize this and may consider your content to have low value
- Ensure pages load quickly - This will also help with engagement and time spent on your website
- Shareability - Create content that people want to share, and is easy for them to share, especially to their social media accounts (ie. "click to tweet" is a great example of this).
Another element of creating good content is creating consistent content.
If (and hopefully you are) publishing content frequently, it's important to stick to a schedule - this helps build brand trust and easy user experience with your customers.
Planning out your content with a content calendar is key to staying consistent.
Here are a few great content calendar tools that can help you:
Backlinks are an important piece to SEO, as they allow for other websites to link to your content.
Search engines recognize that other sites are essentially "verifying" your content and essentially rank you higher because of this.
Of course, some links are more valuable than others and can affect your site in different ways.
For example, if a highly valuable and credible site like the New York Times links to a page on your website, this could be remarkable from an SEO perspective.
Aside from organically getting mentioned from other sites, there are other ways that you can increase and earn backlinks:
- Create infographics with relevant data that people want to share
- Promote your content on different sites/look into "guest blogging"
- Contact influencers/journalists/bloggers and ask them to mention you!
- Write testimonials for other sites in exchange for a backlink
- Leverage existing business relationships
Build A Blog
One of the most effective ways to build brand awareness and grow your business is through consistently blogging.
We've outlined some useful tips for you to consider when creating content:
Consistency and Quantity
Quality is important, but it should be the standard for any content you publish.
What’s more important is consistency and quantity.
Consistency is as simple as committing to publishing and sharing a certain number of posts per week. For me, that’s three per week right now.
This kind of commitment is key, because one day, a random post will blow up, and you will have never expected it.
The easiest mind trap is to think "I’m posting too much", and “I need to give my readers/audience/this platform a break”.
This is nonsense.
There is no such thing as oversaturation. Well, there is, but it is just someone else’s opinion.
For every person that tells you you are posting too much, there is another person that wants even more of your content.
You should ignore people’s opinions on how much you post.
Patience & Persistence
Keep posting, keep trying, and keep putting out good content on the regular. Your time will come, and when it does, it will change everything.
The only thing you have control over is your content.
You can’t control how people will react to it. You can’t control pageviews, likes, or shares.
So the only metric you should focus on is how much content you can put out in a week, month, etc.
Where to share your blog content
I know it sounds obvious, but the best places to share your content is on your mailing list. It is guaranteed traffic and it is a great way to get rapid feedback from your most loyal readers.
Send newsletters often. I have done once a week since starting, and I’m moving to twice a week soon.
Work on increasing your mailing list as well. Look into ways to increase your conversion rate to your mailing list. I added a flyout popup thing to my site and now I’m collecting ~30 emails per day.
An email newsletter is one of the most powerful assets you can have and it is worth its weight in gold.
Reddit is one of my favorite places to promote content.
It is a very scary place because you will often get banned or heckled, but it can really pay off.
Create social media accounts for your blog, the main ones I use:
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
Set up Buffer and share all of your blog posts to all of your accounts. All of these little shares really do add up.
Automate this as much as possible. I automated all of my social media for Starter Story.
When I started out, I put together a spreadsheet of relevant Facebook groups for my niche, and I would post to these groups whenever I had a big story I wanted to share.
Grow Your Email List
The more engaged list of emails, the more engaged customers, which ultimately leads to more sales.
One of the best ways to start growing your list is by providing your customer with something free (or discounted) in return.
This could also be anything from:
- Fascinating case study
- Video series
- Free week of the product
- Discount on the product
Learn more about how to grow your email list and improve email marketing ➜ here.
Dylan Jacob, founder of Brumate states their email collection tactic that is proven to work:
We use Spin-a-Sale for this (you spin a wheel for a discount code in exchange for subscribing to our email list). This has been the best email-collecting tool we have found because the customer truly feels like they won a prize rather than just a coupon code.
Even if a customer doesn’t convert right away, if we have their email we have a 19% chance of converting them into a future customer whether that is through future promotions, new releases, or simply just sending an email at the right time for a purchase to finally make sense for them.
We also have a return customer rate of over 14%, so one out of every 6 people we convert will end up buying from us again with an average order value of over $60.00.
Add an exit-intent popup to your online store
A great way to double, or even triple, your email opt-in rate and to grow your list is to add an exit-intent popup to your site, and offering a discount or content upgrade for subscribers.
Here's an example of what that might look like:
One thing that I spent years NOT doing, that I now kick myself about, is adding an "exit intent pop-up" to our site, which lets people enter a sweepstakes to win a Xero Shoes gift certificate.
That one idea has added over 100,000 subscribers to our email list, which is one of our most effective marketing channels.
Improve Your Email Marketing
Different types of emails
Here are the most common types of email campaigns you can send to your customers and their benefits:
- Welcome emails - the perfect way to provide information from the start with a clear CTA. Make sure to tell your customer everything they need to know about your product or service.
- Newsletters - a great way to give customers updates or send out your latest content
- Product launch emails - the quickest (and easiest) way to increase sales is by selling to current customers. Make sure they're the first on the list to know about your new product
- Promotional emails - promote discounts, deals coupons etc. Try and make this feel exclusive and for a limited time only
- Abandoned cart emails - give your customers a reason to complete their purchase!
Here's a great resource for finding curated email designs, for all types of email campaigns!
Abandonded Cart Flow
The abandoned cart workflow is one of the most effective strategies for turning your lead into a customer, and a powerful tool to have if you're an e-commerce business.
Think about all the times that you went on a shopping frenzy only to add items to your cart and then either forget or realize nows not the right time to pull the trigger.
Then, minutes later you receive an email saying "Hurry up! Your cart is waiting - and we want to provide you with 20% off your order."
Maybe that's the special touch (and discount) you needed to pull that trigger.
Implementing this workflow can automatically trigger this for your business every time a customer abandons their cart.
Here's a great example of an abandoned cart email from Brooklinen:
Things they do well:
- Showcase 5-star reviews from other customers
- Offer a small discount + free shipping
- Great design + clear call to actions!
Experiment With Pay Per Click Ads (PPC)
Pay-per-click (PPC) is a performance-based marketing method that allows you to show specific ads for services or products oriented to a very defined target, with the goal that the user visits your website or landing page.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Consider connecting the ad to your corresponding landing page so that the audience receives the necessary information after clicking on the ad.
- Conversion Tracking: When running PPC campaigns, be sure to run the ads with conversion tracking.
- Focus on quality keywords, even if there are few as this will save you time and money. When assessing the performance of a keyword, it's important to track the expense, conversion, and cost per conversion, as well as the ROI.
PPC advertising can be a very important lead generator as long as it's done properly. Your PPC campaign is intended to drive traffic to your website and help the business scale.
Additionally, if the campaign is not having the desired results, you can make the necessary changes immediately to improve them.
Ryan Schortmann, founder of Display Pros talks about their investment in PPC Ads:
My name is Ryan Schortmann and I’m the founder of Display Pros. We are a custom trade show display booth company offering easy to use portable display “kits” for small and medium businesses wanting to get into the trade show game.
It did not take long to come to the realization that to compete at any reasonable level, we were going to need to take the plunge and invest in Pay Per Click ads and display.
From experience, I know that it is important to give Google’s hivemind some time to settle in before each campaign starts seeing consistent results (this is largely dependent on budget).
A certain amount of PPC budget must be viewed as a “marketing research” expense and then you can look at the analytics data and make informed decisions on where to refine, tweak or plain scrap an idea.
Google Shopping was an entirely new concept for me. You can’t assign keywords to products so at first, I was asking myself “How the hell do you refine these?”. Then I found some good reading material and courses and learned of some advanced methods that the pros are using. It turns out you can utilize negative keyword lists combined with the priority setting on each shopping campaign to “shape” the keywords that are coming in and how much you are spending on them.
To learn more about PPC Ads and Google Shopping, check out this video to learn everything you need to know!
Build A Facebook Community
Building a community is a great way to grow your network and your business.
There are several different ways of building a community, one of the most effective (and simplest) ways is to build a Facebook group
Setting up the group page takes less than 10 minutes, and we've outlined ways the top 5 ways to create an engaging and successful group:
- Make the group exclusive. This may sound counter-intuitive, however, this ensures privacy and that the group will feel comfortable posting and engaging with members.
- Try to be warm and welcoming. A great way to do this is by having a "Member Monday" where you welcome new members and ask them to introduce themselves in the group
- Use polls/surveys. This is a great way to know your audience and see what people want more of in the group (more business tips, networking opportunities, etc).
- Include influential people & conduct AMA's (ask me anything). This is a great way to get members engaged
- Host an in-person (or virtual) event with members in the group. This will create stronger relationships and build a strong community.
Mike Doehla, founder of Stronger U, an online nutrition company noticed that his customers needed a little motivation and sense of community:
Most diets are lonely so we wanted to give support and a community.
I think many people fail diets because there is no one to talk to and no accountability.
You can by a book, or google a meal plan but who’s going to keep you on track? We will. The entire SU community.
We give our members access for life to our Facebook community filled with people around the world who are looking out for everyone’s success.
Most diets make up arbitrary rules and we thought they just didn’t make sense. Meal timing, Cutting carbs, butter in coffee, sugar being the devil? Ehh no need to overthink that stuff.
We’ll give you the science behind of what we do and show you what actually matters based on real research.
Luckily we have a PhD at our disposal to educate our staff and members so everyone is getting the most up to date information out there.
Social Media Advertising
Social Media Advertising is one of the leading ways to get the word out when it comes to surprise travel agency.
There are various different Social Media platforms available to you. Some may be more critical for your marketing efforts than others, however, it's important to have an understanding of what's out there and available to you.
Let's talk about a few of the main platforms and what makes them unique:
- Facebook Advertising - more than 2 billion monthly users. Facebook is the best for lead generation + capturing email addresses for e-commerce businesses.
- Instagram Advertising - approximately 500 million monthly users and has a higher audience engagement rate than any other platform. Instagram ads are best for linking to a product page or landing page and reaches the 18-29 age group most effectively.
- Twitter Advertising- Small businesses typically use twitter ads to drive brand awareness, but the platform is meant more for organic engagement (and is not as heavily used for paid advertising)
- Pinterest Advertising - 175 million monthly users and most effectively reaches the female audience. Pinterest is great for promoting products without "promoted". The promoted pins have a way of blending right in.
- LinkedIn Advertising - 227 million monthly users and is geared towards the B2B market and generates the highest quality leads. Great platform for recruiters, high-end products and services that will help businesses
It's important to first define your goal/objective so that you don't waste time and money into the wrong platform:
Here are some different questions to ask yourself as it relates to your goals:
- Do I want to simply drive brand awareness?
- Do I want to drive users to my website to gather information?
- Do I want to increase sales and get my customer to take action?
From there, choose the platform that targets your audience best and start experimenting!
Learn more about social media advertising ➜ here.
Founder Andy Hayes talks about mastering FB ads and the pixel:
The biggest bang for your buck will likely be mastering Facebook and it’s platform - which we all know is pay for play, so you’ll have to come up with a small amount of budget to start for marketing.
We’ve spent countless hours (and paid numerous coaches) before we cracked the code that works for us on Facebook, but it is working really well for us now.
Some of the most important things to know when it comes to FB Ads:
- Start with retargeting (that’s showing ads to people who already know you but did not purchase). Master this - and start building information on your Facebook Pixel - before you do anything else
- Once you have that down, try working with the 1% “Lookalike” audience to prospect for new customers. This may take awhile because your pixel audience is small, so try layering on interests - 1% Lookalike and your largest competitor, for example. Don’t use interest-only targeting until you master this.
- Great photography and videography is key, as is smart copy. Research what’s out there in your industry and constantly test - what works for one company may not work for other people.
- Make sure you have good offers. For example, we have a $5 trial for our subscription, which converts affordably - if we promoted our subscription with the standard $30 front charge, it wouldn’t be as cost-effective.
Host A Social Media Giveaway
People love free stuff and love competition. Giveaways and contests are a great way to create awareness for your brand, grow your email list, and eventually convert leads into customers.
If your goal is to gather email addresses, make sure the entry criteria is to "enter your email." You can do this by leading customers to your landing page where they can then enter their email to be in the giveaway.
One of the most important aspects of promoting a successful giveaway is having an amazing prize. The better the prize, the more engagement you'll get.
This doesn't necessarily mean choosing an iPad or an expensive/trendy watch, but instead a prize that is actually relevant to your brand/target audience.
Giveaway Example and Tips
Example from TJ Mapes, founder of RIPT Apparel
Our most recent successful giveaway was when we gave away a PS4 + the new Spiderman game. I hosted the giveaway on our site and then let our audience know about it via email/social channels.
Entrants earned different amounts of entries for entering in different ways (tongue twister!), for instance; enter via email, get 10 entries. Follow us on Facebook, get 5 entries. Subscribe on Messenger and get 25 entries.
I also built out a drip sequence in Klaviyo that contained four emails to encourage entrants to take more action, like referring friends and liking us on social.
Email #1: Thanks for entering!
Email #2: Explained how to earn bonus entries:
Email #3: About us
Email #4: Coupon for entering
This last email in the sequence just thanked them again for entering and also included a coupon to a specific (related) collection of designs with an expiration date on it to incentivize purchases.
PS4 Giveaway Results:
We ran it for 2 weeks and recorded results in a meticulous spreadsheet to analyze the data. Here are some of the highlights:
- Giveaway page pageviews - 67,355
- Total entrants - 26,137
- Conversion rate - 38.80%
- Total entrants in Klaviyo (not suppressed) - 24,515
- New emails acquired - 16,363
- Emails we already had - 7,521
- % of new emails - 66.75%
- Cost of item - $350
- Instagram visits - 10,618
- Instagram followers gained - 3,496 ( total followers lifted by 6.9% )
- Twitter followers gained - 4,194
🏃🏼♀️ How To Run Your Surprise Travel Agency
How To Retain Customers For Your Surprise Travel Agency
Retaining customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your surprise travel agency.
Oftentimes, it's easy to find yourself focusing on generating new customers, vs retaining your current ones.
Look at it this way - you are 60-70% more likely to sell a new product to an existing customer than you are a new customer.
That's not to say that finding new customers and revenue streams is not important, however, the easiest (and most inexpensive) source of new revenue is right there in front of you.
Here are some ways you can retain customers for your surprise travel agency:
- Responding to comments on social media
- Send discounts (or freebies) to loyal customers
- Provide valuable content, for free
- Write a hand written thank you note
- Provide awesome customer service and build relationships with customers
To find out more tips and tricks on retaining customers, check out this article ➜ here
Lillian Rafson, founder of Pack Up + Go dives deep into the process of attracting and retaining customers:
As a bootstrapped business, we’ve never had a big marketing budget, but I knew that word of mouth and real traveler testimonials could be huge for us. When our very first travelers returned home from their vacations, I sent them an email asking for photos from their trip. I was surprised when they happily obliged, and one of the photos I received was of the traveler holding up her sign that said, “You’re Going to Washington, D.C.!” I shared it on the Pack Up + Go social media accounts, and it quickly became a trend.
After every trip, travelers started sending me the same photo of them holding up the sign that revealed their destination, so I kept sharing them on social media. How, I thought, could this single piece of paper become our biggest marketing strategy? But its success is multifaceted:
We only share images of our real travelers on social media, not stock images. This traveler-generated content shows prospective travelers how their trip might unfold. Sometimes, that means the quality of the photos isn’t top-notch, but that only adds to the authenticity. We aim to showcase all of our travelers - all ages, races, genders, types of trips, solo travelers, families - and a wide range of their experiences.
It builds anticipation!
Truthfully, when I launched Pack Up + Go, I imagined mailing these physical envelopes was just going to be a placeholder as my MVP. I imagined that as soon as we had the funds saved, I would replace those physical envelopes with an app that would reveal the traveler’s destination. But in a world where so much of e-commerce is digital, having a literal physical touch goes a long way. It feels like receiving a gift in the mail and only heightens the traveler experience.
Tearing apart the envelope to reveal your destination on the morning of a vacation is exciting! Every time I watch a traveler video, I still get goosebumps and hold my breath.
In a world where travel has become commoditized as a luxury product, I love that Pack Up + Go Surprise Vacations remind us to have fun on vacation. How often are we, as adults, genuinely surprised? Many of our travelers tell us the only other surprise they can remember experiencing is discovering the sex of their baby.
Vacation is supposed to relieve stress, allowing us to discover a new place, but instead, it has become an Instagram-worthy-experience-seeking opportunity. I love that our “You’re Going To…!” piece of paper encapsulates how fun, silly, and exciting traveling can and should be.
Aside from this unintentional marketing strategy, we have enjoyed great success from partnerships with larger brands. Whether it is planning Road Trips in partnership with Ford, partnering with HotelTonight to plan vacations for influencers, or raffling off trips for newly engaged couples with WeddingWire, we know that the best way to promote ourselves is to help other brands succeed in tandem. As long as we stay true to our mission and our values are aligned with the co-sponsor, I am a strong proponent of partnerships.
We also stay engaged with our travelers after they return from their getaway! I’ve always thought it was silly that the conversion funnel ends with the conversion. What is supposed to happen after that? We believe that the conversion funnel reopens after ‘conversion,’ into a new category that I call, ‘Community.’
We have a private Facebook group for Pack Up + Go, alumni, where our travelers can engage with one another, ask questions, share stories and pictures, and we can stay in touch with them. We offer exclusive discounts to this group, and we also ask them questions! We know that our travelers are a valuable resource and have amazing firsthand experience using our services, so we want to make sure that we stay in touch with them as we work to develop new products.
Diversify Your Product Line
Adding new products to your business is a great way to expand into new markets and grow your business.
It's important to note that adding new products and diversifying may not be in the cards for you right this moment, and that's okay. You can always consider it down the road.
Here are some reasons you may want to considering adding/diversifying your product
- Meeting the needs of your customers
- Establish yourself as a top provider in your industry and stay ahead of the game with competition
- Resistance to downturns/trends fading
- Create new revenue streams
Provide Great Customer Service
Providing exceptional care and creating relationships with clients is a great way to build your reputation and retain customers.
Whether you are an online business or a physical business, it's highly important to communicate with customers and make them feel like they are the priority.
Just remember: customer service represents your brand, values, vision and YOU as a person.
If you can afford to hire someone to help support your surprise travel agency, outsourcing is a great way to save you time and energy.
Most importantly, outsourcing can help you focus on the core growth of your business, versus spending your time on day to day tasks that other people can do just as well!
If you do plan to outsource your work, it's important to be hyper-familiar with the actual work involved.
Why is it important to be hyper-familiar with the work?
- So you can understand how long it takes
- So you understand the full process, edge cases, things that can go wrong.
- So you can explain it in detail to your employee.
- So you can make sure it actually works (for example - how do you know cold email works for your business if you’re not on the ground floor trying it out?)
- Understanding the tasks at a deep level will save you a lot of time and money.
As a brand, you want to deliver an experience that authentic, honest and transparent.
Don't make the mistake of giving your audience less credit than they deserve.
If you go around chasing every trend and only focused on yourself and money, you’re going to lose very quickly.
There have been many times where we have been tempted to do this but stayed true.
Sure we sacrificed sales, but we kept our integrity, played the long game and people saw and appreciated that, and really began emotionally investing in the brand.
Build a Referral Program
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business and acquire new customers. Especially when you are starting out, it’s important to build a solid referral program to encourage existing customers to help you find new ones.
A great way to do that is by offering a reward (ie. credit on your service or cash) to customers that refer you to their friends and family.
A fantastic referral program will help with clout, credibility, and establishing yourself in the space.
How To Crush The Sales Process For Your Surprise Travel Agency
You may find yourself in a spot where you're ready to hire a few (or many) salespeople to support the sales conversion process.
Regardless if you have one or thirty salespeople, it's critical that you assign them specific roles and responsibilities to nurture the client and provide excellent support.
Mike Korba, co-founder of User.Com walks us through the entire sales process and which teams are responsible for what:
User.com Sales Process
Each user and account is qualified with a specialist. For business leads, they are handled by the sales team, and if they are qualified we give them a demo, more than often at the end of their fourteen-day trial. If they’re happy they’ll add a payment, and get an account manager, so a customer support and success team who will help implement the solution and to use the technology.
Sometimes, users will convert naturally on their own, after using the freemium product and finding it to be something that they will find beneficial.
After they convert, we help with onboarding, give them some personalized tips for their specific business or industry to grow plus all kinds of support, for whatever they need - something we take huge pride in.
The team is right now more than 30 people, with more than half working on the IT and product side, and the rest are in three teams: Support, Marketing, and Sales who all work together very closely.
Word of Mouth
The most tried and true way to grow a surprise travel agency is through word of mouth - some entrepreneurs would say it's more important than all social media.
Why you should focus on word of mouth:
- Consumers trust word of mouth above all other forms of marketing
- 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising
- 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe it is the most effective form of marketing
Learn more about word of mouth in our guide: 30 Ways Founders Grow Their Business ➜
We put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your surprise travel agency.
- Email tools such as MailChimp
- Social media tools such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube
- Advertising tools such as Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads or Google Adwords
- Design tools such as Canva or Adobe Suite
- Analytics tools such as Google Analytics
- Productivity tools such as Google Suite
- Payments tools such as Paypal, Stripe or Venmo
- Accounting tools such as Quickbooks or Google Sheets
- Customer service tools such as Facebook Chat App
- Shipping tools such as USPS
- Stock images tools such as Unsplash or Pixabay
- Platform tools such as BigCommerce
- Blog tools such as Squarespace
- The Black Hole Travel Agency Book Two Artifact Of The
- This Couple Makes $40K/Month Planning Surprise Vacations
- How I Started A $450K/Month Travel Agency That Curates Surprise Vacations
- How I Turned My Passion For Travel Planning Into A Successful Business
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