Maximizing Customer Engagement in Travel with Meghan Forbes from Fotaflo

Maximizing Customer Engagement in Travel with Meghan Forbes from Fotaflo

Episode Overview

Episode Overview:

Episode Topic:

In this episode of Travel-Preneur, host Megha McSwain welcomes Meghan Forbes, the Director of Sales at Fotaflo. The discussion centers around how Fotaflo is revolutionizing the way tour and activity operators engage with their guests through an innovative customer referral and remarketing platform. Forbes explains the origins of Fotaflo and the significant gap it aims to fill in the market by transforming the transient nature of tour experiences into lasting memories. This episode gets into the importance of capturing and sharing these moments to extend customer relationships far beyond the tour’s end, ultimately driving long-term business growth.

Lessons You’ll Learn

Listeners will learn about the critical role of customer memories in enhancing tour experiences and fostering lasting connections. Meghan Forbes shares insights into how capturing a single, high-quality memory can significantly impact guest satisfaction and engagement. The episode also highlights the importance of leveraging social media for peer-to-peer discovery and the benefits of nurturing existing customers over constantly acquiring new ones. Forbes provides concrete examples of how Fotaflo’s approach has led to substantial business growth for its clients, emphasizing the importance of customer referrals and repeat business in the travel and tourism industry.

About Our Guest:

Meghan Forbes is the Director of Sales at Fotaflo, a company dedicated to transforming the way tour and activity operators connect with their guests. With a background in sales and marketing, Forbes brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the conversation. Her expertise lies in identifying market gaps and developing innovative solutions to bridge them. At Fotaflo, she plays a pivotal role in helping businesses harness the power of photo and video sharing to create lasting memories and drive customer engagement. Forbes is passionate about leveraging technology to enhance guest experiences and foster long-term relationships in the travel and tourism sector.

Topics Covered:

The episode covers a range of topics related to the travel and tourism industry and the innovative solutions offered by Fotaflo. Key topics include the genesis of Fotaflo and its mission to extend the magic of tour experiences beyond their conclusion. Meghan Forbes discusses the principles of capturing and sharing memories, the impact of social media on customer discovery, and the importance of focusing on repeat business and customer referrals. The episode also includes real-world examples of businesses that have benefited from implementing Fotaflo, showcasing substantial increases in repeat customers and overall business growth. Additionally, Forbes addresses how Fotaflo’s technology simplifies the process of capturing and sharing guest memories, ensuring a seamless and impactful guest experience.

Our Guest: Meghan Forbes, Director of Sales at Fotaflo – Revolutionizing Tour and Activity Operator Engagement

Meghan Forbes serves as the Director of Sales at Fotaflo, a company dedicated to transforming how tour and activity operators connect with their guests through innovative customer referral and remarketing platforms. With an extensive background in sales and marketing, Forbes brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the travel and tourism industry. Her career is marked by a keen ability to identify market gaps and develop creative solutions that drive business growth. At Fotaflo, she leverages her expertise to help businesses harness the power of photo and video sharing, ensuring that guests leave with lasting memories that enhance their overall experience and foster long-term loyalty.

In her role at Fotaflo, Meghan Forbes plays a pivotal part in guiding the company’s strategic direction and ensuring its solutions meet the evolving needs of the travel and tourism sector. She is passionate about using technology to improve guest experiences, and her work focuses on bridging the gap between the transient nature of tour activities and the lasting impact these experiences can have on guests. Under her leadership, Fotaflo has successfully implemented systems that automate the capture and sharing of guest memories, making it easier for operators to maintain engagement and build strong, enduring relationships with their customers.

Forbes is not only a leader within her company but also an influential voice in the travel and tourism industry. She frequently shares her insights on the importance of customer retention and the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Her emphasis on the lifetime value of a customer over the traditional focus on acquiring new customers has resonated with many businesses looking to improve their long-term growth strategies. Meghan Forbes’ innovative approach and dedication to enhancing guest experiences make her a valuable guest on this episode of TravelPreneur, where she provides listeners with actionable insights and real-world examples of how Fotaflo is revolutionizing the industry.

Maximizing Customer Engagement in Travel with Meghan Forbes from Fotaflo
Maximizing Customer Engagement in Travel with Meghan Forbes from Fotaflo

Episode Transcript

Megha McSwain: Welcome back to TravelPreneur, the podcast dedicated to exploring the innovations and inspirations in the travel industry. I’m your host, Megha McSwain. Today we have an exceptional guest, Meghan Forbes, the Director of Sales at Fotaflo. Fotaflo is revolutionizing how tour and activity operators engage with their guests through an innovative customer referral and remarketing platform. Megan, thank you so much for joining us today.

Meghan Forbes: Absolutely. My pleasure.

Megha McSwain: Fotaflo is known for transforming how tour operators connect with their guests. Can you describe how the idea of Fotaflo came about, and what specific gap in the market it aims to fill?

Meghan Forbes: Yeah, probably in the beginning it was a simple thought why aren’t more businesses taking photos? And keep in mind this is before cell phones.  Before the rise of social media, Kim Kardashian took a selfie and the world became obsessed with documenting and sharing their lives online. But in hindsight, and I think once we were able to mature in our understanding and shift with the emerging market, the genesis of Fotaflo had sprung from a fundamental question, that we didn’t realize we were asking until years later, which is how do we extend the magic, of tour experiences long after guests have departed? While tour operators have always been great at captivating, entertaining and delighting guests in the moment, there was this crucial piece missing in sustaining that connection far beyond the tour’s end. We know we understand people are visiting a tour or experience to leave with a memory, memories in the particular form of photos and videos. They hold this immense potential to foster enduring relationships with guests, and so we want to bridge the gap between the transient nature of a tour activity and the lasting impact it could have on guest’s lives. When you have a photo to remember or be reminded by it with, you know, a couple of things. When it comes to travel marketing, the core of our vision lies in the recognition of the lifetime value of a customer. Despite this being a very fundamental business principle, like how do we grow and nurture and sustain relationships and not just think about their basket spend today, but their probability of coming back or referring people to our business, you know, extending that lifetime value far into the future.

Meghan Forbes: It’s overlooked in travel and tourism, where the focus tends to be predominantly on acquiring new customers rather than nurturing an existing one. And, you know, even, institutions like Harvard Business School will say that returning customers can significantly boost net revenue. And we’re talking 25 to 95%. And that’s far surpassing the gains from acquiring brand new customers to sell to all the time. And the gap, as per your question that we identified, it’s not just a deficiency in marketing strategies, but a failure to recognize and act on a modern-day fundamental shift in how people discover cool things to do. The rise of social media, and the desire to share our experiences online. you know, this is where content is shared and consumed by people, and this is where people discover the next, you know, the best thing that they want to do as well. Traditionally, tours have been marketed as once in a lifetime.  and we neglect this immense potential to challenge the status quo by leveraging the power of digital media and social sharing to tap into this peer to peer discovery process. I suppose, in essence, Fotaflo isn’t just about capturing moments, but it’s about creating lasting connections and transforming the way tour operators engage with their guests, not just today, but for the course of their lifetime, and ultimately drive long term business growth.

Megha McSwain: With Fotaflo, emphasis on photo and video sharing like you mentioned on social media and otherwise. How do you ensure that these features enhance the guest experience without disrupting the authenticity of the adventure, or the vacation, or the tour?

Meghan Forbes: Sure, I would probably reframe that to emphasize our focuses on sharing memories. This is what people care about now. The medium nowadays may be photos or videos, but the value to guests and what we’ve learned consequentially to the businesses is the memories or nostalgia that they represent what we’ve studied and learned over many years, having delivered literally millions of memories, is that to do this well and enhance the guest experience is really easy. If you follow just a couple of guiding principles.  number one, it only takes one captured memory. So, this is not about documenting the whole experience and becoming National Geographic. It’s an opportunity to say we’re going to make sure that you leave with a beautiful memory keepsake so you can look back and value the experience forever, so you can leave your phone in your pocket. You can leave your phone in the car. You can immerse yourself fully in today’s adventure. We got you. We’ll make sure you get that memory.  number two, and this can be kind of counterintuitive, but less is more. And really, how people perceive themselves to look in the photo is way more important than the number of photos you take. So be intentional about that one memory you capture. People standing together are smiling, looking at the camera, and then make that moment a repeatable part of each experience that you offer.  you know, to my first point, a tour guide running around capturing a bunch of candid photos.

Meghan Forbes: Of course, it’s going to be distracting and time consuming and generally results in terrible content.  I’m sure you know, we can all think of a time when someone caught a photo of us when we weren’t looking or weren’t expecting it. We were about to sneeze and we looked horrible. Yucked. Who wants that? Don’t do it. Don’t risk it. It’s so much easier than that.  With Fotaflo, we use those principles and we design our product to simplify the capturing of the moment, automate the delivery of the moment.  The process isn’t time consuming. It shouldn’t be. Our integrations with rez and waiver tech mean you can match the photo to the guest as you capture it, and we’ll use technology to deliver it straight to them. But this really unlocks a world of new opportunities to leverage that memory for years to come. And I’m sure we’ll get into that today. But initially, we want to remove the friction of guests handing their phones to guides saying, take my photo or guides using their phones and trying to Airdrop to someone, but they’re on an iPhone and the guest is on an Android.  or forgetting to send the photo or not remembering who’s in what photo that they took, all of that friction, which is distracting, goes away when you use a tool that’s designed for the job.

Megha McSwain: Can you share an example of how operators have seen tangible benefits from implementing Fotaflo in their services?

Meghan Forbes:  absolutely.  We have numerous examples of this. Our clients love to tell us how much Fotaflo has changed their business.  abyss scuba in Australia grew their business by 40% in three months when they started using Fotaflo to share guest photos.  It was actually so notable that Paddy, the governing body of dive certifications, took notice and did an independent study verifying Fotaflo as the differential, the difference maker.  another one we love. Trio six in Canada. It’s a zipline. Looked at the source and medium of web traffic in their ga4 Google Analytics from June to September 2023, and they showed a 42% increase.  42% of all their web traffic during that time was actually generated by Fotaflo, and they were able to grow their repeat and referral business. Right. This is the stuff that leads to marginally more net revenue, according to Harvard, from 16 to 65% in just two years.  We know from our data that on average, 54% of guests actually generate trackable referral leads to our client’s businesses. And although this isn’t necessarily a statistic or it’s difficult to really measure, we consistently receive messages from guests gushing about how much the photos meant to them.  Here’s a quote from a customer in, zipline in the US.  she said on Friday night, I got an email and it was photos of my grandchildren who I’ve not seen in over a month. It was all three of my granddaughters when they came to zip in 2018. It brought a smile to my face and brought so many memories back. I know firsthand that Fotaflo works. And it’s messages like that where we really tap into the emotion, the sentiment behind what we’re doing that we realize if you want to reach an audience, if you want to connect emotionally with an audience, someone’s own personal memory, you know the thing that they probably care about most, the thing that they visited your business in the first place to leave with, which is a memory,  can be so incredibly impactful.

Megha McSwain: Right? I feel like those statistics and those numbers and that repeat business is so important, obviously, that’s how you stay in business. But those messages, I feel like that’s what it’s all about, really?

Meghan Forbes: Absolutely.

Megha McSwain: In a competitive market, maintaining customer engagement is crucial. How does Photo Flo help operators not just attract but retain customers? These experiences like I mean, they obviously pull at the heartstrings when you’ve got these memories to look back on. Does that kind of invite repeat customers?

Meghan Forbes: I think first we have to understand that word of mouth continues to be at the forefront of why most people do anything, whether it’s bought a car or try a new restaurant, or visit a particular city or country, or decide to do a snorkeling tour versus an e-bike tour while they’re there. We do things based on the recommendations made by people we know and trust. if we know that someone has had a great time and an experience, and then we provide a medium or a tool for them to do what they want to do naturally, which is brag about that experience online where their friends and family are hanging out. We create a direct line to the most targeted leads you could ask for with an authentic brand endorsement from your guests. We make it really easy for operators to attract their ideal customers by leveraging the power of their current customers.  and it’s that simple. Our software is designed so that when clients share memories, share moments, the format that they receive those memories in is a way to drive eyes on the brand of the business that hosted them. Um. I think anybody who wants to sort of look under the hood of Fotaflo and see that process and exactly sort of the UI and how it all works and comes together, feel free to reach out. I’m more than happy to speak to anyone, but the second principle to understand is really people who remember or are reminded are more likely to return and more likely to refer.

Meghan Forbes: If you let someone leave without a memory and you’re not actively engaged in that process. Then you have no way to remind them, or they don’t necessarily have the best image of your brand to look at later and think favorably upon the experience. What if we could strategically drip feed this content back into the hands and social circulation of your guests over the course of a lifetime? Then we can achieve provable, trackable engagement over lifetime. And here’s probably a really great example of how you can imagine this happening.  I often tell people to close their eyes. You don’t really have to, but at least imagine in your mind’s eye right now the most amazing, incredible tour or activity that you’ve ever experienced and start to think about what moments stood out and what made it special. Now, when was the last time that you thought about the business specifically that hosted you or the guide’s name that hosted you? Right. It probably surprises a lot of people when they start to imagine and have that free recall. Gosh, I haven’t thought about that in years. But what if that company surprised you with your photo memories from that experience? Like today, they dropped into your inbox with a special message that said, you know, we miss you.

Meghan Forbes: We hope to see you again soon or book now for our 2024 season. What kind of feelings towards that business would it give you? It’s not some marketing email that you get randomly that, you know, they’ve personalized it with your name, which, you know, some kind of bot did that. And they tell you all the things they’ve been up to and why they’re so great and why you should come back to see them, versus that note that drops in from them, where you’re smiling face with you and your family is front and center. And all it says is, we miss you. We hope to see you again. We thought you’d love to look back on a fun time you had with us. You know, would you maybe check out their website again, see what’s new? Would you start to take the initiative to imagine visiting again and check out what they’re up to? And maybe, just maybe, and we have lots of statistics and insights that show you’ll actually share your photo memories again. Now you’re reaching that like-minded audience, your friends and family who are being reminded of photos you might have shared in the past, and even more likely to check out that business as well. And this is really the level of long-term engagement that businesses should be striving for.  engagement that puts the customer and their actual experience front and center.

Megha McSwain: Right? That’s a very good point. I never thought about it. I never looked at it that way. You know, you think about the kind of that memory in your mind, but not much more beyond that. So that’s very interesting. You mentioned that Fotaflo helps generate quality customer referrals and positive online reviews. What strategies does Fotaflo use to maximize these outcomes for its clients?

Meghan Forbes: Okay, so having worked with hundreds of clients and thousands of guides and delivered millions of memories to millions of guests, we’ve definitely learned a trick or two. So, what we do is we record and we benchmark best practices and we’ll share them with our clients across the board, whether it’s the specific type of photo to take, you know, don’t catch somebody sneezing or when to strategically remind someone. How often should you reshape those photo memories? Should we do it every week, every month, every year?  We take those best practices and we can develop these into very specific marketing campaigns for you to help extract the most lifetime value, the most engagement out of time with the memories that you actively participate in capturing for your guests.  specifically related to reviews. When people receive something like when I receive a gift, psychologically we’re more likely to want to reciprocate.  What if, alongside the photo, memories that you share with guests is a video of their guide that says, you know, hey, it’s Megan, thanks for an awesome day. I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday. I’m so glad you chose to spend it with us. I hope you enjoy your photos and it would mean so much to me if you could leave us a Google review. We’ll see you soon. And if I’m the guest receiving that, I’m like, Holy moly, you remembered me. I’m such a VIP. What a great sentiment to leave your guests with, and with Fotaflo . By the way, we’ll link your Google review or your TripAdvisor review sites right in that photo album. we’ll make it super easy for the guest to go ahead and leave that review.

Megha McSwain: And how does Fotaflo integrate with various types of activities like zip lining, food tours? There are so many different things that people can explore on a vacation or a tour. What challenges have you faced in adapting the platform for such a diverse range of experiences?

Meghan Forbes: Well. Thankfully this has gotten way easier over the years.  We’ve been around for over 15 years now, so you can imagine, like I said, when we started, there weren’t even mobile phones. There was no social media.  thankfully it’s gotten a lot easier through those various iterations. But it used to be, you know, for zip lines, we’d have stationary cameras and trees that tried to catch people coming down the zip line.  those cameras, that hardware would invariably break down or have some sort of glitch, or a bird would decide to nest in front of it. you just get a whole day’s worth of cameras with birds flying in front of it. And what a disaster. But the breakthrough was really the mobile phone, and everyone has one, and that can go anywhere. And you know, that phone takes as good a photo as any amazing DSLR nowadays. But that really opened the possibility for absolutely any business that provides an experience worth remembering to easily and actively capture that memory for their guests. There’s really no barriers to entry. Whether you’re a food tour, whether you’re a zipline, whether you’re a snorkel tour. When we take the principles of it only takes one photo to achieve a lifetime of remarketing benefit, and it only takes a mobile phone to capture it.  This really allows us to service your business regardless of what you do.

Megha McSwain: And looking ahead, what are the next steps for Fotaflo as far as new features or expansions?  anything that you can share.

Meghan Forbes: I do feel like this could be, probably a complete interview in and of itself. And, I will say this though we are and have been for some time the simplest tool to increase quality, direct web traffic and online conversions.  When we send photo memories to guests, besides delighting the guest, besides re-engaging with them, besides strengthening a relationship based on emotional sentiment and nostalgia of memories, we want the business outcome to be those guests revisiting a customer’s website. When we send photos, the albums are actually hosted on a customer’s website, and these are private albums. And we don’t have to get technical about that now. But also, when they share photos, their friends and family are now direct traffic landing on our customer’s website. And if you ask any business who’s got, you know, property on the web and in forms of us, that’s their lead funnel, the more quality people we can get to visit the website, whether it’s past guests or whether it’s the friends and family being introduced to the website by past guests, the better for business. More traffic, more awareness, more interest, more opportunity to educate and filter through on the website to convert into a booking the better. So, everything we develop starts with this goal in mind.  expansions in line with community or technical partners feature improvements that help with engagement of staff members to use Fotaflo or engagement on how your guests consume and share media. It’s all on the table, but fundamentally, anything we can do to help businesses own and maintain and grow and strengthen their relation with every single guest they serve is our mission to explore.

Megha McSwain: And you mentioned how much has changed in the 15 years that you guys have been open or have been operating. How do you see the role of technology evolving in the travel and tourism industry and in your business moving forward?

Meghan Forbes: Well, I really do see, you know, it’s not just in travel and tourism. It’s business in general, those consolidations and mergers and monopolization. And sometimes the worry is that a lot of this will be around ownership of customer data, specifically in travel and tourism. We see this already happening with OTAs or online travel agencies hiding or withholding customer contact information. And I really think, well, hold on, wait a minute. If I’ve just provided a tour or experience to someone, shouldn’t I be able to communicate directly with that customer? It really asks, you know, who’s question is that? Is it mine or is it visitors? Is it my customer? Is it Trip advisors? And we’ve already seen this happen with online food ordering your just eat your Uber Eats.  We’ve seen this with Airbnb. It’s sort of like the tech middleman comes in and you pay them for the privilege of sending you a customer that was already looking to do a Segway tour in your area anyways. And I mean, I’ve crudely simplified this, but my concern is the lack of small business owners looking at the bigger picture here and recognizing the importance of owning their customer relationship and their communication channels with them. I think another way is, you know, how do you answer this question without.

Meghan Forbes: A nod to I Except what I’m seeing right now is a lot of examples of depersonalization.  you know, I tour guides or I generate marketing images. And for us, we really want to create simplicity on the far side of complexity. And a lot of advancements are looking at, you know, how do we remove human interaction. And there may be a case for some of this, you know, you’ll see a rise in chatbots or AIS answering questions about tours on behalf of the business owners. But I think the further we move down that path, people are going to start to swing the other way and start to really value authentic interaction. And with Fotaflo, we sort of look at that not as a problem to solve, you know, how do we use AI to make people irrelevant? It’s like, no, how do we really look at that moment, those relationships, you know, between the guide and the guests and between the guests and their memories and the guests and the people they know? And how do we hone in on those authentic connections and interactions and really propel them into business growth?

Megha McSwain: And for those listeners who might want to start or grow their travel related business, what advice would you offer based on your own experiences?

Meghan Forbes:  this may seem like a simple one, but do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.  this might not just be in travel and tourism, but it’s across the board. Like learn lessons quickly, pay attention to the outcomes, and if something’s not working, don’t waste your time trying to make it work. On the flip side, when you see results of something that’s working well, double down on that.  In order to do that, there’s a couple of things to really understand from day one where your customer is coming from, how did they hear about you? Most operators that I speak to actually aren’t tracking where their customers are coming, how they found out about the business, what their percentage of repeat guests is or referral guests are. We think that mentality I talked about, you know, it’s one and done once, once I’ve serviced this guest, they’ll never come back. This is once in a lifetime. And we have data that shows actually people will return if they’ve had a great experience. Maybe you offer five different types of tours. Who’s to say someone can’t come back and try a different one? And we marginalize our own businesses by thinking or limiting ourselves in the belief that once a customer has spent time or spent money with us, we have to find a brand new one because they’ll never come back.

Meghan Forbes: pay attention. Track it. Understand? Maybe you do have a share of repeat or referral business. don’t doubt the potential in long tail revenue potential from your customers. Work to increase that lifetime value of every guest. It is not just how much they spend today, but how often they come back and how many people they refer to your business.  I think the last one is remembering and acting on the principle that people are no longer targets of your marketing media. They are your marketing media. And this is the travel trend and shift and discovery of how people research, find out and decide on tours and experiences to book. It is already predominantly online. It will increasingly be peer to peer, and every single guest that leaves without a photo memory and a way to engage them to share that memory socially is a missed opportunity.

Megha McSwain: Well, Meghan, thank you so much for sharing such an insightful perspective on how Fotaflo is enhancing the travel industry and helping operators maximize guest satisfaction and business growth.  Can you share where they can learn more about Fotaflo? Where can they connect with you?

Meghan Forbes: I would recommend anyone come to have a one on one demo with me. There are, whether you’re a zipline or a scuba dive or a food tour. We work with all of them. It’s going to be unique.  you know, things that you want to solve, things you want to understand about the types of photos to take.  and I’d love to learn a little bit more about you to help navigate you through this. If you go to Fotaflo com, that’s f o t a flow.  You can find a link to book a demo very easily on that site.

Megha McSwain: Cool. Thank you so much to our listeners. Remember to check out Fotaflo and see how their innovative solutions can benefit your travel experiences. Also, don’t forget to follow us on your favorite podcast platform and leave us a review that helps us out a lot. And join us next week for another episode of TravelPreneur. Thank you so much, Meghan.

Meghan Forbes: Thank you.