Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I’m Matthew Davison, and I run and own Travel Tractions, a tourism-based marketing agency that makes about $35k/month, and several other small travel websites. Our primary focus is SEO services for tourism, with strategy and content marketing services as our core products.
We currently produce and optimize nearly half a million words of content per month for a wide range of travel publications and businesses worldwide. 2 years ago we lost 95% of our business due to COVID and most of the team, but have become a huge business today.
What is your story and how did the idea come about?
Before starting Travel Tractions, I was involved in tourism marketing for almost a decade, my last business was a travel startup that I grew to over 500,000 pageviews per month in less than a year. Its growth was a big factor in getting into accelerator programs run by Google and Y-combinator. This gave me the confidence to create an agency that helps other travel businesses achieve similar results.
I’ve always loved travel, but I didn’t want to be in front of the camera or replace my vacation with “working” and creating content, so running an agency made the most sense for me, where I could help people achieve their goals and not be. the spotlight or the need to film every part of my life.
It was slow going because we had to build our customers on a budget of about $10,000 from the start. I invested heavily in team building and also some small internal projects that would generate passive income and offset our slow periods.
Nowadays, businesses can be started for less than $100 or $500, and few people try an MVP or test the market before taking months to launch.
Take us through the process of creating the first version of your product.
While building this business, I read the E-myth Revisited, a great book for building good systems and processes while keeping your company gamified. With this in mind, we created a productivity service agency, starting with SEO content and auditing, then launching new products that can be standardized for the tourism industry, such as social media, SEO strategy and topic mining, PPC and web builds.
Once we achieved product market fit, we streamlined our products so that they were easily manufactured and replicated for our customers, we would improve the SOPs until very little was required.
One of my first hires came from an eLearning background and helped us create SEO content writing and website optimization courses that allowed us to hire inexperienced people and develop their experience and skills. To this day, we are always improving the courses and try to launch every year.
Describe the process of starting a business.
We launched with a basic WordPress website aimed at the travel and tourism business in general because we didn’t have an ideal client yet. I told my 4 interns that we were going to a conference to get clients.
Going to the conference has been one of the best decisions we’ve made as a business and partnership.
It didn’t turn out so well. after vibrating the booths we managed to land 1 customer, but that was enough to give us the rubber we needed and continue our growth.
We worked month after month with very little money and a lot of hope.
I remember not being able to pay because clients wouldn’t pay us until after tax season and I didn’t have easy access to capital and had to ask the team who didn’t mind not paying at the end of the month and could wait. . It wasn’t a great thing to ask, but I had some great people there to help.
The first year we managed to grow by 10-25% per month and the business outlook looked very positive, but growing people was not easy, so investing in courses and training became the key to the business.
I had to get a bigger home office that could accommodate more than 3 people and we moved into a huge house where we could have more than 15 at a time. Some of my employees moved in with me and I think this was also a huge part of our growth and business development.
Since launch, what has worked for customer acquisition and retention?
Since SEO is a long game of creating content, leads and backlinks, we weren’t ranking yet, we relied heavily on word of mouth. I had friends in the industry who referred me to clients, and when we had success with other clients, we got more referrals.
Then I flew to a conference to meet some of our clients and went to the conference with them and that helped us meet a lot more clients and get a good exposure. We were lucky enough to work with one or two of the speakers, and after we had success with them, they opened the doors that same year, and we didn’t have to do any more marketing or trying to find clients.
We gave them an affiliate program that also worked well, but it was only about 5 or 10% of our customers.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today we are comfortably profitable but have had to raise wages massively since COVID as the global workforce has now become more active and we were no longer competing with international wages from first world countries rather than South Africa.
We believe that quality comes first and over 80% of customers who try us order something again within a year. We now rely on SEO to bring in leads and our mailing list to remind customers that we exist; we have been focusing on getting fasteners last year and have grown this segment from 6k/mo to 20k/mo in the last year.
Our social media is a good recruiting tool for engaging employees by posting team updates and success stories, which I actually found pretty interesting, and we’ve grown at a decent rate (33%) last year.
Right now, the tourism industry is thinking less about marketing and more about rebuilding its infrastructure and teams, so we expect double-digit growth again this year and hope for triple-digit growth in 2024.
Have you learned anything particularly useful or beneficial about starting a business?
I was slow to raise wages after COVID, but we just didn’t have the money and we lost a lot of great people because of it. probably my biggest mistake, but now we are highly competitive internationally.
Going to the conference has been one of the best decisions we’ve made as a business and partnership. We had 3 months of runway in the bank when Covid hit which was good but helped us a lot. Covif was devastating to our business and we are still recovering. It’s helped us build great systems and processes, and know the people who will keep it going in the bad times.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My favorite business tool has to be Google Sheets because it drives our business and speeds up an incredible amount of our processes.
Ahrefs is the backbone of our SEO systems and processes, it’s a great tool that seems to follow trends.
Asana is also critical to running our business smoothly, putting our production services into an Asana template really helps with admins and workforce back and forth.
We’re also big fans of Woocommere and then use Zapier to enable many of these products altogether.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The e-myth was instrumental in our growth when we started, I have yet to find a better business book. Right now I love Hormozi’s content about building and scaling businesses and having them on all platforms.
I think it’s important to optimize your feeds like Instagram, Youtube and Facebook so that when you visit a feed to get distracted, you can have Gavy Vee yelling at you on Hustle or Simen Sinek saying , how to better manage people and relationships. .
I also like the My First Million podcasts, but I don’t get as much time to watch them as I would like.
Tips for other entrepreneurs who want to start or are just starting out.
When starting out, so many entrepreneurs talk about business plans and startup strategy and all this other nonsense that they don’t need. I think one of the best entrepreneurs of our time is Peter Levels, a solopreneur who launched 12 companies/websites in 12 months and then focused on the most profitable and enjoyable ones.
Nowadays, businesses can be started for less than $100 or $500, and few people try an MVP or test the market before taking months to launch. This is the biggest mistake. Often your business revenue or customers will tell you what to do or work on.
Looking to hire for specific positions right now?
We are ALWAYS hiring. Right now I’m looking for a social media strategist and PR strategist; we are also always looking for young graduates to take our courses and training to find their feet and grow within the company.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, leave a comment below.
– Matt G Davison, Founder of Travel Tractions
Want to find more money making ideas?
Hey 👋 I’m Pat Walls, founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5 minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money making opportunities backed by real case studies.