Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign.
Blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
– The Five Man Electrical Band, 1970
My grandson, Truman, is eight. He has been reading since he was four, and now reads everything he can get his hands on. He also reads signs. When we took him to DisneyWorld for his fifth birthday, he would read every sign he saw. Then, he’d ask, “Hey, Grammy, what does that mean?” I would patiently tell him. Then he would ask “Why?”
I think, that as we get older, we need to not only read the signs, but also ask what they mean and why. Here are some more signs that are relevant to how the economy is affecting the travel industry and travel agencies.
There are seven words that will kill any travel agency, and especially a home-based travel agency – “We have always done it this way.”
Travel agencies can’t operate like we did five years, two years, six months or sometimes two weeks ago. With the stock market going wild, the housing market still in a slump, and the global economy in flux, just because you “have always done it this way”, doesn’t make it right. No longer can you work on the Ostrich system of doing business. When an ostrich sticks his head in the sand, you know what sticks up. That’s just a good reason for someone to come along and give you the old Florsheim boot. We have to change the way we do business.
Travel agents can change the way they do business by:
- Taking quick action. The competitive environment of the Internet will no longer tolerate slow response or delayed decision making.
- Being creative, practical and innovative. What do you do differently that sets you apart from your competition, or even our suppliers who are taking direct bookings?
- Offering outstanding customer service. Expertise now resides in fanatical customers. The world’s best experts on travel don’t work for your agency. They are your customers.
I have a question for each of you. What business are we in? Every time we ask that question at a seminar we teach, someone will say, “We’re in the business of making money.” Well, actually, only the federal government is in that business. We just spend it.
Travel agencies are in the business of enhancing the quality of other people’s lives. James Daly, the editor-in-chief of Business 2.0, has said “…ultimately your customers will determine whether you live or die.”
The trick is to approach your agency from your customer’s vantage point. The best place to grow is with your current customers. I know. It’s hard to grow fast in a slow growth market like we have today. But, we have to be positive in situations like this. Let your clients know that you understand their fears and concerns about our economy and express empathy. Use our “Feel, Felt, Found” method of dealing with clients.
I know how you feel about _________________.
I have felt that way myself.
However, I have found that if I _______________________.
It’s that simple. Feel, Felt, Found. Your customers will continue to park outside your door instead of that Internet agency or supplier’s website.
Curve ahead. How many of us tend to ignore this sign. This economy has pitched us all a curve. Now we have to react in order to not go over the edge.
Most people, including many experts, say that marketing has entered a new era thanks to the Internet. Newspapers are doing business differently. Our suppliers are reaching out to our customers through the Internet. What has changed more than anything else is the speed and global reach of marketing thanks to developments in technology.
The most important thing about Internet marketing is that nobody is really an Internet expert. We are all just in different parts of a steep learning curve.
Viral marketing is a type of marketing approach that the Internet has spawned. Your message is spread across the vast network of the Internet like a virus in humans. This is a form of referral or advocacy-based marketing that is potentially very powerful.
If you don’t have a page on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, or any number of networking sites, you should have. You can all become my friends on Facebook. Just search for Sherrie Shepherd Funk, and ask to become my friend. I would love to get to know you better. Social media is a great way to introduce yourself and your agency to your clients.
One more curve for you – Ask yourself, “How can I use the Internet to serve my clients better, and beat our competitors doing it?” Today a travel agency can gain a competitive advantage via the Internet; tomorrow it will be standard equipment.
Watch for more signs in my next column.
This article is provided free to the travel agent community by:
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