For the past decade, the advice given to travel agents for success has been to specialize—to find a niche. Certainly, very few of us can be all things to all people, or even many things to many people. So, finding a specialty does make sense. But, are you really ready to specialize or niche-ify your travel business?
Whenever I meet an agent, particularly a new agent, I always ask how they got into the travel industry—it certainly is not for the big bucks and travel perks any more. And invariably, the answer was that they had a “passion” for travel. While that sounds nice, it sounds an awful lot like a sound bite to me (and probably your clients). But, when it comes to a specialty or niche, passion is critical. No matter your chosen specialty, you need to live and breathe it 24-7. And living and breathing does not end with product knowledge—that is only the beginning.
Live The Life
If you are sexually straight, establishing a practice specializing in the LGBT market will be very difficult. If you are a nuclear family with children, it will be difficult to establish yourself as the go-to agency for adoptive travel. I would not have my own successes with Single Parent Travel if I were not divorced. With a specialty, you need to walk the walk and talk the talk. Your clients are living in that specialized world and if you are not keenly aware of their special needs, they will see right through you. The worst thing you want to do is to send your gay clients to a gay-unfriendly destination, or your single parents to a resort teeming with newlyweds.
Mine Your Contacts
As your niche business grows, you undoubtedly will make some outstanding contacts. Make sure that you keep in touch with them. Facebook, Linked-In, and even Twitter are all good tools in addition to your own database. The people who have worked with you in your niche are an extension of you and will further set you apart as the expert in the field. Anyone can call the concierge at a hotel or resort, but a specialist will be able to contact the director of the Ritz Kids program to arrange some one on one attention for a child with ADHD while mom or dad takes a few hours to pamper themselves.
Mine Your Clients
And the simplest step of all is to mine your clients. Face it, we like to associate with people in similar circumstances. The nuclear families all love to hang out in the neighborhood and barbecue on the weekends. The single crowd loved to hang out and go party. Single parents tend to gravitate toward one another. The LBGT community tends to stick pretty close. So by all means ask the clients in your niche to spread the word. Offer an incentive or a simple heart-felt thank you. One time, I was unable to make a weekend group trip. One of my clients had been on it several times before and I asked her if she would be willing to lead the group. She said yes without hesitation. When I offered to comp her trip, she was thrilled and decided to give up her “paid” space to another friend who could not afford it. And now I have a new client. Your existing clients are your largest source of new clients. Do not overlook this resource.
Do you have a niche? Do you agree? Are the days of being everything to everyone over? Leave a comment, let me know!