You have at your disposal a variety of ways in which to reach out and touch your clients and potential clients. Let’s drill down on this topic by looking at the concept of distribution channels. Consumers of your service will see your ads in print and on the web. They might hear of you through a referral or see you give a talk at the local chamber of commerce. They might read an article about you or even by you in the community newspaper. Each of these avenues where a client might encounter your services are rivulets off of a distribution channel, a conduit to consumers that you use for marketing your services as a travel consultant.
A distribution channel is a chain of tactics and people through which you gain access to clients. If you have a web site, that is a distribution channel, as are the trade shows you attend to sell your services; your face to face meeting with a client is another distribution channel. If you have a group leader program, that is a distribution channel, and if you cross-market with a local day spa or clothing store, that is a distribution channel as well. In each distribution channel, you might employ a variety of tactics, specially crafted for that particular channel.
It is important to recognize distribution channels and the role they play in generating business. Once you understand conceptually what a distribution channel is, decide whether you want to increase the number of channels with which you operate. You want to have more than one or two distribution channels. Some work better than others given the season, economic conditions or other external factors. Look around you and determine where groups of potential clients “pool”: retail stores, clubs, civic groups, media. Each of these outlets have access to people and suggests an alternative distribution channel.
The next step is to focus on the tactics you use to drive business through each of these channels. Develop a set of finely honed tactics for each – marketing collateral, promotions, allies and events. Calendar your efforts to keep them organized and sharp.
Look at each distribution channel you have and fine tune all of the tactics that surround them. Focus on each as a separate opportunity.
For our purposes today, focus on the following distribution channels and tactics as examples:
- Direct Contact with Existing Clients – Your existing clients continue to provide a source of business on an ongoing basis that you will need to continue to cultivate and grow. Determine how you will market to them to ensure retention and repeat business.
- Networking activities – Do you belong to a church, does your son participate on the basketball team at school? Do you volunteer for the Race for the Cure events? Each of these activities leads to a pool of potential travel clients. How can you market to them in the context of each?
- Speaking Opportunities – Are there opportunities to speak on travel topics to local organizations and associations?
- Cross-marketing and Group Leaders – Have you cultivated any group leaders? Is there an informal network of other business people with whom you can refer business to each other?
- Web site– Do you have a web site or blog?
- Social Media – are you using Facebook as a business tool? Twitter?
- E-mails and Newsletter – Do you send emails to clients or do you have a newsletter?
- Public Relations – Writing articles for local publications is a distribution channel.
- Advertising – What advertising venues will you use?
Each of these distribution channels may have in the past brought you business to varying degrees. Consider which are working for you well, which could stand improvement, and what tactics you will employ to approach them intelligently.
Exercise – Use the TRO Distribution Channel Worksheet. In addition to the ones we have named, you probably have access to others: bridal shows, networking organizations, a yoga class or gym you attend, your social and civic activities. Indicate for each how productive your distribution channels have been in the past. Note how consistently you use the channel and how much you spend on each in terms of both effort and financial resources.
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