If you could make a great first impression on a client for a few pennies would you be willing to fork over the cash? What about leaving that same impression on 2500 potential clients for less than $100? Will you part with the c-note? My hope is that you would. I know I would; and I do!
As an industry, we demand to be respected; but, I never have to go too far to find a reason that the respect may be undeserved. If we want to be treated as professionals, we need to act like them–all the time. And the first time you meet someone is the most critical. It doesn’t matter if it is a client, vendor, or the kid who delivers your newspaper. A good first impression is crucial.
Let’s talk business cards
While their usefulness may be outdated, they are still essential. You should never assume someone has the wherewithal to accept a digital version of your business card. My question is why are people so cheap when it comes to one of the most powerful and inexpensive business tools available?
The self made card. When you print your own cards, it always looks horrible. If they get wet, they are ruined and the ink runs. If the printer is not perfectly aligned, they are crooked. If the ink is low, they are barely legible. And the little perforations around the edges just scream “amateur”! Considering a self made card? Don’t!
The free card. Vista Print is a decent print shop. And they always have a loss leader promotion available for free business cards. There are two problems with this offer. First, they will look like every other card out there. For travel agents they have lighthouses, sailboats, setting suns, a globe, an airplane, and a cruise ship. If you cannot be bothered to set yourself apart, why should anyone be bothered to do business with you? The other problem with those free cards is the printing on the back, “Business Cards are FREE at www.vistaprint.com”. Are cruises free at your agency? Unless you are prepared to give away your services for free, stick to a business card you actually pay for.
The semi-custom card. Let me pick on Vista Print again. They have many pre-formatted styles at terrific prices. However, the styles are not unique and likely they are being used by thousands of your fellow travel professionals. I suppose it is a good thing is that they are not pointing out that you were too cheap to buy a business card. But they do nothing to distinguish who you are or what you do. If you are not setting yourself apart from the competition, how can you expect your clients (or vendors) to set you apart?
The custom card. Keeping with Vista Print — they do a fine job with custom work. Spend some time devising a logo and defining your “brand” and then go for the custom card. Use the heavy paper and if you want to really splurge do it double sided with a tag line or perhaps a brief synopsis of what sets you apart from the crowd. Honestly, their most expensive cards are not that expensive.
I still believe they are the most cost effective marketing tool at your disposal. For 3 cents you can put your advertisement in anyone’s hands. They lend themselves perfectly to guerrilla marketing. Leave them as bookmarks in magazines in the doctor’s waiting room–or better yet on a plane! Slide one into every envelope that is mailed from your office. A little marketing never hurt anyone!
Let’s talk domains
Hopefully you all have a website. If not, you either have a very specialized niche or a very outdated calendar. It is 2014–you absolutely need a website. And along with that website comes your email.
Domains can be bought for next to nothing. Hosting packages are very affordable. For an average home based agent, acquisition and hosting is less than $100 a year on Go Daddy. All hosts will offer email. Use it!
Would you deal with a doctor whose email was “email@example.com”? How about the attorney “firstname.lastname@example.org”? The accountant at “email@example.com”? So why do so many agents feel that “firstname.lastname@example.org” is a good thing? You have a domain–use it. And if you are dealing with a long time pre-website email address; it’s time to migrate. You can easily forward the aol, yahoo, hotmail, address to your domain. That way, long term clients will still be able to reach you. You can still reply to them, and you can slowly migrate away from the amateur hour.
If you notice, gmail was not included. Gmail is a bit of a different animal. You should not use gmail as a primary email address, but Google’s technology (free technology) will allow you to use the gmail program to handle your domain email. It is not that complex, and well worth the time to set it up. I have four domain email addresses feeding into a single gmail address. They all get identified by the email address and I respond right in gmail with the appropriate account.
You rarely get second chances in life. With the competition that is out there in the travel industry, you simply cannot afford to miss the boat on these two simple areas.