Here’s the bad news: you have more competition than you think. Here’s the good news – you can effectively compete. In fact, competition keeps us sharp and aware of the environment in which we operate. Keep in mind that carrying the proper attitude about your competition is important. Properly trained, your clients will adopt many aspects of your own attitude about travel and other distribution channels. If your attitude is positive and healthy, chance are your clients’ will be as well.
Your competition arises in three distinct sectors:
- Other travel agencies in your area;
- Internet based travel agencies or tour operator direct;
- Inertia and other consumer purchases
Other travel agencies in your area can present formidable competition. If your agency is a large store front with a long heritage in your community, it is possible for you to be out-marketed and out-serviced by a good home based top agent. If you are a home based agent, the same goes for you. That large store front with a long heritage in your community has a distinct advantage when it comes to the acquisition of mind-share. Both of you have competition from large national agencies on the internet and from direct to consumer purchasing.
Study the competition. Go back and study each aspect of your marketing plan to date and identify in what way the competition is meeting the various aspects we have discussed. Look at the competition’s advertising, look at their public relations efforts. Obtain some of their literature. Look at their website. Study every point of contact you can acquire and learn from it. What are they doing well? What are they doing poorly? How can you differentiate yourself? What are your own Unique Selling Points that distinguish your travel practice from all others? What can you do better than anyone?
Of all your competitors, however, inertia is the one you against which you can be most effective. Too many consumers do not understand the value of travel and spend their discretionary income elsewhere. Too many consumers have never traveled outside of the United States. Many consumers have no idea, or the wrong idea, about what a “travel agent” does or how a travel agent can assist them. In this area of the market, there is a vast opportunity to educate the public and to gather new clients. Focus hard on your marketing collateral and your PR efforts to better educate this particular segment of your community.
In a very real sense, however, you have no competition. If you have truly assimilated the notion that you are not selling travel, then you understand that YOU are the real product and brand that clients are buying when they use your services. Your marketing plan must emphasize your unique selling point and highlight your ability to meet the needs of clients.
Exercise: Take the time to develop a competitive map of your market. Study your competition and plot their marketing against you own. What is your competition doing well? Where are they falling down? What do they do better than you? Write down a short answer to each of these questions. Study the travel products they choose to market to consumers in your area. Why are they choosing those particular products? The time you spend with this quick exercise will be time well spent. Competition, at its best, can improve your travel practice, forcing you to enhance every aspect of the client experience.