Travel agents putting together a marketing plan for their travel agency are sometimes stymied by the concept of differentiation. In essence, differentiation is that collection of key attributes that set your travel agency apart from all others – the reason a client would rather work with you than with your competitor. By and large, any agency can offer the same cruises, tours and travel programs. So what Unique Selling Point (another way of speaking about differentiation) can an agency offer?
For a travel practice, properly developing your differentiation is often a matter of shifting from a product driven strategy to a relationship driven strategy. It is absolutely true that any agency can offer a tour to Ireland. But only your agency can offer you. Only your agency can offer the other people who surround you as associates. Only your agency can offer the unique services, personalities and talents you have assembled. The collective personality of your agency and the core values you instill can be the unique selling point that differentiates your agency from all others. Better yet, when you define your differentiation in terms of the relationship you have with your clients, the concept of differentiation becomes ever more tangible in the form of truly extraordinary service.
There is no shortage of articles being written on the death of the service culture. We run into examples of poor or inadequate service everywhere we go. The giant box hardware store where there are no store employees to be found without a desperate search and who will give you the wrong aisle number for any product for which you ask. The online store that ignores your order until you contact them and complain. The surly counter attendant at the airport who hasn’t smiled since 1994.
But there are good examples of great service as well. Your town no doubt is filled with small entrepreneurs that deliver what they promise and then exceed your expectations. Companies like Zappos that have a corporate culture so strong and positive that it is actually a quality you can sense when ordering from them online.
Large or small, your agency has a collection of unique individuals. Inculcate in each of them importance of their personality, of a smile, of a drive to excel. Great service does not just happen. It is the product of pride in one’s work, an effort that require a focused attention on execution. The hard work of delivering on excellent service requires you to determine what your travel clients desire in the relationship and then measuring how well you deliver on those desires. Great service programs are a system of processes and typically involve rewarding and recognizing those employees that demonstrate their mastery of delivering on the promises your agency makes to clients.
Want to be different? Want to one-up the competition? Brainstorm a list of truly great services you can initiate in your travel agency. Here are some broad stroke ideas that you can fill in with the “how to” details:
- To only use suppliers with which you have a solid, amazing relationship built on trust;
- To seek to develop every customer into a client, and every client into an evangelist for your agency;
- To hire and train extordinary travel consultants dedicated to WOW’ing clients;
- To establish a local credibility and reputation second to no other.
- To get to know each of your clients as individuals with hobbies, interests, ambitions and goals related to travel.
Make some of the suggestions outrageously impossible. Then, find a few on which you can deliver. Get down to specifics with your co-workers.
Now, figure out how to communicate your unique differentiation in your marketing campaigns. Start a rumor – Your agency is the best in town.
In a travel practice, it all comes down to the people involved.
That is how great travel agencies are built, one personality at a time.