Loosely defined, our points of contact are those points at which a client can form an impression of our travel practice. Points of contact range from our logo and business cards, to our presentation formats, our manner of dress and even the places where we meet with clients. The sum total of our points of contact add up to form our professional image. The more professional our image, the more confidence clients have when it comes time to turn thousands of hard earned dollars over to us for their vacation. Needless to say, therefore, our points of contact must be kept in top condition. The reality, however, is we often create our points of contact independently of our mission statement and any guiding touch point and each becomes a separate marketing tool unrelated to the others or neglected after months of use.
Certainly your sales collateral is an important point of contact for your clients. However, everything you produce and project is also a point of contact.
Here are some points of contact to consider:
- Business Cards
- Email signature
- Email address
- Capabilities brochure
- Company name
- Personal appearance
- Manner of speech
Evaluation of our points of contact forces us to take a hard, honest look at ourselves. To project a professional image, you must use professional tools. No doubt it is cheaper to do it yourself than to hire a professional, but a “do-it-yourself” message is not one that agents want to impart to their clients.
Too many agents use logos that look like clip art and free consumer email addresses. An email address that ends in “aol” is a message that says “consumer”. The “free” email often has an advertisment in it for some third party company. An email coming from an AOL, Yahoo, or (shudder) “Hotmail” address is not professional.
It is a smart move to have a professional design your logo. Clip art invariably looks like clip art. You can amortize the investment you will make in quality materials over the entire life of your business, an investment well-made. A good professional artist will design graphics that can move from your business card to your stationary to your website.
Next, make sure that all of your marketing collateral is consistent. Does each tell a consistent story about you? Is your personality and expertise at the center of each? Is the logo the same on all? Type face? Make sure that each piece supports your branding and delivers your message in a clear, concise manner. Eliminate collateral that no longer has relevance and focus on a few strong pieces. At the core are your business cards and stationery. Perhaps you have a “capabilities” brochure. Your itineraries are an important point of contact. Take a look at your website, blog or Facebook page. Think about the impression it leaves on viewers. Is it distinctively you or does it look like one of hundreds? Is there really any reason for a client to visit? How about your newsletter? Importantly, don’t examine them as separate tools but rather as a part of the larger whole of your brand.
Does everything work well together? Marshalling your sales and marketing collateral is hard work but don’t let that stop you. The effort is absolutely necessary if you want to stand out from the crowd. Keep pushing forward until each piece tells your story in a way that makes you proud.
The primary points of contact for most travel agencies are the employees. If every employee from receptionist to travel counselor is not projecting an appropriate image, there is a potential problem that is draining your brand of some of its power. Employees must be trained in the corporate culture and monitored periodically for adherence to the corporate image. Likewise, your storefront and meeting places are a powerful repository of brand image. If the windows are not clean, if the desks look disorganized, if the brochures are not current, the client’s reception of your brand image is likely to be other than you hope. The choice of venue where you meet with clients has a similar impact. Choose a noisy bar over a quiet coffee shop and the relationship may not evolve much farther. Your manner of dress, the language you use, the look and feel of your business card. All are points of contact and each supports the other.
Finally, let’s not forget your manner of speaking. We have all known people who spice up their vocabulary with questionable language and topics. Perhaps you are one of those people who can get away with frequent indiscretions and lapses of protocol. Most likely, however, you aren’t. Inappropriate language, jokes and remarks tinged with the darker side of humanity will likely thwart your attempts at projecting a professional image.
With every point of contact, your brand is communicated. Spend as much time with every point of contact as you do with your advertising. Otherwise, you won’t know what it is saying about you.
Review each point of contact for a consistent and professional look and feel. Examine the copy, examine the graphical layout. Try to observe your collateral with the eye of a third party. What would you think if your competition was using your collateral? Ask your harshest friendly critic to look over your materials. Swallow hard and be willing to listen. Your professionalism is at stake. Review each point of contact including your emails, the flyers you produce, your newsletters and website. Give everything a freshened, coherent look. Look for three very important details:
1. Does your marketing collateral look professionally produced? Is your logo strong, the typeface and spacing readable? Is is professionally printed or does it look like you “did it yourself” with MS Publisher?
2. Your marketing collateral must bear out your company’s mission statement consistently. If your mission statement speaks to the wonderful experiences clients will have in their travels with you but your marketing collateral speaks to prices and discounts, you need to get your marketing collateral back into alignment.
3. Your collateral should be about your clients, not about the features of your agency. Turn those features into an explanation of client benefits. Client-centric marketing materials should highlight the client experience, not simply list your agency’s features.
If you have a sales staff, familiarize them with each piece of sales material. Cover with them the use of each sales tool. Do not assume that any one point is obvious or does not need to be explained. Understand how each piece interrelates with the next – how the business card carries an email and web site address, how the web site reflects the company mission and how that mission is reflected by the company brochures. Consider how you distribute each piece of collateral to achieve the highest possible use. Assemble your team of sales collateral and make sure they are dressed for success.