Owning your own business is not for the meek and mild mannered. Business is tough—that’s all there is to it. If it were easy, everyone would do it. So how do you insure that you are ahead of the competitive pack? Well, that answer is constantly changing, but I have collected a few suggestions from my 21 years in the industry. (Note: I never wrote that out before…wow, 21 years. I’m old!) But I digress, here’s ten of my best suggestions to make sure you make it!
Remember, you work for you! Not the supplier. Stop marketing their stuff. Stop pushing their specials and promotions. Push what is right for you and your client.
When you develop any marketing pieces, think about why people travel – to relieve stress, learn a new culture, or go on an adventure – and solve those problems or quench those desires. Travel is an experience, and it’s imperative that you focus on the uniqueness you and your agency can offer.
Never compete on price
Listen to Nolan Burris. He has said time and time again that people will not buy travel based on price. So stop marketing yourself on price. Being the cheapest around is a great way to attract tire kickers, but a poor way to generate any real revenue. Instead of competing on price, compete on value. Don’t be the cheapest agency, but the best. McDonalds sells hamburgers as does Ruth’s Chris. McDonalds has them on the menu for a buck. They are $15 at Ruth’s Chris. Both are burgers, but guess who makes more money and gets more return clients spending more?
Don’t ignore social media
Social media is a wonderful tool for the travel industry. Since repeat customers are so valuable, being able to keep in touch with your fans is a great way to develop an extremely powerful revenue stream.
Create a Facebook page for your agency and connect with all of your customers directly. Recommend destinations, activities, and special deals on social media to generate direct sales and valuable feedback from your audience. Remember, play around with social media. You can’t break it. Do not be afraid of it; embrace it!
Own your niche
At first glance, W Hotels and Four Seasons Hotels occupy the same category: high-end accommodation. Look closer and you’ll see that they’re actually very different from each other, occupying different niches within the luxury hotel category.
Experts in the industry have been harping about niches and specialties since I entered the industry. Don’t be lulled into thinking they are all taken. Like the luxury hotel market, you can identify a small niche within a larger one and totally own it! Become the expert. 21 years later I still can’t believe no one else has tried to hone in on my niche!
Never forget email
Email marketing is still the most powerful ways to attract customers back to your travel agency in my opinion. It is personal and as if your clients have invited you (and your message) into their living rooms. Email invites a conversation. Never give up that opportunity and always ask for them to allow you to communicate that way!
Spend time on existing clients
It’s cheaper to keep ’em is a joke about a failing marriage. But is is equally apropos to the travel industry. How much do you spend to acquire that new client? I bet you never studied that. You need to find a prospect and convince them to give you their hard earned money to go on a trip. Sometimes it works..most of the time not. But once they have experienced you (provided it was a good experience) the only objection you are likely to face is the timing and the price–both easily overcome!
Treat them like family
Treat every client like they are your mom. When mom is happy, everyone is happy. Make sure that the service you give them is more than adequate–it needs to be exceptional. And when you give exceptional service, you reap rewards such as great reviews on social media, evangelical clients more than happy to sing your praises, and repeat business. Nothing wrong with that!
Use the tech tools available
Are you re-targeting clients? Do you know what it is? Identify the clients that sniff around on your website (or email) and leave. Chances are they may be price checking you. They may never come back. But, I have had great success in re-targeting potential clients from email broadcasts and my site. You can see where they went which indicates an interest. Now, just re-target them (either with cookies or a follow up broadcast) with the perfect fit. Often I will put out an informative newsletter highlighting some interesting stuff about destinations–no sales pitch at all. Then I look at who clicked on what and how long they spent there. And then I send a sales pitch for that specific destination or product.
Most of us would never hop on a plane to a destination unknown, right? Yet every day, millions of dollars are spent to reach an audience they know almost nothing about. Ask your clients for feedback on their trips and their experience. This information will tell you what is working and (more importantly) what is not. Asking your customers for feedback is simple, especially if you do email marketing–hello SurveyMonkey. But understand, along with the good comes the bad; which can be just as (if not more) useful.
Blog about it
Every business can benefit from a blog. It helps with search engine visibility. It helps to keep your clients and prospects informed. And it can even make your life more simple. Look at tools like IFTTT to automate your blog to your social media accounts. Write a very short blog post about a new airline route…it could be a republished notice from a carrier…and let automation update it on your Facebook page and Twitter account. Focus on the blog and use it to feed your social and you will never run out of things to post.