How many brides mention Sandals when they contact you? How many first-time cruisers mention Carnival? Do you have anyone coming in looking for an Apple Vacations package trip someplace? Why do you think clients and prospects do this? I’ll tell you—it’s authority! And it does not need to be relegated to multi-national companies with 7-figure marketing budgets. You can become the authority too and earn that level of trust with your clients and prospects. Here are some tips gleaned from 20 years in the industry.
Look bigger. If you don’t subscribe to Evoice or RingCentral (or many others like it), consider it. Face it, who has more authority? The solo agent whose voicemail says “hi, you’ve reached Mary’s Travel Agency, please leave a message and I will call you back when I get a chance.”? Or the solo agent whose auto-attendant says “Thanks for calling Mary’s Travel Agency. To speak with an agent, press one. Accounting, press 2. To hear our latest special, press 3.”? Not only will this allow you to prioritize and segment your calls, it also gives a professional (and larger) sounding face to your agency.
Make your site appealing. Never use a cookie cutter website. Just like you should never use VistaPrint free cards, do not use a free website. Buy your domain. Put on WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace, or something and make it unique to you. Technology has evolved so far that any idiot (including me) can do it. Make sure it is usable. Look at it from the customer’s point of view. Your favorite colors do not matter if a different palette will retain more clients. Write your content for your audience. Do not wow them with your knowledge of industry acronyms or technology—they don’t care! Make sure your content is readable. This applies to the actual words (target for a 5th to 8th grade reading level—Office has that functionality built in (this one is almost to 6th grade, so we are smarter than a fifth grader). Also, make sure the site is readable on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. Your customers are on all of them.
Improve your customer interactions. Make sure that EVERY interaction with a client or prospect is a positive one! You have that control! Be accessible on all platforms. Your clients will be contacting you via phone, email, at the coffee shop, by text, Facebook, Twitter, and more. Be there and give them a way to do it. Be transparent. My dad always used to say “never try to bullsh!t a bullsh!tter.” Today’s clients are savvy and can smell that a mile away. Be upfront. Take responsibility and criticism professionally. You will reap the rewards.
Be socially conscious. I am not suggesting giving all your profits away, but studies show that people prefer to deal with companies that support causes. Locally, we have a restaurant that donated 1% of their sales to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. There is never a seat available. Need an example? Look at Stella Artois and their initiative with Water.org, or Toms and their shoes, or Warby Parker and their glasses. None of them are the “best” product of their type…but they are one of the top selling ones! Saving a buck is no longer en-vogue. People today will be more impressed that the buck is passed along to a deserving cause. Bonus points if the cause is travel related—there are plenty!
Become the expert in your niche. If you ever get a chance to speak to an audience–take it. Always! It does not matter if it is 5 or 500. Take it. You can share your knowledge, generate awareness of you and your agency and quickly become a leader. Build relationships with those you meet and encourage them to contact you with any questions. The bottom line is that you should get your name and your brand out there. You want to be seen and be heard at this point.
Credibility is a must in this industry. When a bride comes to you and talks Sandals, it is because of their credibility. So in your town (or your little part of the Internet) when someone talks travel—they need to come to you! Any other tips for me? Please leave a comment!