Author Archives: Richard Earls

There are 653 articles by Richard Earls published on this site.


Cross Marketing Strategies for 2018

Cross marketing refers to the practice of working with a non-competitive retailer to enhance business opportunities for both parties. Any compatible product is a possible theme for cross marketing purposes, and travel presents a great opportunity because of how easily it can be linked to almost any theme.

Retailers make excellent cross marketing partners because they typically do not compete with travel agents and because it is easy to create real value by marketing together. When you pool your client list with that of the retailer, both benefit by leveraging the other’s circle of influence. When the retailer introduces you to his clients, you enjoy the inherent third party endorsement and trust the retailer has established with his own clients. Properly executed, the effect of a strong cross marketing program can be powerful. Read the rest of this entry »

Annually a company needs to be reminded of the need for a SWOT analysis.  The SWOT acronym indicates Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The traditional SWOT looks at Strengths and Weaknesses of a business (internal factors) and tries to thereby ascertain the relationship with Opportunities and Threats (factors external to the agency). Doing an annual SWOT analysis is a good pre-requisite to a marketing plan and assists with developing the appropriate goals for your travel practice. One of the most important aspects of a SWOT analysis for travel agencies is very simply the act of planning: the analysis makes you take a good look at your positioning in the market.  Each component of the SWOT analysis bears a relationship to the others. Each of your strengths will give rise to opportunities or the capacity to exploit an opportunity. Likewise, your strengths allow your travel practice to better confront the threats on the horizon or compensate for weaknesses.

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Creativity and Your Travel Practice

I spend much of my time speaking to the importance of positioning and differentiation – setting your travel practice apart from the crowd. From the emails and comments I receive, however, it’s clear it’s not always easy to really BE different.  Where do the ideas arise that will energize your travel practice in such a way that travelers will choose you over another agency or booking on their own?

The most important thing is to lead with is your personality. You are the one thing that is truly unique about your travel practice.  You are the one thing not duplicated online, in your office, or at another agency. You are the human element with which people want to engage. Learn to infuse your creative thinking with your own personality. Read the rest of this entry »

Setting Goals for Your 2018 Business Plan

Just 6 more weeks and 2018 is here. I like both endings and beginnings, the opportunity to evaluate how the year has gone and the opportunity to plan for the next. I’m hoping you have begun to work on a business plan for next year. If you need a bit of help, here is an article abstracted from a new project Anita Pagliasso and I have undertaken at Travel Professional Academy. It will help you get a real jump on writing a business plan.

Keep in mind as we build your business plan that marketing has two fundamental objectives:

  • the retention of existing clients; and,
  • the acquisition of new clients.

Your existing clients are your base and represent your steady income. New clients represent growth and replace clients you may lose or fire along the way. Whatever steps we take in building a plan, we will want to ensure that we are acting to either retain desirable existing clients or acquire desirable new ones.
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Empowering Your Clients

Long ago, travel agents held the keys to the kingdom. The general public knew very little about the logistics of travel. Anyone wanting an itinerary of any complexity went to a travel agency for assistance. Travel agents had access to “hidden” resources like the GDS systems and access to travel specials not available direct to the public. But there were urban legends of people who knew tricks. Rumors of cargo ship travel, package couriers, backpackers and mysterious student discounts floated about, making many feel as though everyone in the know was traveling better and more cheaply than they. There were “secrets” out there and travel agents weren’t talking because they wanted the public to book with them.  Read the rest of this entry »

Networking

Travel consulting is a people business, and in the end, it’s all about who you know.  As our good friend Mike Marchev will remind us on occasion, it’s also about how many “who’s” you know. An important component of building a successful travel practice is the network of people with whom you come into contact. Although your own circle of influence may be small, it grows exponentially because your friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, teachers, and co-workers all have circles of influence into which you can market. These relationships provide opportunities to introduce your practice to people with whom you might otherwise not come into contact. Read the rest of this entry »

The 10 Suggestions

Next week I have the opportunity to travel for pleasure and, as always, small apprehensions about all of the work I have to do at the office shadow my travel plans. I thought it might an opportunity to re-focus on a few critical issues- like why I do what I do, how to do it better, and what to do more often.  As I wrote down my thoughts, it occurred to me we far too often lose sight of the reasons we are in the travel business. So I developed the following suggestions for myself. At first I called them commandments, but they really are suggestions more than commandments. The real commandments, the ones from the burning bush, were mostly about what not to do.  The ones below are more about steps you can take to enhance your travel practice and drive it forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Pick One

There are times when the business of travel planning can be a bit overwhelming. There are bills to pay, meetings to attend and marketing that needs to be done. Clients are calling with completely unreasonable requests and that hotel still has not paid the commission on a trip completed in June. Your desk is covered in paper.

The drawbacks to disorganization are all too familiar to me. I’m not a detail person, and my inability to work methodically shows. I clean my offices in flurries of activity and almost always uncover some important detail that was due to be completed yesterday. Read the rest of this entry »

The Psychology of Closing the Sale

You must have done something right, Mr. or Ms. Travel Professional. Your marketing must be working. The prospective client called and asked to meet with you. You chose a great meeting location, maybe your agency office, maybe a coffee shop. You dressed the part, you rehearsed the meeting and prepared well. You made a terrific presentation. Now it’s time to ask for the prospective client’s business. You can feel the tension. Why is closing so difficult?

Because we make it difficult. Is there any possibility shifting from a transactional model to a relationship/consulting model will remove some of the pressure of “the close?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Dealing with doubters

A poorly reasoned article titled “Reasons You Should Never Book A Cruise Through A Travel Agent” is making the rounds on Facebook with a few thoughtful comments as well as the usual number of trolls looking to poke the profession’s collective spleen. At least once a quarter, if not more often, such articles appear as a reminder our marketing job is far from adequate to keep us in good stead with the public at large despite the spate of recent positive articles. Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking Backwards

I don’t like most game shows. I’m a high-functioning introvert, but the bright lights, noise and screaming frighten me. With one exception. I really enjoy Jeopardy. When I happen to catch it on television during an evening of channel surfing, I like playing along at least for a minute or two. In the no-stress environment of my living room, I am really good. Especially when I discount categories like “Broadway Musicals.”

What I really like about Jeopardy, though, is the format. Alex Trebec gives you the answer and the object is to provide the correct question – forcing me to think backwards. That little bit of a twist on my mental hardwiring engages an ability to dig a bit deeper for each challenge. Jeopardy teaches us to think differently. Read the rest of this entry »

Nurturing Your Inner Sales Person

Many travel agents dislike the word “sales”- our vision of sales and the sales process is jaded and we see it as less than authentic. In fact, many view sales as nothing other than manipulation. As a result, sales is often neglected as a part of the basic training that travel agents take on in their practice. Yet is is possible to understand sales in another context, one of helpful assistance. The best sales people are involved in an effort to meet needs and achieve dreams. Travel consultants who view sales this way approach their clients from a perspective of passion and enthusiasm. The quality of their effort begins on the inside, but it shows outwardly. Read the rest of this entry »

The importance of being empathetic

This week I ran across a quote that will forever be a favorite: “Courage is the foundation of integrity.” I love this quote not only for its plain simplicity, but also because it surpasses all of the political entangling  any significant or momentous thought currently. Nearly all of us can agree.  I searched for its origin, but the quote is ascribed to a number of people.  If you have a definitive source, please let me know. Read the rest of this entry »

The Value of Fam Trips

Does it go without saying that travel agents should travel? It is easy to ignore the very advice we give our clients. For a travel professional, however, travel is more than a divertissement…it’s our business. When a travel professional journeys, it is an opportunity to reconnect with the passion that first moved you to become a travel agent. By traveling, you are reminded of both the pleasures and the pains of the experience – it creates a greater degree of empathy for your clients. Without the availability of fams, many agents would not be able to afford to experience properties and destinations that are reserved for luxury clients or the greater number they must review to prepare for the vast majority of their clients. Read the rest of this entry »

Can Your Clients Trust You?

A few years ago in this column, I asked a simple question: “Can you trust your clients?” The equally important question remains, however. Can your clients trust you? What are the elements of trust? What does “trust” mean in a commercial context?  Consumers want to know the personality of your company and the people behind the company facade. The consumer wants to know that the people with whom they do business mean what they say.  No hype, no false promises. It is what it is. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting to No

“I’m as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things.” ~ Steve Jobs

We have a strange relationship with the word “No.” From childhood, we don’t like hearing the word, and as business people, “No” often signals the premature end to opportunity. Hearing a refusal can be painful.

Unfortunately, our dislike of the word too often means many of us have problems saying “No” ourselves. We have a bias to taking on tasks, of saying “Yes” when at all possible. As a result, we overcommit our time and limited resources. Trying to be positive and agreeable, we find ourselves increasing our own overhead beyond a safe point. Read the rest of this entry »

Sales Training for Travel Professionals

What type of formal sales and marketing training have you undertaken? If you look at most professions, the sales people are continually taking sales courses on a regular basis. In travel, however, sales and marketing often take a back seat to destination courses and product knowledge. Too seldom do you see real sales and marketing training in our industry.  Even at industry trade shows, “sales seminars” usually end up being more product knowledge in disguise. How important do you think formal training in sales and marketing is and how have you invested in it in the past? Read the rest of this entry »

Shoestring Nooses

I often encounter a mindset that sees marketing as an expense.  I suppose from the perspective of an accountant, that is absolutely accurate. However, in reality marketing should be viewed as an investment.  Think of it this way: marketing is only expensive if it’s not working. If you made 5 dollars every time you spent two marketing dollars you would be spending money all day and be happy about it. Ideally, marketing is an investment.

We all live within the constraints of a budget.  There are many good things to be said about marketing on a shoestring, on choosing strategies that are smart and that work.  Today, however, we are going to talk about avoiding turning our shoestrings into nooses – making mistakes with our marketing dollars that, like  bad investments, are nothing but expensive errors. Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond Satisfaction

Carnival Cruise Lines did a study several years ago indicating 80% of cruisers booked their second cruise with someone other than the travel professional with whom they booked their first.  However, the clients must have been satisfied with the cruise experience, because they took a second cruise.

So how to explain this rather startling statistic?

Understanding the title to today’s article is the beginning of a strong customer retention program. Read the rest of this entry »

Campaign Marketing

Before your client becomes a repeat client, before they ever book with you at all, they have to know you exist. In fact, the most difficult and expensive part of any marketing strategy is building brand awareness: alerting prospective clients to who you are and what you do. Too often, travel professionals market not according to a plan, but impulsively, with a heroic “give it a try” mentality. That certainly is one way to market, but tends to be error-prone and expensive.

Is there a better solution? Read the rest of this entry »

The Importance of Trust

Trust is the basis of every relationship and in a one-on-one business like travel planning, all the more so. When a client trusts you, they are more likely to use your services repeatedly. Loyalty is founded on trust and will often convince a client to work with you over any alternative. It is trust that induces a client to take your suggestion over their own initial impulse or to try something just because you indicate you think they should. Trust is a powerful motivator for a client.

So how do we build trust into our marketing plan? Read the rest of this entry »