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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 »

Sitting Still?

Like a shark, you know you have to keep moving forward. In business there is no such thing as sitting still. Clients come and go. Destinations rise and fall in popularity and demand. There is always something new on the horizon. In fact, if your business is not growing, chances are pretty good you are losing ground. No time for sitting still.

Is it too early to talk about 2018? I don’t think so if you are headed that direction. Here are five ways to keep  both you and your travel practice growing and even thriving. When 2018 arrives, you will be on the right footing. Read the rest of this entry »

Valuing the Upstart

I have always found business development to be fascinating, the process of merging the efforts of two or more companies to create or enhance a marketing strategy. Whether another company is bringing a new idea to me or vice versa, the conversation is almost always stimulating. The merits of the idea go round the table, sometimes round and round the table, and each party alternately tries to make the shoe fit.

Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Dangers of Comfort

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~ Neal Donald Walsch

Is comfort a trap? For the business person, danger sometimes lurks in the most unlikely places where it’s not supposed to reside.  In fact, it is entirely possible we are most vulnerable when we are the most comfortable. At the beginning of the second half of this quickly vanishing year, when a wide field of possibility is typically clearly visible, let’s take a moment to discuss the perils of comfort. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Business Cards are Like Tattoos

Personally, I am a fan of interesting tattoos. I know that is not necessarily a shared preference. Body art is not for everyone and please do note my preference: interesting tattoos. I have certainly been exposed, to use a phrase, to some very bad tattoos.
Read the rest of this entry »

Craft

The word “craft” is a wonderful word. Both a noun and a verb, “craft” denotes expertise, intelligence, intuition and skill. A craft is more than a hobby, more than a pastime. When you craft an answer, you work it, paying attention to details, to the magic that is in the turns and twists in the subtleties of language and insight. A craftsman is devoted to a chosen trade and practitioners of a craft are both learned and wise in application of their practice. Read the rest of this entry »

Clients for life

Glance back through the articles in the TRO archives and you will see some very strong opinions on a wide range of topics from travel agents and suppliers.  The temperament of the industry as seen through the strength of those articles is a good indication why the industry has endured through the changes it has experienced since the mid-1990’s. Resilience and persistence, a dedication to craft, is inherent in the best travel professionals. Though not without concern for the challenges the industry might be facing in the next few short years, these agents seem to be saying, very simply, they are here to stay.  Read the rest of this entry »

Training Your Clients

All business people tend to be optimists and travel agents perhaps even more so than most.  A positive outlook is in the nature of the profession.  Travel professionals inherently plan for best case scenarios.  People love to travel and at the outset of every client relationship, there are great expectations about the trip to come and the long term possibilities of a life-long relationship of travel dreams realized. Yet, far too often,  that “next trip” doesn’t materialize.  The client drifts off and books their next trip with another agent, or online or direct with a tour operator.  There are many reasons a relationship might never gel between a new client and a travel agent, but here are three steps you can take to help ensure your clients will return to you year after year.

Read the rest of this entry »

What do YOU want?

The question “What do you want” can sometimes be one of the most difficult to answer. It’s an odd psychological quirk we often find it far easier to say what we don’t want. Perhaps you have had one of these conversations:

“Where do you want to eat tonight?”
“I don’t know, it doesn’t matter to me.”
“How about Mexican?”
“No, anything but Mexican.”
“Greek?”
“No, we had Greek last week.”
“OK, where do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know, it really doesn’t matter to me.”

Hmmm.

What do you want for your travel practice?
Read the rest of this entry »

Take Ownership of Your Brand and Mission

Let’s state definitively we are all the owners of our own brand, our own “company” called “me, myself and I”. This was the insight of Tom Peter’s famous 1997 article “The Brand Called You.” The success of social media platforms like Linkedin was largely presaged by the notion of the individual as a brand. With that in mind, we need to consider how we promote and monitor our individual brands. Read the rest of this entry »

The Marketing Mindset

If you are a travel planner, marketing is by necessity your  constant companion. Too often, however, travel professionals treat marketing like a hand tool that is pulled out of the box only when sales are “needed,”  when business seems a little slow. But effective marketing  is a mindset, a constant preoccupation for the successful travel agent intent on growing their business.

As I have often said in this column, marketing drives sales. The marketing you do today may not have an effect for weeks or even months. Business a bit quiet right now? Want this time next year to look better? It’s a good idea to begin marketing more thoughtfully and consistently. Now. Read the rest of this entry »

Who to blame?

Things go wrong.  In any given week, there are problems aplenty with clients, suppliers and associates.  There seems to be no lack of blame on social media. But I ask you, who is to blame?

If you are lucky, you are.

I come from a school that requires accepting total responsibility for everything that goes awry. In fact, I think the best years of my life began when I decided most of the problems in my life I was responsible for creating and my destiny was of my own doing.

When you blame others, you give up a powerful force for change: yourself. But we are often taught otherwise.  Read the rest of this entry »

Core Values

“For any man of good will, there is work to be done here, effective, virtuous, satisfying work which can give rich meaning to one’s own life and to others” ~ Abraham Maslow

What do you want? It is amazing how difficult the answer to this simple question can often be.  Perhaps it really isn’t such a simple question, and  it’s even a little bit dangerous.  Most of the decisions we make daily revolve around our desires, yet it can be hard to decide what we really want to have, what we want to do and what we want to be.

The question of desire is not insignificant to building your travel practice.  We engage in what we do, regardless of our profession, because of our desires.  We want to be a travel professional, we want to travel and help others to travel, we want to provide material and psychological stability  for ourselves and our families.

Getting a bit of clarity on our desires can help us achieve. Read the rest of this entry »

You Can Get There From Here

True story: I once asked directions from a man I met in Dublin.  I asked him how to get to a particular address in the city.  He told me, and I quote, “You can’t get there from here.”  For a moment, however brief, I thought all was lost.

Many of your clients feel the same way. They can’t travel because it costs too much.  They can’t travel because they don’t have passports. They can’t travel because they are afraid of terrorism, norovirus, foreigners, all things German, and strange food. They need some new appliances. Really!

No, not really. In reality, they can’t travel because of you.  They don’t think they can get there from here.  Read the rest of this entry »

OK. I confess. It’s not cool, and entirely too hipster,  but I’m a fan of Whole Foods.  Yes, I know the organic grocer is sometimes the object of all manner of ridicule.  However, Earth Fare, Whole Foods and Fresh Market along with some local organic grocery stores provide plenty of variety and a nice break from the standard grocer fare.  I can easily walk to a Whole Foods from my house, so it is my favorite, but perhaps you have your own.

I am of the opinion there are some  important lessons for travel professionals wrapped up, organically of course, in each of these grocery chains. Because my upcoming Easter dinner will be the result of a very recent hunting expedition at Whole Foods, this Easter Monday marketing lesson resulted, but a week early.  Read the rest of this entry »

Help Your Clients Know Themselves

The single most important thing that you can do for your client relationships is to make your clients feel special. Most of the service suppliers that your clients come into contact with every day do nothing to make them seem special – it is business as usual. That is why the exceptional service provider gets noticed. Think of the way in which certain exclusive hotel chains have built stories around themselves by doing no more than communicating the name of its guest to all of its personnel and then making sure the bellmen, the maids, the service staff all address the client by name. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting and Giving

“When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people, to help humanity free itself from its hangups.” ~ John Coltrane

There are many reasons to be grateful for having a career in travel planning, but I think the most important is the impact a travel professional has on the life of the client. Travel professionals assist clients to turn vacations, family travel and even business trips into the best possible experiences. By visiting the streets of new cities, meeting people from around the world and exposure to different cultures, we are all made better people, citizens of a larger reality. As a travel professional, you have the opportunity to play an important part in people’s lives. Read the rest of this entry »