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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.
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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.

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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?
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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 »

Bad Lighting

How photogenic are you?  I am not.  It takes either the most amazingly lucky lighting or the most skilled of photographers to make me look good in a photograph.  I tell myself it has nothing to do with my personal appearance.  Instead, I am the victim of bad lighting. Worldwide.

At ASTA’s Global Conference in Reno last year, I participated in a panel titled “The Value of Using a Travel Agent.”  Driven by ASTA’s Research Department, the information provided was actually quite remarkable. Perhaps the most interesting and hopeful number in the report is the number of people currently using a travel agent which hovers around 25% in all age categories.  Wow. Read the rest of this entry »

Progressive Marketing

I’m not sure the Mad Men marketing and advertising professionals of 50 years ago would truly recognize today’s marketing environment. Many of the fundamental principles are the same, but the way businesses communicate with the buying public has changed. Fifty years seems like a long time but, apparently, not everyone has cracked the code.

In the last century, advertising and marketing was a one-way channel from company to public. Today’s marketing is all about conversation, a two way dialogue between company and consumer. So dynamic is the technology and media, these conversations can take on amazing scope when even a one-to-one correspondence goes viral and becomes national news.  Here is a little roundup of some of last year’s more notable social media blunders.  Read the rest of this entry »

Enhancing Supplier Relationships

January and February of 2017 are literally history. Yikes! The new car smell is gone but we can all  look forward to good things for the balance of this year. It’s time to focus on enhancing every aspect of your travel practice, making every point of contact with clients as sharp as possible. As we have said to the point of extreme repetition, travel consulting is all about relationships.

The unique nature of your position as a travel consultant, however, is dual facing.  Your relationships with clients are of primary importance.  But of nearly equal importance is the relationships you develop with your suppliers.  Knowing a supplier intimately is a very large part of mastering the art of being a travel professional. Read the rest of this entry »

Understanding SWOT

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.

Generally speaking, your travel practice has certain strengths that justify its existence. These strengths give rise to opportunities that your competition may not be able to challenge. On the other hand, your agency probably has weaknesses that provide an opening to your competition where they are better capable than you of taking advantage of the market. A SWOT Analysis makes each of these factors clear  and provides a guideline for approaching each in your planning. Our SWOT Analysis Worksheet will assist you in performing your own analysis. Read the rest of this entry »

Make No Mistake?

Mistakes get a bad rap.  Experience may be a rough teacher, but like the curriculum taught by Ms. Lambert (3d Grade, Knob Elementary, Princeton, West Virginia), you tend not to forget the lessons. Still she haunts my dreams.

My father consoled me with one of his aphorisms: “If you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough.”

When we make a mistake, we are taught to apologize.  Good advice.  If we are not smart enough to admit our mistakes and apologize for them, we implicitly  explain their origin all too clearly.  But simply apologizing for mistakes under-values their worth. Read the rest of this entry »

So what’s your story?

The psychologist Carl Jung posited that all humans share in the unconscious portion of our minds what he termed “archetypes”: images of mythological importance that we instantly recognize in stories and the events of day to day life. According to Jung’s theories, our mind responds to situations influenced by those same archetypes. Thus, in some leaders we see the “King” or “Hero” archetypes. Characters on television and in the movies are often very intentionally developed to mirror particular archetypes like the “Magician” or the “Warrior”.

This too brief and painfully inadequate introduction to Jung’s archetypes suggests that the persona of our business will be better articulated, more imaginative and forceful if we pay attention to the archetype it mirrors. The stories we read in novels, plays, movies and even our personal histories are all told in a narrative fashion, influenced by shared archetypes. Jung and his followers called these stories the “hero’s journey,” and it explains why we are captivated by a good story.

So what’s your story? Read the rest of this entry »

The Image You Project

Who are you? Why are you here?

Can you tell clients the answer to those questions without hesitation? Do you have a mission statement? Can you recite it in a meaningful, authentic way? Do you have an answer to the question: “Can you beat this internet deal I found”?

Who are you? Why are you here? Read the rest of this entry »