I recently wrote a column about personal networking, and how important it is to tell everyone you know, and meet, about your travel business. Once you are doing this consistently, the next logical step is to look for other local businesses that will help you spread the word to potential clients.
This kind of business-to-business networking does not have to be all that complicated. It can be as simple as asking your dentist if you can leave travel brochures in his waiting room, or offering to donate a portion of your commission to a favorite non-profit if their supporters book travel through you. Here are a few more examples:
- A woman that I know runs a very high-end custom furniture and accessories show at the local convention center every year. She reads my monthly e-newsletter and asked if I would be willing to mention her show in the newsletter, to help her attract some new attendees. In return, I asked for a free booth at the show so that I can promote myself to her upscale clientele.
- A tanning salon had the booth next to mine at a Holiday Bazaar last year. I struck up a conversation, and we talked about how our businesses complimented one another. This led to a partnership where I have a Sandals® brochure display in her waiting area and she gives me coupons for free tanning sessions that I send out with my clients’ documents.
Aside from this kind of informal networking, I can pretty much guarantee that your local community offers some more structured business-to-business networking opportunities. The Chamber of Commerce is a good place to start. Through your Chamber, you can increase your visibility to other local businesses, get to know other business owners, and keep your eyes out for possible partnerships and alliances.
For those who are ready for some more advanced networking, I highly suggest joining a leads group like BNI (Business Networking International), which has chapters all around the world. I joined my local BNI group about a year ago, and have found it to be a great source of new business. I have educated the other members about my agency, and the types of clients I’m looking for, and it’s like having a whole team out there selling for me.
Just as important as the referrals that the group gives me are the alliances that I’ve formed. I was looking for a place to hold a cruise night this fall, without having to spend money on a hotel meeting room, and I mentioned it at one of my BNI meetings. I ended up with not one but two great locations – the florist in my group hosted my European river cruise night, and the jeweler hosted my Alaska cruise night – and neither one cost me a dime.
If you want to take networking to the next step, it’s time to reach out to other local businesses that can help you find the right clients. Get out there and make yourself known, look for natural partnerships, and consider joining a more formalized networking group to help you spread the word.
Have a great suggestion for business-to-business networking, or want to share a success story of your own? Add your comment below.
Ann Petronio is a travel consultant and the owner of Annie’s Escapes, Inc. in Cranston, Rhode Island. She creates custom-tailored vacations for busy couples, families and groups. www.AnniesEscapes.com