When you view travel agent message boards, one question seems to be on a lot of minds: will 2009 “be worse than” 2008? Ok, here’s the good news – for many of you, 2009 will be a better year than was 2008. However, there is a caveat to this prediction. Next year will almost certainly be harder than was 2008. The distinction in an important one, and should not be overlooked in your analysis of next year’s business plan. Taken to heart, the truth inherent in the above statement will not only encourage you but will also suggest the appropriate actions you will have to take to meet your business goals next year. So lets spend a few moments unpacking how to make sense of the fact that even though 2009 will be tougher than 2008, it does not have to be worse from the perspective of your business.
The secret to 2009 is relatively simple, actually. If 2009 will be harder than 2008, then your response must be to more actively market. Here is where you might find some new business:
- Your existing clients need your advice more than ever. Mine your existing clients. They know you best. Contact each of them with a personal note and offer your profound desire to assist them next year. Sharpen your use of your CRM system and don’t miss an opportunity to market to your exisitng clients with birthday cards, Valentines Day, newsletters….
- Travelers who have been using other agencies may be looking for a new agency – their existing agent will retire, go out of business or perhaps has been unsatisfactory.
- People who have never used an agency – here is a vast resource. By some estimates only 40% of travelers use travel agents. That means there is a large, untapped market.
So the task at hand really becomes a matter of capturing your share of the potential business out there by increasing your marketing efforts. Success in 2009 will be a combination of working hard and working smart. Break the mold. Step back and revisit your marketing plan. If you do things exactly as you have been doing them you will almost certainly lose ground. Next year will not be simply a matter of doing business as usual. What ever you do, don’t cut back on your marketing. Instead, re-visit every aspect of your marketing plan. How can you reach your audience more effectively? Don’t make marketing decisions on the basis of cost – make your decisions based on return on investment. Did you write any articles last year? Did you incorporate public speaking into your business plan? Are you cross-marketing with any retailers? Each of these are possible new avenues for marketing your services that will cost you little more than the effort necessary to pull them off. You will have to run faster next year just to stay in place. But you can do it. Commit to working harder and working smarter.
TRO has as its mission assisting travel professionals in their marketing efforts. Already, we have created a sizeable library of destination guides, epostcards, articles and videos for your use. Make using TRO’s tools a part of your 2009 business plan and let us know what other tools you might need to better take on the challenges of the new year.