There are decisions to be made. The going has gotten a bit tough and smart travel consultants and suppliers are spending a lot of time pouring over their game plan for the upcoming year. While there are no certainties and no easy answers, there are definitively some important steps everyone can take to shore up their position over the coming months. Marketing during a down economy is something of an act of faith. The return on investment is harder to calculate and far from immediate. So the question becomes, very simply, “What Works?”
Action works. Put yourself in gear and begin reaching out to your partners – your best clients and suppliers. Now more than ever, the travel business is about relationships on both end of the spectrum – relationships with clients and relationships with suppliers. Nothing good comes of indecision and inaction. Brand building is ALWAYS important, perhaps never so much as when sales are down and everyone rushes for the tactical sale by discounting their wares.
Agents – reach out to the clients closest to you and initiate smart word of mouth marketing. Suppliers – reach out to the smartest, most product agents and build your brand. Focus close to home.
Smart travel agents are not waiting on calls from their clients but are grabbing the initiative and pro-actively offering their services. When the market grows quiet, clients can better hear you. If your clients are not traveling this week or next, you still have an excellent opportunity to grab “mindshare” – to remind them that when they do travel your expertise and supplier contacts will help them sort through the options available to them. Focus on your existing clients because you can reach out and touch them relatively inexpensively. Work on your client retention efforts and develop client acquisition tactics that grow organically through your existing client base – testimonials and referrals. To that end our marketing tips this week are emphasizing word of mouth marketing techniques. Beyond that, conserve your resources by marketing close to home – network, public relations – the marketing that requires an investment of your time but lets you conserve your financial resources.
Now is the time to cement your supplier relationships as well. That’s why 2009 will be the year of the Webinar as suppliers and destinations seek relationships with the most productive agents and agencies. Webinars allow a more intimate opportunity for suppliers to explain their product to agents. In turn, agents attending and participating in webinars can more easily evaluate the personality of the supplier. Productive agents are now more important than ever and any marketing program that permits the supplier to add one additional agent to the roster is key.
While the focus must remain on sales and moving inventory, brand building opportunities remain an important part of the mix. When that client thinks about travel, you want them to think about your agency. When that travel agent needs a tour operator for Greece, you want them to think immediately about your company. Certainly now is the time to reach out with your most aggressive pricing, but it is also the time to reach out and gather together the strongest relationships you can forge.