Like many of you at the beginning of each New Year I take some time to consider what I want to accomplish in the year ahead. Some of these things are very personal, but most of my goals had to do with business. When Richard Earls, Publisher of Travel Research Online, asked me to participate in the Travel Agent Diary Series, and document experiences throughout the year, I wasn’t sure how I felt about “putting it all out there”. But if someone else can learn something from our experiences this year, I am game.
Nothing motivates me more than someone telling me I can’t do something. As a teenager, this was a huge issue for my parents, and I remember spending a great deal of time being grounded for one reason or another. Now that I am a grown-up I don’t get grounded anymore, but I still get a kick out of doing something that I’m told I can’t do. So when the news reports stated that we were on the verge of an economic meltdown, I decided that this year would be my best year ever. I added “100 clients in 100 days” to my list of New Year’s resolutions this year and posted it on TRO.
So how can you get 100 clients in 100 days in the midst of an economic downturn? What was my gameplan?
First, decide who you are. If you want to be regarded as a travel consultant, then stop conducting your business as though you are a retailer selling travel as a product. If you are a consultant, then you are planning an event or experience, or offering some kind of guidance. People hire consultants and agree to a fee for those services before the work starts.
Package yourself! If your consulting services were a service product, what would they be? Come up with 4 things that you offer your clients as a part of your product. Make those 4 things the core of your marketing message. We developed “Blissful Beginnings”, a package that encompasses our services. When people hire us as their travel consultant, this is what they are getting.
Define your niche, and make it as narrow as possible! I see agents’ profiles that say they specialize in dozens of things that don’t have anything to do with each other, like honeymoons & fishing trips. If you’re a retailer selling travel as a product like Expedia, maybe you can do that. But if you’re a consultant then chances are you have one specialty, and you know that specialty inside and out. Wouldn’t you rather make a lot of money just selling one thing that you love, than scraping by while trying to be all things to all people?
And if you haven’t heard me say it enough already, stop auditioning to be someone’s travel agent! We offer a professional travel consulting package to our clients and our clients sign an agreement and pay a retainer for those services upfront. I never, ever, ever start working on a package for a client without the service deposit. You’ve probably invested a considerable amount of time, effort and energy into becoming a travel professional. Aren’t those services worth something?
So, where do I stand? Have I made it to 100 clients in 100 days? Well, as of the first of March, I was a quarter of the way there, with our dealers progressing nicely as well. Here are some things we’ve found that have helped attract new clients:
- Email marketing is easy and very affordable. We send a newsletter out each week with destination information and details of our service package.
- People will try anything for free. So we hold honeymoon seminars at our office bi-weekly to introduce potential clients to our services and some of our favorite honeymoon destinations. Our honeymoon seminars are very popular and always result in several new clients.
- Set and measure your marketing activities. Asking your clients where they found you is a great way to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
- Figure out where the client that you want is shopping. If you determine your niche based on a specific interest, this will help you figure out where to find that person. People want to do business with someone with a common interest.
- Engage in one activity every day to attract a new client. Once this activity becomes a habit you’ll be able to do it very naturally, and it won’t feel like “sales”.
Laura Frazier is the President of Bliss Honeymoons based in Columbus, OH. For more information, you can contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org
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