If you had to guess, what do you think Royal Caribbean’s annual marketing budget is? How about Disney? Or Sandals?
And what percentage of that budget do they allocate to promoting your travel agency? Or promoting you, specifically, as a knowledgeable travel professional? Many of the suppliers do spend marketing dollars promoting travel agents as a whole; but they are not in business to pump up my individual bottom line. Or yours. Nor should they be.
So why do so many travel agencies, who certainly have a much smaller budget than any of the major travel companies, focus their marketing plans on promoting and supporting specific suppliers and products?
Before I get slammed, I’m not talking about co-op mailings that include special supplier offers along with a call to action to contact that individual travel agency to take advantage of the deal. There’s certainly a place in any marketing plan for those. What I’m talking about are the agencies that spend all their marketing time, energy and money on promoting product, rather than promoting themselves.
We’ve all seen the agencies whose bridal show booths are so completely Sandals-themed that a bride would be hard-pressed to realize there’s even an agency involved. How would that same bride possibly see the value of working with that agent? She’s just as likely to take the brochures home with her and end up booking her honeymoon online at the Sandals web site.
Personally, I want my marketing dollars to promote ME. I want to communicate my unique value, and give consumers a reason to call me for their next trip – regardless of what specific travel experience they’re looking for. In other words, my marketing plan is all about MY brand. Not someone else’s.
So how do I communicate my “brand”?
- My web site (www.AnniesEscapes.com) has no special offers, supplier links, or booking engine. Instead, it has my photo, information about me, a description of the services that I offer, and first-person trip reports (with lots of photos) written by me and my clients.
- My blog (www.AnniesEscapes.wordpress.com) is a little more personal than the website. Through my frequent updates, I share my personality, thoughts, opinions, and advice with current and potential clients, all the while positioning myself as a travel resource.
- I created a glossy four-color brochure for my agency that highlights my experience and expertise, lists some of my certifications and specialties, explains what services I offer, and includes client testimonials. (View Brochure: PDF)
- When I exhibit at shows, my booth is all about me. I do typically bring a few supplier brochures tailored to the audience I’m expecting, but my booth display features a slide show of client photos, my agency brochures, and fliers that communicate my specific expertise on the topic (honeymoons, family vacations, whatever fits for that show)
- I belong to several local networking groups, and I use that opportunity to reinforce my positioning as a very knowledgeable, service-oriented travel consultant. I talk about how I create uniquely memorable “escapes” for my clients, and give concrete examples of the value that I add to the planning process. Rarely do I talk about a specific product or promotion, since people already know they want to take a vacation – they just need to know that I’m the one to help them do it!
I’m not sure about you, but I feel good knowing that my limited marketing budget is focused on just one thing – communicating my personal brand to potential clients. What do you think? Am I off the mark? Add your comments 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