The Edge Of Excellence: Are you a specialist in specializing? | Travel Research Online


The Edge Of Excellence: Are you a specialist in specializing?

As a speaker, I end up on a lot of agency mailing lists.  From email blasts and Twitter bursts to fax frenzies and snail mail flyers, I get it all.  It’s a great opportunity to stay on top of agency marketing efforts.  It’s also a reminder of what so many are doing so wrong!

Allow me to vent for a moment about some of my pet peeves in the realm of mass marketing. I should first point out that most of these things are NOT coming from giant mega-monolithic-impersonal-transaction-factories.  Instead, I seem to get the most impersonal irritation makers from small agencies that should know better.

#1:  Valued Clients?

Starting any email, fax or letter with “Dear Valued Client” instantly conveys the opposite message.  You’d be better off omitting a greeting altogether if you can’t use my actual name.  My goodness, even Expedia markets at me with my first name (and not in ALL-CAPS).

Luckily, TRAMS, Clientbase and even Microsoft Word all have a simple little feature called “Mail Merge” that can fix this relationship killer.

#2:  Off-Target Marketing?

I travel a lot.  Some places I’ve loved while there are others I would love to never see again.  Every time I get a flyer or email promoting one of those places, it’s a bit like smelling a dish that gave me food poisoning over and over.  Hopefully, smart and “personal” travel agents are asking their clients if they liked or didn’t like every single hotel, cruise, resort and destination to which they have sent them.

Keeping track of the information is one thing.  Using it is another!  Databases and Mail Merge can keep you from adding insult to injury.  Learn about queries and filters! Nothing says “I don’t know you” more than sending the wrong promotions to the wrong clients.

One more thing on this one:  I don’t have kids, I don’t golf, and contrary to my chronological age, I’m not the least bit interested in “Getaways for Seniors Like You!” Guess what kinds of promotions dominate the daily deluge?  That’s right!  Family adventures, golfing extravaganzas and “slower paced escorted tours for those in their golden years” (a direct quote).

#3:  Specialists in Specializing?

This one bugs me the most, and I see it more often than any other travel agency marketing misstep.  I recently read the following in a travel agency brochure:

We specialize in corporate travel, leisure travel, luxury cruises, student travel, trips for seniors, coach tours, scuba diving packages, adventure and eco-travel, European holidays, Hawaiian Islands, river cruises, African safaris, discount and last-minute cruise bargains, corporate and group incentives, and personalized packages for Bulgaria.

I stopped thinking “specialist” by the third category.  While it’s true that specializing and niche marketing is a terrific strategy, it only works if you actually HAVE a niche and you specialize!  It is impossible to specialize in everything.  If you are a specialist – a real specialist – go for it.  If you’re still a good old-fashioned “full-service” agency; make the most of it, but don’t say one thing and do another.

Thanks for allow me to let off a little steam.  I feel much better.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have about a thousand tweets, spam messages, and Facebook fan page suggestions to sift through!

Are you guilty? Do you know someone who is? Leave a comment!

Nolan Burris is an author, former travel agent, failed musician and self-professed techno-geek. He’s also a popular international speaker both inside and outside of the travel industry.  He is the founder and chief Visioneer of Future Proof Travel Solutions ( based in Vancouver, Canada.  Nolan’s believes that if can change the way business works, you’ll change the world. His goal is to spread the message of integrity and ethics in a techno-driven world.

  3 thoughts on “The Edge Of Excellence: Are you a specialist in specializing?

  1. Geoff Millar says:

    Bravo! I could not agree with you more. I get more emails that only demonstrate that the person sending it to me has no idea of who I am and they are from people who I have done buisiness with.

    On the second point specialization, I have been saying that the agencies that will thrive and grow in the future are those that have a true speciality.

    I ran in to a situation. I got a call from someone at a company called tripwitt to look at their product. It is a lead generation site that allows you to put your speciality out there tell a little about yourself and then the client picks who they want to work with. You do this for a flat annual fee not a per lead purchase. A great concept so, I went on there and selected all inclusive resorts as a category and it brought up 10 agents that specialize in all inclusive resorts. I went to the website of all 10, as you can do on this site, and 8 of them advertised cruising as their speciality. The company had asked me to look at it becaues their agents were complaining that they were getting no leads!

  2. Nolan Burris says:

    Thanks Geoff! You’re right; somehow someone convinced a whole lot of people to redefine “specialist” as little more than a marketing ploy. Knowing a lot about a lot of things is great, but longer your list is, the less of a specialist you are.

  3. Elizabeth Budden says:

    I love how Holland America sends my 8 yr old son all the latest flyers and promotions!

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