If I had to draw any conclusions as to why so many travel agencies seem to languish without achieving real and sustained success, I’d attribute it to the following three fundamental flaws:
1. Far too many of them don’t have a meaningful and compelling value proposition.
2. Even when they do, they don’t know how to effectively communicate what it is.
3. They don’t truly understand marketing, and the benefits it provides.
Let me explain.
Look at your current company brochure (if you even have one), your latest ad or the most recent sales letter you’ve sent out. Is it immediately obvious what makes you better? Would a prospect clearly see why they should choose to do business with you over any other travel agency in your town?
Define what makes you special
If you don’t have a real, quantifiable and exciting reason why prospects should buy from you, your business is in trouble and chances are excellent you probably find yourself selling travel by competing a lot on price! The only way to get out of this predicament, and ensure long-term success, is to learn how to distinguish YOUR travel services from your competitor’s. You must give people a real reason to buy from YOU.
Learn how to say it effectively
Next, you’ve got to be able to articulate what your value proposition is. So many travel agents and agencies DO have a unique selling proposition, but they don’t know how to effectively communicate what it is that makes them “good.” When prospects for your services can’t distinguish what you offer from any other travel agency because of your inability to state what makes you better in a compelling and embraceable way, you’ve got a problem!
I am sorry to say that just talking about how many years of experience you have, how great your service is, or the high quality of the products you recommend, won’t drive business to you anymore. Most often, prospects simply dismiss those pronouncements merely as platitudes and hype.
Market using a systematized approach
Finally, when you have something to say, and you decide to make the commitment to “tell your story,” you’ve got to do it the right way. You can’t just cram everything you want your prospects to know about you into one all-encompassing advertisement or marketing piece and send it out one time.
Instead, you’ve got to create a systematized series of well-articulated marketing messages that will generate interest with your top travel prospects, address their areas of concern, build trust with them over time, and position YOU as the obvious best choice from whom they should buy their travel.
“Why is all of this necessary?” you ask. Well, there are two very good reasons.
Understanding the buying process
First, you must realize that there are many different stages of “the buying process” and that there is a whole procedure consumers go through from the time they start thinking of buying travel, and the time they actually make their purchase. Prospects begin by realizing they may have an interest in going away. They may begin by asking for recommendations from friends and peers. Then, they start gathering information on different types of trips in which they have an interest. Next, they begin to narrow their choices…and so it goes.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine what stage of the process your targeted prospects are in. Consequently, you must market to them with frequency and consistency, so that whenever they are ready to actually buy, YOU are the company of which they think.
Second, consumers and business owners alike are now bombarded with hundreds of different advertising messages a day. Of those, they probably take note of just a small handful, and choose to act on fewer still. One reason for this is that people don’t really notice most advertising on a conscious level.
Focus on “hot buttons”
To get prospects to notice your marketing, my best advice is to focus your marketing efforts on their problems, needs, wants, concerns, frustrations and annoyances. I call these their “hot buttons.” The best way to do this is with big, bold provocative headlines. Use headlines to sell the hurt; make prospects feel their pain; and move them into a state of consciousness.
Build your case
Once you have accomplished this, use the rest of your marketing piece to position your services as the solution to their problems. This is best achieved by educating prospects and providing them with the relevant information they need to make an informed buying decision. The more compelling and convincing your case, the more successful you will be.
Don’t be afraid to guide prospects and share valuable information with them. The more you do, the more valuable you make yourself. In sharing what you know, you also have the opportunity to prove your expertise and gain their trust and confidence. When you’ve accomplished that, you take a giant step forward in the sales process.
Provide prospects with evidence that you can solve their problem by incorporating testimonials, public acknowledgements, awards, case studies and facts and figures into your campaign.
For example, a traveler going abroad probably has several concerns about their travel. What are the required travel documents? How do they exchange money into foreign currency? What should they see and do when they are on their trip? How many days should they plan to stay in a given city? By showing you’ve got the answers, you’ll put yourself in a position to win their trust — and ultimately, their business.
Consistency is key
Most important of all, you must understand that good marketing requires a sustained commitment. Consistency is key to your success. Think in terms of a campaign, not just one letter or ad. Make up your mind to communicate with your top prospects via mail, email or fax every few weeks. Make sure that each communication builds upon the learning experience of the last, and that each contact is designed to move your prospect one step closer toward their purchase.
So there you have it: marketing made simple! Utilize this approach and I guarantee you’ll have all the business you want!
Bob Stalbaum is a nationally recognized marketing consultant who has developed over 60 different turnkey marketing campaigns for travel agents. He is President of Strategies for Success, based in Bala Cynwyd, PA and can be reached at 610-771-0600 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.