Hello again to everyone who has been following my transition this year. This is my last column, and I want to share how enlightening this experience has been for me. As you may remember, this was my year to take control of my business, and not let the business run me. I was focusing my marketing efforts on my destination and wedding niche. It is now 4th quarter of my 2011 business year, and now it is time to see how it all worked out.
It was a great feeling to have a solid business direction! Doesn’t that sound simple? I knew where to spend my marketing money, which webinars I was going to invest in, which type of additional training was best for me, which industry shows I would attend, and which classes I would take at those shows. Having a marketing plan brought everything into focus, just by making the decision to make a change.
I wasn’t ready for all the additional work it would take. I thought it would be less work, concentrating on one specific market. Wrong! It is a learning process to understand who is a good bridal prospect, and who is just wasting your time and picking your brain, with no intention of every booking a trip with you. I realize we all face this dilemma at some point with any type of client, but a bride is a very different. Some bridal shows will provide you with an overwhelming amount of qualified and very interested brides. If you don’t have enough time or staff to immediately service them, you will lose their business.
Which business type takes priority? New inquiries for wedding/honeymoon travel, the area where I have spent my advertising money? Or the new inquiries and referrals that come in, that have nothing to do with the bridal market? Who gets serviced first? Once they get serviced, the time management problem comes into play. How do I find enough hours in the day to get the client information into my CRM and get invoices out? And what about all the bridal leads that I received from a show? How do I find time to follow up and stay in their mind while they are planning the rest of their wedding? The bridal business brings very demanding customers who will want you to be available 7 days a week. If you are an agent with a family; how do you manage all of it and still be a mom? At what point do you draw a line to separate the two worlds? Or do you? Aren’t all really great agents always available to their clients? Does any of this sound familiar to any of you?
- Be prepared: if you make a change in your business because you want better results, be prepared when you get them.
- Know your limits: decide if business is separate from family, or if you are willing to mix them. The answer won’t be the same for everyone.
- Be flexible: A business plan is just that: a plan. It isn’t written in stone, and if you have an opportunity to book a family European River cruise, go ahead and do it. You aren’t cheating on ‘the plan’, you are working hard at making your agency profitable.
- Is it still fun? If your new marketing plan is taking the fun away from selling travel, it isn’t working. Travel is fun, and clients will pick up on it if you aren’t enjoying you job, and go somewhere else.
- Is it profitable? You can be prepared, have fun, define your limits and remain flexible, but if you aren’t making money, then it isn’t working.
Thank you everyone, for being a part of my journey to a new business model. I have appreciated all the supportive emails and comments I have received after each column. I wish you all the same amazing journey if you decide that you need to take control of your business. It isn’t easy, but it works.
Amy Hobbins, MCC, CTA, is a 20 plus year industry veteran. She has managed both the corporate and leisure side of a full service retail agency, as well as teaching evenings at a travel school. She is the owner of Journeys Unlimited Travel, with an emphasis on destination weddings and the honeymoon market. Journeys Unlimited Travel is known for its full “travel concierge” services available to their clients.