Sometimes, your best opportunities pop up when you least expect them. I know it is cliché and tired; but it bears repeating. Complacency runs rampant in the travel industry—at least on the part of most agents. While the vendors are busy spending millions of dollars refining their product to retain and attract their new audience, agents seem stuck in a rut. Why do you use Sabre? Because we have always been on Sabre. Why is Happy Harry’s Hawaiian Emporium your preferred supplier to Hawaii? Because Harry has always been our preferred supplier to Hawaii. Why do you always exhibit at the local bridal fair? Because we always exhibit at the local bridal fair. Are you sensing a common thread? I certainly fit that definition and I suspect many of you do as well. You are running a successful agency and for the most part it runs on auto-pilot because it always has run that way! It is time to shake things up a bit and try something because it has never been done that way! Get out of the rut!
A local businessman I know owns an outdoor event management company. If there is a way to can sell beer, wine, or booze to thousands of people, he is involved. It is area of expertise. This year, he produced two events that were firsts for the region and were receiving a lukewarm reception. He was begging for vendors to help attract people to his beer fest and wine fest. Running an agency that specializes in single parent travel, I was having a difficult time conceptualizing the hook I need to justify exhibiting. Finally, he cut my price in half and I agreed.
Friday and Saturday, I staffed my table with the bare minimum (remember, I have never done this and always done it the other way). It looked attractive enough and I had an agency flier and business cards. My website was open on the iPad and a table tent asked for people to sign up for my monthly-is newsletter. The gates opened and by the time Saturday night rolled around, nearly 7,000 people had passed by my table multiple times. I was not expecting (or prepared) to sell anything—and I didn’t. But by the end of the day, I had 480 new names in my database for future promotion! My $250 investment netted me nearly 500 potential new clients. Will they convert to actual sales? The story has yet to be told, but I can make an educated guess that with the divorce rate still closet to 50%, I will convert a couple!
Saturday and Sunday changed tracks a little bit. Same deal—half price because he was begging for vendors to attract the audience. Since I like beer more than wine, I manned the beer festival and sent my son to man the wine festival the first night. We had this set up in a similar fashion except he had his laptop, and really could not speak as thoroughly about the business as I could. But I came in on Sunday and took over. By the end of the weekend, just over 5,000 wine snobs passed my table and 610 of them signed up for my newsletter. How many will I convert? Again, who knows? But, I do know that if I realize only two sales from these events, I will break even on the cost of attending.
Take The Risk
Reward never comes without risk. The secret is to manage that risk. By exhibiting at beer and wine festivals (rather than some more family centric festivals) I took a risk. I minimized it by using family to staff the booth and getting a discount on the cost of exhibition. I could have walked away with nothing, but because I took the risk, I ended up walking away with over 1,000 new prospects.
And I was not the only one taking those risks. The event manager assumed quite a bit as well to produce the to festivals. They could have been dismal failures. However, utilizing the tools he had (discounting the cost among others) he minimized it and now has two festivals that will likely be back next year!
As summer rolls in, there will be a lot of opportunities to get your name out to the public which seem “a little bit off” to you because you have never done it that way. Reach out and shush that voice that loves to do things the way they have always been done. I am not suggesting being reckless, but step outside the norm a little and I bet you might be pleasantly surprised.
Have you stepped out of your comfort zone lately? Please tell me in a comment and let’s talk!
And now, I need to file this column—because that’s the way we always do it!