This week we are playing with Blue Ocean Strategies. I say “playing” because there is a very creative, imaginative side to the exercise. At the heart of every Blue Ocean Strategy is a leap of value so large as to leave competition behind. While other agencies are hand delivering documents and ordering bottles of wine and as “value ads,” your clients will be traveling down the Autobahn of your own turbo-charged vision. But here is an important point – just as the trip itself is customized for the traveler, so too are your value innovations. Ultimately, it is your client who determines what is valuable and you must know and understand their sensibilities to launch into the creative exercise of bringing those sensibilities to reality.
In that vein, what if your agency was themed on teaching travelers how to be a better travel consumers? What if travel planning was not about booking suppliers but about…travel planning! What if every travel planning exercise became essentially a class on how to research, how to understand the industry, how to work with a travel consultant, how to find a great value, how to get a passport, register with an embassy? What if your mission was to educate your clients on the various types of tours, suppliers and options available. Graduation from your course could be celebrated in destinations across the globe. What if being a travel professional was more like being a travel professor? Let’s call your plan “TravelU.”
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The “TravelU” program could be built on a simple premise. Everyone loves to travel, but every traveler has a bag full of worries. They worry they are paying too much, they are missing things they “should see” or they are going to waste time and money seeing the “wrong things.” Many travel with no long-range plans, no short term plans….basically with no plan at all. Vacations and travel become hurried, last minute decisions.
You step in and introduce them to TravelU – teaching people to be better travel consumers, one trip at a time. Each planning exercise intensely involves the clients and they do much of the research while you monitor the results, goad them in the right direction and help them clarify their travel goals and ambitions. Each time they travel they come to you with their ideas and you help to give them shape using the best “Blue Ocean” value innovations and creative thought possible.
No doubt many of you have concerns about so empowering clients. If you completely demystify travel, if you teach clients all of the tricks of the trade, if they know how to research and how to plan on their own, if TravelU is going to teach them all there is to know about travel planning, why do they need you?
Oh yea of little faith. Please read this article. If you fail to fully empower your clients, if you live in fear they will research alongside of you, then you will live transaction to transaction instead of in relationship to your travelers. Teaching them to be a better consumer does not make them a travel consultant. One of the tenants of being a good traveler is to use a travel consultant! Someone who will look over the client’s shoulder and help them plan the perfect trip.
Remember our discussion last week using the “Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create” grid? Let’s see how well TravelU does in each category.
What TravelU has accomplished is a program demanding intense client participation in the planning process. In so doing, the client is involved every step of the way, directed and moderated by the travel professional. The value is jointly established by the client and the travel consultant, and the client feels empowered and excited by their involvement. Do you discount or rebate for the trips you plan through TravelU? Of course not! You charge a premium.
Will every client want to attend TravelU? Of course not! But many will. Look around your local community. I’ll bet there’s not a TravelU to be found.
Remember, these exercises are to get you thinking about your own Blue Ocean Strategies. Treat them as suggestive and inspirational, not as well developed ideas out of a box. The idea is to re-invent the way travel is practiced in your community so you can operate without competition. I think TravelU is one such possibility, but there are hundreds of others.