Travel agents know travel. The best have a passion for their craft and put much time and energy into learning about new destinations and product. They attend webinars and spend countless hours earning advanced certifications and destination specialist designations. What is often lacking, however, is a solid foundation in marketing. Passion for travel will not guarantee success in the business of travel. Knowledge and understanding of a product is absolutely vital to a successful travel practice. However, it is not enough in and of itself to ensure that a travel consultant will succeed as a business person.
Yet, many agents rush into their marketing efforts without first grounding themselves fully in the necessary business disciplines.
Every travel agent, owner and employee, should spend at least as much time learning marketing principles as they do in studying travel product. There are many avenues available to travel agents for gaining a better understanding of marketing. Developing a marketing mindset requires time, patience and a dedication that is not nearly as much fun as a familiarization trip, but is every bit as necessary. Without training in the basics of marketing, it is highly likely that much of the effort expended will look amateurish and will be dissipated by a lack of proper focus and targeting.
One of the issues I have with much of what passes as training specifically in travel marketing is that it is often simply more information about product features in disguise. Learning more about the features of a destination or a product will help you market it only if you already have a marketing mindset. Instead, each product seminar should address how to market the product by emphasizing how to communicate the benefits of the product to consumers. Too much of the “training” offered to travel agents makes marketing appear like a quiver full of tricks and techniques rather than enforcing a strategic application of principles that can be applied in a well-thought plan.
So what’s an agent to do? Here are a few resources for learning about marketing. Most are not directed specifically at travel, but are instead more generalized studies in strategy and tactics:
- Purchase a few good books on the topic. I recommend Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith and Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson as starters. But don’t stop there. Continually be on the lookout for good marketing books.
- Take courses in marketing where they are offered: community colleges, online courses, suppliers and associations to which you belong. If your travel association is not offering enough courses in marketing, ask for them.
- Ask your suppliers for marketing assistance. Don’t accept more information on product features, ask instead about how to market to consumers. What are the key benefits to this travel product over any other? Why would a client take this cruise as opposed to a tour of Europe? What is unique about your safari to which my clients will respond? How do your most productive travel agents sell your tours?
- Attend Webinars and read this column and its archives. Better yet, participate with us in our Community and ask questions there. We want to help you succeed!
A strong grounding in marketing can help you steadily achieve the goals you have set for your travel practice. Commit to becoming a better marketer, and you will also become a better travel consultant.