Lead generation is one of the key objectives of every marketing effort. However, generating high quality leads in a quantity sufficient to maintain steady growth for a travel business is a challenge. Not only is the perceived competition fierce, but many leads come to the door having only the slightest of notions about what a travel professional’s role in travel planning actually is. Thus, in addition to the marketing necessary to snare a lead, a large educational process is also a part of client retention. Yet, it’s important to keep the leads inbound: while your existing clients provide stability, it’s the new ones that provide growth.
This week we will explore five important ways for you to generate and manage new leads. We will focus on the strategic rather than the tactical issues and then next week visit some tactics to put your strategy into action.
Day 1: Polish Your Brand and Clarify What You Offer
The days are long over when a travel company can simply throw a lost cost leader offer into an advertisement and wait for the calls to roll in. This is especially true if your intent is to generate quality leads instead of bottom feeders. We are far beyond the retail paradigm if for no other reason than the oceans are red with the blood of competitors doing exactly that! Armed with Google and OTAs like Travelocity, the public no longer needs you to sell them travel. A member of the public can buy travel anywhere. What they need is assistance in making a good BUYING decision. If you can make that psychological shift, your lead generation programs will be off to a good start.
This 365 Marketing and Sales Tip is provided free to the travel agent community by:
As a travel professional YOU are what you have to sell. You have a unique personality and skill set. This fact gives you an inherent quality on which to base your marketing: scarcity. When a product or offering is scarce, the public perceives it as more valuable and desirable. Thus, your brand should focus on you, not on travel product.
To market yourself as valuable, you have to believe in your value. If you have trouble imagining people paying a $250 premium to work with you, spend some time working through the characteristics making you a unique, desirable and scarce commodity. What do you offer that OTAs, supplier direct and other agencies do not? What are your unique selling points? Make a list of the qualities making you desirable to travelers. Perhaps it’s your contacts in the industry with key suppliers, your intimate knowledge of particular destinations or activities. Back up your resume with testimonials from clients who can attest to the benefits they received as a result of working with you. Then, have the courage to market yourself as “Now accepting new clients.” When the supply of any product is limited, and here, you are the product, demand follows as does the price people are willing to pay. Scarcity has an inherent sense of urgency.
Note I am not suggesting creating a false sense of scarcity. You really are capable of working with only so many clients at a time. I’m also not suggesting you place a “Now Accepting New Clients” advertisement in the local paper. I am suggesting, however, you let your existing clients know you are now accepting new clients or you market your services “by appointment only”. Let your client base and new clients who come through the door know you only want to work with particular types of clients compatible with your brand. Interview clients in a warm friendly manner, but with an eye to only accepting those persons who resonate with you and whose vision of travel is value rather than price oriented. Exclusivity is a quality of limited supply. You are in limited supply.
Exercise: Spend some time making the psychological shift to understanding you are not a retailer of travel. Instead, you help clients make wise buying decisions: make certain you understand the inherent value in that proposition. Now, make a list of all of the reasons clients should do business with you. First list features: “I’ve been in the business for 10 years” and then translate that feature into a benefit: “My clients benefit from my years of experience and hundreds of contacts in the industry.” Next, consider positioning yourself as an authentically scarce resource. Decide now what you are worth and how you will begin engaging clients who with make good use of your time. The quicker you can make these subtle shifts in your brand, the better your other marketing efforts will become.