Sometimes as business owners, we feel we know it all. We have heard client issues that run from the mundane to the bizarre. We have made our share of travel mistakes and recovered from them. Very often, it seems that your travel practice may be running on auto-pilot with the phones ringing, your email inbox humming, and the cash registers going cha-ching! I know my agency sometimes feels that way—and it feels good! But it can also be a very scary feeling as well. Murphy’s law says that a train is most likely to jump the track when the engineer turns his back.
When I sense the auto-pilot kicking in for my agency, I like to remind myself to be prepared and to go back to square one when I was brand new to the industry. These 9 steps (updated for 2014) have guided me pretty well since 1996.
- If you are on auto-pilot, use the time to mine your existing database. We can all use more business, right? Step up your communication and touch your clients.
- Train. Train. Train. Use the auto-pilot time to take a webinar, complete the MCC or CTC that has been hanging out there for years.
- Catch up on the industry. Read some of the TRO columns, jump into the TRO Community and ask a question—better yet, answer a few. Make a friend, assume a mentor…find a mentor. We can never stop learning.
- Find the right partners. For most agencies a host or consortium is a solid investment. But not all hosts are created equal and your needs may change from time to time. Evaluate the relationship and see if it is still a good match. Perhaps if you are a unique travel niche, you may not even need a host and can cut your own (better) deals.
- Review what you have. Look at your marketing plan. We are halfway through the year now and it is a perfect time to make an adjustment if needed. A look at your business plan will not hurt either to make sure you are still on track. Don’t have one, the other, or both? Do it!
- Treat today as if it were “day one.” Remember your enthusiasm? Remember how you busted your chops to earn every single sale? You can certainly use more clients, so go out and get them just like you did when you first started out. Remember—existing clients will eventually leave. The best ones die.
- Group business is still very lucrative. Step out into the community and find people that can help you succeed—the pied pipers. Churches, Meet-Up groups, dining clubs, social clubs, and affinity organizations are all prime suspects.
- Put on your thinking cap. Get creative. What can you do now to create a buzz for your agency? Think of promotions, alliances, partnerships, etc. which you could develop with local merchants, local colleges and universities, department stores, restaurants, recreational entities, local associations and clubs, fundraisers, community associations, local special events, etc. If the buzz is not happening—make it happen.
- Chat up the media. Media mentions are free publicity. No one can use you as a source without naming you and your business. Use HARO. Comment on some blogs. Take a local reporter out for coffee. Many agents have been incredibly successful in making a national name for themselves on the backs of a willing media—Chuck Flagg, I am talking to you!
We all need to work together to get our businesses humming and it starts with each of us, each and every day. We need to be proactive and to reach out to our clients and prospects and give them a reason to travel. If we can’t provide a motivation to them, why should they travel at all? We need to be travel preachers spreading the word of travel. If we don’t –who will?