Why should anyone do business with you? Can you articulate your value as a travel counselor? If the value of a service cannot be articulated it cannot be marketed. In fact, if the value of a service cannot be articulated it cannot be understood and, therefore, is likely to be misunderstood.
Being able to position your company’s unique value is a big part of the branding exercise and necessary to engineering the way that the public perceives your travel practice. When you position your travel practice, you set the expectations that the public has when they do business with you. The good thing about positioning is that, as the word implies, it is largely under your control. You get to determine the key psychological understanding the public takes away from your marketing efforts.
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Position correctly and your sales efforts are going to be more easily undertaken: you and your client will be working from the same set of understandings. Position incorrectly and the public will fail to understand your service or will operate with their own default understanding about what a “travel agent” does. Thus, what is most important is for the travel agent to undertake positioning deliberately. To simply begin marketing oneself as a travel consultant without serious consideration of positioning is to allow the public to proceed with their own perceptions of your services. The resulting interactions with your potential clients are likely to be a muddle of conflicting understandings.
You want to position early in the relationship. It is more difficult to change someone’s mind than it is to create a first impression. If a potential client misunderstands who you are and therefore has little interest, it can be very difficult to re-capture their attention at a later time.
There are a number of ways for a travel consultant to position their practice. The first way is the one we want least want to use: price. Many agencies openly market themselves based on price. They market “deals” and “specials” on an ongoing basis. Marketing on price is possible only when the business plan is geared to generate high volumes to compensate for low margins. Marketing by differentiating yourself on price means that your business will be largely transactional. Each time a client comes to you, they are concerned with price and price only. Because of the low margins inherent in price differentiation, there is little left over for customer service or for correcting mistakes.
Businesses will often market commodities based on price alone. This is the Walmart model. A 42 inch Sony LCD Television is the same whether you purchase it at Walmart or Target. The only differentiator is typically price. Location can be a differentiator if either store operates without local competition. But in a competitive situation, pricing rules the commodity market.
If the public perceives you and your service as a commodity, then the only differentiator you have is price. For most travel consultants, this is not the situation they want to encourage. Any form of price-cutting or rebating is a disaster for a travel professional. What appears to the consumer as a 5% difference in price is very likely to be as much as a 50% reduction in your bottom line. Therefore, if you want to differentiate your travel practice on some factor other than price, take the time to formulate a new articulation of your value proposition. Put simply – why would someone purchase your services, especially when Travelocity has the same travel products for less?
We are going to help you answer that question this week.