A large part of your identity as a travel consultant is made up of the credentials you earn over time. The word “credential” comes from the Latin credentialis (giving authority), derived from credentia (trust). Credentials are a third-party attestation of competence and skill. Typically, credentials have two sources. The first are the credentials you earn through study and testing, the type of credential that result in certificates from trade associations, The Travel Institute, CLIA and others. The second source for your credentials, however, is the story that you build through the work you do each day for clients, and you need to make those credentials as tangible as a destination specialist designation.
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The effort to gain credibility is ongoing. Every agent who seeks to be the best at their profession will undertake continuing education. Destination specialist courses, geography, cultural history, niche destination and themes, and certifications are all vitally important to a proper professional positioning in the market. The dedication necessary to earn these credentials typically exceeds the motivations and passion of the hobbyist or the travel agent for whom travel is a mere job. Once earned, don’t let your good work go unnoticed! Your official designations set you apart from the crowd of less motivated agents and from the pseudo-agents of all stripes.
Make sure that your marketing materials describe your credentials and, most importantly, how your clients benefit from your learned skill sets and designations. The accolades you earn are of real interest to your client only when it is clear they benefit from your expertise.
Every agent also builds a second set of credentials over the course of the life of their practice. Testimonials from the clients for which you have worked are also credentials, a third-party attestation of competence. Testimonials carry with them the inherent credibility (same root word as credentials) of a third party endorsement. A client testimonial is a powerful message to potential clients that indicates not only are you knowledgeable, but you also know how to apply your knowledge in the service of your clients.
Yesterday we indicated that positioning is a matter of finding the key points that differentiate you from your competition. Your credentials perform that function. Make certain that your marketing collateral, your websites and other marketing tools have client testimonials and display the credentials you have earned during the course of your practice. Importantly, express your credentials by telling clients how the benefit from your expertise. It’s not enough to indicate you are a Master Cruise Counselor – tell your clients why your credential is important for them.
Your credentials are one more very important defining characteristic in your quest to properly position your practice in your community.