Do you have a written marketing plan? Do you have a written marketing budget? If not, you don’t have both oars in the water. Many travel professionals “wing it” and begin marketing at the first sign of business slowing down. The problem with doing things that way, of course, is timing. The business you have today likely resulted from your marketing efforts months ago. Likewise, your marketing efforts today may not pay off for some time.
Budgeting enforces the discipline necessary to actually calendar your marketing efforts. When spending real dollars, travel agents become very cognizant of the return on investment. In addition, the marketing budget can and should include such essentials as marketing collateral(business cards, flyers, capabilities brochures), websites, advertising, dues to local organizations and promotional items, all professionally produced. Having a marketing budget, and then wisely spending it, ensures that the travel agency is doing everything necessary to keep its profile high enough to gain mindshare in the community.
Yet, too many travel agencies are loathe to invest in their own futures. They have no website, no professionally produced logo or collateral, no CRM system, no advertising or promotional efforts. Not coincidentally, they also don’t have many clients. The timidity is understandable, but regrettable. Every business takes on investment in its own growth. The secret is to spend every dollar wisely and to then monitor results not just at the end of the effort, but throughout the duration of the marketing expenditure so that the effort can be fine tuned while in progress.
Without dedicated resources to leverage the company profile, the travel consultant is thrown back to the early business stages of guerrilla marketing tactics that, while useful and necessary, do not permit the strongest possible growth curve. Investment in marketing accelerates growth when properly applied.
Invest in yourself. Most knowledgeable marketing guides will indicate that for small service businesses, between 1% to 3% of your gross proceeds should be reinvested in marketing. Thus, if your Gross Revenues are $1,000,000 (commission income of approximately $100,000) a marketing budget of between $10,000 and $30,000 is a norm. A budget forces the travel agency to focus on the marketing process and to invest in growth in a responsible and predictable manner. Like the marketing plan, a budget should be in writing. Periodically, the travel agency should review its expenditures, measure return, and make appropriate adjustments.
Here’s the good news: not every outlay needs to be in actual dollars. Many of the marketing tactics we discuss daily in The 365 Guide are more labor than capital intensive. In fact, in a small service business like travel consulting a direct marketing approach is actually preferable to capital outlay since so much of the impact of the marketing message has to do with the people who own and operate the agency. The more the marketing plan involves direct involvement by the agency staff in events, speaking engagements, word of mouth campaigns and other public relations efforts, the lower the actual capital outlay is necessitated. Nevertheless, there is an important lesson in the simple and undeniable fact that to make money one has to spend some money. Don’t let the shoestring you operate on become a noose!
Allocate money to marketing and spend it wisely, but spend it.
Exercise: Pull together your 2014 marketing expenditures and take a good look at how you spent your money. Can you calculate a return on investment for each effort? Are you satisfied with the way in which you have been investing in marketing? Determine a preliminary gross budget that will approximate 2% – 3% of the gross you realistically hope to achieve.