I am the first to admit that I hate pictures of myself. I wish TRO would put up a picture of a cute, fuzzy Koala Bear in place of my picture (but they won’t, I’ve tried). So I can understand that some travel consultants may be reluctant to post pictures of themselves as well. However, I don’t agree with the actual practice of not publishing your picture on your Facebook business page, Twitter, your own website, on your business cards, etc. This also applies to making it unbelievably hard for clients to find your contact information. What are you hiding from, and why do you make it so hard to know you or contact you?
Are you faceless?
Other than avoiding a stalker (and I know a couple of travel agents that have dealt with this serious issue), I don’t understand why travel agents routinely practice the art of hiding from their clients (existing or potentially new). We are very much in the business of building personal relationships. We are routinely taught by Mike Marchev and other travel industry gurus that people want to do business with people they LIKE. In order to like you, they have to know you. They don’t have to know your favorite color, how many pets you have, if you vote liberal or conservative, or what car you drive. But at the very least, they should be able to put a name to a face.
As much as it makes me cringe, I have my picture on my Twitter account, on my main Facebook business page, LinkedIn, on my main business website, and on my business card. Yes, I cringe, but I am the first to admit it has helped. It’s easier for new clients to find/recognize me when we’re meeting at Panera Bread, Starbucks, etc., for our initial consultation. They feel like they know me simply because they can recognize my face. I’m not a faceless zombie, an Orbitz, Travelocity, or other online site where there is no personal relationship. It has also helped at networking events: you can go to an event and come home with a hundred business cards. The event is a blur in your memory; you can’t remember which person matches which business card, unless their picture is on the card in your hand. More and more business cards that I get are including pictures, and those are the cards I tend to hold on to.
And before someone chastises me, no my profile picture on my personal Facebook page is not a picture of me. There is a tactical reason for that as well. My Facebook friends are friends and family (ok, and a few travel agents). They already know what I look like; they don’t need a profile picture to remind them. However, I don’t “sell” on my personal page, but I would like to subtly remind them that I am a travel agent (hence my profile picture is a sign that reads “travel agent by day; zombie slayer by night”). But when it comes to CLIENT interaction, I want them to see my face and know who I am.
Are you hard to reach?
It can be downright annoying when you want to contact a business, but you can’t figure out HOW. No posted email (maybe, at best, a contact form to fill out and hope someone gets back to you). No phone number. No way of contacting them immediately. It makes you wonder if they really need/want your business. What do most people do? They skip the contact form and move onto the next business to see if they can be contacted immediately.
Being home-based, I completely understanding not publishing your home address (I only give our UPS store mailing address). But if you’re brick and mortar, I assume you want clients walking through the door. So why make it hard for them to do that? For those of us that are home-based, at least publish an email address and phone number. And when I say “publish”, I mean make it easy for clients to find regardless of where they are looking. On your website, on Facebook (both personal and business profiles), LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, etc., make it easy to contact you by phone and email. Don’t force them to fill out a form and twiddle their thumbs hoping you will respond. More times than not, they’ll skip the form and move onto the next travel agent in their Google results.
Stop hiding and be found. Take the bold step to let people see you before they call you to set up a consultation.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel (www.shipsntripstravel.com) located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations (www.kickbuttvacations.com), she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.