Recently, Tripology ceased operations. Tripology was a lead generation program for travel professionals and was arguably the most successful of lead generation services. But why did it fail? What went wrong?
Those answers are best left to the accountants, lawyers, and management; but in my opinion, I am not sure any lead generation service or program can work.
On paper, they seem great. After all, it worked wonderfully for Match.com and all of the dating and hook-up sites. Why not travel? It’s a simple concept really: put in some info about yourself, your desires, and travel professionals will come to your virtual door. Makes sense, right? But the key difference is that with dating, you are never quite sure where to look and need their expertise. In travel… not so much.
First off, many consumers today do not value their own time. Many have no qualms about spending 20 hours researching a Disney vacation when a 30 minute consult with an agent could do the same thing, usually at less cost. Today’s consumer is not stupid. They know where to research and where to buy (for the most part). For product, they don’t need a travel professional. For expertise, they do. With most lead generation programs I have tried, 90% of the consumers (in my opinion) are trolling for ideas and resources that they can then use and book on their own. There is no outward cost to the consumer and an “expert” is likely to hand them all of the information for their dream trip for free. Ironically, the “expert” may actually have to pay to hand the information to the prospect.
Now, there have been some agents that have made the system work for them and I’d love to hear from you in the comments on how you got it to work. There are far more who have not. I believe that the answer to lead generation does not lie in a service, but rather in effective communication of our industry.
On a national scale, our associations (NACTA, ASTA, CLIA, The Travel Institute) need to continue to stress the importance of using an agent. But far more important is that each of us, as individuals, need to make sure that each of our prospects know our value. They need to know that we can provide the same service in less time, with less hassle, and usually at the same or lower cost. We also need to make sure we are reinforcing that to our existing client base for two reasons—because they are our best marketing vehicle, and replacing them is costly.
As with any business, we are responsible for our own success, and success will not come easy—that’s why it is called “work.” Get out there. Toot our own horns, and hold our associations’ collective feet to the fire to keep broadcasting the message. Our industry has shrunk. We are down, but nowhere near out. As we have been doing for decades, we need to re-think and re-imagine ourselves. But more importantly, we need to believe in ourselves and make sure that our confidence and message is being broadcast—consistently.