I have found it to be the bane of my (travel agent) existence since I started. Personally, I didn’t get into the travel industry to work in marketing, outreach, and advertising. I have little experience with any of those things and it felt like hitting a brick wall out of the gates. Where does one acquire client leads? How much is too much to pay for client leads? How do you win them over so they work with you instead of another agent? Those four words, “finding new client leads,” make me cringe.
I started out like many home-based agents; joining a host agency to start networking. The host agency was (and still is) a great resource to get answers to a lot of questions, but one that I still see posted often is, “how do you find new clients?” More recently, some host agencies have begun to focus on generating leads for their agents, but that’s still hard to find for travelers. I had never heard of many of the host agencies or travel consortia before I joined the industry, so I’m hard pressed to believe that travelers are going directly to those websites to look for qualified travel agents.
I’ve also read about agents who have purchased email lists or phone numbers for cold calling. I can’t imagine how these are qualified, interested travelers. I tried cold calling at a job once, and gave up real fast. By no means am I judging this method, I realize how difficult it can be and if it actually works for you then that’s great, but for the majority of people I’m not sure this is the best method.
Of course there’s the in-person outreach like wedding shows, cruise nights, and community events. But after seeing the price tag of some of these events, I don’t know how they can be done on a regular basis (most recently I was approached to have a table, not a booth, for “just under $3000 for the premier wedding event in my area”). If I had money like that to burn, I would be writing this article from an exotic destination, not from my small apartment in DC.
Then a few years ago I ran across a travel agent lead generator that seemed to be “the one”. You would receive emails for new leads, purchase them if you wanted and then get the traveler’s information and you had a new lead. Or that’s how I thought it would go… turns out, that lead generator had quite a few flaws.
Not only could it get expensive, but also the worst part was that you had to fight other agents for the same lead. Three agents were given the contact information for the same prospective traveler. This I’m sure overwhelmed the prospective traveler. For me personally, 95% of the time I never heard back from that prospective traveler that I paid money to contact. It was all about who got their email out first, not the quality of the match or the preferences of the prospective traveler. I spent more money on this service than I’d care to admit, and my failure rate was excruciatingly high. While I know that no lead generator is perfect and you can never guarantee a lead will actually book, there just seemed to be too many issues so I stopped using the service. Then the service suddenly dissolved – no reason – no warning – no replacement.
It was frustrating, so I decided to do something about it to bolster my business and then an idea was born.
A few months before the abrupt disappearance of the other travel agent lead generator, I set out to see if there was a way to make the process easier to use and more travel agent centered. With the help of a friend who is in the startup and technology field, we began to create a travel agent lead generator that had to exceed my own expectations. That’s how we came up with Find My Travel Agent, which is now in it’s initial phase.
Find My Travel Agent will be a simple to use, affordable, and innovative service that allows prospective travelers to be matched with qualified travel agents. Find My Travel Agent (FMTA) is looking for qualified travel agents to join (for FREE) to become part of the national network where prospective travelers can turn to with new trip requests. Travel Agents will be able to create profiles, receive ratings on past trips and, most importantly, get matched with appropriate trip requests and make offers if interested in the lead. In addition, travel agents who are a member of Find My Travel Agent will receive industry news and updates, be on the cutting edge of technology and deals, and also receive discounts to services and products. At Find My Travel Agent we call ourselves the “Matchmakers of Travel” because we believe that it’s important to match prospective travelers with the appropriate, qualified travel agent based on reviews, agent profiles, and qualifications. I’m hopeful you’ll be seeing more about Find My Travel Agent in the near future and invite you to see what sets us apart from others and sign up to be part of our travel agent network for when we launch to the public!
This wasn’t meant to be a sales pitch (remember, I have no marketing experience), but I felt it was important to share with other agents that there will be a new option for gaining new client leads in the upcoming months. No method of gaining client leads is perfect or always easy, but after realizing there was a disconnect in our industry, I felt it was important to make this step. It will be a growing experience for us all, but with the knowledge and feedback from fellow travel agents, the hope is that travel agents won’t cringe as much anymore when they hear those four words: Finding New Client Leads.
Nathan Graeff is the owner of Capital Travel and Events based in the nation’s capital of Washington, DC. His agency is a full service travel agency serving leisure and business clients but specializes in adventure travel, non-profit agency travel and accessible travel. Nathan is a home-based agent and a member of Millennials in Travel and OSSN.