I’m sure this has been discussed before, but it is worth repeating. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Or in other words, support my business and I’ll support your business. Some travel agents don’t seem to get this concept. I’m currently working on building a relationship with a new client that I’ll call Jane. She has a very successful direct sales business, selling a product that would make good client gifts. Another travel agent told me Jane “wasn’t worth the work.” Her reasoning was that Jane always qualifies for her company’s incentive trips every year, so would have no need to pay for vacations.
I sat down with Jane recently and we talked for a couple of hours. What I learned was that there is at least one destination Jane wants to visit that will never be offered as an incentive by her company—Israel. We’re currently looking at booking her family to Israel in 2017. Also, her family does take vacations outside of her incentive trips. For example, this Thanksgiving they are traveling to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica with her mom (total of five traveling). They are also looking at a family trip for next summer. And lastly, her mom travels… a lot. Her mom is one that likes to book online, but she’s willing to support a travel agent that supports her daughter’s business. If I can get her mom’s business on a regular basis, getting commissions I would not otherwise receive, I’m more than happy to turn around and invest some of that income into Jane’s business. We are also working on a referral set up where she can refer her clients to me, and for those that book with me, I’ll give them a gift certificate (which I’ll buy) to redeem with Jane. This is a classic case of “if you support me, I’ll support you.”
Although many agents do understand this concept, they may deal with potential clients that don’t get it. Here is a story Diane Weinstein with Weinstein Travel recently shared online (used here with her permission) driving this point home with a non-client:
There is a couple I have known for approximately 10 to 12 years. They don’t use a travel agent and that’s fine with me. They are the type that are always looking for a deal, haggle, and then to get more they brag about how they work the system. Not my type of clientele to begin with so it is all good. We do have some mutual friends and there have been instances at social gatherings where the husband has jumped into my conversations and said stuff about how they can always do better online and such when he hears me speaking about travel or a trip I’m planning for the person I’m speaking with.
So Friday night we had a small house fire when the furnace caught fire in the basement. My husband smelled smoke at 11:30 PM and discovered it quickly so no real harm done, just some smoke damage. I posted some stuff on Facebook about the fire and how lucky we were.
The wife immediately calls, texts, and messages me about the fire. They have a restoration cleanup business; leaving messages about everything that needs to be done and how they can navigate the insurance for us. I was polite and said I was just airing out the house now but will keep them in mind. Turns out we did need the ventilation system cleaned out throughout the house plus the carpets cleaned, the walls painted, and some other small stuff done. Insurance is covering everything minus the deductible. We didn’t use them. She sent me a scathing email about how upset she was that I hired someone else after she took the time to explain everything that needed to be done and that I should support our business community, etc.
I politely wrote back and said that I understand and agree with supporting the community and local businesses. I need and appreciate the community that supports my travel business. I understand this philosophy very well. This is why I felt compelled, nay obligated, to use a local contractor who not only does smoke remediation but who also books his personal travel with me. He has also referred several other clients to me over the years. I ended with telling her that I’m sure she understood my need to support businesses that actively support my business.
Diane had the unique opportunity of being able to drive home the point to someone about why she doesn’t support their business (because they not only don’t support her business, but they also belittle her business by bragging about how they can save so much more by booking online). Many of us don’t get this type of opportunity, but wish we could.
Even if we cannot directly address this issue with a non-client like Diane did, we still have a chance to address the issue in general. If you have a blog, write a post about this issue. No blog? Then post about it on your Facebook business page. Be professional about it, don’t call out anyone specifically (no need for social media shaming), but make your point clear—you are more than willing to support local businesses that in turn supports your business. However, you need to be ready to put your money where your mouth is!
If you want a local printer to support your business, stop ordering your business cards from Vistaprint. If you want a local CPA to book with you, stop using Turbo Tax or H&R Block for your taxes. If you want a financial planner to refer clients to you, stop using Scottrade. Keep your business support local and make it clear that you would like them to reciprocate (and if they don’t, then move on). If they aren’t in a position to book their personal travel with you (i.e. they simply don’t take the time off to do more than a weekend getaway here and there), then at the very least they can support you with referrals. And don’t overlook your clients that are in direct sales: if they have a product that makes sense for client gifts, give them some business. If it’s not a product that would work as a client gift (I just don’t see clients getting excited if I give them Tupperware), then work out a referral program (they refer their clients to you, and if they book you give them a gift certificate to redeem with the direct sales representative).
You have to give a little in order to get a little.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations 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).