Do you actively market and promote your cruise suppliers, from mass market to luxury brands? Some agents/agencies have booking widgets and co-branded links on their websites promoting a variety of suppliers. And then we hear that chirping in our ears from marketing experts, telling us that we are supposed to be promoting ourselves, not our suppliers. I don’t think it’s that cut and dry.
I do strongly believe that we should always be selling ourselves first. And I also believe that booking widgets and co-branded links or websites take us down that dark road of trying to compete with the do-it-yourselfers and online travel agencies. We will never be able to compete with Expedia or any of the other mega agencies out there. That is why we sell ourselves first.
So what do you do when a cruise line (or any supplier really) makes you an offer you can’t refuse? What do you do when a BDM suggests a direct market mail campaign, offering to pick up all of the printing costs, and maybe half of the postage? What if you are doing a bridal show booth, or will be a golf hole-in-one sponsor? Do you want co-op to help cover those costs? If you do several a year, those costs rack up quickly.
This where I would advocate that once we have sold ourselves, we need to sell our knowledge and strategic partnerships. I think this is where our cruise partners come into the picture.
We can show existing and potential clients the special relationships that we have developed with certain “key” suppliers. How does it look to potential clients when they see that you can get the certain perks from a particular resort? Or your cruise line BDM is standing next to you on the golf course, singing your praises to the golfers as they stop by at your tent? When you partner strategically with your key suppliers, your perceived value with clients goes up as well.
Seeing a booking widget or link on your website doesn’t say you are special. It looks like you are no different than any other website they have already looked at and can book on. I had all of the co-branded links and websites that I could pull together, posted on my website for years. Not one booking ever came through those links, regardless of how many views my website had itself. Instead of booking links, put up blog posts that highlight your key suppliers. Talk about why you work with them, and what value you are able to bring to the table as a result of your partnerships. Clients are always looking for “what’s in it for me”, even if it’s on a subconscious level. So tell them what’s in it for them; what value you and your key partners will bring to the table.
At the end of the day, you should always be looking for angles on selling yourself, but you can also promote your suppliers by leveraging those partnerships as yet another reason to work with you.
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 email@example.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209.