If you are a travel planner, marketing is by necessity your constant companion. Too often, however, travel professionals treat marketing like a hand tool that is pulled out of the box only when sales are “needed,” when business seems a little slow. But effective marketing is a mindset, a constant preoccupation for the successful travel agent intent on growing their business.
As I have often said in this column, marketing drives sales. The marketing you do today may not have an effect for weeks or even months. Business a bit quiet right now? Want this time next year to look better? It’s a good idea to begin marketing more thoughtfully and consistently. Now.
Marketing is not a bag of tricks. Marketing is a mindset. The experienced marketer is always thinking about marketing opportunities. If you are not marketing, not only are you not growing, but you’re probably losing ground. Marketing is not just about the acquisition of new clients, it is also about the retention of your existing clients. Marketing is the engine that both maintains your business and drives your travel practice forward.
The more overtly and consciously you effect your marketing, the more you develop a marketing mindset. Ironically, marketing is not difficult, nor hard to understand. At its most basic, marketing is really quite simple. Marketing is the process of building relationships in a business context. For that reason, marketing can be as simple as speaking to someone each and every day about travel. Marketing can be no more than reaching out to your existing clients to ensure that you are meeting their needs. Good marketing is done systematically, with a plan. It is done with intention. Marketing has goals.
A passion for travel is a good place to start a travel business, but marketing is essential to the establishment and growth of a top-notch travel practice. In just a couple of months you will already be looking ahead to next year’s marketing plan if you, like you should, start your planing early. Now may be a good time to begin reorienting yourself and seeking to develop a fundamental awareness of the role in marketing plays in your business. Marketing is every bit as important as product knowledge in a travel practice.
Try this experiment. Each and every day for the next week, speak to someone new about travel. Each and every day, speak to one of your existing clients about travel. Each and every day, read something new about travel and something new about marketing. Next week, reach out to last week’s new contacts. Rinse, repeat. Congratulations, you are marketing.
Certainly, marketing can be much more complicated than this simple formula might indicate. However, at its most basic marketing is really as simple as this. Most people fail at marketing not because it is difficult, but because they are not consistent. They market well in very discreet areas of their practice and not so well in others. They limit their points of contact to those tactics that are easiest for them rather than developing a well-rounded set of marketing programs.
A good exercise is to look at each point of contact with clients and determine where the marketing mindset is lacking. Are you advertising? Do you have a PR campaign? Do you have a word-of-mouth program in place? Is your website or blog in good shape and generating an authenic conversation with clients? Each of these marketing tactics are a part of a well-rounded strategy. None of them are particularly difficult, but they do require a consistency and a plan.
Stop and go marketing is hard on the engine of your travel practice. Instead, seek to develop a marketing mindset of constant marketing, seeking out every opportunity to authentically build relationships.