Many travel professionals will openly confess that marketing is not their forte. After all, a large percentage of travel agents, if not the overwhelming majority, very rightly entered the industry not because they love marketing but because they love travel. Many have a very limited background or formal training in marketing, but manage to conduct a reasonably viable business out of a capacity to communicate their enthusiasm for travel and for being of service to others. That said, however, travel professionals have the need to be serious about marketing. The stakes are high – involved is not only your own business, but I dare say the future of the entire travel agency distribution channel.
Unless travel agencies become absolutely expert marketers, they risk becoming proportionately less important to suppliers as other distribution channels gain favor with the public. Some of those distribution channels – online agencies for example – are almost pure marketing strategies. Unfortunately, travel professionals often appear to be completely off-balance when faced with a marketing challenge from other channels and resort to frustration and anger rather than a determined, competitive mindset. Yet, throughout the pandemic, travel advisors have consistently proven their real-time value over other channels.
So let’s get competitive.
Traditional travel agencies need to devote as much time to marketing strategies, sales training, and understanding customer service as they do to product knowledge. Marketing does not just happen, and it is absolutely what drives sales. Without a strong understanding of marketing – of how to present your practice to the world – sales will happen in a sporadic and unreliable manner. Don’t misunderstand – some natural marketers are out there and do well for themselves, but their successes point to the inherent strength of travel as a medium. Demand right now is strong, if sporadic. The most confident marketers are moving forward with impressive gains.
You can have all of the product knowledge at your fingertips, but if you cannot communicate the benefits of your knowledge to the client, if you cannot learn to effectively and honestly, authentically, hit the clients’ emotional buttons, your product knowledge and three dollars will buy you coffee at Starbucks. I’ve said it before: if you lose a client to another agency, it won’t be because the other agency knows more about Hawaii than you. It will be because the other agency knows more about marketing and sales than you.
Your suppliers want you to succeed. That is a wonderful truth. They will help train you. Industry organizations and media want you to succeed – their survival depends on your own. They will help train you. With that kind of backing, you will find an almost endless array of training courses and programs in which you can participate.
But in the final analysis, it is you, the individual agent or agency owner, that must determine to devote yourself to marketing… to understanding how marketing generates awareness and drives sales.
Develop a marketing mindset – one that looks at every product feature, at every destination, at every opportunity and asks one simple question: “What does this mean to my clients and how can I best tell them about its benefits?” Don’t accept product training without asking the presenter “How do I market this?” Keep marketing at the forefront of your mind at all times.
Market like your travel practice depended on it.
Because it does.