I just returned from two trade shows where I had the opportunity to speak with lots, and lots, of travel professionals of varying experience. I’m absolutely convinced of the immense value of travel consultants mixing with their peers at such events. Not only is there the opportunity to establish relationships with suppliers, but also to baseline your travel practice with others in similar circumstances to your own. You will learn everyone struggles, everyone questions their own judgement, everyone is, on occasion, worried and maybe even afraid. Read the rest of this entry »
Here’s the bad news: you have more competition than you think. Here’s the good news – you can effectively compete. In fact, competition keeps us sharp and aware of the environment in which we operate. Keep in mind that carrying the proper attitude about your competition is important. Properly trained, your clients will adopt many aspects of your own attitude about travel and other distribution channels. If your attitude is positive and healthy, chance are your clients’ will be as well.
The most difficult marketing hurdles travel agents face are the misapprehensions of their clients. Every opportunity you have for repeat business, testimonials and referrals depends on your clients’ satisfaction with your services. Misunderstandings will act as an impediment to client satisfaction. Many consumers do not know exactly what a travel agent does. Especially if the client is under the impression that the travel agent is primarily a retail travel outlet, misunderstandings will occur. It’s a good idea in every instance to demystify travel for your clients and to bring their expectations into alignment with the efforts you undertake on their behalf. Read the rest of this entry »
That sound you hear is time passing. Things are winding down, and there are less than four months left in 2017. Whatever has happened during the year, you can make 2018 more productive by gearing up for the creation of a business plan. An important part of every business plan, and a good start at generating the appropriate mindset, is a marketing calendar. Too few travel consultants incorporate the use of a marketing calendar in their practice. Yet, without a marketing calendar, many opportunities for strong marketing efforts slip by either unnoticed or weakly implemented.
Effective marketing drives sales. Period. But to be effective over the long term, marketing cannot be haphazard or random. Planning a marketing strategy with a calendar in front of you will ensure firstly that you are incorporating a variety of marketing efforts into your plan and secondly that you are doing so in synch with your clients’ own planning. Read the rest of this entry »
Let’s state definitively we are all the owners of our own brand, our own “company” called “me, myself and I”. This was the insight of Tom Peter’s famous 1997 article “The Brand Called You.” The success of social media platforms like Linkedin was largely presaged by the notion of the individual as a brand. With that in mind, we need to consider how we promote and monitor our individual brands. Read the rest of this entry »
The single most important thing that you can do for your client relationships is to make your clients feel special. Most of the service suppliers that your clients come into contact with every day do nothing to make them seem special – it is business as usual. That is why the exceptional service provider gets noticed. Think of the way in which certain exclusive hotel chains have built stories around themselves by doing no more than communicating the name of its guest to all of its personnel and then making sure the bellmen, the maids, the service staff all address the client by name. Read the rest of this entry »
Paris in the spring, or any other time for that matter, is a joy. This is a city with a history that stretches back to Celtic beginnings, the cultural heart of Europe from practically the dawn of a European identity.
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The psychologist Carl Jung posited that all humans share in the unconscious portion of our minds what he termed “archetypes”: images of mythological importance that we instantly recognize in stories and the events of day to day life. According to Jung’s theories, our mind responds to situations influenced by those same archetypes. Thus, in some leaders we see the “King” or “Hero” archetypes. Characters on television and in the movies are often very intentionally developed to mirror particular archetypes like the “Magician” or the “Warrior”.
This too brief and painfully inadequate introduction to Jung’s archetypes suggests that the persona of our business will be better articulated, more imaginative and forceful if we pay attention to the archetype it mirrors. The stories we read in novels, plays, movies and even our personal histories are all told in a narrative fashion, influenced by shared archetypes. Jung and his followers called these stories the “hero’s journey,” and it explains why we are captivated by a good story.
So what’s your story? Read the rest of this entry »
A company’s USP is its Unique Selling Point – something that makes it different from all other companies of its type. Is there something about your business that is so unique that customers would do business with you based on that one quality alone? If so, you have located your USP and are on the way to better understanding how to build a smart marketing campaign based on that uniqueness. Read the rest of this entry »
As a travel planner, no doubt you are very aware of all the “shoulds”: you should develop a marketing plan, you should email clients on a regular basis, you should have a newsletter… there are a lot of “shoulds.” In fact, coming up with a list of things to do is easy. Accomplishing the list is a bit tougher. As you continue to build your travel practice, one of the nicest things you can do for yourself is to consciously remove the obstacles you can identify that prevent you from acting on and accomplishing your plans. Read the rest of this entry »
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, it’s time for travel agents to get 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. Read the rest of this entry »
Instinctively, we seek out heroes. In our political, social, and family life, we know the value of a person who will step up and take charge, who will risk safety and comfort for a greater good. Heroes remind us of what is best in the human character. Deep in our archetypal psyche, the stories of men and women who have managed to persist against great odds holds a special place. Our religion, literature, folk tales, and movies all tend to revolve around the individual on a quest, willing to do the extraordinary, inspired by a deep passion. Read the rest of this entry »
Like most technology geeks with a marketing background, I am fascinated by the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I get the social media stuff; I believe in it and I think there is a place in almost every travel agency’s marketing plan for these online tools. However, I also believe the marketing that really counts is rooted in the local, physical community of each travel professional. My concern is far too many agents hide behind their computer screens when they should be out speaking locally, writing articles, developing word of mouth tactics, and practicing public relations instead. I know, I sound like a parent fussing at the kids to get away from the computer and get outside and play.
Actually, I suppose that is exactly what I am doing. Read the rest of this entry »
There is an art to listening well. Listening is certainly more than hearing what your travel client or supplier is saying. Hearing a critique or commentary is a good beginning, but the art of active listening involves two additional steps that are indispensable to effective communication. If you don’t bring all of the components of active listening into a conversation, chances are you will miss something important. Read the rest of this entry »
Every travel agency seeks visibility in its marketplace. Through advertising, niche marketing, and solid networking, agency owners work to raise the profile of their travel practice above the crowd, so the public immediately associates the agency’s brand with the word “travel”. Creating an association strong enough to be top of mind anytime someone thinks of “travel” is no small feat but, especially on a community level, it is achievable. No doubt in your own community, there is at least one travel agency with more than its proportionate percentage of “mindshare” – people immediately think of that agency when they think of their next cruise or vacation. Read the rest of this entry »
From earliest childhood, we are taught to listen to stories. We develop a real, active interest in the lead character of a tale. No doubt some people tell stories better than others. But the one story you should spend time writing and polishing is your own. Why are you in travel? What do you do? How do you do it? Have you ever had a really special moment traveling? What was it? Is that why you are a travel agent? Did you travel with your parents? Why do you think people should travel? Read the rest of this entry »
I spend many of my columns speaking to the importance of positioning and differentiation – setting your travel practice apart from the crowd. From the emails and comments I received, however, it’s clear that it’s not always easy to really BE different. Where do the ideas arise that will energize your travel practice in such a way that travelers will choose you over another agency or booking on their own?
The most important thing is to lead with your personality. You are the one thing that is truly unique about your travel practice. You are the one thing not duplicated online, in your office, or at another agency. You are the human element with which people want to engage. Learn to infuse your creative thinking with your own personality. Read the rest of this entry »
Most travel agents who have been in the business for any period of time can tell stories of clients who, in some manner, disappointed the agent in the relationship. The client who took the agent’s hard work and booked direct, or the client who could not be found when final payment was due. The client who goes to the airport without their documents and blames the agent. The client that won’t return phone calls. The client who is upset that the agent cannot find a trip to Hawaii for 7 nights for $499. The client who discovers a cruise $50 cheaper on the internet and is unhappy. In almost every instance, however, the real root of the problem can be found in a failure of the agent to properly train the client and set expectations. Client training is more than just a technique to prevent problems, however. Properly training clients sets the stage for the buying process to occur in the context of a relationship. Read the rest of this entry »
For many travel professionals, social marketing and media has proven its worth. Those who have succeeded using Facebook, Twitter and the like to generate business are actively engaged by being both creative and authentic. No doubt, the fundamental marketing tactics of local, community oriented public relations, networking, and advertising are far more important and necessary to most travel agents than any social marketing efforts will ever be. However, layer your social marketing tactics on top of a solid foundation of fundamentals and truly excellent results can be the order of the day. Read the rest of this entry »
Mike Marchev has a saying every travel agent should repeat each day: “Your clients are somebody else’s prospects.” With others in the marketplace vying for the attention of your clients, it is important for you to consider exactly how accessible the public perceives your travel business. Accessibility is sum of the characteristics that makes you easy to remember, easy to find, approachable, likable, and worthy of trust. Each of these elements are wrapped up in your approach to the market and should be given fair consideration as you position your company in your community. Read the rest of this entry »
One way top travel agents stand out from the crowd is to develop a niche area of practice. Though we hear the advice to specialize, the concept of niche marketing is often misunderstood. Niche marketing is a way of helping you focus on locating new clients, not a set of restrictions on your business offerings. Niche marketing is not necessarily about gearing your entire business to a particular type of travel, but rather about segmenting your marketing efforts to focus on particular groups of people. Many travel consultants avoid it as a concept out of fear of having to turn away business outside the chosen niche, or being too closely identified with the niche. Properly executed, however, niche marketing is a terrific way of locating and marketing to a group of potential clients in a highly effective and cost efficient manner. Read the rest of this entry »