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 »
Travel consulting is a people business, and in the end, it’s all about who you know. As our good friend Mike Marchev will remind us on occasion, it’s also about how many “who’s” you know. An important component of building a successful travel practice is the network of people with whom you come into contact. Although your own circle of influence may be small, it grows exponentially because your friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, teachers, and co-workers all have circles of influence into which you can market. These relationships provide opportunities to introduce your practice to people with whom you might otherwise not come into contact. Read the rest of this entry »
Already those of you working on business plans are deep into 2019. It’s time to get moving. Every reader of my travel marketing column knows I think written business plans are important. Organization is essential. Clarity of expression and correctly assessing markets are requirements. But not a one of these is worth anything without ACTION. Along with every Marketing Plan (what to do) you need to write an Action Plan (how and when). Too many times we over-plan and over-perfect and in the process lose valuable opportunities to others who are quicker to act. It’s time to take another look at our marketing calendar. Read the rest of this entry »
Every now and then your average travel consultant “gets lucky” and happens across a group leader. More experienced, successful travel professionals, however, pro-actively institute group leader programs. Few methods of growing a travel practice are as tried and true as incorporating the assistance of a group leader. Yet too many travel professionals depend on chance to locate and utilize the efforts of these profitable individuals. Let’s consider the possibility of actually setting out a plan to seek out, train and leverage group leaders in our communities. A few good group leaders worked into your marketing plan could make a big difference in your bottom line. 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 »
Every travel consultant is very much aware of the seasonality of the travel business. In the winter people head south and in the summer they head to Europe and in the fall they seek out New England, except for the real bargain hunters who decide to cruise during hurricane season. A time and a season for everything, right?
Actually, that is exactly right. We can improve on our marketing by being a bit more scientific in our examination of the calendar. Smart travel consultants who pro-actively market know they have to stay ahead of the calendar. They are constantly looking “down the road” to see what holidays and destinations are around the corner. Typically, you will be promoting months in advance to give clients time to consider, plan and budget for their travels. Read the rest of this entry »
Your company needs to do a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The traditional SWOT looks at Strengths and Weaknesses of a business (internal factors) and tries to thereby ascertain the relationship with Opportunities and Threats (factors external to the agency). Doing a periodic SWOT analysis is a good exercise as your develop your business strategies and tactics and assists with developing the appropriate goals for your travel practice.
Generally speaking, your travel practice has certain strengths that justify its existence. These strengths give rise to the ability to take on opportunities.On the other hand, your agency probably has weaknesses that provide an opening to your competition where they are better capable than you of taking advantage of the market. A SWOT Analysis makes each of these factors clear and provides a guideline for approaching each in your planning. Our SWOT Analysis Worksheet will assist you in performing your own analysis. Read the rest of this entry »
If you have been reading The 365 Guide for any length of time, you know that I feel the concept of a Mission Statement is important for a travel agent to understand and employ. A mission statement is a clear and succinct statement of the aspirations of a travel agent as those aspirations relate to clients. Underneath the mission statement is a set of core values that are important to the agent. The moral and ethical underpinnings of the agent, their way of relating to clients, their expectations of performance are all encapsulated in a single statement. It’s a statement to the world of the principles for which the travel agent stands. Below, you will find tools to help you build your own. Bonus -it will be the foundation for your 2014 marketing plan.
Running a travel practice and achieving year over year growth is no small task. In fact, the very nature of travel consulting makes our business one of the most challenging. Nearly daily, I speak with travel agents on two extremes of the growth curve. On one side is the agent whose business is flourishing and providing the agent with a full time, robust income. At the other extreme is the travel agent who is falling behind and not seeing the growth they want to achieve in their business. The difference between the two extremes is a matter of a few business practices that can be developed by anyone serious about taking their travel practice to the next level. This week we will look at the five most common reasons your travel practice is not growing at the rate you want to achieve and what you can do to correct the situation. Read the rest of this entry »
A question from a travel professional last week on advertising with a limited budget prompted additional considerations. Indeed, advertising sometimes seems like a shot in the dark. Probably no aspect of any marketing plan draws both the scrutiny and the concern as does advertising. At times it seems highly effective, and the lucky business person can directly attribute sales to a particular effort while on other occasions, advertising can seem completely without any power to turn revenue. Read the rest of this entry »
Clients have short memories. Unless you find a way to stay “top of mind”, clients can easily be distracted by the first pretty travel opportunity that walks their way. With every newspaper travel section, television commercials and consumer magazines filled with travel advertising, your clients will see lots of different avenues to fulfill their travel desires. You want them to think of you when they think of travel, but until you have them properly trained, it is easy for them to be distracted elsewhere.
As simple as it may sound, many travel consultants simply fail to ask for the privilege of communicating with potential clients, and even their own clients, on an on-going basis. People love to talk about travel – where they have been and where they want to someday go. Those conversations are terrific opportunities to say “I run across great travel opportunities to [pick your destination] all the time. Would you like for me to send them your way so you can browse them?” Asking for permission to communicate with clients is an important step in gaining the trust Read the rest of this entry »
Last week and this, we are looking at the process of establishing goals for your travel practice. It may seem a bit unusual that one of the most common failings of planning is a failure to start at the beginning. However, most of us have in our heads a general notion of what we want the end result of our marketing to look like. We know we want to be good at what we do. We know we want, in a general fashion, to increase our sales. We know we want more clients or we know we want to book more travel. We know we want to earn a living. We all have at least a fuzzy notion of the goals we have for ourselves. Read the rest of this entry »
Goals are a good thing. Without a goal in front of us, we tend to be far less directed in our actions. Without goals, it would be more difficult to measure our progress or the efficacy of our plans. Without goals, we would lack the strong motivation to succeed that is so important to our personal and business lives. Let’s take a look at how we might set goals into the next business plan we draft.
In the context of a marketing plan, the term “goal” refers to an achievable, positive action consistent with the company’s mission statement. The goal describes a desired outcome. Thus, a goal for ABC Travel might be to “increase the number of clients with which the company works.” Another goal may be to “achieve the highest level of client satisfaction.” Typically, the company will have no more than a few high-level goals. Read the rest of this entry »
Writing press releases and stories about travel is a proven way to promote your travel agency with little or no capital outlay. However, many travel agents fail to do the preliminary groundwork necessary to ensure that their press release or article will be noticed by local or national media. Good marketers are continually seeking out and developing relationships with the media gatekeepers – reporters and editors. Within almost every community you will find newspaper reporters, researchers for television and radio stations, bloggers and specialty magazine journalists. These are the individuals who decide what stories make the cut. Typically, these writers and reporters work under terrific deadline pressures and welcome good ideas for stories. Your efforts at public relations will be greatly enhanced if you are on a first-name basis with the writers and news room and media staff. Making yourself known as a credible and reliable “go-to” resource with a well-defined set of opinions and positions can make it easier to be picked from the crowd when a reporter needs a local voice. Read the rest of this entry »
Advertising can be a scary proposition for a travel consultant. In a service industry like ours, advertising can represent as much as 80% or more of an entire marketing budget. Purchasing the right media can be a daunting gamble and generating appropriate creative is as much art as science. Results can be difficult to measure – it can sometimes be tough to determine whether an advertisement created any results at all. Yet, advertising is often the most visible marketing done by an agency. Getting it right is important. Thus, the next few articles will deal with advertising: what it is, how to plan, execute and measure. Hopefully, at the end of our series, advertising will not seem quite as dark an art as it may right now.
A good working definition is that advertising is paid, non-personal communication through media about a company meant to persuade a target audience to act in a desired manner. Read the rest of this entry »
This week, we are going to look at five very common marketing mistakes many travel agents make in their practices that hinder real growth. The first one is by far the most common: the travel agent has no marketing plan. Regardless of the number of articles written about the value of a well-articulated, written marketing plan, many agents confidently point to their head and say with a knowing wink “It’s all in here.”
A marketing plan that is not written, not documented in a formal way, is not a plan. At best it is an ad hoc series of more or less consistent habits. Read the rest of this entry »
Public speaking is an optional, but also a highly recommended, tactic in a strong public relations program. Every association in town, every club, church group, every business class or travel class at your local community college, enjoys having guest speakers. A tried and true tactic for a public relations strategy is to offer your expertise to a group in the form of a speaking engagement. When an organization provides you with a platform as a speaker, your credibility as a local expert is greatly enhanced. You stand out from the crowd of other travel consultants by virtue of your very appearance in front of the room. Moreover, opportunities to speak tend to come in successive waves – speaking at one function often leads to other speaking engagements. Read the rest of this entry »
You can be a “thought leader” in your community. The public has a keen interest in all things related to travel. If you seek them out, you are likely to find many opportunities to interact with hundreds, perhaps thousands of consumers in your community through an intelligent public relations campaign. This week, we are going to investigate some of the easily accessible aspects of public relations for travel agents.
Publishers and editors of magazines, newspapers and newsletters in your community need your assistance. Each day, or week or month, these hard working souls have to fill their periodicals with timely, interesting content. Read the rest of this entry »
Marketing has a two-fold function – to acquire new clients and to retain your existing clients. For that reason, smart travel agents put into place a comprehensive client retention plan designed to keep an ongoing conversation with their existing clientele. When economic times get tough, it is your existing client to which you can most easily and cost effectively turn for support. It is commonly known and accepted that it is much more expensive to acquire a new client than to retain an existing one. Existing clients represent the stability of your travel planning business. If your clients are not traveling with you on a repeat basis, chances are you are doing something very wrong. Read the rest of this entry »
In most communities, volunteer opportunities abound – so you should be able to identify at least one to which you relate and about which you are passionate. From the local animal shelter to charity work or participation on committees for organizations such as your local United Way, PTA, Hospice, and more, you contribute and thereby widen your circle of acquaintances. By joining others for good causes or civic committees, you not only work toward a positive goal in your community, but you also earn the opportunity to let new people know about your travel practice, your attention to detail, and the personality behind your skill set. As the other participants get to know you in a volunteer setting, their understanding of you in a charitable context serves to create a bond that can translate in a very positive way into a personal or business relationship. Importantly, you will discover that much of the pressure is off of you to “market” as you provide your services to the community. Knowledge of you and your business is a happy by-product of your central mission of giving to others. Read the rest of this entry »
Word of mouth marketing is really no more than consumers providing information about you to other consumers. As a travel consultant, you know the value of a good reference. Smart word of mouth marketing encourages and gives people a reason to talk about you and your services. While word of mouth marketing happens with or without your participation, you can encourage and facilitate it.
One of the most important ways to facilitate positive word of mouth activity is to very directly ask for referrals from your existing clients. Give your happy customers a way of easily describing your services to others. Provide two business cards to each of your clients: one for them and one to pass along to someone else. Some clients reward their clients for referrals with a small gift. However, a “Thank You” note is also an acceptable acknowledgement of the favor. Read the rest of this entry »