The following guest column is the latest in an occasional series on selling travel by the founder of Talking Travel.
When promoting their travel agency, owners and managers sometimes overlook the value of focusing attention on agency staff members.
Showcasing the talents of your staff is a great way to promote your agency’s services to potential new clients. It’s also a good way to educate current clients about your pool of expertise and inspire them both to book new travel and refer your agency to friends and family.
This is something you need to put some thought behind.
For clients, everything should be positioned as a What’s in it for Me statement. You’ll also need to get your staff onboard by telling them how spotlighting their expertise will benefit the agency, ensuring its longevity, and bring them positive notoriety in the community.
Here are 10 methods for showcasing your staff.
1. Promote your agents’ professional certifications. If someone has acquired a CTC, CTA, ACC, MCC, etc., place a notice in the local newspaper and post a press release in your newsletter, website and agency window. Add a line to the agency’s email signature such as, “We’re extremely proud that Julie Johnson recently earned her Master Cruise Counselor designation from Cruise Lines International Association. Please contact Julie at Julie@123Travel.com.”
2. Show how your agents’ credentials benefit customers. On customer handouts, in addition to listing each agent along with his or her designation, explain the significance of the credentials. Outline the steps the agent took to acquire the designation, followed by a value statement, such as: “A CTIE is a problem-solving manager who understands your time and budget restrictions and will work with you to ensure your travel plans reflect what you really want from your vacation.”
3. Flaunt fam trips taken by staff member. Use announcements on your website, newsletter and front window to bring attention to Allen’s recent fam to Easter Island. Focus on one or two activities that will grab travelers’ imaginations. Portray Allen as your go-to agent for adventure or for South American travels. Allen could also contribute a travel article for the local newspaper. (If he’s not a writer, ghost writing services are available.)
4. Stage traveler evenings where you introduce your staff. At destination-focused events, introduce staff members (or have staff introduce themselves) and speak briefly about their accomplishments and areas of expertise. The evening could be designed around a staff member’s recent fam trip. For instance: “Alice has just returned from Thailand and has some amazing stories and images to show you. Thai-One-on Tours will sponsor the food, refreshments and door prizes.”
5. Give out attaboys and attagirls. Create agency awards acknowledging the accomplishments of staff and feature the winners in the usual places (website, newsletter, etc.), or feature one staff member every month or week. Awards ideas include: highest sales figures, most clients, most sales for a particular supplier, best example of exceeding expectations, educational accomplishments, etc. (Coming up with criteria for the awards is a great team-building exercise.)
6. Add staff reviews to your website and/or newsletter. Encourage staff members to write reviews of travel books; travel-related movies, documentaries and TV programs; restaurants, etc. (Give them a helping hand if necessary.) These personalized features will grab the attention of consumers while also featuring the expertise of your staff.
7. Showcase destination know-how. List the countries or destinations that each staff member has visited. Include comments by staff members identifying something unique about a destination. You can do the same by listing the destination specialists on staff.
8. Spotlight supplier certifications. List supplier certificates agents have earned. Show how these accomplishment benefit the customer. For instance, if an agent has earned a Cars Unlimited certificate, note that agent has learned skills that will save the traveler time, money and stress when arranging a rental car for their next holiday.
9. Engage in social media. Staff members can take turns responding to postings on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter (etc.), including their initials or name. This puts the expertise of the individual agent front and center in the customer relation equation.
10. Draw attention to agents’ activities outside work. Stories about each staff member’s hobbies, community involvement or volunteer work communicate their personality and create synergies for niche market sales. “Hey, I didn’t know you were into bird watching. I am too. Can you put together a group trip to Costa Rica for birders?”
Creating opportunities for clients, past and future, to see and experience your agents’ unique talents, skills, dedication and education can do wonders for your agency.
So introduce your staff to the neighborhood, the community, the city and beyond. Your staff members deserve it. Your clients deserve it. And the agency will reap the rewards.
Longtime travel educator Steve Gillick delivers sales, marketing and destination training to travel professionals via his consultancy Talking Travel. He served as president and COO of the Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors from 2001 to 2012.