Branding Your Travel Business
by Cheryl Rosen

How do you want to be thought of in the minds of consumers?

Whether you want to be a cruise agent or a corporate agent, a specialist in Africa or in Latin America, an expert in Tauck tours or in Silversea cruises, the first step to building a loyal clientele is to choose a brand that differentiates you.

That’s the advice offered up by Mark McMullen, who today kicked off The Travel Institute’s 10-part Advice from the Experts webinar series with a session dubbed “Branding Your Way to Success.”

Having a brand “helps you differentiate yourself from companies selling similar products, particularly where there is a perceived sea of sameness about companies selling the same thing”—as in, notably, the travel industry, McMullen said. “Are you perceived to be different from the agency down the street or an online retailer? It’s important to put your stake in a brand that differentiates you.” 

A brand makes it easy for customers to understand how to think about you, and defines their expectations from the time they start to consider a trip through the purchase, the post-purchase, and the re-purchase phases.

Finding your brand
To come up with the brand that’s right for you, consider the niches and the suppliers and the products you sell that make you unique, be they luxury, affinity groups, escorted tours, or corporate business; exotic travel, luxury travel, or adventure travel. (To grow your list, talk to BDMs at supplier companies and ask for their help to make you an expert in their products.) 

Consider what really stands out about your expertise, what’s marketable, what differentiates you. Then list your customer targets in those niches and come up with a brand position that will resonate with them.

Once you decide on a brand that fits, market it everywhere. Slap your tagline on your business cards, make it prominent on your website, be sure everyone uses it when they answer every single call: “Hello, this is XYZ Agency, your adventure travel specialist.”

“Don’t be afraid that it will niche you” to choose one brand, McMullen said. “You can continue to sell everything, but having a brand will drive more consumers to think about you in a certain way and get them in your door.”

The Travel Institute’s 10-part series is designed to help travel agents get into the business and build successful careers—and there are nine more to go. For more information, go to the Travel Institute's website.

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Tip of the Day
It's interesting--although not surprising--that travel agents, with whom our members work so closely, ranked high among travelers, and it reconfirms the value travel agent partners bring to our members.
 
Terry Dale
President & CEO, USTOA
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