Too many agents focus on finding a niche upon which to stake their future. But making certain that your niche is supported throughout everything you do is just as critical, said one agency marketing executive at this year’s ASTA conference.
In a session entitled “What’s Your Travel Niche? Innovative Business Models,” Lindsay Taylor, director of business development at Denver-based Tafari Travel, said that too many agents focus on the look and feel of their website and the color palate of their logo. But what’s really important is making sure that everything about your agency operations is in place to support your niche brand’s promise – from the suppliers you work with to the way you approach sales leads and curate the trip.
“It’s very easy for us to choose a name and tagline, a logo and colors. That’s the fun side,” she said. “But how we develop and work with strategic partnerships is the foundation of making the niche come to life for your customers.”
Don’t make the mistake of seeking out suppliers based on the destinations they serve and their product offerings. Instead, be diligent about scrutinizing their customer-service processes and services to make certain they fit with the niche you’re trying to create.
Experience your suppliers’ customer service to see if they are consultative in building trips. And if your destination management company doesn’t respond quickly to your calls and questions, consider whether it will do the same for your clients.
Customer service reigns supreme
Another crucial element for entering a niche that often gets forgotten is the design of the customer experience, from the moment clients call until they return home.
Tafari Travel, which is a part of Garden Grove, CA–based Coastline Travel Advisors, was created to bring back the consultative sales model of vacation travel creation, Taylor said. As a result, agents have to succeed at delivering an “experiential, transformative” trip, which requires a specific sales skill set.
Qualifying questions are key, Taylor said, and agents should have a list of them written down, and ingrained in the customer dialogue as they seek to build a niche.
“If you ask someone to tell you what their favorite trip has been recently, and they ‘I loved Iceland,’ are you and your agents ready to follow up with questions that can lead to suggestions in your niche?”