In an era when so much of business is transacted online, it’s important for travel agents to develop a unique and compelling narrative that describes who you are, what makes your agency unique, and why a consumer should feel inspired to do business with you.
During a recent two-part webinar series for the Travel Institute’s annual “Promote Your Professionalism Month” program, Travel Market Report retail agency editor Richard D’Ambrosio helped guide travel agents through the storytelling process, from determining what your personal and professional narrative is, to using those details in a compelling fashion for the press and social media.
“Online travel agencies don’t have a ‘compelling narrative’ that makes someone want to do business with them. You do. It’s your life force, the source of everything that will draw a traveler to book with you. Find it, and use it to its full potential,” D’Ambrosio said.
Here are some tips to how to do that:
1. Write a story that includes where you have been, where you are today and where you are going tomorrow.
Your whole life’s experience is what makes you so unique. Where you grew up, your college degree, your previous professions all brought you to where you are now, and where you are headed.
Kate DeLosso is a travel agent from Chadds Ford, PA, who suffered a stroke in 1997. As she continued to travel after her stroke, she realized that most group tours don’t adequately accommodate people like her who, due to a mobility issue, need to tour at a slower pace. DeLosso is now targeting this niche, which she is eminently qualified to serve with superior expertise, and is building her narrative through a soon-to-be launched blog and a revised social media feed.
2. Take a step back and look at yourself through others’ eyes.
Most of us are too close to our story to uncover the unique narrative that draws people to us. So do a formal interview. Write down questions that force you to think about yourself, your industry and your clients and then answer them as though you are speaking to a reporter. Or ask a friend or relative to play the role. Let your narrative emerge from the answers.
3. Find that unique part of you and run with it.
It’s hard standing out in a marketplace of tens of thousands of competitors, and online travel agencies with hundreds of millions of marketing dollars. That’s why you need to leverage everything that is unique about you.
Joyce Mariner was a New York City police officer until she retired and started a cruise-focused travel agency in Merrick, NY. She told her story to Forbes.com contributor Caroline Ceniza-Levine, who recently published a profile on her.
The article talks about how Mariner’s previous career gives her the interviewing skills to fulfill her client’s dreams and instilled in her a service-orientated mindset, and how the attention to detail and exhaustive research skills she learned as an officer are exactly what a leisure traveler is looking for from a good travel consultant.
Mariner’s journey into travel is unique, and juxtaposed with her previous life as a police officer, was compelling enough to get her story major online coverage.
4. Your story comes to life when you tell it persistently and consistently.
Jacob Marek owns IntroverTravels, planning "life-changing travel experiences for curious introverts, with an emphasis in nature, culture and history.”
One thing we can learn from Marek is the persistence and consistency of his message. His social media feed is all about learning and living the life of a curious, introverted traveler, who wants to create amazing experiences in faraway lands.
Stephanie Katz, owner of Travel by Stef, in Lake Mary, FL, has a marketing degree. A self-professed geek who knows everything about Star Wars, Harry Potter and the “fandom” lifestyle, Katz populates her Facebook page with images like R2D2 coffee pots, YouTube videos that show Star Wars shooting locales in Ireland, and news about geek-oriented attractions at theme parks. She does it all in a fun and upbeat fashion that makes you want to scroll, and scroll, and be inspired to travel.
“For so many individuals and families, vacations are a big part of the stories of our lives,” D’Ambrosio said. ”They are the stories we tell each other when we get together, so we can laugh, share, boast and dream. Tap into that. Tell the world your story.”