Contributor Stephanie Lee of Host Agency Reviews writes a monthly column on issues faced by travel agents, especially those who are self-employed or who work from home
One of my best friends is a scientist.
At first glance, our careers don’t have a lot in common. The majority of her day is spent in the lab analyzing soil samples or in her office writing papers; I spend most of my days playing around with marketing in its various forms.
Despite being in two different fields with no apparent overlap, our conversations have planted the seed for many ideas I’ve used in my business. Our cross-sector friendship has shown me not just the value of networking, but the value of networking with people outside the travel industry.
So this month, I’m going to encourage you to peek outside the palm trees of the travel industry!
Is that an echo?
I read in a magazine article that if you only talk about your work at a dinner party, you’ll find that you’re talking to yourself. I must have really been feeling interpretive that day because, while the article was about proper table manners (how did I even end up on that article?), my take-away had nothing to do with manners and everything to do with creativity. That is, creativity that is sparked when you step into other sectors.
I started thinking that if you limit biz talk to people in your industry, it’s a bit like talking to yourself. Since we all read the same magazines, attend the same functions, and use the same products, the way we do things, for the most part, is through a ‘travel industry lens.’
It’s not that the travel industry as a whole isn’t diverse, with different pockets you can learn from, or that I’m advocating we stop networking with each other. Far from it. What I am saying is that it doesn’t hurt to also explore industries outside our own for inspiration. There are plenty of fresh ideas waiting to be discovered when we change our lenses.
You know all about networking for leads but you may not be as familiar with networking for knowledge. You’ll not only be broadening your knowledge base when you do this, you might also hit on a few other things.
First, contacts from your knowledge networking and contacts from your lead networking aren’t exclusive to each other –knowledge networking contacts can easily transition to new clients.
It’s difficult for people to appreciate the knowledge of a travel agent until they’ve either worked with one or spoken in-depth with one. It just so happens that when you are networking outside the travel industry, you’ll be speaking in-depth with your contacts. From there, they’ll begin to understand and appreciate your expertise and guess who they’ll be calling for their next trip?
Another advantage of networking outside the industry is we’re educating others on why travel professionals are so valuable. It’s our very own grassroots movement to promote travel agents!
We’ve all experienced the “Are travel agents even around anymore?” conversation when we’re asked what we do. When you build relationships outside our industry to broaden your business view, those relationships are based on exchanging knowledge, not other motives.
Without the sales factor getting in the way, it opens up an honest dialogue about what we as travel professionals do. You’ll be taking the time to get to know someone else’s industry and, chances are, you’ll be gaining a new appreciation for what they do. On the flip side, they’ll also start to appreciate the value that a travel agent brings to the table. That results in one more educated consumer.
I never dreamed that having a scientist friend could help my business grow but it most definitely did! And it’s not just me.
Earlier this week, I stopped by my friend’s place and found a surprising read on the coffee table - Marketing for Scientists: How to Shine in Tough Times. Seems my love of marketing may have rubbed off on her.
Former host agency director Stephanie Lee operates Host Agency Reviews, which features agent reviews of host agencies and tips for starting and growing a travel agency. Connect with Steph on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.