In a crowded marketplace, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. How does a traveler decide which travel agency or advisor to use if a Google search results in dozens of choices? Having a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is what sets you apart from the competition and can be why a potential client chooses you over another advisor.
A great USP tells prospects who you are, what makes you different, and why they can trust you with their vacations in just a few sentences. Most importantly, it explains how your service benefits them better than anyone else can.
But figuring out your unique selling proposition isn’t easy. It requires a deep dive into who you are as a business to figure out what’s important to you, who your ideal clients are and what’s important to them, and what makes you different from other sellers of travel. Then, figuring out how to communicate as much of that as possible in two to four sentences.
Travel Market Report spoke to Jamie Jones, president of WhirlAway Travel, a Signature member agency, as well as Zaky Prabowo, CMO and co-founder of WeTravel, the parent company of WeTravel Academy, to find out what goes into crafting a travel agency-specific USP.
What Is a USP?
Before we get into crafting your USP, here are some examples. A USP should be one to four sentences long. It should convey who you are, what you do and how that’s different from other agencies. The difference(s) can be called out specifically or inferred.
Francine’s Travel: Not a 1-800 travel agent. No waiting for hours on the phone just to talk to a computer. When you travel with us, you’re covered.
WhirlAway Travel: WhirlAway Travel is anchored in legacy and propelled by the passion to enrich lives. We create personalized journeys that foster connections. Connections to people, to nature, to history, and to ourselves… It’s not just about where you want to go, but why you want to travel.
Hawaii Aloha Travel: We’re the experts on Hawaii. Every member of our team has lived here for over 8 years, we love the islands and want you to fall in love too.
Market Yourself, Not Your Suppliers
A key piece of creating a USP for your agency is understanding that you’re marketing yourself and not the suppliers you sell.
It’s not something that’s commonly done by the travel agency industry. But it was something that was top of mind for WhirlAway’s Jones.
“We’re very much about us and nobody else… It’s necessary to market ourselves as opposed to marketing a product that might bring somebody in,” she told TMR. “I don’t want them to only know us for selling a Regent cruise or selling Tauck. I want them to come to us because we’re going to talk to them and help them determine what the best fit is for them.”
Jones, who with her office manager, used the downtime provided by the COVID-19 pandemic to work on their marketing and business plan says advisors need to step back and ask themselves, “What is the value you bring to the table?”
“You have to have something that is unique to yourself,” she said. Pick three things [about your company]. Two of the three might be matched by another company. But that one item is going to be unique to you and what is going to make you different.”
Take the Time to Think It Through
To understand the value you bring to your clients and to get to your differentiators, you first need to understand your business at a deep level. What are your core values? Who is your target demographic and what are their core values? What do your clients get from you when they work with you?
Jones and her office manager used the exercises in the book “Traction: Get a Grip On Your Business” to help figure out WhirlAway’s differentiators. They gave each other homework, used whiteboards, and worked every step in the book to understand the who, what and why of WhirlAway Travel. (They also used a professional copywriter to help with the writing, something Jones suggests advisors invest in.)
“Traction” isn’t the only book that can help travel advisors craft a USP. A search on Amazon turns up several books that can help. The key, Jones said, is to go beyond simply reading the book.
“You can read all you want, but you actually have to implement what you read,” she said.
Use Your Background…
For travel advisors, in particular, a background in travel is especially useful when crafting a USP. Sailed on just about every cruise line there is? Let prospective customers know you understand first-hand the differences between each and every cruise line.
Grew up in Asia? Speak Spanish? Lived in Hawaii? These are all unique differentiators that can help set you apart.
If you have employees or work with ICs, their background is just as important.
“Each employee has a value add based on their background, culture, and experiences,” said WeTravel’s Prabowo. “You can use your background to add immense value to the products you’re selling. For instance, drawing on your personal travel experiences in a specific market to appropriately sell a travel experience your client is looking for.”
… Even If It’s Not In Travel
Not everyone has a robust travel background. But that doesn’t mean you don’t bring something unique to your clients.
Perhaps you previously worked as an event planner and planning things down to the tiniest detail is your superpower. Wouldn’t a traveler want a travel advisor who could do that for them?
Or have you worked in the restaurant industry and know how to plan food-related trips that include meals in the best eateries across the country?
Or maybe you’re a parent who perfected the art of kid-friendly vacation planning because you had to do it for yourself and now you understand the specific needs of family travelers.
Feel like you don’t have a differentiator yet? That’s okay. Determine something your potential clients want and then dive in to learn it.
“For all travel advisors, whether independent, home agents or franchise owners, there are many external resources available to you to develop knowledge in new areas of travel, setting apart your expertise,” Prabowo said.
At WeTravel Academy, he added, “the most downloaded resources by travel advisors fall into three categories: Sustainability, Wellness, and Inclusive travel. This data tells us that travel advisors are actively seeking ways to upskill and add unique value to the travel market.”