While this year has been full of “pivoting” and “unprecedented times” for travel advisors, it can also be a period of reflection – “what has worked best for my business?” and “where do I need to improve?” One way to build your business back better for travel’s rebound is to grow your potential client list. This is something you can implement now, and reap the rewards in 2021, which by all predictions will be strong for the travel industry.
1. Take advantage of ads on social media
“Rather than relying on the organic growth driven by word of mouth, which clearly wasn't going to occur in 2020, we plumped for Facebook ads and jumped right in,” said John Reese, founder and CEO of J5Travel.
J5Travel focused on Caribbean ads due to being more comfortable selling luxury Caribbean and wanting to avoid the rush to domestic travel. “After a good few weeks of tweaking the ads we landed on a successful formula, with a solid IFO and email addresses started appearing for us,” he said.
“Overall our list has grown from 450 at the start of June to 950 now, and we have had minimal unsubscribes from the e-zine lists that these potential clients end up on after our welcome email series. This truly feels like success to me, so much so, that we are working hard as a team to be ready to cope with the volume of business when the green light goes off in travelers’ heads,” Reese said.
2. Stay connected
Rob Clabbers, president of Q Cruise + Travel, said to continue communication with prospective clients, even if they might not be traveling right now, whether it’s in the form of blogs or social media. This will keep you top of mind when they're ready ready to travel again.
3. Go back to your old mailing list
“Also important – and often forgotten – is to go back to your ‘old’ mailing list of clients and prospects who contacted you in the past but who you may not have reached out to recently,” Clabbers recommended.
“Should you be touching base with them and do a ‘wellness check’ – not to sell travel, but to see how they are doing, and to let them know that you are there for them when they are ready to go,” he continued. “It’s also a great opportunity to check that their contact details and marketing preferences are updated, so you can send relevant information to them when the time is right. We have found that re-engaging some of these clients has resulted in new enquiries.
4. Be active in your community
While social media is no doubt an important tool, it’s also important to be active in your community, said Abby Schimke, luxury travel advisor for Grand Traverse Travel.
“Join clubs, volunteer, go to local events and get to know your community, these will be the people who support your business” Schimke said. “You want to be the first person that everyone thinks of when they want to go on a vacation.”
5. Network as an event attendee (virtual ones, for now)
Agents going after the luxury market should “join business networking clubs, attend their events and mix and mingle with the people you would like to do business with,” said Adam Martindale, luxury food and wine group specialist for Cruise Planners.
“Sometimes, attend events as attendees instead of exhibiting as this allows you to mix and mingle in a more subtle way. I exhibited at many different events when I started my business (with co-op from Cruise Lines) and now am more picky about which events I would pay to exhibit at and which events I choose to be an attendee.”
For example, Martindale said he exhibited at a large wine conference in San Diego. While it was a good experience, “I decided to attend the event instead the next year and was able to mix, mingle, sit next to and share my business model with winery owners and attendees and generated future business leads and future group cruises from this event.”
While this might not be feasible in the current environment, it’s a good strategy to keep in mind once things do begin to reopen, as people will eager to get out and attend events, making new acquaintances and connections. For now, keep an eye on any virtual events you can join instead.