It's great to have a loyal base of clients who book over and over with you. But for any business, especially travel where there are so many options for building a vacation, making certain that you are always growing your client base is critical to long-term success.
Travel Market Report asked a group of travel agents and agency executives to offer their top tips for gaining new clients.
Get them while they're happy
Tap into your existing clients, especially when they are returning from the dream vacation that you helped build for them. "I ask my clients if they would recommend my services in my welcome home email, and I also ask for Facebook reviews," said Heather Christopher, owner of Heather Christopher Travel Consulting in Gettysburg, PA.
Thank those who help you
Nomad Hill, a travel agency in Richmond, TX, recently launched an "ambassador" program that offers financial incentives to existing customers to promote their vacations to their social media followers. "We have some incredible clients who love what we are doing. They have decided they want to promote us organically," said Devin Littlefield, marketing director. The incentives can be a percentage off their next travel purchase or a dollar amount.
"They know and understand our product, so we provide a lot of social media materials for them to use, links to our website. Also in some instances, we might provide them with branded content, if they are having dinner with friends," Littlefield said.
Offering even just a small financial incentive often works. "Any time I receive a referral that books, I send the referrer a thank- you note in the mail with a Starbucks gift card. I know it seems small but people love it," said Terrah Van Meter, a travel consultant at Legacy Travel in Dallas.
Tell everyone about YOUR great vacation
Sekita Ekrek, marketing director at First in Service Travel in New York City, recently wrote a story about a safari she took with Micato Safaris in the company's newsletter and chronicled her trip on her personal Facebook page. "A mom I know was liking and engaging with my posts, and finally said 'I want to do what you did.' "
Christopher said she engages with social media influencers so they can spread the word about her. "I follow a lot of healthy living and lifestyle bloggers, both on their blogs and Instagram. A few months ago, I noticed that an influencer mentioned she hadn't planned her honeymoon yet so I reached out and offered my services complimentary in exchange for using my hashtag (#hctclients) along with tags and social media mentions where appropriate and on her blog. She was extremely agreeable and grateful for my assistance. I gained over 250 followers on Instagram from her alone but more importantly, I've gotten 10 new clients from it - and not just leads, clients that have paid my service fee and are booked/in the process of booking."
Let the real you show online
"I receive a lot of leads via Facebook every week because I post passionately about my travels. I don't post things that sound 'salesy.' I post about staying up to date on my training and education, and most importantly, I try to stay approachable," Van Meter said.