With travel booming around the world, travel advisors have ample opportunities to build their client bases and profitability this year and into 2024. Here are several ways to take advantage of industry resources and best practices to set yourself up for greater success.
1. Deploy supplier marketing
Many travel suppliers offer pre-designed marketing materials and plug-and-play advertising that advisors can add their branding to and cost-effectively send out to prospects and current customers.
Jamie Anderson, VTA, owner of Travel & Cruise Desk, explains how he accomplishes this: “My agency is lucky enough to be a member of the Signature Travel Network, which creates a lot of opportunity for our agency in print and digital marketing. We also have great relationships with our preferred suppliers. One supplier recently gave us an opportunity to mail out wine-themed tri-folds. We edited the call to action to promote the fact that we are hosting a booth with the same supplier at our city's annual Wine Walk. There was a cost per piece, but they worked with us and sent us the pieces in bulk. We then talked with our local paper and have them being sent out as inserts to every home in our small city at a much-reduced cost.”
He goes on to describe how this benefits her business: “Having easy-to-use, opt-in or opt-out marketing not only gives us opportunities that we may not have otherwise thought of or created on our own, but also frees us up to focus on taking care of our clients. What's more, is that there is often a middle ground that allows us to tweak the materials to personalize the message or branding so that it really resonates with our clients and the community.”
2. Establish your own marketing team
Some travel agencies have the wherewithal to establish their own internal marketing team. “I have a marketing team I have hired that does a lot of my templates and posts, which have helped with staying relevant and in touch with my clients. I will usually take more ‘hot deal’ promos from my suppliers for advertising purposes,” says Suzy Mkhitarian, manager and destination wedding specialist, M.S. Travel & Tours.
3. Make the most of BDM relationships
It goes without saying that strong relationships with suppliers are a cornerstone of success for travel advisors - and open and frequent communication is key.
“Communicate with your BDM, and share your struggles. They win when you win, so they want to make sure they help you with growing your business,” says Mkhitarian.
Anderson wholeheartedly agrees and explains further: “Be honest. Tell them what you need and make the ask. Experiment and don't be afraid to fail. Some of our ‘best’ ideas have not worked out as well as we hoped, but as long as we start with good (win-win) intentions and are upfront, we've found that our great partners are willing to take the risks with us.
“The other thing that is unrelated to marketing, but definitely has an impact on relationships with BDMs, is being respectful of their time. You never want to be that advisor or agency that causes your BDM's eyes to roll when you see your caller ID pop up. We all absolutely need help with certain situations, but often we can find the answers on our own or explain away an issue to a client. Your BDM will appreciate you for it, and perhaps be more willing to work with you on things like marketing when the opportunities roll around.”
4. Stay current through supplier webinars
Travel suppliers add new products and upgrade their systems frequently, and it is critical to stay current. The more tools and knowledge that travel advisors have at their disposal, the better they can be at their jobs.
As Mkhitarian notes, supplier webinars “help to answer a lot of questions I may have about a hotel/destination I haven't sold or been to firsthand.”
Anderson recommends spreading out webinar-based education, participating in one per week, and getting around to all of your preferreds within a year.
5. Find a niche
Having a travel specialty helps travel advisors target customers more directly and with greater efficiency. It is easier to reach them through publications, organizations, and social media groups that speak to their special interests. Plus, once you are established as an expert in a niche, repeat sales and client referrals are a common benefit.
“Find a niche that allows you to stand out from other travel advisors,” suggests Mkhitarian. “Get into local trade shows and meet people, couples, honeymoons, etc. Specialize in a specific market and focus on growing it.”
6. Build your social media presence
Many travel advisors rely heavily on social media to ferret out prospects and stay in touch with current customers, while others are not fans of social media marketing. It is a personal choice on the role that Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tik Tok, YouTube, etc., play in your business.
The internet is full of articles about the hows, the whys, and automation products to help those who are just starting out and those who are ready to up the ante on their social media strategies. At a beginning level, advisors (or someone on their team) should establish a presence on platforms that are relevant to their customer base; and then regularly post personal comments about travel experiences, photos of clients on vacation, travel tips, and an occasional promotion. Keep in mind that some suppliers also offer travel advisors pre-designed social media posts.
7. Charge service fees
This is another area of business operations where some advisors bank on charging service fees, while others simply would rather not. Anderson shares: “Charge fees for your service and expertise and market your professional service alongside preferred suppliers, and not necessarily the best deals out there. Shoppers are savvy now, and they know where to research travel suppliers and look for deals and discounts. What they don't tend to know is what an expert travel advisor can bring to the table.
“For us, charging fees is less about making more money per booking and more about managing our time. The service clients pay for is not only an attribute for us to market, but by charging a fee, we are letting clients know up front that we are a professional. This allows us to work with clients that truly appreciate our assistance, and ensures we have the time to actually give professional service to everyone we work with.”
We hope these ideas have been helpful to you. Consider how you can implement any one or several of these tips to expand your business, revenues, and profits.
FROM THE SPONSOR:
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