Let’s begin to pull everything we have discussed to this point into a single strategy and consider the tactics we will use to achieve the goals we have set out for our business. In each instance, we want to be certain our mission statement remains our touch-point. This will keep us consistent and properly focused. Likewise, each tactic should be designed to contribute to our marketing funnels, continually drawing both existing clients and potential clients closer to us, engaging with us and becoming evangelists for our travel practice. There are an endless variety of possible tactics you can employ. Some of these are listed below. Pick those with which you are most comfortable and in which you can have some confidence. For example, if you are a good writer, then certainly blogging and other publishing undertakings should be a part of your strategy. If you don’t like public speaking, then in the short term you may want to leave aside any public speaking opportunities. Follow the bend of your own nature to do what you can do well, but strive to continually push just a bit beyond your comfort zone. Below are a few of the more common strategies and a brief explanation. In later chapters we will bear down more fully on each.
Advertising – well placed advertising can provide you with a new audience. Done well, advertising can intrigue clients with the man possibilities of working with you. Done poorly, however, it can be a dark hole for your precious capital!
Paid articles (native ads)
Publishing – Like to write?
Cross Marketing – working with other businesses in town to market to each other’s list. Here are a few examples of successful cross marketing ventures with have seen other travel consultants do:
Social Media and Digital Marketing – we will discuss this tactic in depth in the Travel Professional Academy course.
Email newsletters and broadcasts
Networking – The more people who know you are “out there” the wider your sphere of influence.
Clubs and Associations
Schools and Churches
Public Relations – Forming relationships with the press, sponsoring events and organizations and attending trade shows projects the personality of your agency in a very strong, dynamic manner.
Public Speaking – not everyone is confident speaking in front of a crowd. However, the moment you stand behind a podium, you are presumed an expert. Speaking about travel is one of the best possible ways of being identified as a “local expert”
Group Leader Programs - Why do all the work yourself? A few group leaders will allow you to leverage the passion of others in your community who love to travel and who have networks of friends and relatives.
Word of Mouth – when you are recommended by a friend of a friend, you have the added power of a testimonial behind you, and the power of a third-party endorsement is hard to over-estimate!
Campaign Marketing As you review each of these tactics, you want to find ways of developing a mix of marketing platforms. Think in terms of “Campaigns” - multi-tiered, consistent series of efforts to deliver your message to consumers. A campaign stands in contrast to isolated efforts to publicize or promote your business. A campaign is made up of coordinated efforts that arrive to the consumer from a variety of media with a consistent message. Note the key characteristics – the efforts are coordinated and they are consistent. Those two ingredients make marketing campaigns pay off in a way that single or sporadic efforts will not.
As a travel planner, you will have many opportunities to present your brand to consumers. There are advertising opportunities and possible speaking engagements, articles you can write and many methods of gaining referrals from your existing clients. However, unless you can coordinate your efforts, unless you can find a way to ensure that each marketing venue fits into a consistent, purposeful strategy, you will waste some portion of its value.
Example: You are going to speak to a local church group about a trip to the Holy Land. After making all of the formal arrangements, you begin your marketing campaign.
You develop a brochure for the group trip you will be presenting;
You prepare your presentation;
You gather testimonials from your clients who have done the trip with you before;
You present at the church, hand out the materials and then stay late to speak and socialize with the group.
You obtain their email addresses and sent them thank you notes along with the group leader's instructions on how to register.
You follow up in a couple of weeks with invitations to those who have not signed up, indicating how they don't want to miss out on the fellowship of being with their friends on the trip.
These individual steps all combine to form a "campaign" for your marketing effort. You have combined networking, speaking, marketing collateral, group leaders and email all into a campaign to effect your marketing effort. Thinking in terms of campaigns will keep you focused and will over the long term conserve your capital resources. When each effort is part of a campaign, you can more easily measure the results. You can determine what works and repeat your efforts, and ascertain what is not working to avoid wasting time and money. By reaching out to your existing and prospective clients in a number of different but coordinated venues, your company brand and message is more likely to be seen repeatedly and consistently, keeping you top of mind. Each message you send will be consistent and you will avoid confusing the consumer.
Remember the average consumer must see your message a number of times before taking action. Campaign marketing gives them that opportunity to see you in a variety of platforms. If your message is consistent, you will begin to make an impact on their psyche. An example might be the advertising representative for a regional magazine that approaches you with a remnant rate on an ad in their next issue. While the rate might be good for the one effort, consider whether you will be able to consistently reach the readership in subsequent issues. Will remnant rates be available on a regular basis, or will this be a one-time opportunity with little probability of repeated exposure? If the latter, your better option may be to pass. As you think through your marketing efforts, develop a campaign devised of a series of consistent, affordable programs that deliver your brand. Once you have a plan, implement it with a dedication to your strategy. Bringing this type of focus to your marketing efforts will reward you with a real return on your investment.
Budgeting for Your Marketing Tactics We want now to begin our written business plan incorporating some of these tactics. Many travel professionals “wing it” and begin marketing at the first sign of business slowing down. The problem with doing things that way, of course, is timing. The business you have today likely resulted from your marketing efforts months ago. Likewise, your marketing efforts today may not pay off for some time.
Budgeting enforces the discipline necessary to actually calendar your marketing efforts. When spending real dollars, travel professionals become very cognizant of the return on investment. In addition, the marketing budget can and should include such essentials as marketing collateral (business cards, flyers, capabilities brochures), websites, advertising, dues to local organizations and promotional items, all professionally produced. Having a marketing budget, and then wisely spending it, ensures that the travel agency is doing everything necessary to keep its profile high enough to gain mindshare in the community.
Too many agencies are loathe to invest in their own futures. They have no website, no professionally produced logo or collateral, no CRM system, no advertising or promotional efforts. Not coincidentally, they also don’t have many clients. The timidity is understandable, but regrettable. Every business takes on investment in its own growth. The secret is to spend every dollar wisely and to then monitor results not just at the end of the effort, but throughout the duration of the marketing expenditure so that the effort can be fine tuned while in progress. Without dedicated resources to leverage the company profile, the travel consultant is thrown back to the early business stages of guerrilla marketing tactics that, while useful and necessary, do not permit the strongest possible growth curve. Investment in marketing accelerates growth when properly applied. Invest in yourself. Most knowledgeable marketing guides will indicate that for small service businesses, between 1% to 3% of your gross proceeds should be reinvested in marketing. Thus, if your Gross Revenues are $1,000,000 (commission income of approximately $100,000) a marketing budget of between $10,000 and $30,000 is a norm. A budget forces the travel agency to focus on the marketing process and to invest in growth in a responsible and predictable manner. Like the marketing plan, a budget should be in writing. Periodically, the travel agency should review its expenditures, measure return, and make appropriate adjustments.
Here’s the good news: not every outlay needs to be in actual dollars. Many of the marketing tactics we will discuss are more labor than capital intensive. Solid techniques are available to assist you in bootstrapping your marketing efforts and investing your time rather than dollars. For example if you advertise in the newspaper you are going to spend some real capital and hope for a good return. If you advertise with a local yoga studio in their newsletter however, you may spend much less and get an equally good return along with an endorsement from the owner! Better yet, if you and the yoga instructor put together a trip to Costa Rica for her studio then you will spend little more than the time, energy and effort to make it all happen!
In a small service business like travel consulting, a direct marketing approach is actually preferable to capital outlay since so much of the impact of the marketing message has to do with the people who own and operate the agency. The more the marketing plan involves direct involvement by the agency staff in events, speaking engagements, word of mouth campaigns and other public relations efforts, the lower the actual capital outlay is necessitated. Nevertheless, there is an important lesson in the simple and undeniable fact that to make money one has to spend some money. Don’t let the shoestring you operate on become a noose! Allocate money to marketing and spend it wisely, but spend it. Exercise: Pull together your marketing expenditures for this year and take a good look at how you spent your money. Can you calculate a return on investment for each effort? Are you satisfied with the way in which you have been investing in marketing? Determine a preliminary gross budget that will approximate 2% – 3% of the gross you realistically hope to achieve. Then, visit the list of tactics above, think about which you will use, and allocate to each either a dollar amount or a time allocation you feel is appropriate. Be sure to set money aside for your marketing collateral and website!
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