A Lesson in Branding for Travel Consultants from a Cooking Magazine

I love to cook. A meal is not worth eating unless it tastes excellent. I picked up cooking out of “necessity.” No offense to the Brits, but I started cooking when I lived in London and was terribly frustrated with the lack of good food. I realized, if I wanted to eat well, I would have to cook it myself.

Fifteen years later, I still cook way more often than I eat out, and much for the same reason. Here in Charlotte, NC, restaurants tend to be of the “Chili’s” variety, rather than the smorgasbord of excellent and affordable restaurants I experienced in New York and Chicago as a young adult.

One of my favorite sources of information and recipes is a magazine called “Cooks Illustrated.” If you are not familiar with Cooks Illustrated, www.cooksillustrated.com, their claim to fame is a 2,500 square foot test kitchen that is home to more than three dozen full time cooks and product testers.

Their mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of our favorite foods. To do this, they test each recipe 30, 40 sometimes as many as 70 times, until they arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time and equipment that yields the best, most foolproof recipe.

Recently, I was searching for a recipe on the internet. One of my search results was a recipe from “Cooks Illustrated.” Of course, I selected this result as I knew it would be an excellent recipe. Instead of getting the webpage with the recipe, a pop-up appeared with a note to me, in essence telling me that I could have access to this recipe and thousands of others if I signed up for a 14-day free trial to their online magazine.

What I loved about this note was how effective it was at explaining why I should eventually pay money for information that I can get free on the internet. I then realized how similar their situation is to most travel consultants. So if you struggle to explain why you charge fees to a client who can book the exact same vacation online, then I suggest you read further.

Here are some parts of the note and how you can tweak the language to your situation. (For the entire note, go to www.cooksillustrated.com, then search one of their recipes and it will pop up.)

Cooks Illustrated: “These days, it’s pretty easy to get free recipes on the Internet. I’m sure a search for “roast chicken recipe” will turn up thousands and thousands. But, as with so much on the web, you should tread lightly if you don’t know the source.”

“In America’s Test Kitchen, our motto is, “Recipes that Work,” and our mission is to be your trusted source for recipes that work every time you use them. Our test cooks spend their days obsessively testing recipes until they offer consistently great results. As we like to say here, “We make the mistakes so you don’t have to.””

Your tweak: “These days, it’s pretty easy to get cheap travel deals online. I’m sure a search for “Las Vegas Travel Packages” will turn up thousands and thousands. But, as with so much on the web, you should tread lightly if you don’t know the source.”

At XYZ Travel, our motto is, “Travel that is worth taking,” and our mission is to be your trusted travel advisor for travel experiences that are worth every penny you spend. Our dedicated travel professionals spend several weeks every year traveling and obsessively testing all the travel products we sell. As we like to say here, “we make the travel mistakes so you don’t have to.”


Write a statement for why you charge fees, modeled after this statement. Print it out and tape it to your computer so you can read it daily. Another thing you can do to generate more business is to write this statement in a letter to all your clients. In the letter, tell them you are growing your business and the best business comes from referrals. Ask them to be on the lookout for anyone they know that might be interested in your services and to send them your way.

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