Recently, I was getting my haircut and my stylist told me she had just got engaged and she was planning a destination wedding. I asked her if she was working with a Destination Wedding Specialist and she looked at me confused. She thought I was talking about the onsite wedding planner many resorts provide. So I spent the next 20 minutes educating her on the value of working with a travel consultant that is a Destination Wedding Specialist. She was so thankful. She had no idea such a thing existed.
And this is the problem. They don’t know you exist. Even President Obama thought you were replaced. Their perception of a travel agent is outdated. First of all, half of the public thinks you went out of fashion with legwarmers. But for those who are aware of your existence, the perception they have is that the travel agent is an order taker with NO expertise, who works in a brick and mortar building on Main Street and charges $50 for airline tickets.
You don’t have to convince me that there are thousands of competent travel agents that add value, provide an excellent service, and serve a great need. I am very aware that your loss of visibility does NOT translate into loss of value. But since more and more brick and mortar agencies have closed or moved home, you have fallen below the radar screen and thus lost value in the eyes of the public.
It’s time to update the face of the travel agent. The term alone: travel agent, doesn’t do the profession any justice. The term itself needs an update. I prefer to use travel consultant, travel advisor or travel expert, and you should, too.
But the task of making over your industry doesn’t fall on ASTA’s, your government or your host agency’s shoulders….it falls on yours. Each and every one of you that provide a stellar service, make dreams come true and serve a growing need to accumulate treasured moments and memories.
So how does one take on this task? By marketing YOU. Stop marketing your products! Start marketing YOU, your expert status and the solutions you provide.
For example, I had a client recently tell me she is proud of herself for shooting videos while on a site inspection, but that she feels so stupid standing there in front of the camera talking about the details of the resort. I told her that even though she’s one step ahead of most people by embracing video marketing, she’s sabotaging herself by making the resort the object of attention in the video. In essence, she’s doing free advertising for the resort.
Instead, I recommended she think of a common question she gets from clients, like “How soon in advance do I need to book to get a butler suite?” Then, in the video she mentions the question and then gives the answer while showcasing some of the details of the resort (or the butler suite itself). The key is to use the video to position herself as the expert. If all she’s doing is showcasing the resort or a room from the resort, she isn’t creating a sense of value around herself.
Quite simply, the answer to the question of how you establish your value and get back on the radar screen is to market your business. But remember, don’t market the travel products. Market your value.
My mother grew up as an only child and because of her father’s job, she moved frequently. She attended 6 different grammar schools in 8 years. One thing she learned was how to meet new people when you are the newcomer. She recognized that you have to get yourself out there, even if it feels hard or scary or uncomfortable. No matter how much you don’t want to, you must push yourself to go to social events, get involved, and introduce yourself to strangers to meet new people and feel part of the community.
Marketing is no different. It doesn’t always feel good. In fact, it can feel downright yucky. But it only feels yucky when you are chasing people. Whether you are aware of it or not, when you are pushing products and specials, you are chasing clients. When you DON’T specialize, you are chasing clients.
When you market authentically, by following the 4 legs: 1) Connect; 2) Inform; 3) Inspire; and 4) Call to Action, it doesn’t feel like marketing and it doesn’t feel yucky. People don’t feel like you are marketing either.
Get over the fact that you don’t like selling yourself, pretend you are a new kid on the block and push yourself to get out there. Be sure to follow the 4 critical authentic marketing legs in every marketing tool you use: 1) Connect; 2) Inform; 3) Inspire; and 4) Call to Action. For more information on how to implement these marketing strategies, please check out the Make Money Selling Travel Blueprint, www.makemoneysellingtravel.com.