The 3 Critical Phases to Branding (2 of which most people skip)

Branding, branding, branding. Blah, blah, blah. It can be so easy to blow off this marketing subject and skip to the part of marketing that gets you clients. Why do you think those emails and direct mail pieces created by your suppliers and sent to your clients on behalf of your consortia are so easy and no-brainer-like?

But one of my favorite things to say to my clients is, “you can have a hungry, buying audience right in front to you, but if you are not giving them what they want … they won’t hear you.” Translated into travel advisor talk, what I am saying is this, “you can have very affluent, traveling consumers who love (and book lots of) luxury travel in front of you, but if you don’t give them what they want, they won’t ask YOU to book that river cruise. Instead, they will respond to the brochure they received in the mail that came direct from the supplier and call the supplier to book.”

When you lead with product – they won’t hear you. When you hide behind product, they will go straight to the supplier to book. But most of you don’t get this. You’d rather check off the box of marketing, because you are enrolled in your consortia’s marketing program and feel accomplished. But you are not getting nearly as many high end, luxury travel inquiries that you could be getting if you nailed your brand.

So how do you nail your brand? I will share with you the 3 critical phases:

I. Specialize

Specializing just means become an expert at something. Travelers don’t need traditional travel agents anymore. They don’t need bookers. They want an expert opinion. They want wisdom. They want advice. Just take 1 look at the traffic generated by www.tripadvisor.com. Claim your expertise. It could be groups; it could be romance travel; it could be family travel; it could be a specific profession, like doctors and knowing how they want their vacations to go. There are endless options. But whatever it is, don’t hide behind your suppliers. Instead, claim an expertise! Become an expert at something.

II. Core Compelling Message

Before you jump into marketing action after claiming your specialty, take the time and effort to develop a core compelling message. Your core compelling message is how you articulate your specialty to your prospects in a way that is magnetic. This is the most common step people skip. Most importantly, your message MUST be benefits based and not features based. What makes a message super compelling is when it’s rooted in your brilliance or “medicine.” Figure out what your medicine is, who needs it and then articulate the benefits, results and solutions that come from you applying your medicine to those who need it.

For example, let’s say your specialty is family travel and your medicine is knowing how to influence connections through well planned travel-related activities. You realize the people that need your medicine most are blended families. The benefit that comes from applying your medicine to blended families is a peaceful, harmonious and happy home upon return from the vacation. That becomes the foundation of your message – you help blended families realize peaceful, harmonious and happy homes through well planned family vacations that foster connections amongst all family members.

III. Visual Brand

It’s only when you’ve taken the time to claim an expertise and develop a core, compelling message that you move to the visual part of your brand. The single, most important thing you can do when it comes to your visual brand is … ready for it? Hire a professional. Don’t clip art it. Don’t use the templates from your Microsoft Office Suite. Hire a professional! But a professional won’t give you anything great if you don’t give them anything great, which is why phase 1 and 2 are so important.

Take a look at Kim Everett’s outstanding example of great branding when following these 3 phases. Kim recently birthed her new brand, Keepsake Travel Designs and you can check out her website, www.keepsaketravel.com.