Going further - growing your travel agent businessPublished on 17th June 2019 2019-06-17T11:00:00+00:00 - Last update on 31st March 2020 2020-03-31T14:56:07+00:00
As a travel agent with an established business, you know that the key to real profitability is to grow it - but the question is how.
Growth can only come if you increase the number of customers you serve.
“We all know that you need to advertise - but it is hard to know where to start.”
Bringing in more customers starts with a simple question.
Why should customers come to you, rather than another agent - or even use the internet to book their trips themselves? The answer will probably be that you have the expertise to make things problem-free and to save them money - and you may have local knowledge that they simply won't have.
“We can add value - we know the best places to stay and the sights you have to see. There’s no substitute for local knowledge.”
These days, travel agents are not restricted to local customers. You may still get walk-ins if you have a high street shop, but many people with book by phone or the internet. This means that you need to be online, with a clear message - and so able to work with any customer, anywhere.
But you will need a clear sales message to get people calling you, rather than your competitors.
“Anyone can book a package holiday - the operators have seen to it that people can book themselves - there's nothing much we can do about that - but there are plenty of people who want to go somewhere off the beaten track.”
Can you specialise in a particular destination?
Any agent can arrange a package holiday - but not every agent will have first-hand knowledge of a particular destination - or a particular market.
“We work with some particularly exciting tour companies offering city breaks in out of the way cities - like Dubrovnik, or Cluj-Napoca. They are obscure - many people don’t even think Transylvania is real for example - but there is a growing number of people who go every year. We are out to corner the market.”
So, if you have expert knowledge of a particular island, or of coach holidays in the US for retired people, or activity holidays in the Pyrenees, make that your key focus.
The key to growing your business is to bring in more customers for the trips you offer. You can use this as the core of all your marketing, and provide a consistent message that will build a reputation of expertise in that sector. This will need to be supported by consistent advertising, which should include:
You need to put paid advertising in the media read by your target market. There is little point in taking space in local titles simply because they serve your locality. Your target market is not limited by geography, and will not be looking for a local service.
“Putting an ad in your local paper is easy - but you might not get much business from it.”
So, if you are focussing on sailing holidays, make sure you are in the sailing enthusiast press. If your focus is on family holidays with very young children, you might want to look at mother and baby titles.
Every interest group and practically every location will have a specialist title, or at the very least, a supplement which you can take space in to include your sales message.
“Whoever you are catering for with your business, there will be a magazine or a website that is already talking to them. That’s where you need to be. “
Postal marketing has been replaced by emailing - but both use the same principles. You need to build a list of potential customers and to send them suitable offers when they are ready to think about booking travel. With emails, there is little cost for producing or sending the communication, but you will need to find a list of potential customers.
Your existing customer list is a good place to start but you ultimately need to grow your list to reach more people. One benefit of this is that you can address people by name and make personal offers - both of which can help increase uptake of what you offer.
“It’s personal. You can address people by name an even refer to the holiday they took last year. That means you can make what looks like a personal offer - people like that.”
If people like what you send, they can click through to your website and book directly - hence the name of the technique.
Online advertising works much like traditional advertising, in that you want to target your customers. Like email marketing, people can click through to your website, and to your offers, which makes it a powerful way to drive business.
Being able to take a presence on the websites your target customers may use is only beginning.
“Some agents see the internet as a problem. We don’t. We use it to find customers, and to get them calling us.”
There are ways to ensure that your online advertising is only seen by those who have already started searching for the procedures you offer - or are likely to be interested in them. This is a complicated technique and you will need the support of online marketing experts - but it can be a very cost-effective way to bring in business, and getting your phones ringing - or keeping your website busy.
These days, your website is the most important tool in your marketing toolkit - and will be the focus of your publicity online and off.
It allows you to showcase the holidays and destinations you offer - and you must make them look appealing as well as good value. It should include background information - you want people to see your business as the experts on travel to this destination.
Creating an effective web presence will require a substantial investment.
“We spent £7,000 building a website, which seemed like a lot. Now I know it was money well spent, and we will be spending more next year to make it even better and to work even harder.”
A professional design and marketing agency may be able to help you set up a suitable website and to arrange press content. You may need to talk to several to find one that you are happy working with - you may even need to seek out one that understands the travel industry.
Although it is possible to get ‘instant’ responses from some types of advertising, you will need to fund your marketing for months, and possibly years, until you can enjoy the real returns on your investment. People will need to recognise your business as the first choice for your location.
“If you understand what you are doing, it's really not a problem getting in the customers you need to grow your business - but you will need to be prepared to invest to bring them in.”
This will, of course, be a major financial commitment. You may need to look for external funding that could allow you to sustain the level of marketing you need.
Fortunately, as someone with an established business, lenders may be happy to do business with you. This can mean that you will have a choice of ways to raise the funding you need - but getting the right funding is essential to keep costs under control.
At Rangewell, we work with travel professionals across the UK and we know the lenders who can offer the most competitive rates for all types of finance for travel agencies - whether you're ready to grow or are looking for finance to start adventure holidays and outdoor businesses or other travel growth areas.
As well as the funding for your marketing which will power your growth, we can help source Unsecured and Secured Loans, Asset Finance, Merchant Cash Advance, Commercial Mortgages, Growth Finance and more.
Find out more about what we can do for you here
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