Rick Carlson is a 20+ year veteran franchise owner, top producer, and guest columnist for Travel Market Report for their “Ask an Advisor” series. He frequently attends STARU and Cruise Planners conventions as a panelist and shares his sage advice on how to find clients...
Dear Fellow Travel Advisor,
You are not the only agent that strives to increase their client base. One of the most important factors, if you are home-based, is to get out of your home, meet people and let them know you are in business. Secondly, you cannot rely on only one means of advertising to attract new clients. Let me discuss some potential opportunities and suggestions for you.
Meeting new clients - We are all in a relationship-building business, and personal connections are very important. You can have the greatest advertising program in the world, but what will make the difference is you! If you are home-based, make a point in your schedule to once a week, get out of the home office, and meet people. Join your Chamber of Commerce and meet fellow business-minded people. Let them know you are in business and would like to refer people to them as well as the referring people to you. Some agents find the B2B networking groups to be helpful in building their client base and business. Get to know about their business and then tell them about yours. Listen carefully because there may be opportunities for a potential group based on what they tell you.
When we started our business 23 years ago with Cruise Planners, we needed to focus on building our client base. Our objective was to let our local community know we were in business and the services we provided. We took out tables at craft fairs, the cost was low $25 to $50 for a table. Yes, people were not coming to purchase travel at the craft fair, but it provided us an opportunity to connect with people in our community and develop a relationship. We were able to add to our database of clients that we could market to. We simply had an entry to win a gift basket. It worked for me, and to this day, I still will do a fair every year!
Develop a warm list - Put together a list of everyone you know, your dry cleaner, dentist, hair stylist, friends, and people you do business with already. The relationship is there already; they know you and start marketing to them. Ask for their business!
Marketing/Advertising – You cannot rely on only one means of advertising to attract new clients or, for that matter, to keep clients you already have. People need to see your name and company in many places. There is more than just Facebook, social media is wonderful, but only 1 method. Do you have a Facebook Page for your business? If not, set one up. Post interesting facts about travel. There are numerous places where you can get content to post. You will find interesting content right here in the Travel Market Report. Use your page to establish yourself as an expert and a place where people will come to seek information. To help with advertising specials, you can sign up with “Branch Up”. It is free and will post advertising from their travel partners to your Facebook page.
And more importantly, you must promote yourself in a variety of different marketing activities. Direct mail, email blasts, print ad, radio, Instagram, Facebook, and more. All of these are opportunities to attract new clients. I repeat, you cannot rely on just one means.
I am very fortunate to have the tools provided by Cruise Planners to email blast clients, send individual ecards and post to my social media accounts.
Travel Night/Cruise Night – These are great opportunities for meeting new potential clients to make them clients. Pick a brand, connect with the BDM for that company, and have an event. Every new person that walks through the door is interested in travel and is a potential new client. Make sure everyone registers, and then get them on your email list for specials and newsletters you may send out. You can also advertise a virtual travel night. Or once a week, get on your Facebook page and do a Facebook Live and talk about travel. Be consistent with your schedule. Maybe every Monday at 8 PM, you have a Facebook Live and talk about the week in travel.
Get followers and then always remind them if they are looking for travel to contact you. Again, you are demonstrating you are an expert and a professional. What you want is when friends get together and say we want to go on vacation or trip, we should look for a place to go. You want them to say, “We need to call (your name) to talk about a vacation.”
Current clients – Your current clients are a great resource for referrals and expanding your client base. Remember, every potential client can become a booked client. Here is one activity I do every year. In January, I send everyone that has ever booked with us a nice New Year’s letter and let them know how much we value their business and support. In the letter, I give them 5 business cards and ask if they would please hand these cards out to five of their friends that are interested in travel. It works! And most importantly, when someone makes a referral take the time to write a thank you note to the person for the referral and mail it to them. Do not use email. Take the time to write a thank you. I have a “Thanks a latte” card, and inside it, I enclose a coffee gift card and a personal note to the person.
I think about the gold miners and how they panned for gold. It took a lot of panning to get some gold. So too, with gathering new clients, you will need to search and use different methods to attract new clients. The key is to keep it up, you never know, the prospect you meet might become that person that calls one day and books that world cruise!
Wishing you the best!