By: Stephen Ekstrom | President & Founder of Fire Starter Brands LLC
No matter how tight your budget may be or how few resources you have at your disposal, you're likely under pressure to generate increasing results each year. Having worked with hundreds of travel industry suppliers and destination marketing organizations, we’ve noticed a few inexpensive tools that the most successful of those organizations use to help them ignite new interest.
- Trade affiliations. Studies show that 82% of businesses that fail are not members of their respective trade associations. If you’re looking to get into the group or high volume tour & travel market, you should become a member of the trade association(s) that are most closely aligned with your target markets. In addition to the member benefits like education, networking & access to certain databases, operators recognize your membership as a sign that you are willing to invest time and money in that market segment and that you’re committed to being a long-term partner.
- Sell the experience. We’re selling travel experiences, not simply clean sheets, a hot meal, an admission ticket or time spent in a destination. When making your pitch, consider explaining the customers’ experience instead of reading thru a list of features. Features mean nothing if they don’t enhance the experience. The difference between saying “we’re close to Highway X” and “you’ll save time getting to your itinerary stops” is the difference between talking about yourself and demonstrating that you understand the customers’ needs.
- Multiple Mailboxes. Let’s think about music – the first time you hear a song on the radio it may be alright, after a few plays it could be pretty catchy, next thing you know it’s on the radio all the time and, soon enough, you’re sick of it. Marketing research shows that multiple exposures to a brand or message are key to building interest and confidence in the ability of that product to live up to its promises. Research also suggests that overexposure through one channel leads to a decrease in the perceived value of a brand or product. Increase recognition and limit annoying interferences by using a variety of tactics to get your message in front of the buyer. Proven delivery methods to tour operators include: direct mail, postcard, email, fax broadcast and personal delivery.
- Personal Connections. Take time to get to know your customers. In choosing to use your product, the operator is placing his/her trust in you to take care of their most valuable asset – their customers. You’ve got to be a friend before you have a friend. Consider participating in a sales mission or identify common interests by sharing a personal story on your next call with a prospect. If you find yourself at an industry conference or networking event, get away from the people you know and make new friends with tour operators.
- Comp Visits. The point of the complimentary visit is to allow the buyer to experience your product in such a way that they can easily sell it to their customers. Complimentary visits can also serve to help your product earn influential brand ambassadors, demonstrating your commitment to the industry and to being a meaningful partner.