THE HOW-TO MAGAZINE FOR TRAVEL TRADE INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS
The ART of Selling Travel from HOME
AN SMP TRAINING PUBLICATION
MIKE FOSTER – WELCOMES IC TRAVEL AGENT
When I heard that Steve Crowhurst was going to be launching a new publication that focusses on the growing independent contractor segment of our industry, my first reaction was – of course! Who else would be so in tune with this growing trend in the travel agent community? My second reaction was – how can I participate? I have known Steve for many years now as our careers have intertwined, but the passion that I immediately saw in Steve has never dissipated. In fact, he is as bullish on the travel agent segment of this industry that we all love as the day I met him 30 or so years ago. While there are many industry trainers and educators out there – and Canada is fortunate to have some of the very best anywhere – Steve is not only one of the most successful but he is one of the most respected, passionate, clear-thinking, witty, and humble of them all. Share this e-magazine with any peers that you like and respect, and hide it from anyone you don’t; and if your goal is to be as successful as you can be as a travel agent – make IC Travel Agent a regular part of your reading, and follow Steve’s advice. I know that I speak for everyone who has had the pleasure to work with, be influenced by, or even read any of his voluminous works when I say – congratulations Steve! We all expect big things from you Steve, and I know that you will not disappoint! Best of success,
Mike Foster President Nexion Canada email@example.com
If you are an independent travel agent looking to affiliate with a host agency to run your business more profitably and efficiently then Nexion Canada is the partner for you. Retain up to 80% of top commissions Enhance your skills with training, coaching and networking Manage your bookings with your choice of GDS or graphical booking engines Operate your business efficiently with tools and technology Differentiate yourself with exclusive Cruise Block Space and supplier offers Increase your customer base with innovative marketing solutions
Contact us now to become part of our winning team! www.join.nexioncanada.com 866.399.9989 firstname.lastname@example.org
TABLE OF CONTENTS – IC OCTOBER 2013 2
CONGRATULATIONS from Mike Foster, Nexion Canada
WELCOME TO THE PREMIER ISSUE by Steve Crowhurst
VISIT THE IC WEBSITE
THE IC CAREER
THE SALE SCALE
THE VETERAN IC
THE CORPORATE IC
TRAINING PAGE: PROSPECTING VIDEO
THE PRO OFFICE
DIY FAM Trips
EMAIL IS YOUR #1
WHAT’S YOUR VALUE? Guest Article BY Mike Foster, Nexion Canada
SELLING TRAVEL WITH STEVE
FILING CABINET FOLDER
TOOLS: GOOGLE MAPS NEW VERSION
TOOLS: FONTS & MORE
NEW TOOLS TO ENHANCE YOUR BUSINESS
DAILY INSPIRATION – HUMAN PLANET VIDEO
NEW SELF-STUDY WORKBOOK
LET’S TALK ABOUT TRAINING
Selling travel from home does not have to be a puzzle when you read IC! Find the host agency that best suits your needs.
Share your money making ideas in IC and help your IC colleagues. CONTACT Steve Crowhurst email@example.com 250-738-0064 www.ic-travelagent.com Publisher: SMP Training Co. www.smptraining.com Contributors Steve Crowhurst
If it’s not yet 5pm where you live, you still have time to make one more call, close one more sale or send one more promotion! Page 4
IC TRAVEL AGENT is owned and published by Steve Crowhurst, SMP Training Co. All Rights Reserved. Protected by International Copyright Law. IC TRAVEL AGENT can be shared, forwarded, cut and pasted but not sold, resold or in anyway monetized. Using any images or content from IC TRAVEL AGENT must be sourced as follows: “Copyright SMP Training Co. www.smptraining.com” SMP Training Co. 568 Country Club Drive, Qualicum Beach, BC, Canada, V9K-1G1 Note: Steve Crowhurst is not responsible for outcomes based on how you interpret or use the ideas in IC TRAVEL AGENT. T: 250-738-0064.
Steve Crowhurst, CTC, Publisher
Welcome! This is the inaugural issue of IC TRAVEL AGENT and I sincerely hope you enjoy it, subscribe to it, download it and share it. The idea behind IC Travel Agent magazine is to help you sell more travel from home. Every page offers something new to learn and apply. Check out the Quick Clip videos and Video Training Pages, too. Even the slogans, colours, page titles, fonts, travel graphics and page layouts offer you new ideas, ways, tips, tools and techniques to enhance your own travel marketing endeavours. Our content is entirely focused on new business generation and how you can work smarter. If you need more ‘how-to’ be sure to visit the IC Travel Agent website. In this issue, we set the scene and review some of the basics to get you on the right track for pursuing and furthering your IC travel agent career. Future issues will focus entirely on NBG – New Business Generation and selling travel as an IC. I’d like to extend a warm thank you to Nexion Canada for being first onboard to support and sponsor IC Travel Agent and for seeing the expanding opportunity that IC Travel Agent brings to the table. Send in your questions or suggest a topic and we’ll respond quickly. If you have a terrific marketing idea to share, write it up and send it to me for publication. Here’s to your continued success! Best regards. Steve Crowhurst, CTC firstname.lastname@example.org www.ic-travelagent.com Page 5
Visit the IC Website Itâ€™s all yours! The website is a living website which means it will continue to grow as new homebased selling ideas, tips, tools and techniques are added each month. Be sure to visit and sign up for anything and everything. Thanks again to NEXION CANADA for being our first supporter.
Participate and tell us what you would like access to on the IC Travel Agent website. If youâ€™ve had recent successes and you are willing to share, then send in an overview of what you did, how it worked and the dollars generated.
www.ic-travelagent.com Page 6
The IC Career
by Steve Crowhurst, CTC
If you are new to the business of selling travel, welcome. You have chosen the most marvellous of careers – selling travel. As a new IC you are most probably attached to a travel agency, a host agency, a franchise, group, consortium or going it alone if that’s legal where you live. As you start and build your business you will find plenty of ideas, tips and tools in the pages of this and future issues of IC Travel Agent that will keep you on the right side of the law.
Just kidding about the law, however there are well known rules and un-written rules / laws that, if you are not aware of them, your career and your investment will be heading down the toilet pretty quickly.
world and read everything you can about travelling. You should know the roots of the travel trade, how it started, what’s happened since, and study the world of tourism, too. You need this background information so that you can better predict going forward. As always you must learn the basics and it starts with the history of the retail travel trade which dates to the late1800s both here in North America and UK/Europe.
The definition of the new IC, is someone who has never been a travel agent in a previous life or been associated with the retail travel trade. You may hail from a thousand other careers or industries and generally there is always something in your work history that you can use in your IC Travel Agent career. But let’s first look at some of the rules you might want to live by:
You could also sign up for a travel & tourism course and that would also help you get started in your IC career. These courses can cost you as much as $6,000 so be sure the content includes sales, generic marketing and social media marketing, too. A travel course without social media included is not at the cutting edge.
New To Travel This quick introduction to the IC role and career will help you make one or two crucial decisions.
Depending upon which host agency you join you will be offered training, usually a oneweek program and then after that it becomes your responsibility to take advantage of every educational program offered and sponsored. Not everything is free. Be prepared to invest in your ongoing education. Set aside money to pay for webinars, workshops and FAM trips.
Before you start your IC career you should, if you are going to do this right, travel the Page 7
Perhaps you were planning to enter the travel trade and then travel for FREE and make a few bucks along the way. Well you could do that however most host agencies worth their salt are looking for new IC prospects intent on building a solid business.
passage around the world by working on cruise ships. I am well aware of how a young person can make it in this industry and even more so today making use of all things online, digital, mobile and more.
If you come into the trade as what I call a “dabbler” your career might be short lived. Your host agency and the preferred suppliers that support your host agency want sales. If you are not in it to win it – best to look elsewhere for your second career.
If your age is let’s say in the 18 to 25 age group then this is the career for you IF you have an adventurous mindset and a deep seated dream to see the world AND you want to make money. The same before- youstart warnings apply to you too. Best you go travelling first, build your world knowledge and then focus on gaining the additional knowledge you need to build a long term and profitable IC career. If you have already travelled and you travelled to places you know very well, then you are ahead of the game. Your favourite destination could represent your first niche market.
Not only that, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing as the saying goes. Selling travel without the right training and knowledge can cause the death of a client. They can be held in jails, they can be termed traitors for emigrating and their family history and political stance could actually have them incarcerated for years and even tortured. IF you are not aware of certain international travel requirements you are a danger to your clientele. Selling travel then is not something to treat lightly. It is a serious multi-trillion dollar industry and on track to being the #1 industry in the world. It already employs more people than any other global industry. It is in many cases the sole industry for some countries. There is a delicate balance going on in the world and if you participate in sending people around it, you had better be well informed, well trained and have a work ethic and attention to detail aptitude that is nothing short of 100%. Your host agency will demand this too.
Retirees and Travel Careers For those who have decided that selling travel would be an excellent thing to do in retirement, please think again. It is hard work. It is engaging work. It can put all your talents to work. You can call on all your old contacts. A travel trade career later in life can be extremely exciting and rewarding – however, it requires a business mindset not a retired mindset. You make one mistake and a client is injured along the way, or what you sold was not what they thought they were buying and you could, if they send a Boston lawyer your way, lose your house and all your retirement savings! The law is never say “trust me…” – or utter a “Sure!” when you really do not know.
A Great Career for Young People I personally entered the travel trade at age 16 but then I knew what I wanted to do and had already been hitchhiking my native country from age 13. In 1967 I worked my Page 8
IC Travel Agent Next Generation For the travel savvy, techno minded, allthings-online person interested in an IC career, you could be in for the most delightful life you ever thought it possible to live.
commit to one and all that you will do everything in your power to be the best IC in the business. Your goal for your first year in business is to sell one-million dollars of travel. That could be six world cruises if you have the contacts. If you are going home, might as well go big! About Making Money Ask most veteran travel agents and they’ll warn you off about the ‘making money’ comment. Typically you’ll be advised that this is not the industry in which you can generate much of an income. That would be very true for many travel agents. On the other hand there are those who suck it up and go for it and make five and six figure incomes. You’ll need to decide whether you intend to play at selling travel or build a solid business that will reward you with not only high commission income but also the travel lifestyle you want.
The IC Ng… the Next Generation, would see you travelling and blogging as you go, delivering live video and streaming telecasts back to your social media and networked connections, inviting them to join you where you are. You would book their flights from where you are, post regularly to your social media accounts through a dashboard and return to home base to hold a consumer event to talk about your travels and sell your next guided tour. Now THAT is exciting. Or it should be, as that scenario is the future of the travel trade for those that desire to be the next generation of travel agent.
The Riches are in Niches This phrase, the riches are in the niches, you will hear and read about quite often. Suddenly the trade has found niche travel to be profitable. The fact is a niche market has always been profitable if you know what you are talking about. The same comment applies to groups and FIT sales – these are not new to the trade as some might portray. Groups have always been the business to target and FIT is how travel was originally sold dating from the late 1800s.
I can tell you now, there are enough dabblers in the trade who sell one or two trips a year and call themselves a professional travel agent. They attend the functions, take the free FAM trips and generally bleed the trade for all they can get. Do not be this person. Make a commitment to yourself, your host agency, the industry, industry associations and the suppliers who support you and
There are over 350 niche market activities and they range from Archeology to Zoology and everything in between. That plus you have over 210 countries and thousands of places to sell, too. Page 9
The point being – find your niche and get busy. Choose well and for the best results, choose your own travel passion and preferred destination/s as your niche market/s. My own niche markets have always been outdoors, soft adventure and my niche destination, Japan.
Around The House One of the biggest challenges for ICs is losing track of why they are at home and then get involved in household chores. If you are to be a success in selling travel from home, then the lawn is not cut until after 6pm or on the weekend. The laundry is not done until evening or the weekend – or if it is done during the week re kids schedules etc., then take the day off. Your clients will not want to hear you out of breath and the washing machine in the background along with the kids, dogs and lawnmower.
Working From Home Personally I have now worked from home for over twenty years. I know what it takes to do this and I know the mental state you need to be in, day in and day out to make it a success.
From experience let me tell you – fail to work a true do not disturb I’m in the office schedule and you’ll be out of business quite quickly. It is very important that you live as if you were ten miles away from home – except for family emergencies.
The office, the layout, the computers, the software, the printers, the books and magazines… there’s so much involved and it must work seamlessly. Too many IC’s choose the smallest room in the house, go into the attic or down into the unfinished basement and that’s the road to failure. If you do not have a decent office to work in and work from you will lose interest. It’s that simple. Unless, you are a true die hard, focused and do not see the walls closing in… then you will succeed. Better however that you turn the best possible room into your office.
Family Support Depending upon your stage in life you’ll need all the support you can get from your friends and family. If you live alone and like it that way then you are actually ahead of most ICs who work within a family environment. If that’s you, you have some family meetings to arrange. Make sure you sit down with your family and explain to them how your business will work. That they cannot just walk into your office and rummage around especially when you are on the phone or focused on creating an ad, flyer or sending out emails.
Choose the spare bedroom and make it your office. You’ll need light, window that open, space, pictures on walls, books on bookcases – just like an office is supposed to look and feel. My own office is 20’ x 12’, with 450 business and travel books on those bookshelves. Believe me you’ll be glad you made the move. You’ll need separate phone lines for your home and office. Once again, keep it business like. You do not want your clients listening to the family recording or the dog barking.
I have heard most of the stories where the family members do not take their IC in the family seriously. They joke. They tell you to stop wasting your time. They call you down when sales are slow and so on. On the other hand there are husbands and wives and kids who support their IC in the family with all their heart and passion. Why? They want to Page 10
travel as and when it’s possible to do so. This is the best of all worlds. Family members and possibly friends who will help out with mailings, consumer shows and more.
When a complete agency team join a host agency there is that camaraderie that can prevail and you can still meet to talk shop and work together on certain promotions and fill each other’s tour groups. All very exciting.
Social Media You will not be using your personal social media accounts. Create all new accounts using your business name. Be very strict with your social media time as it will take away from your selling time.
Decision Making Time & Host Agencies You have a lot to think about and you’ll need to choose your host agency wisely. Do your due diligence and be sure to ask all the questions you need to ask, then make an informed decision. Whoever you join, remember that YOU are the client. This means the host agency works for you. They are meant to supply you with the program features they promote to attract you. Make sure you learn how to use them all. If your host agency does not perform, then you can change. Be sure your lawyer reads and approves all contracts before signing and you should be good to go home. Always good to check whether or not you are signing a contract versus an agreement. If being an IC doesn’t work for you, you would want an easy out versus a lengthy court case.
Tools Of The Trade You will need the best in all things related to helping you sell travel. Invest in your desktop computer, a quality laptop, a smart phone and then study the apps and software that allow you to produce top quality images, videos and social media marketing promotions. Existing Agency Owners Today it is quite possible for you to close your agency down but carry on as an IC and encourage your entire agency team to go IC with you. Needless to say each person must understand they are now their own boss and for some that would be a scary move. For those that trust their selling skills and marketing talents will no doubt jump at the chance.
Many of the key points in this article are expounded upon elsewhere in the magazine.
The Sale Scale How’s business? Are you closing one booking a day? How about three? Well don’t worry, your sales will build if you are following the right track. Selling is a science. There are rules. There are pre-set stops and starts. Success will happen if you follow the right path. The challenge for many ICs is getting tied up with the ‘nice to do’ activities versus prospecting, selling and closing. Check out the Sale Scale below. Where are you on the Sale Scale? LOVEY-DOVEY WARM ‘N’ FUZZY
Well-loved and liked and totally broke! You are social media rich and cash poor. Too much chit chat, socializing, marketing focused, engagement focused and having fun. Does not believe in bothering the client by asking for the sale. That’s just plain rude! And charging fees, well that’s just not on. If you are the chatterbox of the group you may be talking yourself out of sales each and every day. If you’re a social butterfly and get a thrill out of getting more LIKES than bookings then you too will be well liked but continually broke.
A step up from our Lovey-Dovey IC. Prefers to leave a trail for the customer to follow with signs that say, read this, go here, click there and lives in hope that one day a customer will follow the exact path being laid down and book something. Asking for the sale is not rude here, but it does make one nervous and what if the client said no thanks? Customer service is the focus and to the point of negative sales. Even asking for referrals is a challenge.
THE RIGHT SELL
Every action is aligned. Customer service is 100% as expected. Social media marketing always carries quality content / information, always asks for referrals, and always has a call to action – advising the client how to proceed to make contact and place a booking. Direct email, mail and targeted email and direct mail are crucial to this style of selling. A well informed customer makes a well informed decision and is fully aware that the connection is one of buyer and seller. Referrals are freely given. Every interaction ends with a request for the sale in a professional businesslike manner. Fees are above standard.
A one-trick pony. Customer service is short and not-so-sweet unless a client is buying something. Sells once and never again. Too pushy when asking for referrals. The word is spreading about the hard sell tactics and slowly but surely the customer base is moving away over time. The hard sell can work for a time but after that the bookings stop coming. Fees lean towards the gouging principle.
The Veteran IC So you’ve had enough of owning, managing and running the show. Time to pack up, sell up and go home to continue your business and travel trade career. Why not? It’s a gift. You already have the knowledge and the client base – now you can retreat to your home office, relax with no more rent to pay and no HR challenges either. The question is: can you work from home? Going Home… Does your personality allow for it? Are you a people person that needs people and a place to go each day, or can you operate alone?
Staying Home… To enjoy your IC lifestyle you will need to put many of the ideas, concepts, tips and tools you’ll find here in IC Travel Agent into practice. The #1 challenge is that you now do it all – no more will someone hand you reports, or design the next ad, or handle the social media marketing. It’s all up to you from here on. To do it all, generally means taking a hard look at your client base and reducing it to the clients who travel often, like deluxe, have a terrific personality and pay your fees and their invoice on time. You are designing your client base and that’s the way to go.
There are ways to stay connected once you go home, however they are not the same as being ‘in the office’ where the action is day in and day out, where the supplier BDMs come visit and where clients walk in to chat.
Learn to use Skype like a professional and purchase the Pro version for a few dollars a month. The pro version allows for up to 10 video feeds (great for group sales) and the sharing of screens – which means you can show someone a brochure that resides on your computer screen. Here’s to your continued and long term success.
These are things to think about BEFORE you make the move home. If going home doesn’t work out, you can always join a travel agency as a travel agent if you can stand being managed and few past agency owners and managers can put up with being managed after a lifetime of managing. So once again be forewarned about going home before you close up shop and make the move. On the other hand, if it’s the lifestyle you want – you’ll get it.
Click HERE for a home based business checklist you might like to review.
The Corporate IC The Corporate IC role is not for the faint of heart. This is an exacting segment of the travel industry and it is not forgiving â€“ it takes a very high attention to detail and the ability to think through and around global catastrophes that will, might and are right now, affecting the clientâ€™s trip out and back home to their family. There is also huge potential for any Corporate IC that wishes to create a niche market to serve the female executive and female business owner. Their travel needs are different to their male counterparts. There are many niche opportunities when it comes to serving corporate. Business Travel News is the best website for you to view. Read the Handbook, explore the many magazines and special reports they publish for both travellers and travel management TAs and ICs. The GBTA magazine shown here is also a must read for the dedicated Corporate IC.
As a home-based corporate IC you may not serve the biggest of the corporate accounts, however you can serve the local business owner, manager, CEO and Board for the generic business flights, plus their meetings, conventions, conferences, training, product launches, insurance and hey guess what? Their vacation travel too. If you are not a vacation styled IC then you might wish to investigate the corporate travel market or even the corporate group and incentive sector if planning is a specialty. For the new IC do not mix the fact that you have planned a birthday party as a credential for planning corporate groups and incentives. You will die on a very sharp spike if you do. If you do not have hands-on experience in your past, then set a training goal and go for the certifications that are available within the trade. You could also explore working remote for an existing corporate agency. ď ‘
Training Page Okay here we go with our first Training Page.
Topic is all about Prospecting Prospecting has always been a challenge for travel agents and since â€˜weâ€™ as in the trade, have moved from handshakes, to telephone, to email, to websites, to social media and hiding behind that large screen monitor very few travel agents are actually prospecting assertively. Passively, yes. Assertively, not so much. This short program should, give you something to think about.
If prospecting is a challenge for you and your colleagues, ask your host agency to contact me and weâ€™ll arrange a webinar or onsite training session.
The Pro Office When you put your home office together you should choose the best room in the house and equip it as though you intend to be in business ten years from now. Anything less means you are not quite serious enough to make your home based agency a going concern. Here’s what you’ll need to do it right. The creation of a home office is like learning to play the guitar. You buy a cheap one to learn on with the underlying reason for going cheap being that if you don’t take to the guitar, you haven’t invested too much money. Fact is, cheap guitars are hard to play. They are made for cheap, not to keep. Your fingers become sore and you give up the guitar whereas had you purchased a better guitar with a smooth action fret board your fingers would glide across those strings and you would be announcing your next gig!
Here’s my own office which has changed dramatically from the office in the second bedroom that looked into the apartment opposite.
Back to your new home office travel agency and why you must go for best – the best you can afford.
Things you learn along the way are: you need light. You need desk space around you and another desk area where you can layout your projects. Bookshelves and filing cabinets are a must and a very comfy chair tops the list, too. Overlook green space if you can or at least be able to view the sky. Windows that open to let in fresh air are a plus and quality lighting is essential when working late.
Choosing The Office Location: If you are single you can make all the decisions, if you have a family then there’s more discussion on where you might be “allowed” to set up shop. From personal experience and from my conversations with travel agents who have gone home, many times the home-based agency location is relegated to the least promising location in the house. Over the garage, in the unfinished basement, the room with no windows or ventilation and up in the attic that becomes a sauna in the summer months. Selling travel is a creative enterprise and what you need is creative space in which to generate sales.
On the walls have artwork and photographs that please your eye and offer a connection of some sort. I have portraits of my long lost family on my wall and often have a chat with them – freaky I know but hey it works for me. If room allows, have another easy chair where you can relax, tune out and perhaps tune into some tunes. Page 16
The Office Tools Remember that cheap guitar? Well keep it in mind as you furnish or update your working tools. Here’s the list working from the top of the photograph down:
Your PC should be able to receive a TV signal so that you can watch travel programs in your office. This is ongoing education and as you know there are many travel related channels and programs. Having these programs ‘on tap’ will keep you up to date with what your clients are watching. The program content also spurs ideas for your online promotions. Your Pro Office Away From Home When you meet your clients away from your home office you should have a host agency location to go to, or a location that offers parking and coffee. Many hotels are now converting the lobby into meeting space to serve the current needs of younger corporate travellers. Hotel lobbies are now places to interact, use your laptop via wifi, purchase a gourmet coffee and meet clients. Be sure to review the best hotel lobbies for your own needs. The Pro Auto Office You’ll be driving to meet your client at your chosen hotel lobby or at their home. Your car can be equipped with a variety of in-car and in-trunk kit so you can carry brochures and operate your laptop from the passenger seat once you park.
Multi line telephone, with headset plus all the Telco bells and whistles re conference calling etc. Large computer screen, ergonomic keyboard; scanner; laser printer with double sided and booklet printing capability; inkjet printer with DVD printing functionality; mini notebook/netbook for travelling to client meetings and finally a pen-tablet (Wacom) for high end creativity/photo production.
You will also need a quality smart phone with an 8mp camera and HD video and a similar quality camera for better quality images.
Your job now is to update and upgrade to the pro level and when you do, you will actually sell more travel. Now let’s explore the tools you need – business and creative software programs that will help you stand out from your competition. But first… family?
The ability to shoot excellent photographs and HD video is a skill worth studying. It will serve you well over time. Once again you should purchase quality equipment. Page 17
The Family If there’s one BIG challenge for new ICs to overcome it is usually family input and how well family members have bought into the new enterprise taking space in the family home. Generally most families gather round to support you, however many of the home-based ICs I chat with have had the opposite experience, especially Mums. It’s worthwhile calling a family meeting to review your homebased agency business and establishing a few rules.
Hey Mum… can I watch you work?
Hey honey… I’m hungry, what’s for supper? Hey Mum… did you wash my special socks?
Hey owner, I’m hungry, too what’s for my supper!
Hey Mum… some guy just called, something about thirty people on a cruise. I told him to call back another time…
You must ask your family to respect your business, not to interrupt, to take on extra tasks and train them how to take messages and generally to support you – or they’ll be left at home when you decide to travel! When you close a sale – tell them and show them how much you made. Then the ‘business’ becomes real.
DIY FAM Trips
What goes around comes around. Back in the day you could write your own tickets, add an IT code, take off and go see what you were selling. Did I mention that it was free? Today, sheesh wouldn’t ya know it, you have to sell something in order to go taste what you sold. The nerve! Well, be thankful it’s not full rate. Are you taking advantage of low fares and free rooms to build your destination and supplier knowledge so that you can sell more travel? Time to plan your Fam Plan now. Today there is no need to wait for a supplier to wave their FAM ON flag as you can pretty much design your own Fam and then get travelling.
There are FAM websites for you to explore too. For a few dollars a month you can subscribe to www.famnews.com and receive their listings. Another would be www.famconnection.com and one more, www.famrates.com. How easy is that? It looks like the work is all done for you. All you have to do is book and go - then come back and sell. Keyword – SELL.
You should do this with purpose, if not, then let’s just call this trip a vacation. A FAM trip should be leading you towards more sales of the destinations you visit and the supplier’s products that you sample during the FAM.
When you are on your FAM you should be communicating back to your clients, keeping them posted on the destination and then follow up when you return to home base with a full on presentation.
As an IC you are free to decide for yourself which places you should visit and which suppliers you want to experience. Over and above what you create for yourself, there will be various offers from your preferred suppliers for you to consider. To do it right, means planning your FAM Plan and visiting the areas that you intend to sell.
Remember – FAMs are not vacations. They are business trips and there are rules to abide by. Be sure to check them with your host. Page 19
Ya gotta do it right! Page 20
Here’s something you should know. The three top ways we learn about new brands and products. Viewing the internet is number one followed by TV advertising and third is recommendations from family and friends. These are followed by retail stores and magazine advertising. (Source: Ipsos) What does this mean to your marketingfrom-home efforts? First off, this information screams build a fantastic website that offers more than that static old clunker so many ICs offer their clients and then push this fabulous new website as the go-to website for your clients and their referrals. You’ll need to feature quality content that includes your current travels, new and updated information and the latest travel promotions.
As you are selling travel from home we can bypass the comment about retail stores, and move on to the comment about magazine advertising. You may not be able to afford to advertise in glossy consumer travel magazines, you could however create and publish your own magazine (like the one you are reading) and fill it with you own ads. All your need to do this is a little artistic and layout talent and a magazine platform such as Issuu.com. It’s not easy, but it is doable. This then is your initial marketing plan:
Next: you cannot afford to advertise on TV but you cannot afford not to watch it and take note of which travel companies are advertising and the trips they are promoting. With this information you can focus on more affordable means of marketing to sell the same brand and trips – and in doing so, you’ll know that most of your clients would have seen the travel promotion on TV. You would be riding on the TV ads of your preferred suppliers.
1. Watch TV – study all travel programming, especially the ones that match your niche. 2. Read as many consumer travel magazines as you can… especially Conde Naste, Canadian Traveller, Travel & Leisure, National Geographic, all cruise magazines…for niche markets go for Explore magazine or similar.
Recommendations by family and friends has always been part of the travel sale and this is why you always ask your clients for referrals. You do this in person, on your website, in your emails and throughout your social media activities.
3. Promote the same destinations & products on your website and in your emails, e-flyers, direct mail, presentations, consumer events and anywhere else you promote.
Marketing travel is relatively easy. You just need to understand what’s going on around the world and specifically at your preferred destinations – this includes seasonality, public holidays, local events, political events, religious festivals, entry and exit requirements, flights schedules and a couple of other tid-bits. Then you can select your supplier, choose the product, dates, location – then write your copy, add one or two terrific images or video and launch.
Social Understanding How social media marketing, social networking, marketing and selling travel come together is still generally misunderstood by many in the retail travel industry. This quick overview should help you establish your social media marketing plan that you can manage from your home. Travel trade veterans will know this and new ICs need to know the history of social media and how it works as a marketing tool in the selling of travel. The main challenge for travel agents in the use of social media is choosing followed by using. There is a genuine mistake being made in assuming that social media will both attract and close the sale. Closing the sale is YOUR job. Itâ€™s the reason are you are in business. Social media is simply a mass market communication tool that spreads the word. Thatâ€™s it.
CHOOSE FACEBOOK AS YOUR #1 SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING TOOL
EMAIL is your number one communication, marketing, engagement tool. Learn how to use it like a professional. Take courses if you have to.
Facebook is the number one social network and therefore the one to use as most of your existing clients and clients to be are members.
There is nothing wrong in sending well written text messages as long as they are short, persuasive and direct your reader to do something such as call you, visit your website to view a specific page or download a flyer or brochure.
Marketing is a numbers game. The more people you meet, chat with, socialize with the more contacts, leads you will generate. This is the main outcome to any social media marketing you do. Your goal is to increase the number of LIKES and at the same time increase the number of email addresses when you can.
Better still would be that you send quality and professional looking emails using ready to use templates from email companies such as Constant Contact or the recommended program offered through your host agency agreement.
All marketing roads point to a huge email data base that by giving you their email address, your contacts have opted in and agree to receive your emails. Page 22
CHOOSE YOUTUBE AS YOUR #2 SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING TOOL
SOCIAL MEDIA IS A COMMUNICATION TOOL IT DOES NOT CLOSE THE SALE!
The video and more so the travel video has become one of the most used formats for getting the message out that does not require reading thousands of words. You click, you look, you see, you understand, you want it and then… and then that’s where you come in.
Okay then. You get it. You understand that social media is all about attraction and engagement. Now the real work starts which means you must follow up, start a live conversation with your prospects and existing clients, promote and tell your story and then close the sale by asking for it.
Your videos should always carry a call to action message and preferably that message is delivered by you, live and in person at the end of the video clip.
Believe it or not the average consumer in the buying mindset wants to talk to someone who will listen, ask questions and then sell to them (based on the travel agents extensive travel knowledge) what they are looking for.
The mobile screen and the computer screen are the two main screens where your video will play. You can add video to you Facebook posts and marry the two most powerful social media elements in one posting.
Social media does not close the sale. Keep this comment top of mind now and forever. Closing the sale is your job. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re selling snake oil! Page 23
E-Mail is Your #1 How does that grab you? E-Mail is your #1 communication - marketing tool. Then comes social media, followed by newsletters, the telephone etc. Did you think the #1 position was Facebook or Twitter? Nope. None of the social networks get a foot in the door. Email is number one and that means you MUST learn how to use it properly and from a sales and marketing point of view. Like social networks, e-mail too can become a format for easy going chit chat. That’s great however your email is best used as business correspondence and with that comes a certain degree of professionalism, etiquette, e-marketing knowhow, design, layout and use of ready-tosend email templates. If you are using Gmail or Yahoo mail or Hotmail… that’s okay but you need to ramp up the professionalism, bite the bullet and create a .com email address and learn to use MS Outlook. The latest versions are a marketers dream. Also, Windows Live Mail can be very useful when it comes to creating and emailing photo albums. In fact WLM actually has a Photo Email layout ready for you to click on, add your images, title the photo album and email it to your targeted email list. Nice! Once you click on the Photo Email and Photo Album you can select your images and then watch them populate your album. You name the album you are creating and I have titled this one Japanese Secrets and in the subject line I have advised the recipient that this email is about “…our tour to Japan…” next spring. The email is targeted and sent to clients who are Japanophiles, past visitors to Japan and clients who have shown an interest in the Orient in general. The essence of the tour is to view areas that only I know and in my case, through family connections. There are many travel agents who have done well using simple text based emails to generate sales.
Using email as your delivery service is the way to go. You can attached, link to or embed all sorts of things ranging from PDFs, to letters, to video, photos, agreements, coupons, puzzles, hyperlinks, e-books, maps… whatever you want to send as long as it’s not made of plastic and in a box… you can send it. Follow up skills are very important.
The art of plain text and selling travel is found in the words and phrases and the ability to tell a story, paint a picture using just the written word.
and perhaps your host agency has one ready made for this very purpose. You should always make use of the host agency tools and at the same time, add to them. In other words you would create and write your own newsletter and the content would be based on your last trip, your upcoming Fam and your group tour that’s going to Europe soon. If your personal newsletter delivers quality information that’s exciting to read, you will build a decent subscription list and here’s where you use social media to increase the list, too. You ask your newly subscribed clients to tell their friends that share their social media networks.
By teasing your client with a tasty and attractive story that lasts a paragraph or two, you then use the famous Read More… link to direct your reader to your website where they can finish the story. Better yet, the Read More page informs the reader that you will deliver the rest of the story at a consumer event – which is the best form of engagement. Using email to establish this type of meet and greet, presentation, consumer night is what every IC should be doing at least once each month. Naturally you ask your clients to bring their friends.
Grouping Emails by Niche Through a combination of follow up emails and telephone calls you will eventually be able to group your customers into a variety of email groups / folders. Some clients will be located in more than one group folder. They might be cruise fanatics but also interested in hiking Inca trails or some other soft adventure. Once grouped, you can start to target e-market.
The Email List If email is to become your marketing number one then you will certainly be focusing on increasing your email list. This is a focus that seems for many ICs to have gone in favour of collecting LIKES and Followers and Connections.
Email Templates There are companies such as Constant Contact that provide you with an email marketing program that includes event marketing, social tools and surveys. You create, edit and send, choosing the email list of choice. If your promotion is a cruise then you click the cruise email list. Simple. You will receive Constant Contact’s post email reports - you then view your metrics to see who opened and / or forwarded your email and then you can follow up, sell and close.
You can build an email list through social media marketing and that’s an excellent way to do it – fast too if your promotion catches on and goes viral. What you cannot afford to do is offer free trips and huge discounts to attract those email addresses. Far better to offer something of value that does not cost you a cent. Most email marketing trainers will advise you that a simple two or three page white paper is very attractive to most people especially if it answers their burning question.
Make sure you read this
The Newsletter You can attract more email addresses by offering a subscription to your newsletter
http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2013/11449/an-emailmarketing-conundrum-permission-vs-forgiveness Page 25
What’s Your Value? Understanding Your Value to Your Host Agency Guest article By Mike Foster
The goal in any relationships should be to seek balance; a win-win to use the age-old adage. You seek that with your clients and your suppliers, and you should seek that with your host-agency. Without that balance, any relationship is at risk. To be able to develop a win-win relationship, it is critical that both parties understand their value to the other, and to also see that balance from both perspectives. It is important to keep in mind that measuring your total value to a host agency is not an exact science. As in any relationship, there is give and take if it doesn’t balance over time, things will fall apart.
Depending on your personal circumstances, these will change over time. For example, training and support are likely to be more important at the outset of the relationship. As your business matures, your focus may change to marketing, lead-generation, and using the available tools. In time, the focus may be more on the actual revenue that you retain from your sales, and less on other issues. The mission is to find the right balance, and then to change and adjust accordingly.
If you are not receiving full and fair value, you will likely leave and so will your clients. If the host agency is not realizing value in having you as a member of their organization, you are not likely to get the full support you need to be successful.
Do you know how much you contribute to your host? Do you know how much you “cost” your host in terms of time, resources, and overall impact on their business as a whole? Understand your “impact cost” and it will be easier for you to not only select the right host-agency fit for you, it will also help you build a win-win and valued relationship.
Show me the money? It isn’t always about the money, is it? There are other ways that your host can support you beyond the obvious one of revenueshare and vice-versa - how you support your host.
Your value can be measured in obvious and easily calculated ways, also in more subtle ways that may be difficult to quantify – here’s a checklist: Page 26
Revenue – The revenue that is produced from your sales is the mostobvious measurement in your relationship with your host. Revenue is the foundation and focus of almost all independent contractor (IC) programs. But your value goes beyond just your revenue.
Recruiting – You can make a significant impact by helping to attract other ICs to your host. In doing so, you not only help your host agency, but you are also helping yourself by growing your host’s volume and relationships with suppliers. Attitude – As with any group or organization, by simply having a positive and supportive attitude, you can affect the attitude of others. Particularly if you are viewed as a leader in the company or the industry, your own attitude toward the host agency and your colleagues can greatly influence the way the host and the ICs interact and support each other. A positive attitude is infectious.
Preferred Supplier Sales – The sales you produce can help a host reach their targets for overrides and incentives. Alternatively, your non-preferred sales with specific suppliers may also harm the host’s ability to reach preferred targets. Because of the nature of incentives, the challenge for your host is to measure the true impact of your sales. The key is to understand how your non-preferred sales will affect your host, and while you may want to consider changing the suppliers you sell, you may want to seek a host that supports the same suppliers that you do. That way, your sales will be aligned with your host’s and everyone can benefit.
Helping Others – By supporting other colleagues within a host agency, you have the opportunity to help fellow ICs deliver service excellence to their clients. You are contributing to both the host agency and its members. Niche or Specialization – You may have a skill or niche-focus that further supports the host’s corporate objectives, or you may help fill a void, adding to the host’s offerings to the travelling public, a new service or product.
Marketing – One of the less-obvious benefits that you can bring to your host is in marketing the host organization even if you don’t want to market for your host. As one of the “faces” of the organization, it happens. You are in a position to represent the host agency in the marketplace, and you can be a positive face for the company, which helps to build credibility and interest for you with other ICs.
Brand-building – One of the objectives of your host agency is to build a brand within the agent community. With your help in brand-building - you, your fellow ICs and the travelling public benefit.
It is easy to look at the relationship from the WIIFM (what’s-in-it-for-me?) perspective, but in seeking a win-win, it is important to remember your role in supporting your host and doing all you can to support the host agency in reaching the collective goals of everyone connected. By supporting the host agency, your fellow ICs, and the preferred supplier relationships, you are not only going to maximize your revenue but you will also be raising the profile and influence of your entire organization at the same time. That will also lead to additional support, increased marketing, better problem-resolution, a higher profile and reputation for all, and of course – increased personal and corporate value and commissions! Page 27
First Impressions Whether you are a veteran travel professional or just starting your home-based agency, you know from experience that first impressions count. Although many companies have dumbed down their dress code, there is nothing better than dealing with a well-groomed, well dressed sales person who has the knowledge, can offer all the right services and has total command of all the latest sales, marketing, planning and communication tools. Look good, feel good, sell good. That has always been my motto when it comes to doing business. In the moment you can always remove your scarf or your outer jacket, your tie. If the meeting warrants it you can attend dressed in business casual. Watch the perfume, cologne and aftershave. As you know or should know, too much perfume empties the room! Other first impressions are formed when you respond to a client’s questions, engage them initially, offer your travel history and attempt to show how good you are searching online. You should be, must be, well practised in every aspect of meet and greet, espousing your bio, work and travel history and know when enough is enough. Well practiced means your responses do not sound canned, although you have spent hours getting it right.
When a client visits your Facebook page or any of your social media pages they should not find you ranting or OTT’ing on anything or anyone. All social interactions should be businesslike and guaranteed to generate viral referrals. Handshakes in the social media world? Yes they will still occur. Practice your handshake too. In addition to how you look, smell, dress, groom and where your eyes dart – your handshake can either make you a friend or lose a client for life. For more on handshakes click here. The IC always delivers a professional first impression.
Well practiced in terms of articulating your knowledge means that, once again, you have rehearsed your dialogue enough times that your mind will go deep into the subconscious and find what it is looking for. Your body language will also be well practiced so that you can meet and respond to almost any interaction or surprise with Clooney cool. Page 28
Which Niche? There are well over 250 different niche markets for you to consider, PLUS if you were to go for a niche destination, another 200 more countries and tens of thousands of places to add to that initial list. Then you also have to factor in each of the twelve months of the year, seasons here and seasons there and don’t forget the target audience variables ranging from seniors to Generation Y and everyone in between. As you can now imagine, choosing a niche market takes planning.
The secret to choosing a niche, is to focus on the things you like to do and the places you like to visit. Better still if you know a place like the back of your hand, speak the language, know the culture and know the special places that are safely off-the-beaten- track. If your niche is an activity like photography, or belly dancing, or rock climbing or visiting museums then to maximize your revenue you’ll want to be able to state that you are an “expert” in your field. Let’s take cruising for instance. If this is your niche and you have cruised at least ten times then you have the experience that first time cruisers would be seeking. If you have cruised 75 times even better. Now, if you have cruised 25 times to Mexico or the Caribbean and completed a variety of itineraries on a variety of ships operated by different cruise lines… well now, you are definitely worth talking to aren’t you. Add to your cruise history one or two certificates such as your MCC and now look at you. You have cruise experience and you have letters after your name, too. That is a powerful combination. Whatever your niche turns out to be, gain any and all specialty training credentials that are available. Not all are free, so you might be required to invest your own money and that’s not a bad thing. Page 29
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Reprinted with permission from Canadian Traveller &!!!
Filing Cabinet Folder Believe it. This is one of your must do action items. Under My Documents, right click and add a New Folder. Title it: Filing Cabinet. From here on, everything you capture and copy is filed away here in this Filing Cabinet folder. Operate it just like an actual filing cabinet and create new folders and label them correctly so your documents are easy to find.
In my own digital Filing Cabinet I have 206 folders that hold my contacts, tourism data, new ideas and resources, business planning and more. Filing your finds in this folder needs to become habit. Once it does, you only look in one place to find what you are looking for.
First things first, create a list of topics or headings that you know you will represent what you generally capture and want to save. Your list will serve as your initial folder labels.
preferred suppliers brochures, emails and promotions. Every slogan will prompt your own creative juices for when you need a new slogan for your next marketing push.
Cruise would one. Tour would be two. If you like the adventure niche then Adventure would be another label and on it goes.
A folder labeled after your host agency is required and all agreements and contracts filed there. Same thing regarding any business licenses and legal documents.
You will need a folder for Marketing Ideas and within that folder other folders labeled Social Media for generic information. You should also have one folder per the Big 2 social networks – they would be Facebook and YouTube. Add others as you find quality how-to information.
So let’s assume you’ve got this underway – now you must set up a back-up system and check this folder so that it is continually back up to an external hard drive or to the Cloud if you are renting space in space. That way, you are still in business after theft or fire etc.
Another folder would be labeled Slogans. Capture as many slogans as you can from your
Start now. Don’t delay. This is important. Page 31
Tools: Website The agency website is the central element to all your marketing activities. It MUST look good, offer quality information, be easy to navigate and cause your clients to continually return for travel ideas. Here’s one of the best travel agency websites that has won more than a few awards. It’s a UK travel agency and over the years they have morphed into the current view you see here. The name of this agency is: BLACK TOMATO… only in England you say? They have a way with words – the usual About Us is shown as Why Use Us. They offer instant contact information at the top of the home page. Their client validations are there too. They offer you choices, suggest places to visit, you can subscribe, they tell you their niche… it’s ALL there on the home page. Sure beats those very confusing travel web sites we see that are littered with “stuff” and a booking engine center page. Take a look on the next page as to what awaits a client when they click on the Browse By tab. It’s brilliant, entertaining and upbeat.
After clicking on the Browse By tab you come to this page and the fun part is you can scroll to set your month of travel and then scroll through the various needs. Again the word-smithing is excellent with the button that says: TELL ME WHERE TO GO. When you click on any of the CONTACT buttons you end up here on the page shown below. Once again, it’s well thought out in terms of the questions. Literally you could generate a booking from the client’s responses. In addition the website makes excellent use of slide shows and wonderful images and different fonts for the text.
When you work from home your website is your agency window – the digital version that is. Keep this top of mind. Your website must act like a window on main street. It should show off your products and tease the client with the services they can find inside.
Complete your due diligence now. Look at your own website. Better still have a professional look at it and suggest a few changes to make it more engaging. Everything you do in terms of your marketing and social media activity will be pointing your clients to your website. You have about three seconds to grab them and hold them to your website. Remember this, 60% of what makes us buy is colour related… blues, yellows, greens… so be sure to use travel colours and beware of the red and grey combination which is very hard to read.
Try the website builder I use. It is cost efficient and the Pro version allows up to 10 websites.
Tools: Google Maps Who knew these wonderful tools would be created just for you? Yes indeed, Google Maps is an ideal tool for any IC who wishes to conduct a couch potato FAM trip. How about that. You can tour the world, “walk” the streets and stop in front of buildings, cafes, rivers and even look at the ocean and all without leaving your office chair. Even better – Google maps allows you to create a tour itinerary right there on your computer screen. To access Google maps – click on More, then Maps and you are into the program. Google has updated this APP and so now you have two choices – the latest version or the Classic Map layout.
Once you become familiar with using Google Maps or Google Earth, you can then your clients by taking them on a digital tour as they sit beside you and look at your computer screen or through a share-screen app. The satellite view gives you top down views of the world. One way to use this feature is to zoom into that beach resort you want to show your clients and then, right there on your screen you can conduct a show and sell. Check this image – you could even point out the unit where your clients are staying. Page 34
Tools: Fonts & More Become a font aficionado and study up on slogans and you will be way ahead of those that are committed to never using more than Arial or Times Roman. In the world of social media, blogs, videos and all things printed the art of graphic art is the art you’ll want to spend time studying. It pays to know which word (or two) to add to a sunset and which font to use. The entire image is made up of the photo, the word, the font, the layout, the colour, the border… and once you learn what works, you will gain more attraction traction which should equal more social connections which should lead to more sales. That’s plan A. Plan B as usual is to simply send an email and ask for the sale! But I digress… to Font or not to Font, that’s what we’re on about here.
FONT Type one word, a travel word, highlight it, then click on the down arrow beside the Font and scroll down the list to view the various font choices. Think about the reader and the impact your font will have. You can stay at a 12 point sizing or you can go large and go for 72 point, or more. You just type in your size, let’s go for 100 and see how that looks. Oh yeah… that’s nice. Gotta go large.
So you get the idea. Study the fonts that best promote the word and words you are using in your slogans and on your website, in your blog etc. You want your reader to immediately respond. You can purchase additional fonts online, you can create your own font, your handwriting style can be tuned into a font and there are free font websites to explore, too. PLUS there are alphabet designs that set in their own design layouts. Next thing to do is to study the layouts and the words and the fonts your preferred suppliers use in their consumer advertising and on their websites and social media. They have spent thousands of dollars to get this component of their marketing correct. Study what they do and emulate it. Page 35
New Tools Waiver Sign http://www.waiversign.com/
If you are sending invoices, itineraries and anything that you would like your client to acknowledge, confirm and approve under signature then you may want to check out this website.
NEW Google Maps http://www.google.ca/maps/about/explore/
You’ll be familiar with Google Maps and chances are you already know about the NEW Google Maps. If not – now you do. Learn how to use this fantastic tool and take your clients on a tour before they go. Select a resort together, plan the itinerary, choose the B&B…
BoxShot 4 http://boxshot.com/boxshot/
Want to create and produce images that can attract more eyes? Of course you do. Take a look at BoxShot4. You can put your agency name on a pop can, on a book cover, DVD cover, water bottle and more. Fantastic ideas for social media marketing.
Daily Inspiration Every morning when you sit down at your computer to start your day, you should watch this video and take it all in, everything. The sights, the sounds and the energy. This video will set your mind in gear, fire up your creative juices and get to you ready to sell YOUR world! Watch nowâ€Ś
The BBC Human Planet videos offer a fantastic educational series about the world you live in and the world you sell. Make sure you check them out. You can start here on this page. Watch the video here and then for more visit the IC Travel Agent website. They are found under Resources. Start your own YouTube Business Channel right HERE. Click the YouTube icon.
New Self-Study Workbook Join the FREE October 15th Webinar arranged by The Travel Instituteâ€Ś
Check out this cartoon strip by Steve Gillick of www.talkingtravel.ca Think how you could use cartoons like this to tell your story, attract Gen X travellers and reach out via all things mobile too.
LETâ€™S TALK ABOUT
Steve Crowhurst, CTC Speaker & Trainer to the Global Travel & Tourism Industry
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Published on Nov 28, 2013